P*** OR SSI – Which Should I Choose?

Today I would like to address the most common questions dive center’s and diving instructors are asked when a student is enquiring about entry level diving:

“What is the difference between P*** and SSI?”

If we had a dollar for the amount of times in conversation the phrase ‘I want to get my p***’ or ‘I did my p*** with X or Y dive shop,’ I swear we would be able to feed ourselves Nasi Goreng until the end of time!

Today I want to dispel the myths, separate fact from fiction, enabling you to make an informed decision about your diving education choices.

Before I begin I need to explain that Black Marlin Diving offers training with both organisations and all of our instructors are certified as both SSI and P*** Diving Instructors. Wait… What? How can you be P*** AND SSI trained? Read on…

Lets start with the mothership –

The WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council) is the governing body of diver training dedicated to diver safety, under whom all of the skill and knowledge requirements are written. A minimum training standard is applied to all organisations that wish to obtain membership to ensure worldwide quality education. Guess who sits on the member council? Those you know P*** and SSI…but also IDEA, NAUI, BSAC, CMAS, PDIC, SDI, ACUC and many more…and suddenly we have racing questions:

  • ‘Who to choose?’
  • ‘Which is the safest?’
  • ‘Can they be safe if I’ve never heard of them before?’

This brings us now to a kind of Coca Cola vs Pepsi debate – the Cola Wars – stay with me, it’s all relevant!

Coca Cola – prominent branding, red and white colours, huge corporate with billions of dollars in marketing budget. Pepsi – the outsider, branded clearly, blue, red and white in colours, another huge corporation with millions of dollars in promotional budget. What’s your favourite? Which are you most familiar with? Do you think there is any less quality in product between the two? Let’s really drill this down. What really effects market share in our mass consumer world? VISIBILITY!

Perhaps you have a friend who has completed their P*** Open Water Diver training and another who completed theirs with SSI. Both loved it and are keen to dive again. They have invited you along to dive the Togeans with them, yet you are not certified.

You have read about a number of dive shops online that you would like to enquire with about your training and you have been offered a selection between P*** and SSI. You can’t wait to complete your open water course in Togeans, yet you are confused…you ask yourself: ‘Can we all dive together if we have different certifications via different agencies, and who should I choose – P*** or SSI?’

I’d like to explain the reasons why at Black Marlin Diving in Indonesia, we prefer to teach SSI courses.

Firstly, this is NOT about price. We actually charge a premium for P*** courses, equivalent to the price difference between the two certification agencies – this money goes towards certification costs and not in our pocket. It’s roughly a 50 Euro difference, which is a large amount. You may be asking, where does that money go? Why, if SSI and P*** are both members of the WRSTC, operating by the same rules, and certifying roughly the same number of divers each year in Indonesia. THE STRAIGHT ANSWER IS BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COSTS!

The even straighter answer is marketing. The team at P*** do a frankly fantastic job at promoting their brand. Those P*** posters you’ve seen, that dive show you attended, those magazine spreads you’ve read. These all stick in your head, just like Coca Cola does rather than Pepsi (remember our comparison earlier?)

SSI on the other hand, have a much smaller marketing budget. A budget that they gain from smaller dive agency fee’s, smaller certification cost fee’s and smaller staff budgets (I guess they don’t have a big fancy marketing team working from a new shiny office). So just because you are aware of one more so than the other, is it fair to say that they offer a different service? A service that is less safe, that has less quality? Less educational value? OF COURSE NOT! We prefer to teach SSI because of these reasons:

Student Focused Learning; SSI Instructors can modify 20% of their teaching methods to suit the students pace of learning but P*** run their courses in a set order.

Why is this relevant to you as a student…? Imagine you are having problems mastering a skill with P*** who say that SKILL A must be followed by SKILL B and so on… As you continue to struggle, your confidence withers, and the enjoyability factor begins to lessen.

With SSI’s proven standards, your instructor can move on and come back to that particular struggle area at a later time, ensuring you feel more comfortable, less stressed – ultimately more safe and in control in the water at any given time.

No Bulky Books; You do not have to purchase a SSI manual/e-book, you can borrow one of ours! It is not a standard to purchase one (unlike P***), and we will not make you pay for the privilege of explaining at the airport check in why you are overweight in baggage.

Instant Certification Card; Our SSI affiliation means your registered immediately on the SSI data base and sent a digital certification card to download to the SSI App on your phone, allowing you to move to your next location ready to dive. Your log book is also sufficient proof to use if you don’t get internet access before diving at your next location. Your physical certification card should be received at your home address within a month. You can dive anywhere in the world with your SSI certification, even if the next dive center you choose is only offering P*** diving!

So, what are the benefits of choosing P*** over SSI?

Well…errr. We don’t actually have an answer for that – sorry! Let me check if I mentioned everything?

  • Both are governed by the WRSTC – so P*** & SSI have the same quality of training and safety – check!
  • Both offer the same format – videos, theory, knowledge reviews, confined water training, open water training, exam – check!
  • Both have been around for over 40 years – professional and have longevity – Oops I missed that, well, here you have it!

DID YOU KNOW? You can even move between certification agencies, do your Open Water with SSI and then switch to P*** for your Advanced course, zig zagging all the way up to professional Instructor level.

Conclusion: Which is better P*** or SSI? Well, honestly when it boils down to it, it’s your decision. There’s no difference in training quality, world wide recognition or experience level. We recommend you make your choice based on the trainer rather than the agency. Pick the dive center you feel most comfortable with, the one who you have connected most with. The one that is the most informative, the one that doesn’t ‘bash’ the competition based on a negative, mostly uninformed, fictional view of the opposing certification agency.

To reiterate, all of the Black Marlin instructors are dual rated meaning we can teach both P*** and SSI courses, we just have our preference to SSI based mainly on the flexibility allowed in the changing waters of the Togean Islands.

Similarities: Internationally Recognised – Dive anywhere in the world Interchangeable – you can get certified as an Open Water Diver with SSI, then Advanced Diver with P***.

  • Safety – Science, Skills and Techniques are the same
  • Insurance – have valid insurance? You will be covered.


Water Flexibility –

SSI: Yes. Taught with an 80/20 approach. The instructor can adapt 20% of the course to fit the pace of learning, ensuring a student focused training programme.

P***: None. Skills performed in rigid sequence with no maneuver room for changing water conditions, student learning pace. If you do change, you break standards.

In House Theory –

SSI: Loaned Books supplied in our dive center, yours to borrow for the course.

P***: You must purchase a manual – adding cost and baggage weight

Certification ID –

SSI: Digital Certification sent immediately to you and physical card received normally in 30 days

P***: Physical card sent to your home at extra cost, 90 day temporary card issued.

e-Learning –

SSI: Yes, and it’s free! Or preregister for the App and get a free fun dive after your course!

P***: Yes, but priced at $130!