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In our previous blog - Who is SSI Pt.1 - we looked at the early years of Scuba Schools International and how it was founded. In this blog, part 2, we will look further into the development of SSI into the millennia and up to where we are now - The best training agency in the world!
Sit back, relax and enjoy...
2001 to 2010
With a new team in place, SSI immediately began examining potential resort business needs and started to develop programs we felt this new customer base required. They believed from the beginning that a strong training centre and resort network, paired with a strategic, major equipment manufacturer alliance, was a successful recipe for the future.
SSI focused on creating a strong partnership with the leading dive magazines to raise SSI’s visibility in dive media all over the world. In that same year, they founded the Master Diver Challenge for the US market and DIVE TROPHY for the European market.
Today both the Master Diver Challenge and DIVE TROPHY are the world’s largest diver challenge programs, with more than 120,000 participants, close to two million points collected, and prizes valued at more than 500,000 Euros.
To better serve resort destinations and to grow our business in these areas, SSI created both the Scuba Diver and the Advanced Adventurer programs. It was only then that global resort operator Werner Lau Dive Centers discovered the true benefits of SSI and crossed over. This paved the way for exponential SSI growth in the resort market with companies like Extra Divers, Aggressor Fleet, Orca Dive Clubs, Robinson, AIDA, and many others.
When manufacturers started creating more diver-friendly, yet technically sophisticated equipment, diver training also needed to evolve. SSI took this as a signal to get involved in technical diving education, creating a new division called Extended Range.
One of the most significant developments in SSI’s history is ODiN—Online Divers information Network —known today as MySSI.This system represented a new generation. An online system that integrated every aspect of SSI training and education with SSI divers, professionals, training centers, and SSI Service Centers around the world through the internet, becoming a virtual global headquarters for any SSI-affiliated user. This development launched SSI into the future, placing Scuba Schools International as a truly global entity.
In 2008, Robert Stoss, Doug McNeese, and Guido Waetzig purchased all remaining SSI shares from Bob Clark and his family and split the company into two international offices—Fort Collins, Colorado in the United States and Wendelstein in Germany, setting the stage for a substantial period of growth. Within a short period of time, SSI grew to more than thirty international Service Centres with training materials translated into more than twenty languages.
The global financial crisis was in full swing and the entire dive market was in a state of flux. Customers became more demanding than ever before. Diving was also competing with a lot of other activities. So, we asked ourselves how we could deal with these new challenges in the most effective way? The answer was obvious: provide services that our competition did not. The new objective was to identify how we could get a customer to walk into a Training Center or resort and sign up for a scuba class. The result set SSI up as the first agency in the industry to create a powerful acquisition tool and launched SSI OnlineTraining for everyone!
SSI’s 40th Anniversary was another record year of development and accomplishments.
In 2010, with the same kind of “out of the box” thinking, SSI became an industry trendsetter by
launching two non-scuba programs: SSI Freediving and Swim Schools International.
Both freediving and swim quickly became their own success stories, attracting two completely new consumer groups. Today, SSI Freediving has become the leader in Freediving around the world. Both swim and freediving have seen phenomenal growth and international notoriety.
SSI qualified for the European Standards for first time in 2005, which was the foundation for the future Global ISO certification, with five diver and two professional programs. 2010 was the start of the Global ISO certification, certifying SSI as one of the first scuba training agencies to provide SSI divers and professional members with an outstanding quality label.
2011 to 2015
Ocean ecology and environmental conservation have always been at the heart of the diving industry. At SSI, they strongly feel it is every company’s fiduciary responsibility to bring attention to the daily impact we have on the environment.
Because of their passion for conservation, they created Mission Deep Blue, in cooperation with Shark Project, to create a greater awareness of the devastation sharks are facing and how they play an important role in maintaining our ecosystem.
Everybody likes recognition, especially when it is free. SSI has always had a strong recognition system, but in 2012 we decided to increase our focus on specialty training—the more training you do, the more recognition you receive.
Divers would automatically receive free recognition cards after taking a certain number of specialties and logging a certain number of dives. These free cards could be earned for Specialty Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Master Diver, and Divemaster, some of the most elite diver ratings in the industry.
SSI went one step further, allowing certifications from other agencies to be recognized by training centres and credited towards the recognition cards, as long as fifty percent of the certifications were with SSI.
SSI always strive to be customer-centric and an industry “team player" by honouring dive customers’ accomplishments made with other training agencies. They feel it is important to make their past diving experiences count, plus, it provides for an easy and smooth crossover option.
It is said: “What you believe you can achieve!” For years SSI had the long-term strategic vision to bring together the three most important pillars of the diving industry—training, equipment, and travel. Having these three products would allow us to give our training centers, resorts, and professionals the tools needed to further shape and drive the dive market around the world.
In 2013, and culminating in 2014, this strategic vision became a reality. On January 1, 2014, HEAD Sports acquired SSI. While HEAD is best known for top-of-the-line tennis and ski equipment, they also own a highly respected dive equipment division known as Mares.
Mares is recognized by its peers as a leader in diving equipment manufacturing and is now the second pillar of our strategic vision. This transaction resulted in SSI becoming the most innovative and fastest- growing training agency in the world.
To solidify our long-term and continued success, with this acquisition SSI added a new member to the management team, Jean-Claude Monachon, Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Jean-Claude is not new to the diving industry and his years of experience are rooted in the dive agency business. With his knowledge and networking strength, he has proven to be an enormous asset to the SSI team.
With the same kind of creative thinking that led to other landmark accomplishments, SSI successfully introduced its digital revolution by launching the debut of the newly written Open Water Diver program. SSI’s new Total Teaching System masters the use of technology to strengthen the learning experience, using a purely digital platform including high-definition videos, animations, graphics, photos, personal notes, and bookmarks. Training can now take place on any device or operating system, anywhere around the world.
Between the digital Total Teaching System and the MySSI app, SSI has created a new standard in the diving industry. Our education model includes digital training materials, a digital logbook, and digital certification all for one price.The MySSI app is free and available for both iOS and Android systems.
SSI Fun Fact: Over 1.6 million downloads of SSI training materials in 2019 shows us that the world loves digital!
2016 to 2019
The SSI Digital Revolution continued, and over the next two years we digitised all SSI programs in all languages. From the initial point of development, translation and launch speed have tripled, transitioning SSI from a paper-based company to an innovator in digital education.
The quality of program content produced at SSI has always been their strongest driver. The next step was to renew all of SSI’s professional programs such as Dive Guide, Assistant Instructor, the Instructor Training Course, Instructor Evaluation, and ultimately the Instructor Trainer Seminar. These professional programs offer a comprehensive approach to create future SSI Professionals with the same strong focus on quality educational materials.
SSI Fun Fact: SSI offers 175 certification cards for a wide range of programs.
Newly designed professional programs, however, were not enough. SSI also launched the SSI Pro Rewards program this same year. SSI Pro Rewards allows SSI professionals to earn real money for every certification issued that can later be redeemed during membership renewal.
The creative juices continued to flow as the SSI team came up with the idea of creating a limited quantity of SSI professionally branded Mares equipment items that would be available for purchase once a year, thus creating the SSI Renewal Plus Program.
SSI is constantly striving to improve their suite of products and services for the entire watersports community. This type of approach is seemingly limitless. In 2018, they released two new programs to the world, Mermaid and Lifeguard. These new programs expanded our product offerings, and brought their training centres a new potential consumer base to strengthen their businesses.
In an effort to broaden SSI's conservation mission and sharpen their environmental message, Mission Deep Blue became Blue Oceans. Blue Oceans is a free program, accessible to anyone through MySSI. The goal is to create environmental awareness and desire to protect our oceans. Blue Oceans is a synonym for role model behaviour and sustainable diving practices for all SSI Professionals and their students.
Fun fact; Did you know Aotearoa Dive is a Blue Oceans training centre, CLICK HERE for more information on what we do.
SSI Celebrates its 50th Anniversary
Today SSI is the world’s largest business-based training agency, with 50+ years of business experience, servicing more than 3,300 SSI Training Centers worldwide. SSI offers more than sixty programs in forty languages, including Scuba Diving, Extended Range programs like Rebreather and Overhead Environment, Freediving, Mermaid, Swim, and Lifeguard. This broad range of training programs provides water sports enthusiasts the opportunity to choose what they really want.
One of SSI’s most notable accomplishments is the launch of MyDiveGuide on the diveSSI.com website. MyDiveGuide is the world’s largest dive site database, designed to provide divers with easy to access online dive travel options as well as connecting thousands of dive sites and wildlife encounters to SSI Training Centers around the globe.
MyDiveGuide gives you the ability to search for the best dive sites and the most thrilling wildlife encounters the world over. MyDiveGuide is an online resource that the entire SSI community can be a part of by simply logging their dives through the MySSI app. MyDiveGuide is one of SSI’s most strategic projects in our fifty year history. Try it out. We think you will be amazed!
There you have it, fifty years of dedication wrapped up in a couple of blog posts. Everyone of our customers who reads this is amazed at what we have accomplished. The emphasis is on the WE because our motivation to constantly improve is YOU—swimmers, snorkelers, freedivers, scuba divers, professionals, and training centers that have all become true friends over the last five decades.
At Aotearoa Dive we listen to you. This has always been—and still is—our driving force and recipe for success. We strive to match your requests and needs, always willing to question ourselves and change, if needed, to provide our customers with the best possible services and products to explore the underwater world we all love.
Thank you in the name of everyone that made this journey possible, past and present. The entire SSI Team is looking forward to serving you in the years ahead and continuing to be your trustworthy partner whenever you need us!
Thank you for your loyalty, trust, and ongoing support. We appreciate each and every one of you. Now, help us celebrate by wishing SSI a“Happy 50th Anniversary” and don't forgot our 1st birthday coming up soon!
Until next time, have fun and check out our latest video below!
Aotearoa Dive team