Letter of agreement and conditions

Dear Course Candidate

This letter is intended to document for you – as a student of Techdiver Training and Steve Lewis – what you should expect from your dive program. It also outlines what I expect from you. I hope you agree with the conditions and parameters outlined here. If you have questions about anything in this letter, please mention it to me immediately.


General conditions

By its nature a technical diving course is more complex than a sport diving course. One major difference is that unlike courses from many open water agencies, there is NO guarantee that you will pass the course you are signing up for. Your course fees DO NOT automatically mean you will pass.

Candidates are expected to provide their own equipment as specified in each course outline and are expected to ensure it is in working order before turning up for course dives. This includes essentials such as cutting devices (I carry three at ALL times), spare mask (that fits), and DSMB (liftbag) and spool with line pre-knotted every three metres or ten feet. If you have any doubts about the suitability of your equipment and/or have trouble providing the items contained in the equipment list provided with your course outline, please contact me before class begins. Please Note: In the final analysis, the suitability – or not – of equipment is my call.

Charter fees, park entrance fees, gas fills, and equipment rental fees ARE NOT included in course fees. The only possible exceptions to this are special combination training live-aboard trips which have been purchased as a package.

Use of “recreational” drugs, including abuse of prescription drugs, possession of illegal substances or contraband, drunkenness, violent behavior of any kind, bullying, and any sexually abusive, racist, sexist or other offensive action towards other students will result in you being kicked out of the class and reported to the appropriate authorities, and you will forfeit ALL course fees.

Your level of mental and physical fitness will play a role in your abilities to complete a technical diving course successfully. We can talk privately about this and about ways we can assess your readiness to take part in my class if you have any doubts or questions.

If you smoke, please refrain from do so during classes, on charters or during dive briefing and debriefing sessions.

I have no objection to anyone having a beer or glass of wine after a day’s diving; however, please be aware that drinking and driving regulations cover operations of motor vehicles and water craft, and please be respectful of the sensibilities of people who find alcohol disturbing.

What I expect from you in the classroom

You will get the most out of your course if you arrive for the academic session(s) ready to work. You should provide notepaper, pens, highlighter and a calculator. Some students bring a voice recorder to class rather than taking notes – this is fine too. If you have been given a textbook and a course handout (CD-ROM, pdfs etc.) before the class begins, please read all materials and have your comments and questions ready for the first class module. If you receive these materials after starting the course, please read them as soon as possible and bring your questions to my attention during subsequent class sessions, fieldwork or during pre- and post-dive briefings.

Classroom sessions sometimes require me to rent meeting rooms and therefore it is essential for you to be punctual. If you cannot attend a classroom session, please notify me immediately. Failure to attend a scheduled classroom session may result in your course being rescheduled and in some cases may mean additional charges.

Please bring completed waiver, medical form, your dive logbook, certification cards and proof of DIVE insurance with you for your first classroom session.

Unless you have made other arrangements, your course fees are payable IN FULL at the start of the classroom portion of your course. Payment may be made in cash or by personal check drawn on a US or Canadian bank. I am able to accept all major credit cards via Paypal but payment using this method carries a 3.5 percent surcharge (sorry).


What I expect from you in the water

A positive attitude and a willingness to learn are essentials. So too is attention to detail and personal safety and the safety of your fellow divers. You will be taxed and task-loaded at times during the in-water training, I expect you to be able to discuss your personal abilities honestly and openly during post-dive debriefings. If there is something you feel uncomfortable doing, I can pace the course accordingly. DON’T BE PRESSURED into doing things you don’t understand or feel comfortable doing! This is recreational diving and we are not training to attack an underwater fortress. Your training is supposed to be instructive, challenging but also fun.

Again, punctuality is essential, especially when charter boats have been booked. Don’t forget, if you’re late arriving at the dock and the boat has left, you may still have to pay for your charter! Please arrive with all equipment ready to go; this means appropriate gas fills, personal gear and extras of anything that might break!

All tank contents should be analyzed and appropriate MOD marked clearly on all cylinders prior to leaving the filling station, and this includes back gas (please remember that AIR has an MOD too!) and extends to ALL decompression / stage bottles EVEN those dedicated to “standard” gases with ideal MODs marked on their sides.


What you should expect from me

As a long-standing member of the largest technical diving agency in the world, I am bound by its code of ethics to run my business professionally and my conduct at all times is open to the scrutiny of TDI’s training and membership services department through regular student questionnaires and onLine feedback. As a member of TDI headquarters staff and executive team, the responsibility to conform to our agency’s standards of practice is heightened and students are invited to communicate their level of satisfaction with my courses directly with our V-P of Training, Sean Harrison via email at sean.harrison@tdisdi.com.

I will try to make your course interesting, informative and enjoyable. My goal is to make you think hard about diving, and be creative when solving diving-related problems. To the best of my abilities, I will be punctual and I will arrive for the classroom, fieldwork and in-water sessions ready to help you learn techniques and skills that will make you a better diver and be better prepared for the rigors of technical diving.

I will treat you fairly and respectfully. During the course I will give you honest assessments of your progress and I will point out areas of strength and weakness during debriefings. I will listen to your feedback. And I will try to adjust the class to suit your needs wherever practical.

My aim is to give you personal attention. During the classroom and some fieldwork, I don’t put a limit on the number of student who’ll sit in. In the water, I will keep class size at or below the limits prescribed by TDI USA. At times, I will mix newbies with graduates or candidates who have technically fulfilled the course requirements but who need one or two dives to show me something specific that I am not 100% comfortable with. There are a couple of reasons for doing this; some logistical and one or two have specifically to do with my training methods. If you have any questions about this, please ask me and I will connect you with one of my graduates and they can explain it!

I rarely wash people from classes – that’s to say, I seldom tell a student I cannot help them – but I DO fail people. If I fail you I will explain why and I will work with you to “fix” what challenges are standing in the way of your graduation. This may include holding a spot for you in a later class. It may mean putting your fees towards a remedial course and refunding any difference less the costs associated with the time already spent with you.

You do need to understand the “Fail” process. I do not believe in making courses unnecessarily hard nor do I expect perfection from candidates (instructor programs aside). My teaching philosophy – based on Problem-Based Learning (PBL) – includes the basic assumption that there is often no single right answer but many that are perfectly acceptable, and it has been my experience over more than 15 years teaching technical diving programs around the world that building on small successes is by far the most productive way to improve a self-motivated diver’s skills, understanding and enjoyment.

In the final analysis it is impossible for me to graduate a student who does not meet the following acid test: “If I were diving with this person on a <insert course type> dive and something happened to me that made it impossible for me to save myself, do they have the knowledge and skill to haul me and themselves safely to the surface?”

In order to graduate, you will have to demonstrate a specified level of understanding and fluency with the Six Skills[i]. However, as important as these are, there are three things that will earn you extra brownie points: Team Spirit, Empathy and Attention to Primary Mission (getting everyone back on dry land safely).

Naturally, classes are priced on the understanding that costs being somewhat fixed. Cost assumptions are based on a certain number of students in a class and a certain number of dives to have them qualify for graduation. Generally speaking, the price you pay will cover my expenses for the number of dives set out in my course guidelines and no more. Where one or two extra dives are called for, I make a judgment call whether or not to ask students to cover my fills and charters. Generally speaking, I swallow the costs associated with extra dives; however, there are exceptions to this rule.


  1. When candidates for a course demonstrate a lack of the basic skills one might expect from divers meeting course prerequisites – buoyancy, trim, in-water comfort, buddy awareness etc. after the prescribed number of dives and where remedial work seems appropriate.
  2. Candidates who miss scheduled dives — without at least 48 hours notification – on more than one occasion.
  3. Candidates who have requested private lessons
  4. Candidates who arrive for dives knowing they have marginal, unsuitable or dangerous equipment.
  5. Situations where graduation dives are scheduled in remote or distant spots


Enrollment in this course signifies acceptance of these terms.


Steve Lewis
TDI instructor-trainer # 6



[i] Buoyancy, Trim, Position, Breathing, Situational Awareness, Emotional Control. For a more complete understanding, please read essay, the Six Skills: advanced dive planning demystified or The Six Skills, decompression curve and other dialogues