PADI Discover Scuba

15 August 2009

Discover Scuba on your next tropical adventure.

The PADI Discover Scuba program allows you to scuba dive with only a brief orientation, quick pool session and small ratios between divemasters/instructors and participants. Typically, this is the "quickie course" offered at most dive resorts worldwide. It's designed to give tourists a "taste" of diving, just as they'll get a "taste" of parasailing, jet skiing, boating, sailing...or whatever else they sign up for as a day outing.

There are benefits and challenges to this type of experience. On the plus side, the program allows non-divers to get a small idea of how amazing the world is under the sea. For those of us who "sell" scuba for a living, we constantly struggle with words to give our land lubber friends an idea of what we see, feel and are under the water. The only way to understand scuba is to actually try scuba.

Instead of spending a few weeks prior to your vacation taking classroom, pool and diving in the local quarry, a Discover Scuba gives the opportunity to see if you like it, under close supervision by instructors, and if you find the mojo, you are usually encouraged to follow up with your local dive center on your return home to pursue full certification.

The downside to a Discover Scuba is you are limited in depth, scope and skills. As a Discover Scuba participant, you are limited to diving to 40 feet. This is not normally a problem, as the abundant region of life is where the sun can penetrate the water. Life needs light. The deeper you go with diving, the less life you'll see, so diving to 4o feet will still give you a great diversity of marine life to view.

You are given a short course in breathing off a regulator, clearing your flooded mask and finding/replacing your regulator (gives you air...important underwater) should it leave your mouth during the dive. Then, quickly, you are whisked away to peruse the waters offshore.

For those comfortable in water, this is usually a successful experience. However, the program is only as good as the instructional staff running it on any given day. Sometimes, the staff is committed to showcasing the underwater world and dedicated to sharing scuba. In this case, the experience for most is a good one. However, I hear from student after student about overweighting issues (too much weight will sink you too fast), participant/instructor ratios not followed or cattle boat operations that just wanted to get the divers the water...and back so they could be off for the rest of the day. Many times these divers have scary stories to tell and who knows how many people are turned off of scuba by a bad experience at a resort course.

Is there a place for Discover Scuba? Yes. And its a powerful tool the scuba industry has to introduce would be divers to our sport. Used in this manner, it's great. But when it becomes nothing more than a quick money maker for a resort operation, the risks to the divers and impact on the sport are great.