You may be a non-diver who’s curiously poking around this site, looking to give the underwater world a try. If so, welcome. Or maybe you’re a scuba diver with a non-diving relative or friend who you’re anxious to introduce to our sport. But what are the options?
First, it’s important to note that most organizations require non-divers to be escorted on dives by a certified instructor. A dive guide (often a divemaster) or another non-instructor-level scuba diver won’t cut it. While there are no ‘dive police’ stopping certified divers at the water’s edge if they take non-divers with them, there can be repercussions in some dive organizations, particularly for professional divers such as divemasters. And for good reason: Assuming responsibility for an untrained person underwater is a big deal and takes training and awareness. Why risk either your or your buddy’s safety?
The terms used to refer to these non-diving, non-certification activities vary quite a bit from organization to organization, so we’ll cover the main dive organizations’ offerings, so you know what to look for.
Sometimes PADI’s description of their introductory offer confuses people, as dive centers often refer to it as a “course,” which may sound like a bit much for the average, curious non-diver looking to dip their head underwater. But don’t be turned off by the word; this program really is all about trying diving before plunging into a full course. A Discover Scuba can be completed either in a pool or in open water, but the number of participants per instructor usually drops significantly for safety reasons when it happens in open water. Many centers will only have a single participant per instructor. Maximum depth is 40 feet, and participants must be at least 10 years old, with parental consent.
NAUI’s term “Tandem Diving” is meant to mimic the skydiving term, when a non-skydiver completes a jump strapped to an experienced skydiver. While you won’t be strapped to an instructor during the dive, Tandem Diving is a one-on-one scenario, wherein a non-diver dives to a maximum of 40 feet, escorted by his or her personal dive instructor. Much as with PADI’s Discover Scuba, Tandem Diving also includes a basic intro to dive gear and skills. Minimum age is 10 years old, although individual dive centers may require participants to be older.
SSI’s Try Scuba Diving was recently included in their large-scale e-learning offerings, wherein the academic portion of course is available as e-learning, either in a browser or on mobile apps. After completing this portion of the program, a typical Try Scuba Diving experience consists of one dive, though some centers will include two dives, in particular if they’re completed via boat. Maximum depth is again 40 feet and minimum age is 10.
SDI’s offering for people looking to try diving is called Scuba Discovery, and like the others, require participants to be at least 10 years old. Children of 8 or 9 can participate in the Future Buddies course, which aims to introduce children to scuba diving in a confined water environment, typically a pool, much like PADI’s Bubblemaker program. Divers participating the Scuba Discovery will get an intro to equipment and skills, and complete a dive with an instructor.
All of these programs seek to give those interested in scuba diving an introduction to the underwater world that’s both thrilling and safe. If you’ve tried one of these programs or are about to, we’d love to hear about your experience!