Training Fundamentals: PADI Discover Scuba Diving

The PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience is the first taste of blowing bubbles for many people. Why is it so popular and what are the benefits?

The PADI Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) experience, colloquially known as a “Try-Dive,” is often the first taste of scuba diving many people will experience. Under the watchful eye and close control of a professional diver, a complete novice can go from being an envious bystander to seeing the underwater world themselves in less than an hour.

The PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience is phenomenally popular, and for good reason. It’s a win-win situation for both the participant and the dive center or resort conducting the session. What exactly is a PADI DSD session? And what is involved? What are the benefits to the participant? And why are they such a boon for dive centers and staff the world over?

While of course at the instructor or dive center’s discretion, eligibility requirements to take part in a DSD experience are minimal. The participant must be at least 10 years old, physically fit, and have the appropriately signed RSTC medical and liability releases.

So, what is a DSD session? What is involved? The DSD, in its complete form, is a three-part experience.

DSD: part one

First, the instructor briefs divers on breathing rules and equalization techniques, equipment purpose and use, hand signals, regulator and mask clearing techniques and responsible interactions with aquatic life, particularly when conducting the program outside of a pool environment. The instructor will also strongly emphasize the importance of watching and staying close to the professional diver supervising the in-water experience and the limitations of the program. They’ll also reinforce the value of further training, should the DSD participants enjoy the experience.

It is vitally important that all participants understand precisely what will happen when in the water, what to do in the event of a problem, and that the DSD is an experience program, not a training course with certification. With that in mind, each participant must complete and sign the Discover Scuba Diving Knowledge and Safety Review.

DSD: part two

The second step is to progress to the pool or shallow, confined open water. Candidates learn how their gear works and practice BCD inflation and deflation at the surface. Next, they’ll learn the correct breathing technique and practice blow some bubbles.

Once candidates are comfortable beneath the surface, the instructor will demonstrate and assess key safety skills with the candidate. The instructor must ensure that candidates are able to successfully complete the following skills prior to moving to an open-water setting with a depth of up to 40 feet (12 m):

  • Breathing underwater
  • Regulator clearing
  • Regulator recovery
  • Mask clearing
  • Equalization techniques

DSD: part three

Finally, having successfully completed the skills, participants can participate in a tour of an open-water dive site under an instructor’s close supervision.

Benefits to the participant

  • The DSD program is a fun way to get a taste of what it means to be a qualified scuba diver. Within an hour, you can go from a complete novice who has never worn a scuba unit to completing your first open-water dive.
  • The DSD experience isn’t time-consuming and, in some circumstances, may only require a couple of hours from your vacation. So, if family or friends are on vacation with you and aren’t interested in scuba diving, the shorter session allows you to try it and still dedicate the remainder of the day to other activities.
  • Taking part in a DSD experience offers participants a window into another world and, depending on the environment, their first opportunity to observe aquatic life in its natural environment.
  • The program is equally fun with family and friends or as a single traveler looking to meet other people. The camaraderie of diving brings people together: you never forget your first dive.
  • The DSD experience offers a taste of what a full open-water course involves. Indeed, at the instructor’s discretion, you may earn some credit toward your first confined-water and open-water dives of the full course.
    Conversely, however unlikely it sounds, this taste of diving may help you decide that scuba diving isn’t for you. You may not enjoy it, feel uncomfortable in the water, or feel you don’t currently have the physical fitness to undertake diving in a more committed way. A DSD lets you spend less time and fewer resources in a non-committal way and get a snapshot of the sport.
  • Finally, if the participant doesn’t have time to complete a full open-water course but wants to do some more diving on their vacation, a successfully completed DSD can facilitate further excursion dives to 40 feet (12 m) under the close supervision of a professional.
  • This allows the participants to gather some more experience, enjoy the underwater world, gain confidence and, hopefully, fall in love with the sport and choose to continue.

Benefits for the dive center and instructor

In a resort environment, the DSD experience is the bread and butter for many dive centers. Hotel pool demonstrations allow centers access to a rolling cast of potential new diving customers who, perhaps not having considered diving before, may love the experience and continue to dive more for the duration of their stay.

The DSD is a great shop window for dive centers and a well-conducted DSD will often lure bystanders in to inquire about taking part, especially if they see the smiling faces of happy customers returning to the surface for the first time.

Given the DSD’s link to the full open-water course, a well-conducted session may also lead to a conversion — someone on vacation who opts to undertake the full open-water course during their trip. All of these outcomes are good news for the revenue stream of the dive center and instructor. New divers often go on to share their experience with friends and family on social media or buy essential equipment such as a mask and snorkel from the dive shop as well.

The DSD experience is quick and inexpensive to conduct. It also allows new professional divers to gather lots of useful experience in a short period of time. Each participant is usually new to diving. Consequently, new professional divers become fluid and highly competent at dealing with student divers over just a few weeks when they may conduct dozens of DSDs.

Much like new student divers learning an essential skill, new professional divers gain proficiency through repetition. Explaining diving-related concepts, honing their coaching skills, identifying and resolving problems before they occur, and understanding how to encourage new DSD participants to convert to a full open-water course becomes second nature as they blossom with experience.

Conversely, for the experienced instructor who hasn’t taught at the grass-roots level for a long period, conducting DSDs can be refreshing — a reminder of the joy on students’ faces as they realize they can breathe underwater for the first time.

The Discover Scuba Diving program is hugely successful and, for many long-certified divers, their first diving experience. Conducted in the correct way it is a fun, safe and rewarding experience for both the participant and the instructor.