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What is a Try Dive..? - Steve Martin answers... Minimize

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One of my friends who is a PADI dive instructor, recently sent a video link to another friend of mine via facebook with the comments "Rob, this is amazing!!! I think this instructor & dive centre need a QA!!!" It's title was "how not to do a dsd" I picked up on this via the news feed on facebook and thought I would give it a watch.

(For those who are reading and do not know a QA is a Quality Assurance report that a PADI instructor could complete if say this actually witnesses another PADI Instructor doing something that is not correct and could put a student in danger, the report would notify PADI that there is a potential problem and they would then investigate the situation further. A DSD is also mentioned above and that is referring to a PADI Discover Scuba Dive which is a program offered by PADI that has set standards that must be followed to make sure that the student is kept safe and when followed correctly the student will get the most enjoyment while learning to scuba dive for the first time).

I must say that the video I watched is not a PADI DSD and is nether how you would teach someone to dive or how I would like to see anyone learn to scuba dive. Due to obvious professional reasons I will not be showing or posting a link to the video but will explain what I witnessed below. 

The video clip showed one person who I presume was (the instructor) standing in a shallow swimming pool with another person (the "try dive" student) in the water face down breathing from scuba diving equipment and another one or two students dressed in mask and fins. The instructor was not wearing any scuba gear, he was standing waist deep in the water whilst holding onto the students cylinder, then would escort/drag the person around in a small semi circle circuit around the pool and return to the other people in the group and I presume he then would pass the equipment across to another student to give scuba diving a go.

Having watched this I felt compelled to write this article, as a PADI Course Director I regularly spend time working with soon to be new dive instructors, during their IDC (Instructor Development Course) they learn about the dive industry and there is a point where we will spend time going over how they should conduct a "try dive" or it's better know as a "DSD" discover scuba diving session. I have myself witnessed many different ways scuba diving is being introduced around the world some right, some wrong. I continue to gain more insight into this by working with instructors from different parts of the world, they tell me how they were first introduced into scuba diving and what they have witnessed whilst working around the world.

Based on the experience I have gained I am going to discuss in detail 3 very different ways that people are being introduced to scuba diving today. They are an official PADI Discover Scuba Dive another is a typical "Try Dive" and the last is a sort of "give scuba diving a go option". I hope by providing this information I will give people a more informed view on what option they should choose and expect from any scuba dive instructor they choose when learning to scuba dive for the first time.

PADI DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) Course

Discover Scuba Diving is an official program offered by dive shops and instructors who are affiliated with PADI, students completing this course will receive a certification you can use towards part of your PADI open water course.

Completing a PADI DSD insures you get complete training that will be the same around the world, as instructors have set standards and procedures to follow. This is outlined to them via the PADI program they are conducting. Learning through this program is designed to give you maximum enjoyment whilst making it as easy as possible, hence the likelihood you will continue learning to dive.

On your first PADI DSD you will complete the following in a swimming pool or in a confined water area (that has pool like conditions, with maximum depth of 6m): 
  • Complete the Discover Scuba Diving brochure, has a medical questionnaire insures your fit to try scuba diving and informs you of any risks associated with the sport.
  • Receive a briefing about the types of equipment you will be using as well as breathing rules and safety procedures and tell you what you will be doing. Usually this is done by viewing a flip chart, with easy to understand pictures and clear text, as well as the instructor delivering information in a language you can understand.
  • (You may be shown a DVD showing you what to expect from your first breath).
  • Instructor then helps you into equipment and adjusts it to fit you correctly, this is all done in water you can stand up in.
  • Instructor then shows you how to breath underwater and swim in shallow water, again you can stand up in.
  • Once comfortable you then may learn some underwater skills (listed below), they will be required for certification.

    Underwater Skills:

  • BCD inflation and deflation at the surface
  • Breathing underwater
  • Regulator clearing
  • Regulator recovery
  • Mask clearing
  • Equalization techniques
  • Hand signals and underwater communication
  • Relaxation techniques

The skills below also may be added to the ones above if you are likely to continue onto your PADI open water course.

  • While underwater, locate and read the submersible pressure gauge and signal whether the air supply is adequate or low based on the gauge’s caution zone.
  • Breathe underwater for at least 30 seconds from an alternate air source supplied by another diver.
  • Demonstrate the techniques for a proper ascent.
  • Instructors will only introduce dive skills to you once you are comfortable, they will not introduce them too early as this can task load you and take away from the experience of breathing underwater, in the end that is why your trying scuba diving for the experience not to learn skills. If I could learn to dive again, this would be the option I would choose without a doubt. 

    The skills above are completed on what is called an open water dive, this will have a maximum depth of 12 metres - however all skills must be done in water you can stand up in. This keeps it safe and enables you to have as many goes as you like in your own time.

"Try Dive" way of learning to scuba dive

This option is what I see a lot of dive centres doing around the world. They still fill out the correct paperwork and give you a dive briefing and provide you with your own equipment etc. The instructor will demonstrate dive skills and give you the chance to try them. The real difference is that they do not follow an exact outline and this can mean that you don't always get the best training.

This does not mean this option is wrong, having read about the PADI DSD you now have more information about what sort of questions to ask and what you should expect about your future dive centre. I would also highly recommend you ask to speak to the person who will most likely be your instructor for your session. This way they can tell you exactly what they will be doing and answer any of your questions, any good dive centre/instructor will take the time out to talk to you.

"Give scuba diving a go"

This option should be avoided and I don't recommend this way to learn. You might have witnessed this whilst on your holidays, you see someone turn up to a swimming pool with some scuba equipment and they would go around asking people who would most likely be relaxing around the swimming pool if they have tried scuba and then charge you to jump in the pool and give it a go. They again would be offering a service very similar to what I have described at the start of this article.

This should be avoided for the following reasons;

  • There is a much better way of learning, i.e PADI Discover Scuba experience, designed to have you enjoy the experience and repeat/continue further...
  • The person who is letting you try scuba is unlikely to be insured.
  • These people are sometimes not even certified as scuba diving instructors.
  • You may not receive any actual instruction on how to use scuba equipment properly.
  • You don't see an actual underwater demonstration of what you will be doing.
  • It may seem like a cheaper option but since when has the cheapest way ever been the best?
  • If done this way you are highly unlikely to ever continue with scuba diving.

This does not always mean that someone who approaches you at the swimming pool will be offering you this service, just ask them two things one to see there instructor certification card and if this is an PADI Discover Scuba, you should now know if what you are getting sounds correct, due to reading this article.

I hope by writing this article I have given you more insight into learning to dive and this helps you make the right choice when you decide to try scuba diving. You can find a PADI dive centres by going through dive shop locater - http://www.padi.com/scuba/locate-a-padi-dive-shop/default.aspx

Alternately let me know your thoughts on this article by dropping me an email, if you would like to see other articles let me know what you would like to see.

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Calendar shows where I will be and duration of my time there. If I am in your area and you want to join a course, contact me for locations. If you see any dates free and would like me to visit your dive centre or location, drop me an email with location, course interest and possible dates.
Want to know more about how your cylinders weight changes during a dive..? Video has information on what effects the weight change and has tests showing cylinders at different air pressures during dives in salt and fresh water. It displays whether they have Negative, Neutral or Positive Buoyancy. More details found at www.sidemountscubadiving.com
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