WHAT'S THE POINT IN THE PADI SCUBA DIVER COURSE?
You know I've been doing this job a long time. I always try to be open minded about stuff, but it's so easy to get stuck in a particular mindset because "that's the way you've always done it".
That's why I'm so grateful for the amazing team of Dive Pros here at The Fifth Point. They help me see things from different angles - just like they did with the PADI Scuba Diver Course recently.
Let me explain...
PADI SCUBA DIVER IS A CONSOLATION PRIZE, RIGHT?
I'll admit, up until about a month ago this is kinda how I saw the PADI Scuba Diver course. When I worked in Malaysia it was a common fallback option for students who were struggling with skills and/or had a time constraint.
The holiday market is very different to the domestic market. When students turn up for their courses and only have a finite amount of time to spend with you, your job as an Instructor is to schedule their training to fit. I've talked about the pressure that this puts on Instructors before (and the arguments I used to have with the bosses over refusing to make the team do 2-3 day open water courses).
For some students learning on holiday, there just won't be enough time for them to reach the standard that you're looking for. I encountered this issue quite regularly - some students came to me to get over their fear of being in the water. We had to go right back to basics before we could even begin any kind of scuba training. As you can imagine, there's no way I could get them through their full Open Water Course if we were building general water confidence first. So, I'd fall back on PADI Scuba Diver. They came away with a qualification that meant they could still go diving plus they had conquered their fear.
There were also occasions where I sold Scuba Diver to a customer if they only had a couple of days to spare but wanted to get something out of it. Perhaps as an upgrade to a DSD that they absolutely loved but weren't here long enough to complete the full Open Water.
This is what I did for half of my dive pro career, so when we came back to the UK I didn't spot the opportunities to use PADI Scuba Diver as a full course in its own right. In the domestic market, we usually have unlimited time to get students through their Open Water Course so didn't need a fallback option.
Then my Staff Instructor Laura said something that sent my business brain into overdrive. We've got quite a lot of kids doing their Open Water right now and Laura said...
"The kids are desperate to get in the sea and have fun, they're switching off in confined. I wonder if Scuba Diver might be a better option for them."
PADI Scuba Diver IS NOT for those who don't have enough time. It's not a consolation prize. It's bloody PERFECT for getting people out diving for real, sooner, and having fun with our dive centre. And it's not just the kids, it's perfect for ADULTS too. Why didn't I see this before?!
WHAT IS THE PADI SCUBA DIVER COURSE?
Ok, before we go any further, let's just remind ourselves what the PADI Scuba Diver course and certification actually is.
It's a subset of the Open Water Course. Students will only complete certain elements of the full course including:
- Knowledge Development sections 1-3
- Confined Water 1-3 with some flexi skills
- Open Water Dives 1 and 2 with some flexi skills
- 10 minute float
They can of course upgrade at a later date by completing all the remaining skills and gain their full Open Water qualification.
In terms of their certification, there are a couple of restrictions placed upon a PADI Scuba Diver - they're limited to 12m and must be accompanied by a PADI Pro when they're diving. This is because while they're going to be better prepared in terms of their theoretical knowledge and skills compared to a DSD participant, they're still missing some key training to make them fully independent as divers.
WHY PADI SCUBA DIVER IS A PERFECT OPTION FOR US
As I'm writing this, the gears are in motion to make PADI Scuba Diver the main option for beginners wanting to learn to dive at The Fifth Point. Basically, I've realised that Open Water Divers are actually overqualified for the majority of dives we do!
1. MOST OF OUR DIVE SITES ARE SHALLOW
We're out shore diving about 4 times a week with students and fun divers. All our local shore sites are pretty shallow - unless you're going to go for a mahoosive swim out, you'll probably only reach about 10m max depth.
So... why am I forcing students to do at least 6 weeks of confined training followed by another 2 of open water dives to get them certified to 18m when the majority of our dive sites are less than 10m?!
PADI Scuba Divers are qualified to 12m - perfect for our sites.
2. IF THEY'RE DIVING WITH US, THEY WILL ALWAYS HAVE A GUIDE
That restriction of PADI Scuba Divers needing supervision from a PADI Pro isn't an issue for us - there's a Divemaster or Instructor guiding every single dive we do, regardless of what level divers are at.
3. 60% OF OUR STUDENTS JOIN SUBMERGE TO KEEP DIVING REGULARLY
Our diver subscription, Submerge (think of it like a gym membership but for diving) is a cracking little community of people who just love to go diving. Alongside a lot of other perks, Submerge makes regular diving really cost-effective.
From a business perspective, Submerge is really important. It's our group of hardcore divers and hardcore supporters. They love the sport, they join our trips, take our courses and buy gear from us.
Growing this area of the business is a no-brainer - it's full of incredible divers who are our superfans. They feel part of the gang and align with what we do. I want to work with as many of them as possible, the more the merrier.
PADI Scuba Diver has the potential to get people involved in this community a lot quicker. Training can be completed in less than half the time of the full Open Water which means our customers can achieve their end goal sooner - they just want to go diving!
The plan is to pivot the business away from providing courses as a tangible product. I did a little bit of market research (and by that I mean that I actually talked to my customers!) Those at the very start of their diving journey don't care about the details of a course or qualification. Think back to before you started the Open Water Course... did you care how deep it meant you could go? I didn't! All I wanted to do was go diving. And that's exactly what everyone I've spoken to has said. Why are we prolonging that goal with weeks of training that over qualifies them for the majority of diving we have on offer?
I want The Fifth Point to better facilitate getting people out diving, having incredible experiences, getting more involved with our amazing community, and falling completely in love with the ocean.
Once the foundations are set and the diver is ready to progress, then we can start looking at what further training can help them achieve. I see the Open Water Course becoming more like a con-ed course - a skills upgrade for when divers are ready to progress and continue their journey.
WILL THIS APPROACH WORK FOR YOU?
That's hard to say! I don't know your setup, your dive sites, or your customer base. Having said that, if you'd like to talk it through I'm more than happy to chat over a coffee - be that in person or virtually!
The diving industry is competitive - and by that, I don't just mean the dive centre down the road. You're competing against anything that occupies your potential customer's free time... stand up paddleboarding, surfing, mountain biking, rock climbing. How many of those activities need participants to spend prolonged periods of time in training before they can actually get out there and do it?? The PADI Scuba Diver approach would significantly reduce the main barriers to entry - cost and time.
Don't get stuck in that mindset of "that's the way I've always done it". Scuba Diver is not a consolation prize. Hopefully, this article has given you the shake that Laura gave me! It's time to reconsider PADI Scuba Diver... it could be an absolute game-changer if you think outside the box.