Discover Scuba Diving Ideas

Discover Scuba Diving

We recently sent out an email with a selection of DSD coupons. Our artwork is holiday-specific, but a DSD coupon is an important marketing tool year-round. Worldwide, our most successful dive operators are the ones with a proactive DSD program.

In challenging economic times, business owners must be more aggressive in recruiting new customers. With that in mind: here are some ways to utilize the Discover Scuba program to bring in new customers:

Include a “Friends and Family” coupon in your open water kits and/or ask students to bring a non-diving friend to the last confined water session.
Schools are always looking for fund-raising ideas. Invite your local high school sports team to sell discover scuba diving coupons. It’s a good idea to to run the kids through a DSD experience before they go out and sell the coupons so they know what they’re selling.

Keep a few DSD coins in your wallet for that inevitable “You teach scuba? I’ve always wanted to try that…” conversation. Barry has a vendor who can make inexpensive DSD coins with a one-color foil imprint. Call us for details.

Tips from the Pros

Our friend Peter a PADI Regional Manager in South Africa, wrote a concise but informative article on conducting Discover Scuba experiences. He covers the use of coupons, the roll of topside staff, and some teaching tips.

How about a DSD experience for certified Divers?
Yes, really! Call it Discover Adventures in Diving? Invite certified divers you haven’t seen in awhile for a couple of fun hours in the pool: bust out the hula-hoops (PPB) some DPVs, underwater cameras, etc.

Have a DSD idea you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below!

P.S. If you haven’t seen it before, check out last year’s write up on Discover Santa Diving – featuring Santa Barry Dunford, of course.

If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to our blog.

Help the Seattle Aquarium with Scuba Hand-Me-Downs

Seattle Aquarium logo

Last weekend I had a great visit to the Seattle Aquarium. I asked Jeff (aquarium biologist and dive safety officer) if there was anything PADI Instructors or divers could do to support the aquarium. He said,

“We need retired dive gear!”

Wetsuits, fins, BCs, (anything that hasn’t been on someone’s head or in someone’s mouth) are greatly appreciated. Families use the items to play diver dress up – and it’s a riot. Jeff told me he’ll be in the tank giving a talk and kids will run up wearing wetsuits and fins waving at him like crazy.

If you have gear to donate, contact Jeff at 206-386-4279.

The aquarium can be a great addition to your next Fish ID class. Conduct dives in the morning, then invite student’s family and friends to meet at the aquarium for lunch and a tour. Students will enjoy sharing their experience and expertise.

By pre-registering the student’s certifications, you can have a great photo opp of the students with their certification cards under the dome. Not to mention, a trip to the aquarium is a great way to support marine research and conservation.

Confined Water Pool Games

“Time for fun and skill practice” is included as a performance requirement for every confined water session. The listing is not in bold, but it’s a key component nonetheless.

Pool games provide an opportunity for students to improve their skills while having fun. Some instructors (when pressed for time) omit this important element, but we should never cut corners on playtime! The more people have fun, the more likely they are to share their experience with friends and continue their scuba education.

Here are some of our favorite pool games. If there’s one you’d like to share, leave us a comment!

Ping Pong Ball Relay
Give each person a large spoon and each buddy team one ping-pong ball. Have a member from each buddy team kneel underwater with an overturned spoon in front of them. Plant the ping pong ball under the spoon and have them swim a lap around the pool (neutrally buoyant) then hand off the ball to their buddy. If the ball escapes, the student has to start the lap over again.

You can do this for bragging rights or prizes. I bring a variety of silly prizes for everyone, but the winning team gets first pick.

I Do You Do
After confined water four or five, have buddy teams assign each other skills. Brief students on some of the skills they can assign each other and/or hand out your confined water slates.

Hula Hoop Buoyancy Check
Float a hula hoop mid-water and have students swim through it. I like to do this in CW#4. After students complete their hover, have them swim through the hoop and take a lap around the pool. You can also use this game in PPB (use multiple hoops at different levels) or as part of an Adventures in Diving Olympics pool night.

Underwater Photo Booth
Bring an underwater camera to your first confined water session and have students take turns snapping photos. Encourage divers to act goofy – stand on their head, make faces, etc. It all adds up to helping students feel happy and more relaxed.

Teaching Tips: Digital Underwater Photography

Teaching the PADI Underwater Digital Photography Course
by Ken Pfau (PADI Instructor – Seattle, WA)

We’ve all seen that email that says:

“Hey Ken, We just got back from Cozumel and OMG what spectacular dives! I tried telling my friends about the seahorses, the spotted eagle rays, and that turtle that almost ran over my wife! But my storytelling didn’t get the message across like I hoped. I think it’s time to get an underwater camera; what do you suggest?”

Or maybe you get an email like this: “Hey Ken, I just tried out my new underwater camera, and OMG my pictures suck! When’s your next class?”

As an underwater photographer, you know a good camera set up is only 1/3 of the equation. Proper lighting and composition make up the other 2/3rds. With that in mind, here are two important points to reinforce with your students:

#1 If you understand light you can create a photograph of any subject that’s interesting.

#2 You can’t rely on Photoshop to fix poor composition

Here are some fun and interactive exercises I use to help students understand these concepts:

After reviewing the fundamentals of camera operation: lighting, exposure, white balance, composition, etc.. I get people into the pool. We split the pool work into two sessions:

. . .this is where you break the rock stars out from the head bouncers.

On the first pool dive I have students concentrate on perspective and buoyancy. I have several props that I use for session one: toy foam fish, sharks, jack-in-the box antenna balls and other cool stuff that I float off the bottom with about 2’ of fishing line and a lead weight. No touching the sides of the pool, no sitting on the bottom, no planting on their knees; they need to hover. Hover and take a focused shot.

After we get the buoyancy down a bit I work on perspective. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time looking at the top-side of a fish blended into coral, sand and mud. I have the students get low to the bottom and get a surface oriented view. Usually that means they need to hover with the head down and feet up; this is where you break the rock stars out from the head bouncers.

After a quick break, we load the photos up on a PC while talking about how to ensure the photo gear stays dry (I break out the air nozzle and attach it to my BC inflator hose for a quick dry). As we review each image I point out focus tips, effects of depth of field, white balance issues, and techniques for staying motionless.

On the second pool dive, I have students work on lighting and white balance. After students install the external flash, they’ll use the PADI white balance card to adjust the white balance for natural light. I review the shots underwater on the student’s LCD screens until I’m satisfied they have it right.

Even in our hygienic public pool there’s enough hair, fuzz, bits of who-knows-what to create back-scatter

Once they get white balance we work on lighting. I make each student work the flash all around the subject for lighting effects. Backlight for a halo effect, top lighted to show depth, side lighted, front lighted and so forth. I want them to get a feel of how just changing the position of the strobe will change the mood of the shot. After the dive we review the photos and let the students describe where the strobe was for each shot. It’s amazing to see that even in our very clean and hygienic local public pool that there’s enough hair, fuzz, bits of who-knows-what to create enough back-scatter to demonstrate why front-lighting seldom works in even the best conditions.

With the two basic principles of lighting and composition demonstrated each student is ready for a fun trip to our local open water hotspot to capture the image that sells their friends on diving.

Ken Pfau is an instructor in Seattle, WA who apprenticed at the prestigious Brooks Institute. Visit his blog: Ken’s Skooba Spot.

Need DUP 101? Read a recent Surface Interval explaining the differences between DUP1, DUP2 and integrating a DUP adventure dive into the AOW course.

Teaching the Project AWARE Specialty

2008 is the International Year of the Reef and, in support of this worldwide initiative, the PADI Northwest Newswire will feature a series of articles about promoting and teaching Project AWARE’s specialty courses. Today we’ll focus on teaching tips for the Project AWARE Specialty.

Both PADI Instructors and AI’s can teach the Project AWARE specialty and the recommended minimum course duration is four hours.

The purpose of the Project AWARE Specialty course is to familiarize divers and non-divers with the plight of worldwide aquatic ecosystems and describe what individuals can do to protect them. It’s also a fun way to keep divers active during the winter and help non-diving spouses feel like part of the scuba family.

To prepare for the course, you’ll want to review the AWARE Our World Our Water manual (product no. 70241) and the Project AWARE instructor outline (product no. 70239). As you read through the material, jot down a list of how the topics relate to your local environment (contacts).

All you really need to teach the Project AWARE course is a room and some comfortable chairs. But here are some things you can use to make the course an interactive learning experience:

Utilize slides from the AWARE Coral Reef Instructional CD-ROM (product no. 70809)

Localize it! Show video / photos of your favorite dive sites*

In section VII (Fisheries concerns) – distribute Seafood Watch Guides (available from Project AWARE) that remind students which fish are okay to eat.

After section X (Marine Pollution), take a snack break and invite students to brainstorm a list of everyday actions they can take to lessen their impact on the aquatic world (cut up 6-pack rings, use reusable grocery bags, divers – practice good buoyancy, etc)

* The DVD Into the Deep has some beautiful footage of the Channel Islands. You can get it from or Netflix.

Offering the Project AWARE specialty a few weeks prior to a beach clean-up is a great way to recruit volunteers. At the end of class, pass out a sign-up sheet. No clean-up scheduled? Invite students to sign up for your email list so they can stay up-to-date on what’s going on in their local marine environment.

Award all students with a Project AWARE certificate of completion and a flyer with information on your next AWARE course. As you pass out the certificates, remind students they are now ambassadors for the underwater world. They are responsible for sharing what they’ve learned. Invite them to tell a friend about your programs and (for non-divers) you might want to offer a free Discover Scuba Experience.

PADI Diving Society Members who enroll in an AWARE specialty (Fish ID, Coral Reef or Project AWARE) qualify for a free gift from PADI. Students must submit a redemption form and a receipt showing proof of purchase (training and AWARE manual) from a PADI Dive Center or Resort during 2008.


The Course Every Dive Shop Should Offer This Fall

When I took the Equipment Specialist course, I figured it’d be a fun afternoon of hanging out with my dive buddies and, heck, maybe I’d learn how to change an O-ring. By the time the class was over I had a two page wish list of things I just had to have.

I tracked down my instructor from back then (Scuba Steve of Aquatic Dreams) to find out what he said and did that made me want to drop half a paycheck on gizmos and wetsuit shampoo.

Scuba Steve’s tricks n’ tips for teaching the Equipment Specialist course:

When conducting the equipment specialty course, have plenty of gear on hand for students to touch and feel. Introduce them to the latest and greatest diving toys such as DPVs, Dive Computers, dive lights and BCDs. Talk about the difference between the high and low end dive equipment, and what to look for when purchasing new gear.

Keep the program interactive with hands-on workshops:
– wet suit repairs using neoprene scraps
– a trip to the equipment repair bench
– buoyancy comparisons of full and empty aluminum and steel cylinders in the pool, etc.

Use the videos found on the Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving DVD-ROM to show students how tanks and wetsuits are made. Or use the new Equipment Specialist course material for Android and iOS tablets.

Include care and feeding for your diver’s equipment
. Dive equipment’s biggest enemy is lack of care. By showing students how to properly clean their BCDs, regulators, wet and dry suits, they’ll have fewer equipment errors and malfunctions and the gear will last longer.

Help each diver put together a personal custom save-a-dive kit. Stock up on o-rings, bass picks, fin and mask straps, water proof boxes, LP and HP port plugs and anything else students may want in a kit.

I have done many equipment courses over the years and many people say it’s was one of the most informative courses they have ever taken (and I sell lots of gear to boot). Not to mention you get to show off every piece of dive gear that you have hiding in your garage, truck, closet and dive center that is known to man. Have fun!


  • Teaching materials: Equipment Specialist instructor outline (70220) and Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving Multimedia (70833) or Equipment Specialist Touch (call your sales rep to order).
  • Recommended student materials: The Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving or Equipment Specialist Touch (call your sales rep to order).
  • Stock up on products that you’ll be showcasing in class (Mirazyme, dive lights, spare parts kit, mutli-tools, gear clips, etc).
  • Create student handouts such as: an equipment maintenance log, equipment wish list, dive travel checklist, etc.

Invite new divers who have not yet purchased equipment.
Many divers are overwhelmed by the wide selection of dive gear on the market. The Equipment Specialist course gives you the chance to counsel them on a gear purchase and why they should buy from you and not their trusty computer at home.

Invite Divemaster candidates and aspiring Master Scuba Divers.
Divemasters should be familiar with the type of gear you carry and how to complete basic repairs. Taking the Equipment Specialist course is not required by PADI standards, but some dive shops require it as part of their Divemaster curriculum. Additionally, the Equipment Specialist course counts towards the Master Scuba Diver rating.

Make the most of orientation sessions


By hosting multiple class orientations at one time you can get all your student paperwork taken care of and promote continuing education at the same time.

After introducing your instructor(s) and divemaster(s), have students introduce themselves from most experienced to least experienced. Master Scuba Divers and Rescue Divers will appreciate the acknowledgment and it gives new divers something to aspire to (you’d be amazed how effective this is).

Next, give a brief overview of each course (mainly for the benefit of your open water students). For example, you might describe Adventures in Diving as a “specialty sampler,” discuss the value of honing your dive skills, and close with a brief overview of the adventure dives.

Paperwork doesn’t have to be just boring release forms. It can also be a short survey asking divers about their interests in and out of the water: must-have information for teaching presentations. As your students finish up, invite them to add their names to a Master Scuba Diver progress chart.

Pretty Pictures
Bring the underwater world to your orientation by running a slideshow of underwater images on a laptop or muted television. Images from your favorite specialty dives will subtly sell continuing education, and don’t forget to include topside photos of smiling divers having fun and making friends.