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.

How to do a referral with an eLearner

eLearning Only:
If the student has completed the eLearning program, but has not participated in any confined or open water dives, all they need to do is print off their eLearning Record. This record may be presented to any PADI Member worldwide as proof the student has completed the knowledge development portion of the PADI Open Water course.

eLearning + Some Confined or Open Water Training:
If the student diver has completed some confined or open water training dives, then simply complete a PADI Open Water Diver Course Referral Form (found in the PADI Instructor Manual or on the PADI Pros website) signing off on the sessions that have been completed successfully.

Using a student record file . . .

Photocopy the back of the student record file, include a copy of the student’s medical approval from his doctor (if applicable), sign off underneath the knowledge development section that all has been completed (one signature is enough). You don’t need to sign and date each individual knowledge development session as he did it online and he should still have his eLearning Record as proof of that.

Thanks to Eric in PADI’s training department for his assistance with this article.


DSD: Discover Santa Diving

I was in Target the other day and what to my wondering eyes should appear – but three freakin’ aisles of holiday cheer!??!

As far as the big box retailers are concerned, the holidays are just around the corner. But there’s a method to their madness…

Every October, a friend of mine dresses up her family in red and green fuzzy sweaters and has a photographer take their photo. I know it sounds like a scary Halloween costume (those are different sweaters), but the photo shoot is actually for her Christmas card. Two months later I receive a festive card with my friend, her husband and the wiener dogs next to the shining tree.

These increasingly-popular photo cards are a great opportunity for word-of-mouth advertising. By staging an underwater holiday scene, your customers can share their enthusiasm for diving while spreading the word about scuba!

Even though the holidays are several weeks away, it’s important to get started now.

Step One – Collect props: Round up a Santa costume, fake Christmas tree, etc

Step Two – Plan your dive: what will you charge for the “sitting fee”? Will you provide prints or just a CD of digital images? Who will be Santa? If possible, do a practice run and use the photos in your marketing material. It’s also a good idea to charge a non-refundable reservation fee ($20 or so) good towards the final cost.

Step Three – Get the word out: promote the event in your newsletter, post the information on the homepage of your website, and send out a short press release to local media.

Step Four – Bulk up: Start eating! Santa needs to have that “bowl-full of jelly”! Just kidding. But you may want to “bulk up” on some Discover Scuba Diving forms (70254).

Step Five – The big day: You’ll need two teams to ensure things run smoothly: one team topside to handle the DSD orientation, paperwork, and gearing up the family. A second team (underwater) stages the photo. Allow 30-40 minutes per family and coordinate the activity so while one family is underwater, another can be topside getting ready.

Step Six – Bring ’em back for more: Before each group leaves, send them off with a packet of information including: a schedule of your upcoming classes and trips, brochures on kids’ activities such as Bubblemaker parties and Seal Team, and info on how to give the gift of scuba during the holidays.


PADI and SSI to co-host seminar at DEMA

I nearly fell out of my chair this morning when I read the following headline in Divenewswire: PADI and SSI Share the Stage for Peak Performance Business Solutions at DEMA.

Besides Drew and Doug they’ve put together an interesting cast of presenters from other industries. I wish they could simulcast it, I’m really curious to hear what everyone has to say.

  • Magnus Lindkvist, CEO Pattern Recognition
  • Andy Wirth, Chief Marketing Officer, Intrawest
  • Rob Campbell, Publisher, Transworld (Surf, Skate, Snow) Business
  • Alex Gray and Holly Beck, Body Glove Team Riders
  • Kristin Valette, Director of Marketing and Communications, PADI
  • Dave Freygang, Group Publisher, Bonnier Corp

Word on the street is: they expect this seminar to sell out. If you’re interested, you can visit the PADI Pros site to register for DEMA seminars online, or call customer service (800 729 7234 ext. 2495). The cost is $99, which includes lunch.

Wee Problem with Specialty Inst. Manual CD-ROM

There is a wee problem with the Enriched Air Instructor Guide in the new Specialty Instructor Manual Digital version.

As you can see in the image at the right, the key standards box has run amok.

Just shoot me an email you and I’ll send you a replacement file.

New PADI Products: DPV, Boat and Decals

Debuting at DEMA: two new specialty crewpaks: DPV and Boat Diver.

The new DPV Crewpak (PN 60167) includes the new DPV Manual (79309) and DPV DVD (70929). You can read more about the new DPV product in PADI’s Surface Interval article.

The Boat Diver Crewpak (PN 60171) includes the new Boat Manual (79170) and Boat Diver DVD (70930).

Suggested retail for both crewpaks (same price) is $53.20.

Available Now:
We also have new stickers for both PADI Pros and PADI Divers. They’re $.50 each and are available now. Click the link above for product shots.

PADI Diver (50029)
PADI Master Scuba Diver (50031)
PADI Divemaster (50038)
PADI Assistant Instructor (50041)
PADI Instructor (50043)
PADI Master Instructor (50048)
PADI Course Director (50050)


Add photos to your dive center listing online

PADI recently announced some enhancements to its online Dive Center and Resort Directory. To the left is a snapshot of search results for Key Largo – which listing does your eye go to first?

What’s pictured left is an example of the “Premium” web enhancement. There is also a “Basic”package.

Premium ($39.95/month) includes:
* Description up to 300 characters
* Three photos
* A highlighted border

Basic ($19.95 / month) includes:
* Description up to 300 characters
* One photo

To upgrade your listing, go to the PADI Web Connector located in the IRRA Toolbox. The online tool will take you through the setup and automatically resize any photos.

All PADI IRRA Members are entitled to a free web link on If your link does not appear, or if the web address is not current, log on to PADI Pros, click on IRRA toolbox and select Add/Change Web Link.

Flip-flops and dry suit diving

October’s Specialty of the Month is Dry Suit Diver and our featured prize: PADI Flip-Flops. Okay, so flip-flops don’t necessarily go with dry suit diving, but they’re still pretty cool.

The flip-flops have the PADI logo “reverse embossed” in the sole so it imprints “PADI, PADI, PADI” down the sand. If you’ve seen the DAN flip-flops they’re the same idea, um, no comment on this surprising coincidence.

The sandals come in one size for men and one size for women. Students will need to submit a redemption form along with a store receipt and proof of membership in the PADI Diving Society. Additional details can be found on the Specialty of the Month webpage.

P.S. Don’t forget, PADI has a special offer going with DUI.

A-2-Z Scuba Diving Mt. Rainier

When Amy from A-2-Z Scuba called me up and said, “Guess where we went diving?” I could hardly believe it when she answered, “Lake Mowich, Mt. Rainier.”

“We did an Altitude Class,” she said, “and it was full.”

Amy and her staff promoted the trip by making call outs and posting the dive on online forums. As it turns out, students get pretty excited about trying an unusual* specialty. Being able to brag, “I dove on Mt. Rainier,” well, that’s pretty cool too.

The following Monday, A-2-Z’s trip was the hot topic on local dive forums. Guess where A-2-Z is diving this weekend? Mt Rainier. The second altitude class? It’s full.

There are all kinds of unusual specialties out there. If you can believe it, there’s even an Underwater Basket Weaving (Distinctive) Specialty. What unusual specialties can you offer students?

To see additional photos from the Mt. Rainier dive please stop by: A-2-Z’s photos from the Mt. Rainier dive.

* Okay, I know altitude diving isn’t a big deal for you Montana guys, but diving above 1,000 feet is bragging rights for coastal folk!

Promoting Advanced Open Water

As scuba instructors, we’re all quite familiar with the “barriers to entry” for the Open Water course.

“I don’t want to get eaten by a shark”
“I’m not a very good swimmer”
“I’m claustrophobic,”

Students may not be so open with their feelings about Advanced Open Water. Listed below are common reasons students don’t continue their diving education – and ideas on how you can knock down these barriers.

I’m not ready to be an Advanced Diver
“Advanced Open Water” sounds a little intimidating. Describe the course as a “specialty sampler” or invite students to get started with the three-course Adventures in Diving. Remind students that the Advanced course is an opportunity for them to gain dive experience under the supervision of a PADI Professional.

I don’t have time / I just spent $300 on this Open Water class
Students might not be ready to invest additional time or money immediately following Open Water. Allow them to complete the class one adventure dive at a time and/or allow them to make payments.

Companies such as Household Beneficial or The Associates can handle the financing for you. Since they don’t like to finance non-tangible items (such as “training”) you’ll need to create an equipment + training package.

An Adventure Diver Package might include: AOW course training and materials, two dive lights, a compass and any other equipment required for the class. Instead of paying $500 up front, students can pay for the class in $40 – $50 chunks each month. Once you have this relationship established, it’s a great tool for selling dry suits and Master Scuba Diver packages.

You can also invite students to “earn” their Advanced course by referring friends to become Open Water Divers. Offer an incentive such as a $50 credit for each referred friend who completes their Open Water certification with your store.

I want to sign up, but not right now
Create a sense of urgency by offering a discount, t-shirt or other incentive for any student who enrolls in the Advanced Open Water course within two weeks of completing their Open Water certification.

Got an idea you’d like to share? Let’s hear it! Leave us a comment below.