Over the range of PADI courses/programs, the PADI General Standards and Procedures guide lays out the definitions and supervision requirements applicable to all courses/programs; the individual course/program instructor guides then explain any additional and specific requirements.
For most PADI Instructors, there is likely clear understanding that “direct supervision” is required in open water for both Open Water Diver Course students and Discover Scuba Diving participants. But there are some important differences between the two:
Discover Scuba Diving
- Do not leave participants unattended, either at the surface or underwater.
- Position yourself so that you or a certified assistant can make immediate physical contact with, adjust buoyancy for, and render assistance to, participants.
- Continually observe participants with only the brief, periodic interruptions needed to lead the dive and to provide assistance to individual divers. Do not engage in any other activities, such as taking photographs or video, while supervising participants.
Open Water Diver Course
- Do not leave student divers unattended, either at the surface or underwater.
- Instructor conducts and directly supervises all open water dives.
Generally speaking, Discover Scuba Diving participants typically have the least background skill and knowledge of diving and the most dependence on the instructor of any PADI course or program. If the participant becomes uncomfortable or faces a problem, he will likely be highly dependent upon the instructor to quickly resolve the issue or to end the dive and get him safely to the surface.
Open Water Diver course students however have received more extensive knowledge development and more in-water training and/or experience than typical Discover Scuba Diving participants prior to their open water dives. This provides a larger degree of understanding and self-reliance from the onset, but it’s important to bear in mind that the students are still novices at the beginning of their courses. As they progress and gain more knowledge, awareness and skill, their reliance on their instructor declines as well. The program design seeks to carefully balance the twin needs/goals of safe supervision during training and the growth in the ability of student divers to independently dive safely after certification.
While all in-water supervisory situations demand planning, care, and high attention, those involving students/participants with increased dependence on you require even more. In such circumstances, your instructor judgment needs to be applied to an even higher degree when making determinations such as when and how best to reduce ratios; add certified assistants; adapt different supervision techniques; change dive sites; and cancel dives – whatever it takes to be effective.
Prepare yourself for this most important responsibility by making sure you fully understand the differing supervision requirements between the various PADI courses and programs you offer, and make sure that you consider each dive in light of how you can best provide the degree of supervision required. One size does not fit all – it’s your professional judgment that makes the critical difference.