top of page

The first-time Scuba debate: PADI Open water or DSD?

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

If you’ve never tried scuba before and you’re interested in getting started, this one’s for you! You might have already heard the terms ‘PADI Open Water’ or ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ thrown around. But what do these programmes actually involve and which route should you go down for those magical first breaths underwater? The Manta Team are here to help you decide!

It’s important to understand that this programme is NOT a certification. However it is a great introduction to the world of diving. Whilst dive centres around the world may structure their programmes differently the standard DSD programme begins with some theory work where you will learn some basic scuba knowledge to increase your awareness and safety in the water. After getting in some scuba gear you’ll then complete a confined water session in “swimming pool like conditions” in water deep enough to stand up in - perhaps in a pool, a lake or even the sea. During your confined water session you will have to perform some scuba skills which will be demonstrated by an instructor. Following the pool training you will then most likely go for 1 or 2 open water dives. The DSD programme has a maximum depth of 40feet/12 metres. You are under the direct supervision of an instructor throughout the experience. A DSD programme from start to finish can be completed in only 1 day.

PADI Open Water course

Unlike the DSD programme, the PADI Open water course certifies you as a recreational scuba diver. The course is divided into 3 parts - theory work, confined water training and 4 dives in open water. The theory work can be completed with an instructor in a classroom setting however PADI’s e-learning system where students can complete the theory online at home is increasing in popularity and becoming the norm. Knowledge reviews, quizzes and a final exam concludes the theory. Similar to the DSD, the confined water training session takes place in “swimming pool like conditions” which allows the student to gain confidence in a calm environment before venturing into open water. During the 4 open water dives there are surface and underwater skills to perform. Once you have successfully completed the course you will be a licensed scuba diver qualified to dive anywhere in the world with a buddy to a maximum depth of 60feet/18metres. This license is valid for the rest of your life. The average length of a PADI Open water course is 3 days.

Now that you have an idea of what these programmes entail, here are some other considerations:

  • Time: The PADI Open water course initially takes longer, by at least a day or two, not including the time it takes you to complete the theory work. However, if you complete the DSD, then later you want to dive again in the future you will have to complete the same programme which includes theory work and a pool training session which may feel a little repetitive.

  • Money: The certification costs more due to the additional dives and training, instructor time, course materials etc. However completing the certification is truly an investment if you will be doing future dives. Once you're certified the cost of future dives is cheaper than repaying for DSD programmes which are pricier.

  • Fear of the unknown: When trying anything new it’s normal to feel a little nervous. For those who feel overwhelmed by signed up for the full certification, the DSD can be a comfortable stepping stone into the world of diving. Bear in mind that during both programmes you are always under the direct supervision of a professional instructor who’s there to keep you safe at all times!

  • Willingness to learn: The PADI Open water course is super fun, however it can be challenging. You have to be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to complete your certification. If you’re not in the right mindset to do that, the DSD could be a more suitable choice until you're ready.

So, if you're short on time or you're just looking to tick off scuba diving from your bucket list the DSD might be for you. However if you're looking to truly explore the world of scuba diving the PADI Open water course is the perfect choice! Completing this course is a time and money saver for future diving opportunities and opens the door to a wider range of adventures.

Whatever you decide, both of these options make for a truly unforgettable experience. Sign up for those first underwater breaths at We cannot wait to show you the underwater world!

1,038 views0 comments


bottom of page