Published in


Dive Industry Market Study

Announcing The First ‘State of The Industry’ (SOTI) Study for The Dive Industry

Photo by Michael Worden on Unsplash

Since we started collaborating with InDepth Magazine on a series of dive industry surveys about a year and a half ago, we’ve received a ton of positive feedback. There is a dire need for more market data in this industry, and we’re glad we could help!

As a consequence, we also regularly receive more requests for more data. So we thought it was about time we tackled the elephant and worked on a comprehensive “State of The Industry” (SOTI) study. So, here it is!

Results will be made available to all dive industry stakeholders on Scubanomics. The idea is to help each one of us in the dive industry navigate toward success. We can remain competitors on different sailboats while contributing to a valuable, accurate weather forecast that none of us could produce in isolation.

In this first SOTI survey of the Dive Industry, we will look at 2022 results compared to the prior year for certifications, travel, and dive gear sales in recreational and tech diving, freediving, snorkeling, and surface-supplied air diving around the world. We will also evaluate expectations/forecasts for 2023.

Our goal with this State of The Industry (SOTI) study is to provide you with:

  • A gauge of how the industry is doing: Are you doing better or worse than your peers?
  • A business weather forecast: What are the trends in our industry? What product/service markets are growing? Which ones are shrinking? In which geographical regions?

Our intent is also to:

  • identify the most pressing issues we should work on solving as a group of professionals; and
  • highlight opportunities for growth in changing markets.

In addition to sales & certification trends, we will study a myriad of other metrics of value to dive business owners and managers, like:

  • What percentage of dive gear is sold online nowadays?
  • What percentage of divers start with online learning?
  • Are dive centers with their own pool performing better?
  • How many dive stores also carry freediving and swim gear? Do these dive centers perform better?
  • Which department performs better in today’s dive center? What is the split in revenues between training, gear sales & travel? The last study on the topic dates to the 80s!
  • Is there a change in the type of gear new divers purchase (e.g., more dive computers & accessories but less hard goods like regulators & BCDs)?
  • How is tech diving performing compared to recreational diving?
  • Is rebreather and sidemount diving gaining traction?
  • Is surface-supplied air diving making inroads in our industry?
  • And so much more! Contact us if you have specific questions about the dive industry. We plan to keep producing dive industry surveys and market research studies throughout 2023 to help dive professionals like you.

All answers are anonymous. We estimate it should take most of you less than 30 minutes to answer this survey. However, the survey contains more questions for local dive shops & dive centers because they sell all products & services offered in the dive industry. We thank you in advance for your time and commitment to this exciting industry!

To draw a complete picture of the dive industry, we need participation from all stakeholder groups, including:

  • Dive Shops & Dive Centers
  • Dive Schools (e.g., University programs)
  • Dive Clubs
  • Independent Dive Instructors
  • Dive Boat Operators
  • Dive Resorts
  • Dive-Specialized Liveaboards
  • Dive Operators on Cruise Ships
  • Dive Travel Agencies/Agents
  • Dive Training/Certification Agencies
  • Dive Gear Manufacturers/Brands
  • Dive Gear Wholesalers/Distributors
  • Dive Gear Sales Representatives/Agents
  • Dive-Specialized Media

Subscribe to be notified when the results become available and to participate in future SOTI studies.

This study is part of a series of dive industry surveys by the Business of Diving Institute in collaboration with InDepth Magazine with support from DAN Europe, Shearwater, GUE, and most importantly, YOU! Besides participating in this survey, please let us know if you would like to add your name to the official list of supporters.

Survey Results | Scuba Diving Certification Process & Quality

Survey Results: Are Scuba Divers Ready To Dive After Their Open-Water Diver Course?

What is missing in the open-water diver course? Is it better to learn scuba diving at home or on vacation? Is deep diving an essential skill?

Photo by Alexander Ström on Unsplash

In the footsteps of our November survey asking scuba divers and dive professionals about the quality of the experience generally provided in the dive industry, we followed with a more specific look at the quality of entry-level open-water certification courses.

InDepth Magazine and the Business of Diving Institute are collaborating on a series of scuba diving industry surveys to better understand where we stand on crucial dive industry issues, identify workable solutions, increase awareness of opportunities, and, most notably, fuel discussions among dive professionals.

We thank the following scuba diving industry leaders for directly supporting this initiative: Shearwater, DAN Europe, and GUE. We also thank all of you who take part in these surveys and studies.

Let’s dive right in! We train people so they can go scuba diving with a buddy in conditions better or similar to those in which they were trained. So, our first question is: Are these new divers truly ready at the end of their scuba diving certification course?

How “ready to dive with a buddy” did you feel at the end of the course?

  • 50.3% of survey respondents answered that they were very much ready (15.1%) or ready (35.2%) to dive at the end of their open water diver course.
  • 37.1% of respondents claimed they were not ready (27.4%) or very much not ready (9.6%).

Questions on this survey were on a scale of 1 to 5; therefore, those who picked the middle answer did not provide a positive or negative response to the question.

There are many different ways to look at these results, but a readiness level of 50% is not our goal. Once we issue a certification card, the diver is supposed to have “mastered” every part of the course and be ready to dive without the supervision of a dive professional.

Almost 1 in 10 divers felt unprepared at the end of their entry-level open water diver course. And let’s keep in mind that respondents to our surveys tend to be scuba divers much more committed to our outdoor activity than the average diver. It is reasonable to assume that a fair percentage of student-divers who do not feel ready at the end of the first level of scuba diving training end up joining the ranks of the drop-outs — those divers we never see again after they get their first c-card.

Even within our sample of committed scuba divers, we see more than one in three divers not being ready to dive at the end of their scuba certification course.

The Impact of “Where” on Readiness to Dive

Scuba divers who completed the pool portion of their entry-level open-water diver course in a tourist destination felt less prepared than people who did it close to home.

  • Only 40.9% of divers who have completed the pool portion of their certification course in a tourist destination felt ready at the end of their course compared to 53.7% of people who did it close to home.
  • 46.0% of divers who completed it in a tourist destination felt not ready at the end of their course compared to 34.0% of people who did it close to home.

And the same conclusion applies to the location of the open-water certification dives.

  • Only 40.8% of divers who did their open water certification dives in a tourist destination felt ready at the end of their course compared to 54.8% of people who did it close to home.
  • 46.6% of divers who did their open water certification dives in a tourist destination felt not ready at the end of their course compared to 33.1% of people who did it close to home.

Either way, what were the problems at the end of that scuba diving certification course?

What did you still have problems with at the end of the course? Think of skills you didn’t feel you had mastered or parts of the dive with which you were not comfortable. Pick all that apply.

  • 61.8%: buoyancy & proper weighing
  • 53.0%: hovering without touching the bottom or the reef
  • 51.2%: trim/swimming horizontally
  • 39.7%: navigation/compass use
  • 37.0%: breathing/air consumption
  • 36.1%: finning/swimming techniques
  • 11.5%: mask skills
  • 8.8%: gear assembly/disassembly
  • 8.8%: ear equalizing
  • 7.9%: staying with a dive buddy
  • 4.3%: entry & exit

The three most frequently mentioned problems are related to buoyancy control. We all know it’s been a problem forever! Thankfully, we are seeing a trend in the diving industry toward better mastery of buoyancy during entry-level open-water diver courses, with, for instance, doing skills while hovering in mid-water, starting in the pool.

On that topic, we noticed an interesting comment added by one of the survey participants:

“So over-weighted that during the BCD doff/don exercise, the BCD would sink on its own despite being full of air. Told the instructor that I was overweighted from the beginning, but he wouldn’t listen. All surface skills and swims took hard work to stay afloat.”

We all have heard or seen stories like this. So let’s do something about it. But what?

What would have improved your readiness to go scuba diving with an equally skilled buddy without a dive professional? Please select all that apply.

  • 70.7%: more dives
  • 44.3%: more time for skill practice
  • 27.5%: more time to assimilate the knowledge
  • 27.5%: a better dive instructor
  • 17.9%: more time in the pool

So, basically… Time! We need time to train people properly.

There is a topic we have discussed a few times here on Scubanomics, and the more I look at survey results, the more it seems obvious to me. You can provide training more fitting for your students if you offer your teaching or coaching services on a per-hour or per-session basis instead of selling courses with fixed schedules. “I will dive with you until you are ready!”

And people are receptive to paying more for a better scuba diving experience.

How willing would you have been to pay more for a scuba course with a better quality of facilities, gear, and/or instructors?

  • 53.0% of survey respondents said they would have been willing (39.4%) or very willing (13.6%) to pay more for better quality.
  • On the other hand, 21.5% of respondents were not willing (19.1%) or very much not willing (2.4%) to pay more for better quality.

But what do dive instructors think of the quality of open water diver courses they provide? The following question was only asked to scuba diving instructors.

Based on what you have witnessed, how would you rate the quality of entry-level scuba diving courses generally provided in the dive industry?

The verdict is pretty clear.

  • 62.8% of surveyed dive instructors rate the quality of courses in the dive industry as low (44.9%) or very low (18.0%).
  • Only 13.5% of them rate the quality of scuba courses generally taught in the dive industry as high (10.9%) or very high (2.6%).

There is no surprise here. For years, we’ve seen and heard about scuba divers not being ready to dive and not controlling their buoyancy after their open-water diver course. So would it be time for training agencies to pull their head out of the sand?

However, what is surprising in this survey is how much instructors think the problem comes from “the others.”

How would you rate the quality of entry-level scuba diving courses you have provided as a dive instructor?

  • 75.3% of surveyed dive instructors rate the quality of their courses as high (41.6%) or very high (33.8%).
  • Only 2.0% of them rated their courses as “low,” and none picked “very low” for their answer.

Perhaps participants in our survey are those providing a better quality of scuba diving training. It is also possible that we simply more readily blame “everybody else.”

Is deep diving an advanced skill?

This is a side note that came out from our latest survey.

There are a lot of discussions among dive professionals on whether new divers should go gain some experience before taking the so-called “advanced” course or whether they should take it right after their open-water certification.

Well, here’s a thing:

  • 53.6% of scuba divers went deeper than 60 ft (20 meters) after their open water certification and before completing further training courses like Advanced Open Water or Deep Diving.

As we have seen in the answers above, a majority of scuba divers do not feel ready to dive with a buddy, without a dive professional, after their entry-level scuba course. Yet, a majority of them go deep diving. Should we assume they were ready for that?

The fact is that on many dive boats, even entry-level divers end up at 100 feet when following the divemaster. Therefore, it has always been my opinion that deep diving training should be part of basic scuba diving training. The word “Advanced” is the main problem in the Advanced Open Water Diver course, not the content of the course, which is primarily basic skills and knowledge.

In your opinion, what would improve the quality of the experience provided to new scuba divers?

As we do in each of our surveys, we asked participants to share their observations and opinions with us. In this case, we asked them to freely express what they thought should be done to improve the quality of entry-level open-water diver training. Here are some notable answers. Thanks to all those of you who have participated in this study.

  • Literally, anybody can be an Instructor, whether you know about teaching or not. Agencies must be held accountable for the quality of instructors they provide.
  • It should be like a career and be rewarded as a career, and stop the annual membership; it’s insane. Do any other career has to pay membership to their universities to keep executing their careers?? I can’t believe agencies want to make money out of their own people.
  • More time for the duration of the course when possible, particularly in confined water. Skills like buoyancy are like riding a bicycle; it requires repetition and time.
  • Why are certs being given to students who have not completed performance requirements?
  • A better way for prospective and active students to understand what makes for good training, so students can be more proactive and take more responsibility for ensuring that their instructor is teaching well.
  • More professional instruction/training. Certifying organizations, particularly PADI, need to tighten up on the QA/QC of their instructors and re-invent their profit model. Figure out how to monetize the quality of divers rather than relying on the quantity of divers. Put meaning back into 5 Star Dive Center.
  • Improved instructor training to teach fundamentals of learning and education, as well as working with stress and emotions, human factors training.
  • More in-water time, rather than a number of dives, both in confined water and open water.
  • Don’t forget that the majority of divers dive on vacation, generally with a pro and well within limits. As long as they are safe and in control, over-training them on trim and finning techniques will lose them to the sport.
  • Skills that improve your dives and make your dives more enjoyable.
  • More importance given to environmental protection. If that goal was part of the program, people would have to learn skills to be stable and protect the underwater environment.
  • Rename the PADI “Advanced” course. Just the title of the course gives false confidence to inexperienced divers and makes them dangerous.
  • Law-regulated course standards and teaching quality control like for cars or airplanes.
  • Students have to be better informed of the skills they’re supposed to be taught and the proficiency they’re meant to possess for certification. They need the ability to make a comparative assessment between their training outcome and the mandated training outcome: in terms of individual skill proficiency AND overall autonomous diving competence. Training agency QA systems shouldn’t rely upon student divers making their own investigations or subsequent by-chance discovery that they were undertrained at entry-level.
  • More time! Certifications done on vacation are often rushed due to time limitations, which does not allow a new diver the opportunity to assimilate new information before they practice it.
  • More time to develop comfort. Divers leave OW class largely unprepared to dive on their own, and they are not comfortable on their cert dives. That lack of confidence translates into people who never dive again.

Who answered this survey on the quality of the open-water diver course?

407 scuba divers participated in our first InDepth/Scubanomics dive industry survey of 2023.

  • 6.6% of the respondents stated that the open-water diver certification was their highest rating
  • 35.9% were scuba divers with advanced training (but not dive professionals)
  • 15.0% were divemasters, assistant instructors, or the equivalent
  • 42.0% were scuba diving instructors or instructor trainers

Some questions were only asked to one of these groups, as outlined in the analysis provided in this report.

Among dive instructors:

  • 33.6% were tech diving instructors
  • 66.4% were recreational-only dive instructors

Survey respondents were residents of the following geographic area when they took their entry-level open water diver course:

  • 40.3% USA (including Alaska & Hawaii)
  • 36.1% Europe
  • 23.6% The rest of the world

Scuba divers who answered our survey on the quality of the open water diver course were in the following age groups at the time of the survey:

  • 0.7%: Under 18
  • 4.3%: 18–24
  • 15.5%: 25–34
  • 23.4%: 35–44
  • 32.4%: 45–54
  • 16.6%: 55–64
  • 7.2%: 65 and over

You may further help the dive industry by taking part in other ongoing dive industry surveys. You will also find results from our past studies here.

Don’t be left out! Subscribe to Scubanomics to be the first to know about dive industry market data & insights. Otherwise, be our “dive business buddy” on LinkedIn, Facebook, and elsewhere.

Also from Darcy Kieran and The Business of Diving Institute:



Scuba diving market data, research, surveys & statistics. News & editorials for the scuba diving industry. Business analysis. Innovation-fueled strategies for growth. Dive store management. Your career as a diving professional. More info:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Darcy Kieran (Scuba Diving)

Entrepreneur | Executive | Author | Radio Announcer | Scuba Diving Instructor Trainer — #ScubaDiving #Tourism — #Miami #Montreal #Marseille