Attracting the next generation of divers

Our industry is old and getting older. That’s not a good thing.

According to DEMA’s Annual Activity Report (PDF link, stats on p. 37), the average age of SCUBA divers in the US is 45 years old. Several people at the DEMA show explained that age actually goes up every year, showing that our industry is aging.

Older Divers are Better Divers

I’ve seen this all over the various SCUBA forums and it bothers me. The argument is this:

  • Older divers have more money to spend on classes/equipment/travel
  • Older divers are beyond the “I’m invincible” phase, so they are safer divers
  • I’m old too and I like talking about yesteryear with other old people

How about these points?

  • Older divers have 45 years worth of hobbies and activities fighting for their limited time
  • Older divers are fully entrenched in the rat race of working 50+ hour weeks and saving their money for a hopeful retirement
  • Older divers have probably taken most of the classes they plan to and bought the gear they need
  • Older divers have more yes’ on their medical forms, making the concept of Dive Today impractical

Younger Divers are Our Future

Like them or not, younger divers are the future of this industry (duh). They are the reason this industry is shrinking: activities like kite boarding, snowboarding, bungee jumping and simply travelling are beating us to them.

I am a skier, snowboarder and mountain biker and can personally verify that getting started with any of these sports is on par with SCUBA. Yet I keep hearing the argument, usually from SCUBA industry professionals, that we can’t compete with those sports on price. You are wrong. That is an excuse. SCUBA diving is BETTER than any of those other sports, so cost is not an issue.

Get With the Program

Here’s a few ideas I’ve used to successfully attract younger divers:

  • Affiliate with the local snow sports and bike store. If younger, adventurous people are going there, get them to come to you also. Even if you’re paying out 15% of your class fee, work them into continuing education, equipment and travel to recoup those costs.
  • Go to your local athletic club (I’ve had better luck at private clubs as opposed to 24 Hour Fitness or Bally’s) and offer a Bubblemaker/Seal Team (or equivalent) daycare. Parents work out and drop their kids off to play with SCUBA for an hour or two. Get your new/eager instructors to conduct these for free as a way to build up their classes. If a kid wants to learn to dive, at least one of their parents will too.
  • Talk to homeschooled kids (and their parents). Find out if there is a state-subsidized home school organization. I helped to run a program with one of these organizations and it was incredible. Our class price went up by almost $100, but the cost to the student after the subsidy was less than $50! It was a great deal all around.
  • Start a college program! I’ll leave it at that for now, since this is a big topic.

Do these four things and you will need a staff of at least 8 instructors, all who will be making decent money from teaching SCUBA diving.

What are you doing to attract younger divers?

This article is part of our DEMA Expo 2009 round-up.

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