Do I Need to Know How To Swim to Scuba Dive?
This is a question that I often get asked, and really it is not as simple as YES or NO. Here is some explanations and reasons why.
To Become Certified
If you want to become a certified scuba diver by doing the PADI Open Water Diver Course, the answer is yes. In the PADI Open Water Diver Course it is specified that you have to be able to swim continuously for 200 metres. This can be with any stroke however it does need to be continuous without stopping. There is alternate option and that is you do a 300 metre mask, fin and snorkel swim. Some do find this easier to the 200 swim.
You also have to be able to tread water or float for at least 10 minutes. Basically, you need to be in water deep enough that you cannot stand and keep your head above the water. Again, this needs to be done continuously.
Why do I need to know how to swim or float to be certified?
The reason why PADI, The World Recreational Scuba Diving Training Council and other scuba training organisations require you to know how to swim if for safety reasons. The act of scuba diving technically doesn’t really need you to know how to swim.
However, in the unlikely event that your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device used to keep you floating above the water at the end of the dive) was to falter then there would be no device to keep you afloat. This occurring in deep water then you would need to swim, tread water or float yourself to safety either to a boat or to shore. If you are unable to do this, and you are in deep water and can’t make it to safety, the likely result is a drowning fatality. The ability to be able to swim and float is for your personal safety.
Confidence and Skills
The ability to be able to swim and float , does provide the participant with confidence in the water. This in turn gives them the confidence to do the 25 underwater course skills.
In a lot of cases, those that are poor or non-swimmers tend to have less confidence in the water and find the required course skills more challenging.
It is often said that, the biggest challenge doing the underwater skills and not the physical aspect, but more the mental side. Some of the skills require you to take the breathing device (regulator) out of your mouth underwater, your scuba mask off underwater (one minute), turning your air off underwater (short period, simulation of an out of air situation). These can be difficult for those that are already nervous in the water.
Do I need to know how to swim to try scuba diving
If you were considering doing a PADI Discover Scuba Diving resort dive or try dive, then the short answer to the question is NO.
There is actually no correlation between swimming and scuba diving. Swimming is the act of keeping ourselves above the water. As scuba diving is done under the water, and technically we don’t need to know how to swim. What is common between the two is the kicking style. Scuba diving does not require the use of the arms, just the fins (feet). The kicking style is the same as a good freestyle kicking movement. A good swimmer more than likely does this well already, although it does not mean a non-swimmer cannot do it or learn it quickly whithin the space of a few minutes.
Having said that….. Scuba diving is done in deep water and there is a level as previously mentioned, there is a level of confidence that comes with knowing how to swim. Although, some non-swimmers can complete the PADI Discover Scuba Diving, a high percentage of non-swimmers will fail to complete the activity due to their lack of water skills and confidence.
During the PADI Discover Scuba Diving dives, PADI has strict student to instructor ratios and your PADI instructor will be close by to assist you in the event of a problem, the ability of a non-swimmer to overcome the fear of being in deep water is a difficult one and one that often prevents non-swimmers from completing the activity.
New Scuba Divers
Having said that, in my experience new scuba divers need to over come two main reservations or fears. The first is the act of scuba diving, breathing underwater for the first time can be and is super exciting, exhilarating and just plain scary. This is probably the easier of the two fears to overcome. The amazing marine life usually help with this. There is nothing like a close interaction with a turtle to take your mind off the fact that you are swimming underwater.
The second and more common one experienced by non-swimmers is just general fear of the water. Obviously being in deep water and a non-swimmer could meet with dire results and it is very difficult to convince your mind that this will not happen. The scuba equipment will keep us above the water and if a non-swimmer can convince themselves that between the instructor and the equipment all will be ok. Then the scuba dive will go well. However the brain is a very persistent device and sometimes it is just impossible to change. This can result in extreme fear or panic and obviously results in a not so good day.
Though there is a very good way to over come this fear from the outset. You should 100% make sure that your first experience with scuba diving is in very shallow water or in a swimming pool. The ability to be able to stand up when you want to, has a good influence over the mind. It also helps a lot towards over coming both the fear of the water and the fear of scuba diving.
Learning to swim
There is an old saying “You get out of life what you put in to it”. Knowing how to swim is a life skill and will benefit the participant not only for scuba diving but in general. Swimming is also one of the best fitness activities you can do. It’s low impact on the body means that virtually everyone will have fitness and health gains when swimming.
It is written that after two to three weeks of swimming lesson and adult without a fear of the water can become a functional swimmer.
If you are already a swimmer, however a poor swimmer, then practicing prior to your course is an advantage.
Put in the effort and you will gain a lot and don’t forget, learning to swim can just be fun!!
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