Scuba diving sits on many people’s bucket lists. Some were curious enough to put this on their list although they know they cannot swim. Maybe they plan on taking up some swimming lessons soon, however, there is still this question, is it possible to do scuba diving without knowing how to swim?
It is not required to know swimming if you want to try exploratory scuba diving. However though, to be recognized as a certified scuba diver, you need to be a confident swimmer who can float 10 minutes and swim 200 meters without aids.
You Don’t Need to Know How to Swim for Exploratory Scuba Diving
When people refer to scuba diving without swimming knowledge, they mostly refer to exploratory scuba diving. The goal of this is to give participants the feel of what it is like to do scuba diving.
You can safely enroll in this kind of program because the instructor will teach you the basics beforehand and will take you to an assisted dive in open water. He will hold you by hand the entire time and fix problems that come up along the way. Your task would be to follow everything he says.
There is one thing you should know though. Exploratory scuba diving programs are designed to be very minimum agenda-wise. You will neither be taken very deep into the water (not more than 10 meters) nor is the session held in the middle of a big ocean. It is often conducted in lakes or near the shore considering all the safety concerns.
As for the equipment, you don’t need to buy anything yourself, other than paying the fees which can range from $30-$250 depending on the school or the location.
They will provide you the basic scuba gear such as a mask, snorkel, buoyancy control device, regulator, a set of fins, and so on. But of course, you are expected to come with a swimsuit/wetsuit and a towel. We have some recommendations for you on our gear page.
Requirements for PADI’s Discover Scuba Diving Course
Most scuba diving schools offer this course as an introduction. You can join them without knowing to swim. You have to mention it to them so that they can set you up with proper equipment.
PADI’s Discover Scuba Diving course is probably the most popular one. For those who don’t know, PADI stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors. They are the world’s leading diving association that also issues certificates.
The minimum requirements for PADI’s Discover Scuba Diving program are:
- Minimum age of 10
- Good health condition
Good health condition means that you have no respiratory illness or no pregnancy. If you do, you are required to consult with them so that they can assess the condition individually.
If your plan is to take discovery scuba first and join a certification course later, you would want to mention it to the school so that they can plan the course in a way that counts towards your later courses with PADI. And it will only count if your certification course is taken no later than one year from the discovery course.
You can find more details of this course on PADI’s website or directly in one of the dive shops near you. They have shops worldwide and you should be able to find one which is not too far from your location.
In case you are unable to find PADI’s dive shop, you could try looking into SSI’s Try Scuba. They are identical in terms of what it offers and the requirements. They are a different company that happens to be just as good.
But You Do Need to Know Swimming to Be a Certified Open Water Scuba Diver
Just like how a driver’s license enables you to get on the road, a certification course will train you to dive deep into an open sea. There are diffident levels of open water certification, but they all have one thing in common. You need to know how to swim.
How much knowledge of swimming are we talking about? A person should be able to swim 200 meters and float for 10 minutes comfortably. At the beginning of the course, you will have to prove it.
Open water certification courses are where the fun begins. You get more familiar with the diving equipment and start going deeper in the water (usually up to 18 meters). It builds up the confidence to go into more advanced courses and dive all by yourself later.
Certified open water courses can be both affordable and expensive depending on where you take them. In holiday locations, the cost is the highest. The range I have seen is something like $200-$700.
Typically with certification courses, you will have to buy a few things on your own like a mask, fins, snorkel, and a swimsuit. The others like the BCD, regular, the school can provide you. You can rent diving equipment always and everywhere.
Requirements for PADI’s Beginner Open Water Diver Course
PADI has different levels of courses to master diving. In the beginner’s course, you will practice how to use those diving equipment in a pool-like environment and then head to the big ocean.
The minimum requirements of PADI’s Beginner Open Water Diver program are:
- Float or tread on water for 10 minutes without any aid
- Swim 200 meters without aids or 300 meters with swimming gear that doesn’t keep you afloat by default
- Minimum age of 10
- Good health condition
Other than the swimming requirements, you have to be in good health condition. Some schools might require you to get a clearance letter from your physician. You can already check their medical questionnaire against your health.
For the juniors who are between 10 and 14, they will get a Junior’s Certificate first which can be exchanged for a normal certificate at the age of 15.
In the case PADI is not available in your area, give SSI’s Beginner Open Water Diver course a search.
How Safe Are Those Try-Scuba Programs?
I know one thing you would be asking yourself repeatedly is how safe are these courses for you as you don’t know swimming. The answer is very safe.
The discovery courses are structured in a way that they will make you take baby steps and there will be a trained professional holding you at all times. They will teach you underwater sign languages as well so that he can talk with you while diving.
They are also trained against disasters so that in case water gets up your mask or the radiator stops working, they can fix it while being under the water. The only thing you have to be able to do is to stay calm and listen to what they say.
Couldn’t You Care Less About Getting Certification When You Can Always Go for Those Discovery Courses?
It is very reasonable to question the need for certification when you can just take the discovery/try scuba courses on demand.
Technically you could do it as many times as you like. It makes sense when you see yourself diving maybe one time in a year or two. But if you enjoy it so much that you want to do it more frequently, you might be better off with a licensed course.
One strong argument for taking a certification course is that you will learn and experience more. The introductory courses are very limited in curriculum and you will experience probably one-third of a real diving course.
Also, the introductory courses are fully assisted. Meaning a person might be holding you at all times which you may not like. To be able to do it all by yourself and go as deep as 40 meters, you need to get yourself into those higher-level programs.
Why I Encourage Everybody to Try Scuba Diving Once Even Though They Don’t Know Swimming Yet
You are an adult and you don’t know swimming yet. That is okay. Go ahead and take up a discovery scuba diving course if you are that interested. I recommend it a one hundred percent.
Although it is not the best advice and most would say go take a swimming course first, taking a scuba diving course can help you get past the fear of water.
How? You will be spending a lot of time underwater and training. There will be a cylinder to provide you with oxygen meaning you are not going to run out of breath. Above all, you might end up loving water.
If you somehow manage to make your brain understand how fun water is and what you are missing out on by not knowing how to swim, it can change the game. It is possible that you start taking swimming lessons from the next day on.
Regarding safety, these courses are as safe as they can be. You will get assigned to a highly professional trainer who will assist you all time and is experienced with all the things that can go wrong and how to fix them on the fly.
The Most Important Tips for Scuba Diving as a Non-Swimmer
Listen to your instructor. That is all you need to do to make your first dive as smooth as possible. Stay calm and listen.
People, especially the non-swimmers, get nervous for no reason and miss paying attention to the instructor. It makes the situation equally difficult for both.
You need to communicate well with your instructor. That’s why they will teach the underwater signs and practice them together with you a dozen times before heading to the sea.
If you feel uncomfortable or something is not functioning as it should, communicate it over to your instructor and do what he says. Most of the equipment used in diving are repairable or fixable right under the water.