Can You Scuba Dive With No Experience?

Scuba diving is an incredible experience that many people want to try but they are unsure of how to get started. Gaining experience with scuba diving, especially for your first few dives, is best done with the help of professional instructors who can help you stay calm. There is a lot to expect when entering the activity for the first time.

Yes, you can. You must be newly certified to have the correct training. It is best to dive for the first time with an experienced instructor who can help you stay calm and safe while you get used to the water. Do not scuba dive alone for the first time. (Source)

Everybody has to gain experience somehow, so it’s only natural that you can scuba dive with no experience. However, to keep yourself safe and ensure you have a great time in the water, there are a few more questions to answer.

Certification Gives Valuable Safety Experience

The question of certification often comes up in scuba diving, especially for those new to the sport. While becoming certified in diving may not be essential to go diving with many groups, it is almost always a good thing to attempt to achieve.

A scuba diving certification is granted to people who have completed a set number of classroom sessions and dives under trained instruction from professionals. The point of these classes is to ensure safety while scuba diving. These are often full classes that can be taken all at once, or spread out over a few weekends. 

The certification signals that you have learned the basics and are comfortable scuba diving up to roughly 60 feet, which is where the basic certification ends. Beyond the basic Open Water Diver certification there is also:

  • Advanced Open Water Diver
  • Divemaster
  • Special certifications for activities like cave diving, wreck diving, etc.

If you plan on scuba diving on any sort of regular basis, are interested in the sport, or want to be as safe as possible, you should absolutely get a scuba diving certificate. Be sure to read 11 reasons why you should become certified.

How To Become Certified

Certification classes are offered at a variety of locations around the world. Generally speaking, many scuba diving areas also offer classes that will help on this path. Certification is granted by PADI, or the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Visit their site for educational resources.  

Certification can be granted to children as young as eight in some places, but most will grant certification starting at age ten. My kids got their Junior PADI around 10-11 yrs old and then Open Water when they reached 12. You can now get Open Water at 10 years old and Advanced at 12.

But they were allowed to do supervised Advanced dives on trips because our dive masters recognized their excellent skills and training. As a matter of fact, my daughter’s first dive after certification was a night dive. We followed that up the next day with a 90 foot dive to a wreck in St. Thomas, USVI.

There is no upper age limit on a diving certification. Older divers may need a doctor’s physical exam and proof of health before a certifying program will accept you.

To get certified, there are three major parts. These are:

  1. A classroom or online course
  2. Pool diving
  3. Open water diving

These are in order and meant to ensure that people who earn the certification are qualified.

Scuba diving is a fairly expensive hobby, although the certification process itself is relatively inexpensive. Exact prices will vary depending on where you are in the world and the specific PADI dive shop, but generally, full certification will cost roughly $500. This price does not include travel costs and may not include equipment, so it could rise sharply depending on where you are. For instance, if you must travel far to an open water source, you should consider the cost of that trip in the total price.

Completing the scuba certification will generally take about a week, between the courses and the dives.

Do You Need To Be Certified?

To scuba dive for the occasional vacation or for a first try, a certification is not necessary. However, it almost always improves the safety of the diver and, if you plan on diving more than just once, is most likely worth it.

A certification could seem like a waste of money, especially for someone who is unsure of how they feel about diving. Ultimately, a certification will never be necessary for casual divers but could end up saving a life. You can dive without certification, and we discuss this in this article. I don’t recommend it.

A good plan of action is to test how you like diving through an instructor-led, small dive into a safe area. These are widely available at PADI dive shops the world over and a great introduction to the sport. If you enjoy that small taste, grab the certification, and become more comfortable and safe. 

These tips will help the inexperienced diver

How Deep Can You Go Without Certification?

Certification in scuba diving is often a worry point for new divers. Thankfully, classes are commonly available now and it is possible for almost anyone to learn. For newcomers who want to try just once, however, questions about what is possible without certification are expected.

While untrained, your diving guide will stop you at a certain depth, normally above 30 feet. You should absolutely not dive without a guide, especially if you are uncertified. Technically, however, there is no limit to diving, even without a certification.

While you are not certified, it will be incredibly difficult if not impossible to find anyone who would be willing to take you on a dive past 30 feet. Even if you do find someone willing to do this, be extremely cautious. Diving is dangerous and even highly experienced divers have died in fairly shallow waters. And most shops will not rent equipment to non-certified divers.

The basic Open Water Diver certification from PADI sets the limit to 60 feet or 18 meters. As these are people who are fully trained and understand the risks of scuba diving, you should not pass 60 feet without a certification. If you are interested in diving deeper, it is absolutely worth grabbing a certification.

What Is The Maximum Limit For Divers?

Even the most experienced and certified divers have a limit on how deep they can go with normal equipment. The maximum limit for dives is 130 feet or 40 meters. This is rarely hit, as conditions in the water have to be near perfect for this to be safe. Going deeper requires specialty equipment and training.

The deeper in the water a diver goes, the more safety concerns arise. Chief among these safety concerns is air supply, as at a depth of 130 feet there is only enough air for 10 to 15 minutes of diving. This is due to water pressure, as the tanks of air become less effective.

Other safety concerns at the maximum depth limit include oxygen and nitrogen intake levels, which can cause severe issues like vertigo. Another issue which beginners may not take into consideration is partial pressure stops. Due to how far down a diver is at this depth, they must stop at varying intervals to let off gas. This takes time, cutting into air supply, and ignoring pressure build-up can easily result in catastrophe.

Staying Safe While Diving

Safety is the chief concern when diving, as it is a dangerous activity when limits and rules are ignored. It is important to self-police on dives and check yourself, as the instructor may be dealing with another diver or issue. As you gain certification and the ability to go on dives without an instructor, self-policing becomes even more important.

Stay conservative while diving. If there is any question at all of your safety, you should follow your gut feeling and fix the situation. Be sure to:

  • Listen to diving instructors and guides at all times
  • Check your gauges frequently
  • Stay within dive limits even if you are alone with a buddy
  • Keep track of your buddy at all times

Additionally, remember that the buddy system used in scuba diving is essential for not just your safety but also your partners. If you willfully neglect rules and regulations or become complacent, you could be endangering someone else’s life.

Combining all of these with a constant thought of safety should allow all your dives to be fun, memorable experiences that will keep you coming back to the sport. Follow all procedures, do what feels right at any moment, and enjoy the experience!


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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