How to Scuba Dive if You Can’t Swim: 26 Important Tips

Scuba diving is a great outdoor underwater activity that allows you to explore the great beauty beneath the ocean waves. However, when talking about scuba diving, people who do not know how to swim might feel like this sport is not possible for them.

You can scuba dive without knowing how to swim well. But full scuba certification programs require passing a swim test before getting certified. Scuba diving uses air tanks to breathe and inflated vests to float, so being able to swim is not necessary.

For certification, you have to swim 100 yards, but you can use any stroke you want. Float on your back and kick if you have to for part or all of the distance. I am a terrible swimmer but very comfortable while scuba diving. Here are 26 tips for scuba diving if you aren’t a good swimmer.  

26 Important Facts About Scuba Diving

The following are several things you should remember if you want to give scuba diving a try as an inexperienced swimmer: 

1. Be aware of diving dangers.

If you are going to go scuba diving, it is important to note the dangers of the sport. The most often occurring danger of diving is drowning. Drowning usually occurs when a diver starts panicking while underwater. 

Another significant risk of diving is DCS, or decompression sickness. It is more commonly known as the “bends” and happens when you try to ascend to the surface too fast. All of these dangers are preventable, but you should be aware of them before you go diving.

2. Be comfortable in the water.

You do not have to know how to swim to go scuba diving, but you should at least be comfortable in the water. Being able to tread water or even the basic doggy paddle is helpful. If you are not comfortable in the water, you will be nervous the whole time you are diving. One way to get used to being in the water is by going to your local swimming pool and standing in it while partly submerged for a while. 

3. Overcome any fear of water.

Plenty of people have a fear of water; sometimes, this is the reason people never learn to swim. If you want to explore marine life, you will need to get over this fear, but do not worry—overcoming it is possible. In addition, if you have a fear of water, it is probably a better idea for you to learn to swim before going scuba diving. You can look online for local swim instructors that specialize in teaching people with a fear of water how to swim.

4. Overcome any fear of breathing underwater.

While the fear of water might seem strange, even to those who have it, the fear of breathing underwater seems like common sense. The idea that you should open your mouth and breathe in when you are surrounded by water seems a little crazy. However, if you are afraid of breathing underwater, then you will not be able to scuba dive. 

If you have this fear, it would be a good idea to buy a snorkel (Amazon) or a diving mask (Amazon) and practice breathing underwater at your local swimming pool. Even if you cannot swim, this will help prepare you for scuba diving in an exotic location. The mask might be better if you want to prepare to go scuba diving.

5. Pay attention. 

It is important to pay attention when your guide is explaining how to use the equipment for diving. This is even more true for someone who does not know how to swim. If you do not know how to use the regulators on the suit or how to adjust the necessary equipment, this could lead to panicking. 

Once you are ready to hit the water, it is important that you pay attention to your instructor while you are diving as well. As a non-swimmer, it will be hard for you to do anything underwater. This makes it essential that you pay attention to what your instructor tells you to do to make sure you are staying safe underwater.

6. Wear proper equipment.

When you go scuba diving, it is important to wear the proper equipment. The site you go to dive will give you the proper equipment (Amazon). If you are someone who cannot swim, you will need a tether rope on top of the other equipment so that you can be attached to your instructor.

7. Talk to your instructor.

It is important to let your instructor know what you want from your dive before you get into the ocean. It is very important that you tell your instructor if you cannot swim so that your instructor can plan accordingly. Some diving places are not comfortable with taking non-swimmers out on dives, so it would be a good idea to contact the site you want to go diving at and tell them ahead of time.

8. Take it seriously.

Diving is a serious, dangerous sport. Of course, you should enjoy yourself while you are diving and are underwater, but you should also be aware of where you are and the seriousness of the sport. You should be able to give the sport your full attention. This means that you should get a good night’s sleep the night before and eat a healthy breakfast. If you do these things, you will not get distracted while diving and can give the activity the attention it needs.

 

9. Follow the buddy system.

If you do not know how to swim, you will need to go with someone else when you scuba dive. Even if you are a certified diver, it is always recommended to go scuba diving with a partner.  This is called the buddy system. The buddy system is essential if you cannot swim and are new to diving. You can also follow the buddy system with your instructor. If you do not know how to swim, your instructor will tie a rope around you and themselves so they can pull you along as you go from place to place at the dive site. 

10. Learn underwater hand signals.

To pay attention to your instructor, it is essential that you know underwater hand signals. Scuba divers have come up with a set of universal hand signals to express certain needs underwater. The hand signals that will be important for you to know include the sign for ending the dive, going down lower, the sign for needing air, and the sign for moving more slowly. All of these signs will help your dive go more smoothly and help you communicate with your instructor.

11. Communicate.

It is important on any dive to communicate with your instructor, but even more so for a non-swimmer.  Your instructor needs to know how you are doing and feeling in the dive to make sure everything goes smoothly. Being able to communicate with your instructor will keep you from panicking.

12. Stay relaxed while you are diving.

It is important not to panic and stay relaxed when you are diving. If you start panicking or get overexcited while you are diving, you start breathing more quickly. Quicker breaths make you use the air in your tank faster, so quicker breaths lead you to a shorter dive than expected. If you are not careful, this can make you run out of air before you reach the surface. To get the most out of your dive and to maintain safe amounts of air, it is important to stay relaxed while you are diving.

13. Do not hold your breath.

The most important benefit of scuba diving is that you are able to see more of the ocean and marine life because you can breathe underwater. For those who do not know how to swim, the idea of just jumping into the water and start breathing might seem a little crazy, but it is important to not hold your breath. Holding your breath messes up the compression in your air tank and wastes air when you start gasping for it after holding your breath.

14. Ask to move slowly.

It is a good idea to ask your instructor to move slowly when you go diving. If you cannot swim, your instructor has full power over how fast you move through the diving site. If you want to make sure that you get to see the site in good detail, it is a good idea to move slowly while underwater. You might naturally move slower through your site since your instructor will have to pull you. 

15. Open your eyes.

If you cannot swim, the idea of opening your eyes underwater is definitely scary. However, there is no point in going on a dive if you cannot open your eyes; to get the most out of your dive, you will need to keep them open. Do not worry, though, most scuba gear usually comes with a pair of water-sealing goggles so that you are able to see underwater without worrying about clouding your vision. 

16. Go to shallow sites.

Scuba diving places have different sites that go to different depths. Some places will take you down twelve meters, while other places tend to stay closer to the surface. If you cannot swim, it is a good idea to go diving at more shallow sites. That way, if anything goes wrong and you need to get to the surface, it is easier for your instructor to pull you up swiftly. Also, diving at a shallower site might make it easier for you to see all of the site.

17. Get fins.

Fins are objects you wear on your feet that make it easier and faster for you to travel through water. If you are not able to swim, fins might make it easier for you to move through the water at a decent pace. They might even be enough to help you get up to the surface by yourself. Either way, fins are necessary for diving.

 

18. Go with someone else who is more experienced.

You do not have to go diving with an instructor, but if you are not able to swim, it would be best to go scuba diving with someone who is certified. Going with a friend sounds fun, but if someone without scuba diving certification is pulling you along underwater, it is a lot riskier and more dangerous. Make sure whoever you go scuba diving with is qualified to help you explore underwater and able to keep you safe.

19. Be aware and honest with your abilities. 

It is important to be aware of your abilities before you go scuba diving. If you have only been in a pool twice in your life, then you probably cannot swim. It is important to be completely honest with yourself and with your instructor about what your limits are. Even if your diving options are limited by your abilities, it is always better to be safe than sorry.  Be aware of what you are able and not able to do and tell your instructor your limitations.

20. Dive with locals.

Going diving with your friends is an awesome experience. Sometimes you might even feel that you do not want to bring anyone else along. While it is fine to go on vacation and dive with just your friends, going with a local guide would be useful. They will know little hidden gems and tricky parts of the dive site that you might not have found or known by yourself. This is even more true if you cannot swim. Your local guide will be able to help you navigate waters that are not friendly to the non-swimmer.

21. Consistently check equipment.

When you are diving, you want to consistently check your equipment. Making sure you know the state of your equipment and how much air you have is essential. This is even more important if you do not know how to swim because you will need to notify your instructor of any equipment malfunctions as soon as it happens. The risk of malfunction to someone who cannot swim is higher than to someone who is able to swim freely.

22. Practice a test run.

You do not have to wait until you are at the scuba diving site to see if you are able to face a diving experience. Go with a friend to your local pool and try going out into the water with them. You can practice diving below the water and being pulled around by your friend. Unless you have your own scuba diving equipment (Amazon), it might be hard to practice breathing underwater. Even so, any practice will help you prepare for your scuba diving experience.

23. Check with the place you want to scuba dive at.

Some places will not let you go scuba diving if you do not know how to swim. It is best to check with the program you are going to use if you can go diving without knowing how to swim. Keep in mind that a decent number of scuba diving providers have a class you can take before diving that will teach you the basics of swimming you need to complete a successful dive. 

24. Do not bring children with you.

It is best not to bring children under the age of twelve with you when you go on a dive. Some places do not allow you to bring children because children tend to be unpredictable and start panicking more easily. For places that do allow children to scuba dive, it is not a good idea to bring them if you cannot swim. It would be hard for your instructor to help your child if something goes wrong if your instructor also has to look after you.

25. Know where to go. 

If you go with someone who is an experienced swimmer, you should be able to go scuba diving in most places where they offer it. If you are looking for an exotic vacation that includes a scuba diving event, places with diving sites close to the beach would be the best for your experience level.

26. Learn how to swim. 

Finally, while you do not need to know how to swim to go scuba diving, it is definitely beneficial to be able to swim before going. Being able to move about in the water by yourself would make it easier for you to see more while diving without having to rely on your instructor to pull you around. Even just some swimming basics would be beneficial. You could consider taking a few swim classes before you go on your dive. 

Conclusion

You can go scuba diving without knowing how to swim. Just make sure that you check with local scuba diving experience providers to find out where the best places are for non-swimmers; that way, you can enjoy an underwater adventure without having to worry about your swimming abilities!


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References:

https://www.aussiediversphuket.com/helpful-information/do-i-need-to-know-how-to-swim-scuba-dive/

https://www.quora.com/Can-a-non-swimmer-do-scuba-diving-1

https://www.scuba.com/resources/25-tips-for-easier-scuba-diving.aspx

https://www.momondo.com/discover/scuba-diving-tips

https://www.khaolakexplorer.com/similan-guide/risks-of-scuba-diving/

https://www.liveabout.com/common-hand-signals-for-scuba-diving-2963222

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/some-nerve/201412/how-overcome-fear-water

https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-overcome-the-fear-of-going-underwater-Im-good-at-swimming-I-just-get-very-anxious-when-underwater-and-that-kills-my-ability-to-be-calm-and-keep-my-breath

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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