Do You Need To Know How To Swim To Scuba Dive?


Many people tend to think that you need to be a good swimmer (or at least know how to swim) before you go and try scuba diving. After all, scuba diving involves going underwater and being completely surrounded by it in all directions. That is actually one reason why many non-swimmers feel discouraged when they consider giving scuba diving a try. So, to answer the question “do you need to know how to swim to scuba dive” you may be surprised to find out that the answer is a “No”. This may raise some eyebrows especially when you consider that scuba diving is a water sport; however, non-swimmers are allowed to engage in scuba diving since much of their ability to stay buoyant or float and move underwater are dependent on their scuba diving gear and not on their scuba diving swimming skills.

How Can Non-Swimmers Do Scuba Diving?

A basic scuba diving gear is composed of different apparatus like a scuba tank, a scuba regulator, a scuba gauge and others. Most people think that these are only helpful in allowing the diver to breathe underwater; however, some of these devices are actually used to help keep the diver afloat and buoyant and allow them to move underwater even if they don’t know how to swim.

The buoyancy compensatory device (BCD) allows the diver to stay afloat underwater my manipulating the amount of air inside the device. Adding air into the air bladders of the BCD prevents the diver from sinking, and removing air from the device will allow them to sink deeper. That said, non-swimmers can easily dive underwater and return back up whenever they want to. In addition, divers only need to kick with their feet and scuba fins (a skill which doesn’t require any specialized training) in order to move underwater and there’s really no need to use your hands at this point.

When Are Non-swimmers Allowed to Scuba Dive?

Although non-swimmers are allowed to go scuba diving, there are limitations as to what they can do. This limitation extends to the places where they can go diving and the type of diving that they can engage in.

For the most part, non-swimmers are only allowed to try scuba diving in a controlled environment. Most of the time, non-swimmers are only allowed to dive in swimming pools along with trained dive instructors. This is great for those who only want to learn how to scuba dive and are not really concerned about going into the open water.

There are some diving resorts which allow non-swimmers to practice diving in the beaches, but only in the shallow parts and with the assistance of a diving instructor. This may allow non-swimmers to experience scuba diving better and get a better feel of scuba diving since they are exposed to sand and current. There may even be a chance of encountering marine flora and fauna, albeit the possibility is rather slim. However, it is still a very different adventure from actually diving in open seas and exploring deeper waters.

All in all, non-swimmers are limited to a beginning diving courses or introductory diving expeditions. Such adventures require minimal practice and are done in a safe environment along with competent diving instructors. These courses are also well-designed and are perfect for those who want to try scuba diving first before deciding if this is an activity that they would like to pursue in the future. So if you want to go on more advanced diving expeditions like scuba diving with sharks for instance, you’re going to need to learn how to swim.

When Is Swimming a Requirement for Scuba Diving?

As can be gleaned in the earlier paragraphs, if you want to do some serious scuba diving or get a scuba diving license, then you’ll be required to learn how to swim. In fact, in order to get a scuba diving certificate and before you do any actual diving, you’ll need to pass a swim test.

The scuba diving swimming test consists of two parts. The first part requires that you are capable of swimming 200 meters in open water without the use of swimming aids like swimming snorkels, fins, and others. You may also be required to complete a swim test of 300 meters, but this time you are allowed to use swimming aids like those mentioned above. Test participants are also allowed to use any type of swimming stroke that they feel most comfortable with. The swimming test is also not timed, though the sooner you are able to swim the required distance, the better.

The second part of the swim test requires that you are capable of staying afloat for ten minutes. You can either do this by floating on your back or by treading the water. In any case, you are not allowed to make use of any flotation device like a life jacket and others while performing the test.

There are also some people who have disabilities who would like to have a scuba diving certificate, and they are actually allowed to do so. However, they will need to consult their physicians just to make sure that their health is indeed capable of handling the stress and rigors of scuba diving. If they’re going to take the test, they are allowed the use adaptive techniques to comply with the swim test training standards.

Benefits of Knowing How to Swim Prior to Scuba Diving

Obviously, being a non-swimmer will not allow you to fully enjoy the benefits of scuba diving. You will be limited in terms of diving environment and you won’t be able to engage in the more exciting types of scuba diving like shipwreck diving and others. For most people who want to make scuba diving a lifelong activity, this is enough reason to take swimming classes. Besides, being able to swim also comes with a lot of benefits.

Comfort and Confidence Underwater

Many non-swimmers tend to feel uncomfortable when near or around water. This feeling of discomfort becomes even worse when they entertain the idea of being completely submerged several feet underwater. That said, this is one reason why they never learned how to swim in the first place, and this uneasiness can actually lead to more issues while diving.

For instance, non-swimmers may experience some psychological problems while underwater, from fear of drowning and unexpected encounters with sharks and others. This in turn can lead to confusion or even anxiety, and these conditions can greatly affect how much they enjoy the experience and may even compromise their safety and that of the people they are diving with.

Knowing how to swim breeds a certain kind of confidence, and this confidence helps the diver to keep a straight head while underwater, which in turn makes scuba diving fun and safe for them. This is perhaps the biggest reason why you should consider taking swimming lessons if you are bent on making scuba diving a hobby.

Ability to Handle Emergency Situations

Scuba diving is safe in general; however, this does not mean that you won’t encounter any problems while you’re underwater. For instance, in the event of an equipment malfunction, the diver may need to relieve themselves of their scuba diving gear including their buoyancy compensator and swim up to the surface on their own. And when they reach the surface, they will also need to be able to stay afloat long enough for the boat to pick them up. Such scenarios further underline the importance of knowing how to swim when scuba diving.

Do You Need to Be a Good Swimmer to Scuba Dive?


You don’t need to be an excellent swimmer in order to scuba dive. After all, it has been mentioned that knowing how to swim is not really a requirement if you’re simply learning how to scuba in a pool or other similar controlled environments. However, if you do know how to swim, you should be aware that swimming underwater with all those scuba gear strapped to your body will be different from swimming on the surface without any equipment. So yes, being a good swimmer helps, but again it’s not really necessary.

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So again, do you need to know how to swim to scuba dive? No, you don’t. There are many non-swimmers who were able to try scuba diving albeit in pools and shallow waters. However, being able to swim comes with a lot of benefits encompassing safety, enjoyment, and being able to dive in sites that non-swimmers will not be able to visit. Nonetheless, don’t let that stop you from giving scuba diving a try. You can try a one day introductory diving course to get the feel of the sport, but you should definitely consider going for swimming lessons because there is a high likelihood of you getting hooked to it.

More Scuba Reviews:


  1. ‘Do I Need to Know How to Swim to Scuba Dive’ and Other Frequently Asked Questions, PADI
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!