Can you Scuba Dive Without Knowing How to Swim?

Scuba diving is an inclusive activity which can be taken up by just about anyone. However, there are certain requirements you need to fulfill before you can start diving. One of those requirements is knowing how to swim.

Can you Scuba Dive without knowing how to Swim? Technically, yes. However, to get certified you need to be able to swim. So, while you can technically dive without knowing to swim you won’t get a certification.

Can you Scuba Dive Without Knowing How to Swim

Many people wonder if it’s absolutely necessary to be able to swim in order to scuba dive because technically the purpose of swimming is to keep you afloat and when you scuba dive you purposely go deep into the water. Some people also raise the fact that the human body has natural buoyancy which already lowers a potential risk of drowning. Well, let’s dive in and find out just how important knowing how to swim is for scuba diving.

Why is it Important to know how to Swim?

The most important reason is safety. Scuba diving is a risky sport, even for trained professionals because you’re entering an environment where you can’t move around naturally like you do above the surface. In fact, for those diving recreationally when they travel, some insurance companies place a restriction on diving below thirty meters and cave diving.

Knowing how to swim will make you more comfortable in the water and minimize the potential risk of drowning. Going underwater can already instill a slight fear in anyone, you don’t want to add to the distress by not knowing how to swim.

For many divers, once you get lost in exploring the ocean, you don’t want to go back. Knowing how to swim can help you maximize your diving time. First time and novice divers are likely to use up air faster due to their lack of experience and nervousness. Knowing how to swim helps you regulate your breathing and maintain how much air you use so that you can spend more time underwater.

Note: The ability to swim is not the only factor which governs dive time. Other factors such as the depth, your physical strength and stress levels also play a role in this. There may also be gender differences in metabolic rates which can affect the amount of time you spend underwater (women are likely to be able to breathe underwater for longer than men).

Why is it Important to know how to Swim

What Swimming Skills Do You Need to Scuba Dive?

You don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer in order to scuba dive. Some basic strokes and the ability to swim for a short distance without running out of breath will be sufficient.

How Far Do You Need to Be Able to Swim?

If you can swim a distance of around 200 meters comfortably, you’re good to go. There’s no rocket science behind swimming: all you need is a little confidence, motivation and you’ll be able to pick up swimming techniques really fast.

If you have a beach vacation coming up and want to explore the ocean, it’s a good idea to plan in advance and sign up for swim classes. Apart from helping you dive, learning how to swim is an enjoyable experience and a great form of exercise.

Do You Need to Know Any Particular Strokes?

If you’re learning how to swim just so that you can scuba dive, you don’t need to know every stroke in the book. Now we’re not saying you should just be able to dog paddle. Start out by just trying to stay afloat and progress towards learning a proper stroke.

Professionals recommend learning the breaststroke since it is the fastest to learn, the easiest and requires a pretty low amount of energy. If you’re learning how to swim so that you can scuba dive, let your instructor know this. Fill them in on your requirements: being able to swim a distance of 200 meters and staying afloat for around ten minutes.

It’s easy enough to stay afloat. Most swim instructors will start off by getting you to stay above the surface using only your hands. Once you gain a little more confidence in the water, you can move on to using your legs to stay afloat.

If you’re a little nervous to begin with, don’t worry. Your instructor will provide you with a floatation device till you can swim properly on your own.

What Swimming Skills Do You Need to Scuba Dive?

How Much Does It Cost to Learn to Swim?

The expense of your swim lessons depends on whether you’re learning in a communal group or have made arrangements for a private instructor. Group lessons are usually very affordable and you can even take them at your local YMCA. Private lessons are more expensive but have the advantage that the teacher is completely focused on you.

If you’re really invested in learning how to swim so that you can scuba dive and have the room in your budget, you can go on a swimming vacation. They can cost a whopping USD 500 or more which includes the swim lessons and accommodation.

Try finding a swimming buddy to share the expense with (and to make it more fun for you). Obviously, this isn’t a feasible option for everyone, but if you feel like treating yourself and can afford to then go ahead.

Getting On-Location Swimming Lessons

You can even get swimming lessons at the same place where you plan to go scuba diving. Many locations that are suited for scuba diving have courses to learn how to swim. You can learn to swim and scuba dive at a single vacation and be set for future trips!

How Much Do You Swim When Diving?

Scuba diving doesn’t involve an extensive amount of swimming. The main part is swimming when you go deeper, and since this part is done with the help of fins, it’s much easier. At this stage, you’ll be swimming so slowly, you’ll be preserving air anyway.

The other step where you’ll be required to know how to swim is when you swim from your boat to the buoy which marks the area you can begin your descent from. You need to know how to swim for this and to swim back to your boat once you return to the surface. Since these distances are usually pretty short, you just need to be able to stay afloat and maneuver in the water for a few feet.

Is It Safe to Scuba Dive Without Knowing How to Swim?

You can dive without knowing how to swim and it is safe. However, you will usually not come up right at the exact spot you have to be in order to get out of the water so being able to swim is a safety measure for scuba divers.

It’s not only to keep you safe but also allow you to feel more comfortable in the water. Knowing how to swim will lower your anxiety in the water and you can enjoy your underwater surroundings more.

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Can you scuba dive when you cannot swim

How can I explore the underwater world without knowing how to swim?

If you don’t want to or are unable to learn how to swim, there are still some options open for you to be able to see the underwater views.

Glass Boat Tours

Tropical resorts globally such as those in the Caribbean offer glass boat tours. This basically involves sailing in a boat with a glass bottom which lets you look down into the ocean. It doesn’t come anywhere near the actual experience of scuba diving, but you’ll still get a good view of the coral reefs and fish.


Submarines still provide an experience which is somewhat close to actually scuba diving. it’s a great way to explore the depths of the ocean without actually having to swim or having a scuba mask on.

These options are great for people who are unable to scuba dive because of physical impairments or other health concerns. They’re also a great way to help people with water phobias get over their fears. Boats also offer people who have suffocation anxiety experience the wonders of the ocean.

Can You Scuba Dive if You Don’t Know How to Swim?

Even if you don’t swim, it’s possible to go for a one-day dive. The PADI institute has a Discover Scuba lesson for non-swimmers.

This scuba experience will allow you to dive in shallow waters under the supervision of a dive instructor. This is because when you scuba dive, you have proper equipment including a tank which helps you breathe and fins which help you move.

This is equipment that you normally don’t have when you’re just out for a regular swim. However, it’s important to remember that even with the right gear it’s important for you to be physically fit.

You can sign up for introductory sessions at your resort where you can learn how to get used to being in the water and techniques to move around and maintain a level of control over your body while you’re under the surface.

Why Physical Fitness is Important for Scuba Diving

Scuba diving requires a fair amount of physical effort. The more fit you are the more fun and prolonged your diving experience will be.

You don’t have to be a fitness guru, just healthy enough to get through the dive without experiencing difficulty in going down, moving around in the water and returning to the surface.

Diver underwater with Console-mounted dive computer

Getting over Any Fears of the Water

Some people get nervous at the idea of being completely submerged in the water. Especially if you don’t know how to swim, this fear is likely to take over.

This is where your dive instructor comes in. These programs that allow non-swimmers to scuba dive generally don’t go very deep into the water. The average depth is around 10-12 meters. Even at these depths you’ll still get to experience the true magic of the ocean.

Your instructor is there to help you get comfortable with your dive equipment, and once you’re ready to get into the water, they’ll check to see that everything is secured properly. You will also have a flotation device as an additional security measure. So you really don’t have anything to be worried about.

Once you’re in the water, just make sure that you stay close to your dive instructor and group. You will initially take some time to get used to breathing underwater, but once you’ve been in the water for a few minutes, your nerves will calm themselves. Just don’t forget to breathe and you’ll have a great dive.

Dive Site Recommendations for Non-Swimmers

Coral reefs can grow close to the surface since they thrive in the sunlight. Therefore, places with coral reefs are ideal for novice divers.

Even close to the surface you’ll get to see plenty of sea creatures flitting around you. Here are some places which cater to divers of all sorts including those who are just getting the hang of being in the water:

  • Phuket in Thailand has many locations which are suitable for non-swimmers who wish to scuba dive.
  • The waters in Roatan are warm throughout the year and extremely clear, providing high visibility. The water current is not too strong and just knowing how to maneuver yourself in the water is sufficient. You’ll get to see plenty of coral reefs and you’ll find many beginners diving courses to sign up for.
  • Florida has many options for reef diving where you can find resorts and companies which provide scuba diving trips for beginners and pros.
  • No scuba location list is complete without mentioning Hawaii. There are some truly exciting scuba experiences close to the shore. Lava arches, exotic marine life and colorful corals characterize the waters of Hawaii making it perfect for non-swimmers who wish to scuba dive. Get the chance to swim with manta rays and turtles and have a truly unforgettable experience.
  • Malaysia offers many sports which are great for snorkelers and scuba divers alike. Even if you don’t get the chance to scuba dive because you don’t know how to swim, you can still snorkel so you won’t completely miss out on the fun.
  • The Maldives are famous for their breathtaking waters. White sharks and manta rays dot the waters. The current is not too strong and the waters are calm enough to cater to non-swimmers. It is however one of the most expensive locations for scuba diving so opt for the Maldives only if you have room in your budget.

Can You Obtain Scuba Certifications If You Can’t Swim?

The simple answer is no, you can’t get scuba certified without knowing how to swim. Even basic courses such as PADI’s Open Water Diver Course last for around four days and the ability to swim is a key requirement.

Do you need to know to swim when diving?

It’s Worth the Effort!

It’s definitely worth the effort to learn how to swim in order to scuba dive. You’ll be amazed at the incredible things you will get to see underwater: from vibrant corals and exotic fish to ancient shipwrecks and mysterious caves. Go with a group of diving buddies and share the fun together.

If you want to get a proper scuba certification, you will need to know how to swim, but if you just want a once in a lifetime experience of life in the ocean, you can go for shallow diving or even snorkeling and still get to see plenty of sea creatures in the gleaming waters. All you need is a little motivation and you’re ready to experience something magical.

Precautionary Note

Scuba diving is great, and on its own it’s a harmless activity. Just avoid touching the coral or coming direct contact with any sea creatures. Such actions disturb the ecosystem of the ocean and have led to the destruction of entire coral reefs, displacing many sea creatures that relied on them. Being a little careful will go a long way in protecting the gems of the ocean.