Scuba diving has gained in popularity in recent years. It is on many an adventurer’s bucket list. Discovering the ocean and experiencing what lays beneath the waves lures many explorers young and old. James Bond strapped a tank to his back and went diving. Did MI6 train him? Did he have a certification to scuba dive? It seems so simple, just breathe, right? Do you need to be certified to go scuba diving?
Scuba diving is a very safe sport. In contrast, it is listed under extreme sports in most insurance policies and diving without certification is not covered. This is due to the potential dangers of scuba diving. Afterall you are breathing compressed air underwater, relying on properly functioning equipment. You need to know what to do if something goes wrong and avoid drowning.
Some Ground Rules
First, let’s define a few parameters of this question. The word “need” for one. Technically you do not “need” to be certified to go scuba diving. What you would need is to procure the necessary equipment as well as figure out how to use it. If you did, you could go scuba diving without being certified.
A far better way to experience scuba diving without being certified is to take an introduction to scuba diving class. These are designed as one-day programs where uncertified divers can experience scuba diving under the supervision of a certified scuba diving professional. These programs will teach you the very basics of safety and equipment use.
Secondly, what is “scuba” diving exactly? Scuba stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. This means that we take our air supply underwater with us. SNUBA is a system growing in popularity with aquariums and resorts around the world. SNUBA is a long hose that supplies divers with air from the surface to a depth of about 6m. Commercial divers also rely on a surface supplied air source, like the team in the Last Breath documentary. These systems, however, are not technically scuba diving.
Do You Need To Be Certified To Go Scuba Diving?
As established above, you don’t need to be certified to go scuba diving. In saying that, I highly recommend getting certified with an agency before scuba diving.
Scuba diving is easy to learn. If safe diving practices are adhered to, it is extremely safe. As a result, these rules and practices are taught during scuba diving certification courses. A major focus of getting scuba certified is preventing and managing problems. Scuba diving on all levels relies heavily on redundancy. A lot of backups and double-checking prior to the dive. Very easy to follow safety rules and training limits keep divers safe. Knowing these requires a scuba diving certification. Not knowing some very basic safety procedures can seriously endanger someone.
What about Mini-Dive or Scorkl?
We defined SCUBA above as a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The mini-dive or Scorkl are such devices. Essentially these are tiny 3.5L compressed air tanks with a mouthpiece attached. A snorkeler can, therefore, extend their duck dive considerably. As a professional diver, I am horrified by such devices. Disregarding the possibility of losing the tank at depth and not monitoring ascent rates, a certified diver could use these relatively safely.
However, selling them to the general public as a safe underwater breathing device is wreckless. Improper use of compressed air while submerged can lead to air embolism, decompression sickness, lung over-expansion injury, and drowning.
Getting A Scuba Diving Certification
Because scuba diving is so popular today it is relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain a scuba diving certification. Getting a scuba diving certification can cost between US$350 – US$500. These courses generally include your equipment and training materials as well as a training session and 4 dives in open water.
The most popular course is the open water certification. This certification allows you to dive to 18m independently with a buddy of the same or higher certification level. It takes a minimum of 3 days to get your open water license.
A scuba diver certification limits and certification holder to 12m and diving with a professional still, but it can be completed in as little as 2 days.
I cannot with good conscience recommend anyone dive without a certification unsupervised. However, it is not illegal to do so. There is no underwater police that will catch you. So, do you need to be certified to go scuba diving? If you do not want professional supervision then yes, absolutely, yes. Otherwise, it is comparable to buying a parachute at the minimart and jumping out of a plane you manage to sneak on.