Scuba diving is an activity that you might be interested in, especially when you’re on a tropical holiday. But how hard is it to scuba dive? And are there certain requirements to meet?

HOW HARD IS IT TO SCUBA DIVE?

Honestly, scuba diving is considered an extreme activity (at least, that’s what my insurance cover says!) and there are some factors to consider when trying scuba diving for the first time. But whether scuba diving is hard or easy is relative to each person. If someone is very comfortable in the water, then they may consider scuba diving easy. If someone is struggling a bit with understanding physics then they may consider scuba diving hard or slightly difficult. No matter your starting level of comfort, scuba diving is a very accessible hobby that can bring a lot of enjoyment on your holiday! And a lot of things that may initially seem hard with scuba diving can quickly become easy with practice!

Let’s have a look at some of the factors to consider when looking into scuba diving as a beginner.

PRACTICAL SCUBA DIVING SKILLS

Scuba diving will consist of some practical skills that you do in the water. Your instructor will brief and tell you how to do a certain skill. They will then demonstrate the skill underwater and you will copy them. This is easier if you speak the same language as the instructor, as knowing the steps to a skill is important to do it correctly. It is also important to know why this skill is important and when you would use it underwater. For this reason, there are certain age requirements in scuba diving.

DO I NEED TO BE A CERTAIN AGE?

Yes! There is a minimum age for scuba diving and no maximum age. However, there are some factors you will need to consider as an older diver.

The reason for having a minimum age is so that the child has a level of understanding of scuba diving and the risks. Generally, the minimum age for an Open Water certification is 10 years old. At this age, the child can possibly understand the physics of diving, the risks involved, and the physical aspects of diving (carrying a tank, lifting a weight-belt, etc.)

However, this is up to the instructor’s decision whether a child meets the requirements for scuba diving. Children learn at very different stages, and I have had a 10 year old girl who found scuba diving very easy to understand and was a mermaid underwater. I have also had a 13 year old boy who was easily distracted and physically could not take remove and replace his weight-belt on the surface (a very important skill in the Open Water course). In this case, the boy found scuba diving quite hard and could not complete his Open Water course, but could undertake a Try Dive (we will go into the differences below).

HOW FIT SHOULD I BE?

Scuba divers come in all shapes and sizes. The beauty of diving underwater is that you are in control of your movements and it doesn’t matter if you are small, big, tall, square, round, triangle etc. However, you will need to be able to do certain physical things in order to receive your scuba diving license. For example; you will need to remove and replace your equipment on the surface and underwater. This will require some agility and coordination.

But, if you are struggling with something, sometimes we can adapt and make it easier for you. For example, some people find it difficult to walk and jump into the water with the BCD and tank on their back. This may be due to back problems, a smaller or larger frame, or weak legs. In this case, we would ask you to get into the water first and then put on your equipment, BCD and tank, on the surface of the water. Many times this is easier as the weight is not as noticeable when in the water! 

So while you do not have to be super fit, you will need a level of fitness. Especially when it comes to the swimming requirements for your scuba diving certification.

DO I HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO SWIM?

If you are looking for a 1 day Try Dive with no certification, then there is no swimming requirement. You will need to practice some basic skills, but after that you instructor may take you by the hand or hold your tank and swim you alongside them. All you have to do is breathe and enjoy the scenery underwater!

If you are looking for a certification or license to scuba dive, then there is a swimming requirement. Different agencies may have different standards. With the PADI Open Water course, the swim test is 200 meters swimming unaided, or 300 meters with a snorkel, mask, and fins. You will also need to float comfortably on the surface of the water for 10 minutes with no equipment or aid. This means you will need a level of comfort in the water. But you do not need to be a strong swimmer as this swim test is not timed!

IS DIVE THEORY HARD TO UNDERSTAND?

Another aspect of scuba diving is the physics and physiology and understanding the theory behind it. Don’t worry, these words are not as scary as they sound! Basically, it’s about water pressure and what happens to your body when under that pressure. Your instructor will teach you about all of this. In a Try Dive, they will mention the basics of this theory. In the Open Water course, you will go more in-depth about it. A good instructor will go at your pace, and explain the theory in a simple and easy manner. Remember, scuba diving is open to kids age 10 and up, so if they can understand it, you will too!

HOW DOES THE ENVIRONMENT IMPACT HOW HARD SCUBA DIVING IS?

As a tropical diver, I would say a big factor for ease of scuba diving is the pleasant conditions we have here. The water is warm so you can dive in your swimsuit or a thin rash guard. This is a big difference in diving in a cold climate and having to wear a cumbersome and awkward dry suit.

Diving in calm conditions is also going to be very different than diving in strong waves or currents. Waves can make the surface conditions uncomfortable eg. Being seasick on the boat, or being tossed around on the surface before descending.

Currents will also impact on whether you find scuba diving hard or easy. Swimming peacefully at your own pace is very different to swimming in a strong current with your rental fins falling off. When kicking hard to fight a current you will certainly find it more difficult to breathe and use your air faster. If you are unsure about your ability to dive in certain conditions, always speak to your instructor before getting into the water.

HOW HARD IS IT TO SCUBA DIVE?

So we mentioned the factors you will need to consider when learning how to scuba dive. If you meet the basic criteria then you will be able to scuba dive. Whether you find it hard or easy is up to you. 

Some people may find scuba diving quite easy and take to it like a fish. We show the student a skill, and they copy it straight away. We teach them the dive theory, such as why it’s so important to ascend slowly, and Boyle’s Law, and they pick up the concept instantly. Whereas some people may find breathing underwater difficult and take a bit longer to perfect the skill. Or take a bit longer in the classroom to understand decompression theory.

Regardless of whether you think scuba diving is hard or easy when you first begin, does not matter. What matters is that with each dive you will get better. You will perfect the skills, whether it takes 4 dives or 40 dives. You will get more comfortable with each dive. And over time you may consider how hard is it to scuba dive, and realize that it is not hard anymore.

Emma was terrified of the ocean but dove into her Open Water 7 years ago and hasn't looked back since! She worked as an underwater videographer for several years and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. She currently runs a dive shop on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand and is the founder of Down To Scuba.

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