How to Scuba Dive If You Can't Swim

Back in 2012, disabled artist Sue Austin wowed the world when she delivered an underwater wheelchair performance at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Millions of people around the globe saw for the first time that submerged environments weren't the exclusive playground of the able-bodied and athletic.

With the right equipment and support, anyone can take to the water. Whatever obstacles you imagine may be in your way, you too can discover how to scuba dive, even if you can't swim!

Can you dive if you can’t swim?

When Austin conceptualized her underwater art piece, she was fascinated that many people who encountered her wheelchair saw it as limiting, but all who encountered her scuba gear saw it as freeing—even though she perceived the two sets of equipment as equal sources of personal liberation.

Speaking about the project, she shared that the weightlessness she experienced in the water thanks to the buoyancy aids that divers use actually made it much easier to move around than it was above the waves.

Of course, many uncertain but aspiring divers aren't disabled but have simply never learned to swim.

For these scuba hopefuls, diving gear like a BCD (buoyancy jacket) and fins can make swimming much easier than it would be without them.

You can't get a full scuba license if you aren't great with the basic swimming strokes with reasonable confidence, but that doesn't mean that breathing underwater is off limits. You can still book a Discover Scuba Diving experience with the right instructors at the right dive center!

We'll come back to exactly what credentials to look for in a diving school if you'd like some extra support shortly.

The Benefits of Scuba Diving For People Of All Abilities

Alongside the question of how to scuba dive if you can't swim, it's well worth asking, what are the benefits if you do?

For both disabled and non-disabled divers, fantastic rewards such as improved cardiovascular health and relief of stress and depression can be enjoyed. Many scuba participants find diving helpful for the relief of PTSD symptoms thanks to the tranquil serenity that they experience underwater.

In terms of how to scuba dive if you can't swim due to physical disabilities, there are special webbed gloves that paraplegic divers can use to move independently underwater, while professionally trained instructors can aid quadriplegic divers or those navigating the deeps with other mobility challenges in a variety of different ways.

There are even anecdotal indications that scuba diving can help those experiencing chronic pain or even loss of sensation. It is certainly a therapeutic activity worth exploring if you're so inclined.

Is There Anything That Else Might Stop Me Scuba Diving?

For every single person who hopes to scuba dive, there are certain health assessments that need to be made.

To make sure that diving will be safe for the participant, things like their heart and lung health, and any respiratory issues will be checked. This is because entering the underwater world does put some specific strains on the body that it'll need to be able to handle. Every single dive center will have a questionnaire that new divers complete before getting the green light to continue.

Certain swimming conditions may also limit scuba possibilities where specialist diving trips are concerned. Your trusted dive instructors will weigh up factors like water temperature, currents, and swell to ensure that the water will be inviting and your underwater experience a pleasant one. Safety is always worth prioritizing!

Which Instructors Help People Who Can't Swim Experience Scuba Diving?

After several years of conceptual development, in 1981, the Handicapped Scuba Association (HSA) was founded in America when PADI donated their first equipment.

Since then, the HSA has trained more than 4,000 underwater educators to provide specialist assistance to those with a disability that may impact their ability to experience scuba diving. These instructors operate in over 45 countries around the globe, so there's a good chance there's one relatively nearby as you read this!

The HSA also provides 3-day workshops to help PADI diving instructors adapt their teaching styles to students of different abilities, assisting them as they develop a resource kit that includes different communication and safety practices.

The power of these efforts is that they allow a growing number of people to experience the incredible social and experiential rewards of scuba.

Today, traveling and diving don't need to be something that only a portion of the population can do. More and more people are discovering that they too can get in the water and dive.

Are you planning a scuba diving trip to an HSA-supported diving location? Don't forget to check out the local water temperatures before you go, so you can kit up appropriately!

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