Scuba Diving and Swimming

By Julius
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Olympic swimmer in lane

One thing that many people want to know is the connection between scuba diving and swimming.

Especially non-swimmers and those who are not as experienced in swimming in open water are worried that they cannot go scuba diving if they don’t know how to swim.

In this post, I will shine a light on the topic of scuba diving and swimming and answer the following questions in the process:

  • Do I need to know how to swim to scuba dive?
  • Can a non-swimmer learn to scuba dive?
  • Can a non-swimmer try out scuba diving?
  • How much do we swim while scuba diving?

Do I Need to Know How To Swim to Scuba Dive?

Yes, in general, you do need to know how to swim to scuba dive. This is important so that you can feel more comfortable in the water, handle emergencies in case your scuba gear malfunctions, and swim to the dive spot at the surface. However, you do not need to be a good swimmer and basic swimming skills are sufficient to scuba dive.

While we do not swim a lot while scuba diving, it is still important that you have basic swimming skills.

The most important reason is to prevent accidents and emergencies in case our scuba gear malfunctions.

Distressed diver underwater
Not knowing how to swim can lead to distress and fear underwater.

Normally, the BCD holds us up at the surface when inflated properly. However, knowing how to swim is required in case we experience issues with this and are not able to do so properly.

The same holds true in case of stress and rescue situations in which we might need to help other divers. Knowing how to swim here is important to transport divers at the surface, reach an injured diver at depth or when rescuing non-divers.

Knowing how to swim will also make you feel more relaxed underwater as you are not only reliant on your scuba gear.

Swimmers are used to being in (under) water environments and know what to expect from this element. If you didn’t know how to swim on your first scuba dive, you might be afraid of deep water or feel helpless because you didn’t know how to move around.

Last but not least, we often do swim at the surface to get to a dive spot, especially when boat diving.

That said, it is not important to be a good swimmer or be able to swim long distances.

During a scuba dive, we inflate our BCD to be neutrally buoyant at all times and exclusively use our fins to move around underwater.

Can a Non-Swimmer Learn to Scuba Dive?

Non-Swimmers can only learn to scuba dive once they acquired basic swimming skills and are able to swim a distance of at least 200m/650ft. This is required by all scuba training agencies before conducting any diving activities. However, it is easy to learn how to swim and subsequently learn how to scuba dive.

Many people who enquire about diving courses at Social Diving ask me about the required level of swimming to learn to dive.

As required by any scuba training agency that’s part of the RSTC or CMAS, you will need to swim a distance of at least 200m / 650ft without buoyancy aid in order to begin your scuba training.

Divers in pool
Some dive schools conduct Discover Scuba Diving in super shallow pools for non-swimmers.

From personal experience with hundreds of divers, there are a few countries where people seem to be very enthusiastic about learning to dive, however, many people don’t know how to swim.

Not dropping names here, but you know who you are. 😉

Can a Non-Swimmer Try out Scuba Diving?

Most dive schools and scuba training agencies require at least basic swimming skills before allowing people to try out scuba diving. However, it is possible to try out scuba diving as a non-swimmer in very shallow pools that are no deeper than the height of the diver.

While I do not suggest it as a good idea, it’s absolutely possible to try out scuba diving as a non-swimmer.

Some dive schools conduct their discover dives in super shallow pools that are only around 1-2m/3-6ft in depth. Here, even non-swimmers may be able to do a try dive.

However, think about this: What are the reasons you haven’t learned to swim, yet?

Were you afraid of deep or dark water? Have you never been in the water at all?

Whatever the reason may be, I am not convinced it’s a good idea to make your first underwater experiences with scuba gear.

Learn to swim before going scuba diving and enjoy it even more.

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How much do we swim while scuba diving?

There is only very little swimming involved in scuba diving and most of it happens at the surface before and after a dive. Underwater we exclusively use our scuba fins to move around instead of our hands while being held up by the air in our BCD. As such, this can only partially be considered swimming.

The better your buoyancy, the less you need to actually do any swimming underwater at all. Our BCD does most of the work in keeping us neutrally buoyant and we only ever use our fins to move around.

Scuba diver hovering on back
There is very little swimming involved in scuba diving.


This concludes this little rundown of scuba diving and swimming.

The bottom line is: Learn to swim first before you go scuba diving.

Not only will it make the entire experience much safer, but you will also enjoy it more because you feel more confident.

If you’re not yet confident enough to try scuba diving yet, check out my book “Scuba Diving without Fear” in which you will learn to overcome any fears you have and start enjoying diving!

Alternatively, check out my ultimate snorkeling guide to get started!

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Always dive with friends and happy bubbles. 😃



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About the author

Hey! I'm Julius, professional scuba instructor, diver, outdoor lover, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Social Diving. I write about scuba diving (including tech, cave, sidemount, and freediving), travel, and love what I do. If you have any questions, send me a message. :-)

©2024 Social Diving. All rights reserved. The content presented here is the exclusive property of Social Diving and may not be copied or distributed, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Social Diving.

Social Diving is your #1 online source for scuba diving, scuba travel, water sports, learning, and having fun in and under water. We have scuba online articles, review plenty of (scuba) gear, and regularly post travel guides around the world.


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