People often associate themselves with their job and recreational activities, in addition to being a writer, photographer and a scuba diver I see myself as a motorcyclist. Imagine my surprise last week when I had the annual safety inspection on my motorcycle. The inspector commented that I only drove about 300 miles (ca. 483 kilometers) last year. Granted our motorcycle weather season seldom extends beyond four months and I traveled two of those months, but still, 300 miles (~483 kilometers) is next to nothing. Do I consider myself a motorcyclist given how few miles I rode? Yes, but I do plan to be on the road more often this year.
My mind jumped to scuba diving. One of the articles I wrote here a while back reference a DEMA survey of over 24,000 scuba divers. They revealed that 77.1% of those surveyed consider themselves active divers. While 21.7% consider themselves as inactive divers. Of those that consider themselves active, When broken down to last time they were diving 11.8% had not been diving in over a year.
I still actively dive, some years more than others, however, some of my previous dive buddies do not. I contacted four of them, all of whom have not been diving for over 4 years, and ask them if they still consider themselves divers. Three of the four said yes. The one who did not say yes stopped diving for medical reasons. The three who said yes, all stated that they plan on returning to diving at some point. I hope they will do that soon because I always enjoyed diving with them.
When PADI redesigned the scuba review program a few years back to the current Reactivate, they stated it was in response to a survey that showed 97% of inactive divers want to dive again. The new program added flexibility to address different levels of retention among divers that were returning to diving. Also, as a marketing tool, it was a method to provide a pathway for inactive divers to return to diving.
Taking that Next Giant Stride
Or back roll, or shore dive or any other way you get underwater. If you only been away from diving for a few years, then getting back into diving might not be a difficult process for you to become active. Your first step is to have your equipment serviced. The “I had it serviced after I dived last” does not cut it. Equipment that is not frequently used will require servicing more frequently than those which are periodically used.
Your Certification Is Still Good, But, Are You?
If you think that you can just start diving without some refresher program, take a step back. Consider carefully how long you have been away and how proficient a diver you were before you stopped diving. Do not let your ego be in the driver seat. If you are certain you can just return to diving, then arrange for a pool dive with a dive professional. Do an equipment check with your newly serviced kit, and basic skills check under their watchful eyes. Do you feel that you did everything well? Then maybe you can just get back to diving starting with some simple dives. Does the dive professional agree? If they feel you need more practice or a refresher, accept their recommendations. Take a look at the 4 tips for the once a year scuba diver for some suggestions.
That First Dive
Still, think you do not need training? While searching for a dive operator to get you back into diving, you may see that most will require you to take a formal course if you have not dived in a year. Some will allow a check out dive. A growing number of resorts are requiring all divers that are joining them for the first time, to do a check out dive. Many liveaboards follow this procedure. Slightly off topic, I have had a number of ad hoc dive buddies, that I wished had done a check out dive with a dive professional before becoming my dive buddy. Training standards are not always the way they should be and not everyone retains what was instructed. How much have you forgotten since your last dive?
A check out dive is generally a simple dive with a dive master or instructor. You do a few skill drills and then just do a dive. They will observe you, and determine if you seem safe in the water. They can help you adjust your buoyancy and trim. To be blunt, most people who have been away from diving for only a few years will need to make some weight adjustments, because most likely your body has made some weight adjustments.
Many dive operators will have a “Discover Local Diving” program. It is a dive designed to give divers new to the area an overview of local conditions while diving with a local professional. These programs may also be a means to get back into your diving if you discuss it first with the dive professional leading the dive.
My personal view is that if you been away from diving for more than a year, you should have some sort of supervised and focused training session. The option that is mostly used is the courses that the dive accreditation agencies have. SSI has a skill update program and PADI has the ReActivate™ program. Both of these programs and many others by additional dive accreditation agencies, use a format similar to the open water training programs.
The first element is a review of the basic concepts which is done in a lesson format. Online training is the primary means of delivery, and technology often allows you to streamline the training. The second element is confined water element. You will practice the basic skills in a confined water setting until you are once again comfortable with them. The final step is an open water dive. This is basically the same as your last training dive during the open water diver training.
Only you with the help of a dive professional will be able to decide which option is best for you. The goal is to get back diving and keep diving.
Be another Ray Woolley, who turned 95 on August 28, 2018, and then plunged to a depth of 40.6m/130ft for 44 minutes to break his world record as the oldest male scuba diver.