Would you jump into a plane without training and fly off into the sunset? Or perhaps drive away in a vehicle you have never driven before and unlicensed to? From these two examples it would seem crazy to do! But believe it or not, people will happily strap a tank onto their backs and head into the depths without a second thought. Let me give you a few reasons why you should never go scuba diving without certification, and instead seek out some training. We’ll also discuss what you can do without a certification if you are not ready to take that step yet.
Is It Illegal to Dive Without Certification?
Short answer, no. Scuba diving without certification is not illegal. There is no legal requirement to have a certificate to be able to go scuba diving. Furthermore, in the diving world there is no “Scuba Police” roaming the dive sites in search for uncertified divers. The industry is governed by itself, through the dive shops and dive centers that span the world. Of course, uncertified individuals can still go and purchase equipment or get air fills from compressor shops, as these transactions don’t always imply that person is diving and therefore, they are not checked for diving certification. However, the shops and centers will check for a certificate if the individuals are renting equipment or are looking to go diving with that particular company.
There are countless reasons that people should not go scuba diving without certification, or anything for that matter! Below will just be a few reasons why but also what people can do without a certification.
The Unknown Dangers
“The lack of knowledge always leads to defeat and destruction.”Sunday Adelaja
Diving in the magnificent underwater world we have here on earth is incredible. You will see things you have never seen before and move in a three-dimensional world at your discretion. How easy it seems to simply put a tank on your back and jump into crystal clear warm waters of the tropics. Surrounded by all manners of species or swimming alongside gigantic whales in the vast expanse of the ocean. It seems easy because it really is, if you have received the correct training which has highlighted the risks associated with diving into the depths.
Some of the unknown dangers to those scuba diving without certification include decompression sickness (DCS), commonly known as “the bends”, this is referring to the build-up of nitrogen in the body upon surfacing. Have you surfaced correctly? How long did you spend down at depth? How deep were you? How fast did you ascend? Did you complete a safety, or decompression, stop? What gases were you breathing? These are just a few of the physical diving question that can be asked if someone has suspected DCS.
Within the body we have some air spaces that are affected by scuba diving, places such as the lungs, ears and sinuses. When uncertified divers are diving, they simply are not aware that diving incorrectly can cause serious injuries and death through a pressure related injury (barotrauma). Injuries sustained in the ear can be everlasting, affecting hearing and balance. Those injuries that take place in the lungs include collapsed lungs or more commonly, over expansion resulting in gas embolisms. Very dangerous stuff.
To add to the ambiguity of both DCS and lung over-expansion injuries, there is no single point at which they may occur. They both can happen at a variety of different points throughout a dive and furthermore, it will affect people differently due to our own body’s physiology. This begins to paint a picture of why training at a reputable dive centre is so important, that you know the risks and can manage them on your own dives.
Required Diving Skills
Scuba diving has a number of skills that need to be “mastered” in-order to ensure an individual is safe to dive with others of similar qualification when not under supervision by dive professionals. These skills are both above the water and below. From setting up equipment correctly and checking its functionality, from doing a pre-dive buddy check, to underwater skills such as maintaining neutral buoyancy and trim, self-rescue skills and buddy rescue skills. For certified divers, they would have received theory classes, confined water training and finally open water training, all the time practicing and developing skills to be safe in the water. An uncertified diver would, highly likely, not have received any of this training and jumped straight into open water and hoping for the best. Perhaps this individual is a natural in the water and is quickly able to comfortably control themselves in the water, but what do they do if their regulator falls out? Or their mask is knocked off? Or they themselves or buddy run out of air down at depth? This is the emphasis of diver training, what to do when the dive does not go to plan. How to manage a situation quickly and effectively to enable a safe return to the surface. While diving by itself is not really hard, it can quickly turn into a terrible situation without the proper training.
Learning dive skills is an essential part of training and as such it needs to be done by someone who has had the training to teach in the correct way, as not to train bad habits that could end in an injury. Whenever you go to a dive centre for training you will be assigned an instructor for that course. Not every instructor can teach every course so your assigned instructor will have specialised in how to teach that specific course. What this means is instructors can provide you with quality training that you will take with you for the rest of your diving journey.
Liability for Others
Scuba diving without certification is bad for you, but it doesn’t stop there. For divers who are uncertified jumping in the water and heading off into the deep, they pose a secondary danger to those other divers around them. And this comes in the form of many things such as being disturbed, causing stress, having to rescue etc. To elaborate the points further, how can un-certified divers cause a disturbance? The obvious way is to interfere with others underwater by getting in the way, whether intentionally or because they are unable to correctly control their position in the water. More disturbances come in the form of doing incorrect procedures above and below the water. Such as kit building and buddy checks, this may be either not done or done poorly which will have been spotted by trained divers. This then means that the other divers are now not concentrating on their own dive which may lead to themselves missing something important and resulting in an accident.
On the topic of scuba diving without certifications, we can link in some divers that have done their initial courses but not any specific training. These divers have so far only been trained to dive in open water and not into wrecks or caves where there is no direct access to the surface. This sort of diving, of course, requires more training and more equipment which the initial diver will not have. These people relate to uncertified divers as they too should not venture into such places as they have not been trained on how to do so.
Like all activities, and in life, it is a very good idea to have insurance to cover you if anything was to happen and result in an injury. It would mean that any bills that are racked up with transport fees, hospital fees and any time in a hyperbaric chamber will be covered and you can relax and focus on recovery. As brilliant as diving insurance is, it will only cover you for what you have been trained for under a well-known dive agency provider such as PADI, SSI, RAID, BSAC etc. Diving beyond your training limits, going deeper or into “decompression” if you should not be, will void your insurance even if you think it was unintentional or was for only a short amount of time. The same goes for uncertified divers, if they went and started diving with a buddy without training, they would not be covered by insurance. Meaning that if something was to happen, all the costs would land back on the uncertified individual who was injured, so not only focusing on recovery they now have the weight on their minds for paying back the fees.
Stay safe and stay insured!
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So Why Do People Still Do It?
A very good question, and one that as a diving community we need to address and rectify to try to promote people to go on proper training courses to ensure they are staying safe in the water. There is three main reasons why someone would choose not to go to a training school, they are medical, financial and location.
It goes without saying that scuba diving is a sport that does require a certain amount of fitness and health. This is because we are placing the body into varying pressures, carry heavy equipment and so on. Not to say that you need to be a top athlete because that is simply not true, but you must be medically fit to dive which has been overseen by a diving doctor. The diving medicine world is evolving to create a new understanding of what people can dive with and to what limits, so it is always worth seeing a doctor if you are unsure.
Yes, scuba diving can be expensive. If you go out and buy all the latest equipment, courses and fly all around the world to dive. For most of the diving community this is not a reality. Taking your diving journey step by step and listening to guidance, diving can be a very affordable sport. However, even for some this is not an option, and using old equipment from a distant relative they will simply put the equipment on and jump in the water. Definitely not advisable.
Finally, we have location. There are so many dive centres around nowadays that it is hard not to stumble upon one in your local high street. However, some people live far out of any civilisation that makes it not worth travelling back and forth from to complete a diving course. So having diving equipment available these people may opt to simply go jump in and scuba dive without any training or certification.
For most, prudent and realistic, thinkers we can understand the side of the story about too much cost, poor health or too far to travel. However, we have to remember that diving is not like walking down the road or driving a car. You’ll be down at depth, underwater, with nothing but the equipment on your back and a buddy to help if something goes wrong. So, this is why you should not go diving without certification.
What is Available for Uncertified Divers?
Diving schools or centers operating under one, or many of the diver training agencies will run what is called “Try Dives” or “Discover Scuba”. These are sessions where people with no certifications or experience can put on the equipment and go for a dive. The reason people can do this is because these sessions are run in a very controlled manner by diving professions who will oversee all that is happening, ensuring clients are safe. The ways in which clients are really kept safe is the ratio between clients to an instructor, which is kept very small. Also, the diving is kept to a very sheltered area and the dive is often no deeper than 4m, meaning that, if required, a quick and easy access to the surface is possible. This is a great way for uncertified divers to get their foot in the door, discover this fun sport and to begin their diving journey.
We have covered a variety of topics as to why you shouldn’t go scuba diving without certification, including those already certified doing things they are not trained for. Topics such as the dangers, skills, liability to others etc. The main points to take away are that Scuba diving is one of the best ways to spend your spare time, exploring the wonders of this great earth from below the water. But to also remember that as humans we are not made for the water and need correct training to ensure not just our safety but the safety of those we dive with. If you don’t want to invest time and money to get the proper training, rather opt for snorkeling instead.