Dive Article written by Compass' mermaid Restuning Sandini as published in GuidePost Magazine.
Many has debated the need of good swimming ability in learning or doing scuba diving, although most will acknowledge that enhanced skill would be a good thing generally and a definite plus in emergencies. This swim aversion comes probably from the fact that we scuba dive using Buoyancy Compensator (BC) / Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) which basically helps us to float on the surface and helping us “fly” in mid water. No need to swim, right? Wrong. Without swimming ability, you will be just “hung” there by the device and when the current strikes – and it can go downwards – you have no clue of how to move.
Prior to your scuba certification there is waterskills assessment. Depends on which dive agency you follow, this might involve a non-stop 200 meter without swimming aids, or 300 meter with snorkel, mask, fins swim. On top of that, you must do a 10-minute float.
If you need to wear wetsuit to float, then you are not passing this assessment. If your instructor lets you do that - without adding additional weights to compensate - it is not a favor for you, it is a foul play. It means your waterskills are not assessed properly, and you shouldn’t be diving for your own and others’ safety.
Then you must swim 200 meter, or 300 meter if you’re using swimming aid.
To swim according Oxford dictionary is to “Propel the body through water by using the limbs, or (in the case of a fish or other aquatic animal) by using fins, tail, or other bodily movement”. But really, if you would like to play in the ocean, I believe you should be able to do more than just to propel yourself - even your dog can do that. There is no time-limit for this, so you can swim slow, as long as you don’t stop. Make sure you really swim 200 meter.
Now that we have talked about the basic waterskills for scuba diving, let’s talk more. What about snorkeling? Or just splashing around with a swim floatation device near the boat? The same. You should be able to swim and float without swimming aid. When you can swim and float independently, you will feel more confident and comfortable in the water and you will less-likely panic during emergency. People without these skills may not be able to create sufficient propulsion to overcome strong current and turn the simple situation into emergency. They might even freak out when their eyes and nose get water.
Going to the ocean knowing that you cannot swim, is a selfish act. You put yourself and others in danger. For those who can swim but physically not fit enough, swim floatation device is fine to use so that you don’t stand on coral reef when you are tired. But not being able to swim at all and still going to the ocean, is a different story. I had this discussion with a spoiled Asian girl who lived here a few years ago. She wanted to go snorkeling and lied about her swimming ability.
Her mistake was looking at me and complained that she doesn’t want me to supervise her because I am just a small woman and she doesn’t think I am skilled and strong enough to rescue her when she drowns. If you know me, you can guess how that conversation ended up. But I admit, maybe it’s more appealing to be rescued by a buffy Baywatch-style man in red speedo than by me.
But they’re not here to dramatically rescue you. So be a responsible person. Know your swimming, before going to the big blue.