Can you dive if you can’t swim?

Can you dive if you can’t swim? Some people say you definitely can’t dive if you can’t swim because when taking the dive certification there will be swimming test. So you must be able to swim for 200 metres continuously. But some people say you don’t need swimming skill to dive. A friend of mine said that when you swim you float, but when you dive you sink, so you don’t need to swim to sink. Well….before I give my opinion, let me share about my very first dive experience.

Can you dive if you can't swim?

Can you dive if you can’t swim?

There I was, in a beautiful small party island near Lombok, where you wouldn’t find any cars or motorbikes. Gili Trawangan. There are lots of big dive operators on the island. Most of them are owned by foreigners. According to a guide book, the price of the course will be the same no matter which operator you choose, and all of them have good reputation.

So one day, I signed up to do an Intro Dive in the same operator that my friend was taking. I was so nervous the night before, that I refused to hang out late and didn’t want to get drunk. I couldn’t imagine doing my first dive with the hangover :p I couldn’t remember whether I had a good sleep or not, but anyway, the next morning I woke up and was ready to do the course.

But you know what? They had to cancel my group because one of their instructors was sick on that day. WTF?? One of friends, who was also taking the intro dive that day, said “What? I already practiced in my dream !!” Haha…. So that day, we only saw our friends, who are already certified divers, left the pier to go diving. Sigh…..

So that night, the history repeated itself. Got nervous, didn’t want to get drunk, and couldn’t sleep well. The next day, we finally got the course! We got a German female instructor. First, we were sent to a room to watch the video of the course. After that, we were sent to the swimming pool, wore all the suit and equipments. Omigosh…they were heavy! I wasn’t sure I could carry all those things by myself. The instructions went really fast. We were in the pool in no time and were doing all the skills. No problemo. We were ready to do it in the sea!!

Unfortunately, one of my friends cancelled the open water dive because he was still not confident with all the gears. His wife, who was watching from the pool side, commented and blamed it to the instructor. She said the instructor wasn’t a good one. She was doing it too fast. She should have been more patient to her husband and should have encouraged him more. On the other hand, she left him alone and asked him to practice by himself while she was teaching us (me and another friend). Well, to be honest, I also felt it was too fast. But anyway, I could do all the skills: the breathing, the cleaning of the mask, finding the regulator back if it was off the mouth, the buoyancy (well….I’m not too good at this, cause I can’t sink easily, I’m too light!)  and swimming around the pool!!! Woohoo !!

After lunch, it was time for us to board on the boat. We had to carry all our equipments, except the tank. Thank God. I don’t think I could carry the tank :p On the boat, I felt really nervous. Everybody seemed so relaxed!! We dived in a small group. Me, my Belgian friend, a German couple, my German instructor, and a Dutch assistant. One of the frightening time in my life was when we had to jump out of the boat carrying the heavy tank which I could even carry while I was sitting on the boat, wearing the BCD (with the tank being attached). The flip-back-entering-the-water style was so scary! You don’t need anybody to push you, you will be pulled to the water because of the heavy tank on your back. But anyway, I did it, and it was OK, not as scary as I thought :p Then the boat left us…


Then came the problem!! I jumped from the one side of the boat (as I was told) while we should actually swim further from the other side of the boat. After the boat left, I was pushed away by the wave. The instructor told me to swim towards their direction. I tried and tried….but I couldn’t. I was swept further and further from them. I got panicked. I breathed in panic cause the wave kept pushing me away and the water splashed to my face. I couldn’t wear the mask on the surface because I couldn’t see clearly wearing the mask and breathing through the regulator while still being on the surface was uncomfortable.

Finally, the Dutch assistant came near me. She realized there was something wrong. She asked,” What’s wrong?” I was so panic that my direct answer was,” I can’t swim.” She looked shocked and asked, ”Did you tell them that you can’t swim?” I said, “No, nobody asked me.” Well, it’s true, nobody asked me that question. Nobody said that’s one of the requirements to dive. They didn’t give me a swimming test.

Back to the water, she finally suggested going back to the boat. I was disappointed. I was already in the water…for nothing. I tried to bargain, “Can we just try going down first?” And she said, “But if you can’t swim, you can’t dive!” Then she started waving her hand to call the boat back.


Wait….the story is not finished yet! While she was calling the boat, the German instructor came to us, and asked, “What’s going on?” The assistant replied, “She can’t swim.” The German instructor said, “What do you mean ‘she can’t swim’? She can. She did it in the pool !” (You remember? I can swim…..in the pool. Hehehe….:p) So she finally told the assistant to take care the others who were already under the water. And without asking any further about the swim inability, she only checked whether I was OK and asked me to follow her. Holding her arm tightly, I went down the water. I saw the others. My friend offered his hand to take care of me, because we were supposed to be ‘buddies’. But the instructor signalled it was of no need and she would take care of me.

So there were we….under the water….diving. We saw 2 turtles and some ‘unique’ fish which I have no ideas about the name. It was actually nice experience, even though I never let go my assistant’s hand during the diving. She checked on me several times to make sure I was OK. And I was! I wouldn’t let her hand go because I wasn’t sure about my buoyancy skill. She even had to pull me hard to go further down to the bottom of the sea. I didn’t want to be left alone again (like on the surface).

We spent about half an hour down the water. How deep did we go? I never asked, but my friend said it was probably the maximum depth of intro dive allowed…12 meters! We went up to the surface together. So, basically, despite the problem on the surface, I actually did the whole course of intro dive! When we arrived on the surface, the assistant -who already knew my problem- directly grabbed me and said, “No worries, I’m holding you” and led me to go up to the boat. (Well?) done!!

One big disappointment for me, neither the instructor or the assistant spoke to me about the ‘incident’. They seemed to ignore me and pretended that such thing has never happened. Nobody (from the dive operator) asked me ‘How was it?’ or whether I would like to continue the course to get certified. I was hanging out there everyday, since my friend and his gangs dived twice a day with that operator.

So I saw lots of first-time divers continued taking the course the next few days to get certified. But nobody seemed to see me as a prospective customer. They might thought that I was trying that for one time only and that I might realize doing that was a mistake. Or they probably though I got traumatized by that experience. And that I wouldn’t want to do it anymore.

After a while (back in the office), the instructor approached me. Yay! But then, she was only asking me whether I had paid the bill for the course or not, and that she would let the staff know to get the bill ready for me. Not even a word about the diving experience. WTF??!!! (My friend – who encouraged me about this diving thing- got really angry when I told him about this. He was so disappointed because he wanted me to have a really nice first diving experience. He’s been falling in love with diving cause he had a really nice first dive.)

But hey, you know what? That wouldn’t stop me! It’s not that I had a bad experience. It was just a bit unsuccessful. It’s normal for a first-timer (I guess?). So I will try it again!! Haven’t got any chances until now. My friend said that actually the key of diving is that you have to feel relaxed in the water. No matter you can swim or not. Although I think, how can you be relaxed in the water if you can’t swim? Won’t you be panic that you’ll drown? What do you think : Can you dive if you can’t swim?

Catatan penulis: ini cerita lama yang terjadi di tahun 2010. Apakah sekarang saya sudah bisa diving? Belum, karena belum coba lagi, bukan karena trauma, tapi karena belum ada kesempatan saja 😉

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Esti says:

    Thn 2009 pas di PhiPhi nyoba snorkeling for the first time, because everybody said you don’t need to be able to swim because it’s just snorkeling, not diving. So I tried, and as you mentioned, once I got into the water I panicked, I couldn’t breathe, instead of enjoying the underwater view, I was only busy avoiding all the water to got through my mouth. Dan gak sampe 10menit saya menyerah naik lagi ke kapal.

    Thn 2010 akhirnya belajar berenang, dan utk di pool aja sih udh bisalah beberapa lap nonstop. Pengen BANGET belajar diving, tapi belum berani, ’cause ALL divecourse that I checked with required “200m swimming non-stop” AND “10minutes of water trappen unaided” 200m-nya sih udh gak masalah, tp water trappennya ini mengerikan :-s

  • Zam says:

    untuk menyelam memang sebaiknya bisa berenang. alasannya sih sederhana: supaya kita nyaman dan tenang (karena sudah terbiasa) berada di air.

    aku sendiri nggak bisa renang. bahkan badanku ini cenderung negatif bouyancy-nya (cenderung tenggelam, kan ada tuh orang yang dengan gampang mengapung karena badannya bouyancy-nya positif), sehingga untuk mengapung saja aku butuh usaha yang lebih keras. 😀

    namun aku tetep ambil open water karena tujuannya adalah mengalahkan rasa takutku ama air. walau sempet takut, tapi begitu nyemplung dan merasakan sensasi bernafas di dalam air, aku malah justru nagih.

    bahaya nyelam bukan karena tenggelam, tapi karena panik. 😀

    memang sih, ada potensi bahaya lain yang mengintai, macam narkosis atau kena decompression sickness, tapi kalo kita aware, ini bisa dihindari.

    kini aku jadi lebih tenang kalo menghadapi segala sesuatu. mungkin karena jargon “diver is always under pressure” kali, ya? 😀

    • Susan says:

      setelah dianalisis, situasi aku itu justru malah ‘tidak nyaman di air’ khususnya kalau tau kaki ga bisa napak. Makanya pas di kolam renang ga bisa mendeteksi masalah itu karena aku oke2 aja pas latihan. Nah, pas nyemplung di open water lanngsung panik deh 😐

      Tapi masih penasaran pengan coba lagi koq 😉

  • Gracey says:

    1st time diving experience aku juga kurang nyaman sih, antara karena maskernya longgar mungkin ya jadi sepanjang diving cuma sibuk urusin air yang masuk ke hidung aja -_-”
    Overall seneng banget dan berniat mau ambil diving license..tapi sebelumnya mau les renang dulu deh biar makin mantap 🙂

  • Bimo says:

    Saya baru aja 2 hari lalu dpt sertifikat diving PADI.
    Now I am ready to explore the new world, underwater world, hehehe…

    Kata instruktur saya kemarin “diver gak wajib bisa (jago) berenang, tapi untuk dapat lisensi diving (PADI) salah satu syaratnya tes renang”
    Nah lho…gimana tuh?

    Saya gak bisa renang, tp akhirnya instruktur saya kmrin kasih dispensasi saya boleh pake fin + snorkel.
    Semuanya dilakukan langsung di laut, gak ada di kolam renang dulu.

  • Vindhya says:

    ada 4 macam sertifikat untuk diving: PADI, CMAS, NAUI, SSI (cmiiw) dan masing2 punya peraturan yang berbeda soal renang ini. PADI, saat ujian Open Water ada tuh ujian renang 200m bolak-balik/400m bolak-balik dgn fin+mask+snorkel dan water trappennya. Sementara untuk CMAS ujian renang ini dilakukan saat mau jadi Dive Master.

    Tapi diluar wajib/tidak, harus bisa.tidak, kalo buat saya pribadi sih sebaiknya bisa renang, ya untuk menghindari hal2 yang nggak diinginkan dan nambah PD juga… Kebayang nggak kalau lagi diatas permukaan air dan nunggu kapal jemput eh trus malah panik dan malah kelelep? weks…

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