Most dive training organizations have some kind of swimming and water treading requirement for certification. Often students will ask why it is that they need to be able to swim 200 meters to be certified to do SCUBA diving. The reasoning goes that since we will be submerged while SCUBA diving what is the point of doing a 200 meter surface swim?
As some of the veteran divers will remember, the entry requirements and training for SCUBA were much more stringent in the “early days”. Recreational SCUBA diving training was largely based on Navy training methods. Navy diver candidates should be able to swim, tread water and do many other very challenging things to be Diver qualified.
Anyone who has seen TV programs on how Navy Divers are selected and trained will probably remember seeing student divers doing many physically demanding and challenging drills and exercises that might not seem to be directly related to SCUBA diving. The physical training is partly due to the candidates are being physically conditioned and partly due a weeding out process.
Recreational diving has changed substantially since the “early days”. Diving is becoming more and more popular as people are spending more on leisure and adventure travel. The training regime and entry requirement for CERTIFICATION has changed with the times. The certification requirements now more closely mirror what a recreational diver needs as opposed to what a combat or salvage diver needs.
Often students will think that the swimming requirement and water treading is a hold-over from the military heritage of SCUBA diving. Personally I do not think that this is an accurate view.
Most divers will compare air consumption after a dive and sometimes students will ask why their air consumption is so high compared to their buddy’s. The answer is of course that there are many factors that affect air consumption, but one of that factors that is easy to change is the diver’s fitness level. The fitter divers tend to use less air than those who are not. Think about a fit and a non fit person walking up a set of stairs. The out of shape person will be most likely breathing heavier than the fit person. The website divefitness contains many great articles and tips on how to improve your air usage and fitness for diving.
SCUBA diving is inherently a physically challenging activity. The tanks, weight belts and other equipment are heavy and just getting to the water and setting up your gear can be a mini workout all by itself.
The swimming requirement is not a weeding out process, but is a measure to determine whether the student is up to the physical challenges of recreational diving. Some people are better swimmers than other, but generally there is a good correlation between the people who are comfortable in the water (swimming, snorkeling, water treading etc.) and being comfortable underwater.
Your fitness level directly impacts your potential enjoyment of SCUBA diving. The fitter you are the easier and more enjoyable the dive.