When should I do a scuba refresher course?
This is a question we are often asked. We recommend that people who have not been diving in more than one year do a refresher course. Of course, this all depends on the experience of the diver. Someone who has been diving for several years, and has hundreds or thousands of dives, but has a lapse of a year in diving wouldn’t necessarily need to do a refresher (unless they wanted to). However, someone with just a few dives, and more than a year of not diving, might benefit from it.
In fact, we recently had a gentleman who came to the shop and wanted to go to the cenotes for some cavern diving. He said he was certified open water diver since the mid 1980’s, when we asked him when his last set of dives had been, he dropped a bomb on us… For someone who has not been diving in over 20 years, a simple refresher course would not do the trick. Unfortunately, certification cards do not require you to do a certain number of dives per year. Once you are certified, it is good for life. However, we said to this gentleman that we could not take him out to the cenotes without doing a thorough refresher course and evaluation (and a couple of shallow open water dives in our local Playa del Carmen reefs), and that in fact, after a 22 year absence from scuba diving, we would recommend redoing the entire open water diver course.
He was quite offended, said that XYZ shop had told him they would take him, and that in fact their price was WAY cheaper than ours, and stormed out of the shop. The following day, we were leading a group in one of the cenotes and we came across this gentleman with a group from XYZ shop. After seeing him in the water, we were all quite relieved that he was not diving with us (especially after witnessing his panic attack within the first 3 minutes of the dive because of his absolute lack of understanding of buoyancy control or equipment function). After speaking with the guide for XYZ shop, he said that he was aware that this person had not been diving in several years, but did not know how many as the owner of the shop had not given him any more information other than “he hasn’t been diving in a few years, so watch him”.
On the other hand, we have had people who insist in doing a refresher course even though they may not necessarily need to do it, but they just want to get comfortable in the controlled conditions of the pool prior to going to the open water. We always welcome that, and we are grateful for people who are proactive and take a hands on approach to their safety when scuba diving.
So this wasn’t meant to sound like we were preaching or like we were trying to put ourselves above everybody else. It is just a reminder that just like everything else in life, skills are forgotten when we don’t use them in a while. Scuba diving is not like riding a bicycle. The consequences of a poorly executed dive can be disastrous. So much has changed over the last 20 years in terms of equipment and knowledge of decompression theory…
Even if a refresher “course” is not needed for you, we always recommend starting out shallow and easy on your first couple of dives after an extended dry period. There is always time to do something a little more challenging.
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