I was talking to someone I know who does a lot of scuba diving and I was surprised when he told me that you need not be a strong swimmer in order to learn scuba diving, and in fact you don’t even need to know how to swim (without diving fins) at all. Is this true?

Moviebuff hit it well. I was first certified YMCA, LA Co. and PADI in 1975. Since the instructor was certified for instruction from all three of the above, he gave us the hardest test and passed us for all three. YMCA was the hardest at that time. At that time, we had to swim 10 laps after each class and by the end of the course, swim 10 laps within 15 minutes. He could care less how you got there, as long as you could get through it within the time requirement. With a reasonable cardiovascular system, you can dog paddle that within the time requirements.

In the 1990’s, I was an equipment repair tech. at a dive shop. The certifying agency (who will remain nameless) the shop certified under eliminated the swimming requirements. My opinion was it was geared more toward equipment sales and did not want to push those away from class who could not pass the current swim tests. The instructors defended this by saying they were training divers to dive smarter, not stronger. My response was they were teaching divers to be equipment dependent and that no matter how smart you were as a diver, it did not compensate for a minimum level of physical proficiency required to survive adverse changes in ocean conditions. Especially in the temperate waters we live.

While it is doubtful anyone will ever use a freestyle stroke to rescue themselves in a diving emergency, I believe one must have a reasonable level of cardiovascular fitness to negotiate the ocean environment.