For a lot of reasons many qualified divers can look to go diving and suddenly realise that they haven't dived for quite a long time. With our busy lives intended plans can be sidelined or forgotten and time can pass by so quickly. What you thought was a lapse from diving of 1 or 2 years can actually be 3 or 4 years when you check the log book !
So what can or should a diver do next to get back in the water ? A lot depends on the divers experience. How many dives have you done, when did you last dive, these are questions that any good dive centre will ask before taking anyone diving. So why is this so important and an important indicator for any dive professional ?
A diver that has not dived for 18 months and has done 150 dives will find that their diving skills are more naturally remembered due to experience than a diver that last dived just 1 year ago and has only completed 6 dives for example.
Padi's guidelines are that if you have not dived for a period of 6 months or more then a review of the divers knowledge and skills should be completed before going for a dive. As a dive professional with 15 years of daily experience it is also a matter of judgement, experience and common sense. We have a lot of holiday divers who want to dive and haven't dived for a year or two and some who last dived 3, 4, 5 or more years ago. So what should a lapsed diver do to get diving again ?
Padi and other dive organisations have programmes in place to help refresh a divers general knowlege and dive skills which include an open water dive to get the diver diving again as soon as possible. These include scuba review, reactivate and scuba tune up. The beginners programme discover scuba diving can be used too for divers that are on holiday, they want to go for a dive but haven't dived for a number of years and just want to get back in the water for pleasure dives.
Any diver knows that if they last dived over 6 months ago that they will need some form of refresher. For many holiday divers a short session in shallow water and some skills soon gets them relaxed and back into the swing of things. Prior to getting in the water a good chat about the individuals dive experience should take place for the professional to understand how rusty they are likely to be, followed by a thorough briefing with lots of reminders on the basics. Safety of course is the number one priority so the full dive following the shallow water session should take not take place in deep water and within the divers comfort levels.
So for a diver that has done a good number of dives and last dived say 6 to 18 months ago then a good chat and briefing, a shallow water session and a safe open water dive of no more than 12 metres is normally enough to get them back underwater and enjoying their diving again. Another follow up dive to cement what has been refreshed is also highly recommended.
A diver that has not dived for years and only done a relatively small number of dives should do a full scuba review, complete the reactivate programme or do the Open Water Diver course again depending on how rusty they are. If they just want to get back diving again and just fancy getting wet then the discover scuba diving experience programme is perfect for them to be able to do this.
The scuba review and reactivate programmes are designed to get divers fully refreshed and back in the water relatively quickly. Both involve refreshing the divers knowledge with some theory review, refreshing skills by practising and an open water dive to put it all into practise. Divers then have their qualification awarded as a current diver again and registered with Padi or on their certification card. Logbooks are also completed to register that a full review has been completed.
There is a grey area in between these two levels of lapsed divers. There are those divers that say haven't dived for 2 to 3 years and yet are highly qualified and done many dives. This is where judgement is critical as these divers will not want to complete a basic course again before diving. A good shallow water session is an absolute must to assess comfort levels and for the diver to get back in the saddle, and also so everything can start flooding back into their memory. Divers with this experience perhaps don't realise how out of practise they actually are until they reach this point. When they are asked to kit up to start is normally their first indicator of just how much they have forgotten.
So for many divers that haven't dived for a while there are many easy and quick methods to get them back in the water in the hands of an experienced dive professional. A lot of it too can be just about actually going for a dive and no long classroom sessions, which appeals to most holiday divers who just want to enjoy their diving again.