Recreational diving

Recreational diving is a type of diving that uses SCUBA equipment for the purpose of leisure and enjoyment.



Recreational scuba diving grew out of related activities such as snorkelling and underwater hunting. For a long time, recreational underwater excursions were limited by the amount of breath that could be held. However, the development of the aqualung in the early 1950s by Jacques Cousteau led to a revolution in recreational diving. However, for much of the 1950s and early 1960s, recreational scuba diving was a sport limited to those who were able to afford or make their own kit, and prepared to undergo intensive training to use it.

As the sport became more popular, manufacturers became aware of the potential market, and equipment began to appear that was easy to use, affordable and reliable. Continued advances in SCUBA technology, such as buoyancy compensators, modern diving regulators, diving suits and dive computers, increased the safety, comfort and convenience of the gear encouraging more people were to train and use it.

Until the early 1950s, navies and other organisations performing professional diving were the only providers of diver training, but only for their own personnel and only using their own types of equipment. There were no training courses, in the modern sense, available to civilians who bought the first scuba equipment. Some of the first training started in 1953 Trevor Hampton created the first British diving school, the British Underwater Centre and 1954 when Los Angeles County created an Underwater Instructor Certification Course. Early instruction increased in the form of amateur teaching within a club environment, as exemplified by organisations such as the British Sub Aqua Club from 1953, Los Angeles County from 1954 and the YMCA from 1959. Professional instruction started in 1959 when the National Association of Underwater Instructors was formed. Professional Association of Diving Instructors was formed in 1966, providing training in a retail environment.

Diving Today

Further developments in technology have reduced the cost of training and diving. Scuba-diving has become a popular leisure activity, and many diving locations have some form of dive shop presence that can offer air fills, equipment and training.

In tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world, there is a large market in 'holiday divers'; people who train and dive while on holiday, but rarely dive close to home.

Technical diving and use of rebreathers are increasing, particularly in areas of the world where deeper wreck diving is the main underwater attraction.


There are several recreational diving issues that are currently topics of discussion within the diving community. They include:

Training Levels

There is a certain amount of disquiet over the level of training and experience necessary to qualify as a diver. Under most entry-level programs (PADI, NAUI) divers can complete a certification with as few as five 'open-water' dives. Such a qualification allows a diver to rent equipment, request air fills, and dive without any higher supervision, provided they do so with a buddy. Critics claim that five dives is too few to prepare new divers for such a level of responsibility, and that either the total should be raised or the certification qualified. Certification agencies normally answer that they advise their students to dive within the envelope of their experience and training, and to seek to extend both through properly supervised programs.

Regular vs. Leisure

Some divers see a split beginning to emerge in recreational diving between regular recreational divers, who often dive in their home communities, and leisure divers, characterised as those who dive occasionally, normally when abroad on holiday. It is sometimes observed that there is a tension between the two, and that leisure divers are often inexperienced, either under-trained or over-qualified, and sustain only a minimal empathy with the underwater world. The call is usually not that these divers be restrained from diving, but that they be encouraged to dive more regularly in their home communities so as to gain experience and support their local diving scene.


There are many diving activities which need further training than that provided by the initial courses:

Many diver training agencies such as ACUC, BSAC, CMAS, IANTD, NAUI, PADI, SSI and YMCA offer training in these areas, as well as opportunities to move into professional instruction, technical diving, commercial diving and others.

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