Diving Self-Assessment....your fitness to dive in BC

Before signing up for scuba diving lessons, group or private,  it's important to balance your enthusiasm with an honest self-assessment of whether or not you're well suited to diving in BC and what you might need to do to prepare yourself for the real and difficult challenges. 

There is no doubt that diving in BC is awesome. But it's an extreme sport  for the majority of people.  The water's cold, the gear's heavy and the visibility is limited most of the time. Shore diving is the norm here, because boat diving around Vancouver typically costs an extra $125+  per diver per day.  

Cold water means that you need to wear thick exposure protection,  therefore more weight is needed to sink. Your gear will weigh 40kg or more (20kg in gear + 20-25% of your body weight in lead weights), and you'll be carrying it on your back to and from the beach, not dropping off a boat.  You'll be weightless (neutrally buoyant) underwater, but you'll need the leg strength and swimming skills to propel this extra mass through the water. It can be an exhausting slog for people who aren't in top physical condition. 

Compared to tropical diving, it takes a much higher level of physical strength to dive comfortably and safely in BC waters, stronger swimming skills, better buoyancy control skills, keen navigation skills and well-developed buddy skills.

The Open Water Diver course should be viewed as "Diving 101". You will need a lot of practice after earning your Open Water Diver certification to become a reasonably confident, skilled and safe diver.

Many people decide to take a Tropical Open Water Referral, where they complete the academics and pool work at home in Vancouver, and take the ocean dives in the tropics. 

Here are some questions you ought to ask yourself before signing up for a scuba course. And if you're signing up a friend or loved one, they need to answer the same questions. Rate yourself objectively.

  • When you sign up for any course, you'll be required to fill out a medical questionnaire. Click on the link to see what specific conditions will require you to get a physician's approval to dive. 

PADI medical questionnaire


  • Aside from the serious medical issues covered in the medical questionnaire, do you have any old injuries or physical conditions that could be aggravated as a result of extreme physical exertion?
  • Overall body strength: Can you carry 40kg (90lbs.)+ on your back for 5 minutes while walking 100m to/from the beach?
  • Cardio: Can you maintain an elevated heart rate and vigorous activity for several minutes and up to an hour at a time?
  • Core/abdominal strength: Can you do 20 crunches, situps and pushups?
  • Swimming: Can you swim non-stop for 200m and float for 10 minutes?
  • Swimming: Can you swim hard enough to propel an extra 40kg of body mass around underwater?
  • Leg Strength: Can you stand the thigh burn of climbing 10 flights of stairs or walking up a steep hill?
  • Are you comfortable with water on your face?
  • Can you keep your eyes open underwater while moving about without goggles/mask?
  • Are you comfortable having your nose immersed in water while mouth breathing?
  • Do your ears get blocked easily and stay blocked for a long time? (Yes/no)
  • Can you remain calm and composed in a low visibility environment where you might not be able to see more than a metre or two in any direction? 
  • Are you comfortable in heavy seas?
  • Would you remain calm if you suddenly found yourself alone underwater?
  • Would you remain calm if you encountered a large or strange animal underwater?
  • Do you retain clear focus and presence of mind under stress/duress?
  • Are you capable of competently operating mechanical equipment?
  • Are you good at learning and executing motor skills?
  • Do you have a good sense of direction?
  • Are you good at problem solving?


If all goes well, it takes 50-60 hours time commitment to complete the VSds Open Water course: 20-24 hours on academics, two or three sessions in the pool, and two days of ocean dives (three days including the Drysuit Specialty course). This will earn you what is effectively a learner's permit: the PADI Open Water Diver certification. It will then take you about 20 dives (10 days of diving) to develop proficiency at operating the gear, controlling your buoyancy, finning effectively, managing your air consumption efficiently and being a safe and aware diver. 

Finally, examine your motivations: Why do you want to learn to dive? What are your goals? What do you want to do underwater once you have learned to dive proficiently? Are you willing to invest considerable time and money to become a proficient diver, or do you just want to get certified, dabble in the sport from time to time and see where it goes?

The decision to take a scuba course shouldn't be taken lightly. Whether you take the cheapest course you can find or go for private training, we urge you to develop a close and mentoring relationship with your instructor. More than any other factor, mentorship is key to your development and long-term enjoyment of the underwater world.


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