Image of a scuba diver underwater

What is Scuba Diving?

Scuba diving is one of the most exciting activities you can do in and around the water. There’s no better way to see the incredible diversity of wildlife and stunning seascapes that populate the seas around the UK and Ireland, than by diving below the surface. Scuba diving gets its name from the type of device you use when taking part in the activity. Scuba is an acronym and stands for ‘self-contained underwater breathing apparatus’.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, or don’t have the right diving equipment, then scuba diving can also be dangerous. But you shouldn’t let that put you off. By taking part in the right accredited scuba diving training courses, having the right diving equipment, and making sure you have the fitness required to dive safely, then you can take part in scuba diving safely and enjoyably.

Learn essential diving survival skills

Between 2011 and 2015, there were 50 scuba fatalities in UK waters*. Sadly, many of these losses could have been prevented with improved diving preparation and personal diving skills.

Knowing what to do if something goes wrong at sea can make the vital difference between life and death. You could be rescued more quickly – or may not even need rescuing at all – if you have the right skills and kit. That's why we've developed the RNLI Diver Sea Survival Course / Workshop in partnership with the British Diving Safety Group (BDSG). Watch the course trailer to find out more.

*RNLI analysis of WAID UK fatalities accidental and natural causes only 2011-15 coastal dataset

Two divers onboard a rigid inflatable boat

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

What skills will I gain?

By the end of the RNLI Diver Sea Survival course or workshop, you'll feel confident with:
  • dive planning and preparation
  • navigation and safety equipment on dive boats
  • diving in low-visibility conditions
  • how to deal with out-of-air emergencies
  • use of surface marker buoys (SMBs)
  • how to call for help and how to deal with an emergency on the surface.

You'll also complete two open-water dives to practice the skills you've learned.

A group of divers walking into the sea

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

Where can I do the course or workshop?

We work with various partners who deliver the RNLI Diver Sea Survival course and workshop, including:

RNLI Diver Sea Survival course:
  • PADI
  • SSI
  • SDI

RNLI Diver Sea Survival workshop:

To find out more about taking the course or workshop, contact your training provider or club who will be able to help get that organised.

Watch: A diver's story

Experienced diver Paul Gibson tells us what it was like to be left alone in a big sea – and how a personal locator beacon (PLB) saved his life.

Two scuba divers just below the surface of the water and silhouetted against the sun

Photo: Shutterstock / Rich Carey

Your body is your most important piece of kit

Cardiac health can affect divers of any age, but our research shows that those most at risk are experienced male divers aged 45 and over.

Fifty divers lost their lives around the UK coast between 2011 and 2015 – and 72% of those divers were aged 45 or over. Evidence suggests that a large number of these fatalities are likely to have been caused by a medical incident not related to diving, such as a heart attack.

That's why the RNLI are encouraging experienced divers to make their cardiac health a priority - and do the necessary checks to ensure they are fit to dive.

How to check your diving health

A medical emergency when you’re mid-dive could be fatal – so follow our simple checklist to make sure you’re fit and well:

Step 1
Carry out a realistic and honest self-assessment of your health before diving.

Step 2
Consider a visit to your healthcare professional for a health check. If you’re in the UK, you can get a free NHS health check.

Step 3
Any concerns? If you’re in the UK , find your nearest diving doctor.

A man prepares to step on an RNLI health check kiosk

Photo: RNLI/David Morgan

Our health check kiosks

We’re taking mobile health machines to dive shops and centres all around the UK and Ireland – look out for them at national dive shows as well as your local dive centre.

They can help determine your:

  • weight and BMI
  • body fat percentage
  • blood pressure and heart rate
  • cardiovascular disease (CVD) Risk
  • heart age.

Our kiosks are not substitutes for medical advice – we always recommend you visit a healthcare professional.

How do they work?

The health check kiosk guides you through a quick Q&A about your lifestyle and then gives you a personalised and confidential health statement. Watch this short video to see it in action.

Don't be a statistic

4 Leisure scuba diving fatalities in UK waters in 2016*

17 lifeboat launches to scuba diving incidents in 2020*

103 people rescued by our lifesavers in 2016*

6 lives saved by our lifesavers in 2016*

* Source: RNLI lifeboat return of service data, UK and Ireland 2016 and 2020.

6 safety checks for scuba diving:

We really hope your next diving adventure is a great one – so before you head out, read our six simple checks for safe diving:

  1. Be fit to dive
    Prepare yourself by being fit to dive – cold water will put extra strain on your body. Always consider your cardiac health before diving and get any concerns checked out.

  2. Check your diving equipment
    At the start of the season make sure all your diving gear is in service and ready for another year’s diving.

  3. Plan your dives 
    Check the weather and tides. Find specific tide tables and sea conditions for the UK and Ireland at

  4. Always complete a buddy check
    No matter how experienced you are, or however many times you have dived with your buddy, don’t skip the buddy check. It could save your life, and theirs.

  5. Be spotted
    All divers should carry a surface marker buoy (SMB) or delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB) on every dive to aid their visibility to all surface craft.

  6. Carry a means of calling for help
    If something goes wrong, how will you call for help? Consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB) or similar device in a waterproof canister.