Fat Girls Guide to Scuba Diving
Think scuba is not for you because you are on the larger side of life. Think again! Scuba is one of the most amazing, non-competitive activities that most people can get involved in.
There are limitations on who can dive, but these are not necessarily weight related. All participants are required to complete a medical questionnaire prior to enrolling in a course or completing a try dive. If any issues come to light, a visit to your local dive doctor will confirm if you are fit to dive. Review the PADI medical here!
As a plus-size dive instructor, I can tell you that weight is not a reason to stop you from diving. It was the reason I put off learning for so long, but once I got started, I knew scuba diving was my life and that I had to become an instructor and share this amazing experience with other people. I won’t lie, the thought of standing in front of a bunch of people that are hanging on my every word in a wetsuit terrified me, still does. But sharing the underwater world with people is one amazing job and makes it all worthwhile.
Starting Your Scuba Journey:
If you are looking to learn to dive there are a couple of options. You can complete a try dive. These can take place in the ocean or pool. If you’re unsure about the whole thing, or a little terrified about breathing underwater this it’s a great place to start.
Alternatively, if like me you know that under-the-sea is the life for you, sign-up for a beginner’s course. There are a number of organisations you can learn to dive with but as a PADI instructor, this is the agency I recommended.
Once you have made the decision to learn to dive, the next big decision is where. Often this is an activity people take up on holiday. I learnt on a holiday to the Red Sea, Egypt. I don’t think it’s possible to not fall in love with diving when you learn in a location like this. My open water dives took place off a beautiful dive boat. When I was not underwater, I was lounging on the sun deck or enjoying the beautiful buffet lunch. When I was underwater, I was diving on the most stunning coral reefs with hundreds of fish swimming around me in crystal clear waters.
I have done my fair share of cold water diving and this can be just as amazing. However, diving in cold water requires thicker suits, which in turn require more weight to help you sink. Your choice of location will be influenced by the type of diving you are interested in and what is local to you. But if you have the choice of learning in tropical waters, I would pick this.
When you have chosen your dive location and are ready to make a booking, call ahead and ask about the number of people in you class as you may prefer a smaller group and check if they will have larger equipment available for you. If you are learning at a local dive centre, I recommend popping in to meet your instructor. I was so lucky to have a great instructor who had been teaching for many years. He was a great guy, and although he was not plus size he knew lots of tips and tricks to help me and never once made me feel uncomfortable about my weight.
Tips for the Plus Size Diver:
You have no idea how many times people have made jokes saying I must not need much weight as I would sink being the size I am. Little physics lesson for you, fat floats. Which for a plus-size diver means more lead weight to keep you down. Your instructor will teach you how to get the correct weight for your body type, equipment you are using and environmental conditions. Wearing a lot of weight, I prefer a pocket weight belt or a weight integrated BCD. If you’re in hire equipment you might not have this option. Standard weight belts come in various lengths so try them on prior to your dive.
Ankle weights are also a blessing. Typically designed for dry suit divers, the use of ankle weights can offset floaty ankles which can be an issue for female and plus size divers.
Even Skinny People Struggle Getting Into A Wetsuit!
Finding a wetsuit to fit may be an issue depending on your size as some schools won’t stock above an XL. This was one of the reasons I put off learning to dive and in the end, I purchased a made to measure suit before I enrolled in my course. This is not a requirement at all and there are many off the rack wetsuits to fit everyone. It’s worth asking the school your learning with if they have larger sizes and/or stretchy suits available prior to booking any courses or dive trips.
If you’re going to need a thicker wetsuit, then look for one with extra stretch. There are a couple of these on the market. My personal favourite is the Scubapro Everflex which is available in various thicknesses and goes up to a men’s 5XL. I discovered this suit on a surprise trip to cairns. My hubby had booked us a mini break with a diving day trip. Although I was blown away by how sweet this was, I was terrified that nothing was going to fit and angry he had not packed my personal equipment. Post-trip, I added this suit to my personal collection.
When it comes to putting the suit on, if you have a safe body of water to get in and put your wetsuit on, DO IT! Filling the legs and arms with water before you slip into in will make it so easy. Obviously, this is not always an option, but if it’s there use it!
Learning to dive in warmer waters may eliminate the need for a wetsuit. Shorts and swimwear or a stinger suit might be more than enough coverage or a shortie wetsuit which are a little more forgiving. I’m never happier than when I’m diving in my shortie.
Fitness is important when diving. You are required to complete a 200-meter swim however, there is no time limit on this and you can use as many strokes as you like. There is also a 10-minute float, something that might not be an issue if you're blessed with personal flotation devices like I am ;-).
As you continue your scuba journey, it’s important to maintain a certain level of fitness. When diving, ensure you know the conditions such as currents or distance of surface swims and ensure you feel confident with your fitness to do the dive. After having my first baby, I knew my fitness was not at its peak, so ensured I chose some nice, easy dives to get myself back into it. After just having baby #2, I’m desperate to get back into the water.
My Top Tips:
- Get wet, it’s the most amazing thing I have ever done and I can’t describe the feeling of diving in deep blue ocean, amongst beautiful coral reefs, with some of the strangest looking animals on the planet
- Get to know your school and instructor. It’s a serious sport so it's important you feel comfortable with your instructor to ensure you have the best learning environment
- Get kit that fits. There is a wetsuit that will fit you. Yes, it will be hard to get on but they are for everyone. Ankle weights are your friend and speak up if something doesn’t feel right
- Get in touch. Scuba is my life, I could talk about it all day, every day. Just drop me a message if you have any questions