Scuba Refresher Checklist (from an Open Water Instructor)

If you try to book a fun dive with a dive center, one of the first things they will ask you is “when was your last dive”.

And lo and behold, you say, “two years ago”. We can tell you, immediately, all the alarm bells go off, especially if you don’t have many dives under your belt.

A diver with 10 dives under their belt who dived two years ago is a completely different ball game than a diver that has 500 logged dives who has been out of the water for a while.

Trust us, we are trying to make you safe. Some dive centers will require you to take a refresher course, and some might simply suggest it.

A very rare few would ignore it and let you dive. We could very strongly caution against going out with them. And that’s putting it very mildly.

Although there is no hard and fast rule, we suggest that if you are an inexperienced diver, you take a refresher course after a few years out of the water. Some scuba diving refresher tips never hurt!

We want to ensure you have a safe dive, and that you actually get to enjoy yourself without panicking about all the scuba gear that you’re lugging underwater and the feeling of being underwater yet again after that long a period.

Read on, to see why we advocate taking a refresher course after many dry years. We are not being difficult, it is for your own good, we promise!

❓ 1. Why Do You Need A Scuba Diving Refresher

Scuba divers, especially the inexperienced ones, that have been out of the water for many years tend to forget what they have been taught in their open water diver course. That’s where scuba diving refresher tips come in handy.

It is a completely different story than an experienced diver with hundreds of dives that have stayed out of the water for years.

Scuba diver making an ok sign

Even with extremely experienced divers that have been dry for several years, it can’t hurt to do a quick “pick-me-up” with a dive professional under a controlled environment just to be sure you’ll be comfortable and enjoy your dive. That muscle memory will kick it in anyway!

A scuba refresher course is an affordable way to jumpstart your love affair with your dive gear and familiarize yourself once again with what was second nature to you.

Scuba diving is an amazing, awesome experience! You don’t really want to be messing around with equipment and gear while you are re-learning what you already know but somewhat forgot.

Whether you have 10 logged dives or 1,000, you know your limits. Here are some scuba diving refresher tips to help you remember!

⌚ 2. When Do You Need A Scuba Refresher

Most dive centers get wary when you tell them it has been years since your last dive.

Then, the next question will probably be “how many dives do you have”?

If it is in the hundreds, you’re likely to get a free pass. (but you can still get a few scuba diving refresher tips anyway, no shame in that!)

But if you are an open water diver with a low amount of dives, they might request for you to do a full scuba diving refresher.

If you are going on a dive trip and your last dive has been a while, it is totally recommended you take a scuba diving refresher course. You really don’t want to be mucking around with equipment on your amazing dives!

Again, all we want is to have you safe and comfortable enough to enjoy the dive. The scuba refresher course is more about you than it is for us!

❔ 3. Signs You Need A Scuba Refresher Course

Yes, we know. Many of our students do NOT want scuba diving refresher tips and think all is fine and dandy. Here are some signs that you might need one though. Chew on it!

You can’t remember when your last dive was

Was that in Thailand 5 years ago? Or Belize 2 years ago? Errr…….

Your certification card is nowhere to be found or has rotted away

Yikes. Don’t worry. This is the digital day and age and everything is found online but if you have no idea where your C-card is, maybe it’s been a while?

Your dive buddy is less experienced than you

Well now keeping you both safe is your job, after the dive guide. Polish your diving skills so you can keep both you and your buddy safe. Someone’s counting on you!

You can’t remember how to put together your gear

You can fumble along and struggle, or you can get a 5 minute boost by your dive center and everything will come back!

Diving hand signals…whaaaaat?

Divers using hand signals seem to be talking in code. Again, this is a 5-minute instruction.

❓ 4. What Is The Scuba Diving Refresher Course All About?

It is basically going over the fundamental diving skills that will allow you to have a safe dive. Remember easy scuba skills like mask clearing, neutral buoyancy, and a pre dive safety check?

Everything about the scuba refresher course is designed to allow you to dig up all those memories and apply them to real life situations.

Some instructors might have you perform those scuba skills in the pool, while some might go straight to open water and have you perform them out there before going on a fun dive.

Just think of the scuba refresher as a tune-up so that the car can run great again!

Pool training with an instructor

πŸ“‹ 5. Requirements Of The Scuba Refresher Course

Be Dive Fit

You don’t have to be running marathons, but you will have to lug around a big tank and fin around a bunch, so a reasonable level of fitness when you scuba dive would be great.


You have to be able to equalize, you know, pop the ears? This is non-negotiable unfortunately. A cautious warning, if you cannot equalize, you cannot dive unless you see an ear doctor and he or she fixes you.

Medical Requirements

As with all divers, even experienced ones, you’ll have to fill out the health declaration and say that you have no chronic conditions that will allow you to continue diving.

If you do, you’ll have to get it cleared by a physician.

Minimum Age

Just like diving, it is 10 years. You’ll need proof of certification and at least 4 logged training dives. If you have completed your open water diver course, this shouldn’t be a problem.

βœ… 6. Mandatory Scuba Diving Refresher Tips

While there are a plethora of skills you need to know as scuba divers, there are a few that are pretty fundamental that you’ll need to know, even if it isn’t officially included in a scuba refresher.

Gear Check

Before the buddy check, you’ll need to know how to check your own gear.

Check if both your regulators are working, whether your BCD inflates, whether your SPG is accurate and your tank strap is securely fastened to your BCD, and the whereabouts of your mask, fins, and snorkel in a busy dive center.


Before you get in the water, you’ll need to do a buddy check. This is the acronym that we like to use one of the scuba diving refresher tips makes it easy for everyone to remember it, including us!

B – BCD inflates okay?

Weights – weight belt fastened okay?

Regulator – Breathing okay?

Air – It’s on? You can’t imagine how many super experienced, professional divers, descend without their air on. Errr… us included. No one’s perfect okay?

Final check – Make sure your buddy is happy and confident and you’re going to have a fantastic dive

Checking diving equipment

Never Hold Your Breath

Rule number one. Numero uno.

Never hold your breath when ascending, even when you ascend slightly. Air expands as you go up. If you hold your breath, your lungs don’t flex.

POP! You get the idea. Air embolism is not something you want to know about.

Hand Signals

You gotta love the diving hand signals, but this can get a little overwhelming. Your instructor will teach you the fundamentals again. All you have to know is “okay”, “not okay”, “up”, “down”, and signing your air tank pressure and how much air you have left.

Equalize Early

Don’t wait till it hurts. Equalize those ears frequently and early, before you start to feel the pressure.

Mask Clearing

Even when you are using your own equipment, water can get into your dive mask. Mask clearing is one of the most basic, yet difficult skills that students need to master before they move on to other scuba skills.

Make sure you are completely comfortable with having a flooded mask that you cannot see out of, clearing it, and moving on. Try this in a pool session first if you feel uncomfortable.

If you have a poorly-fitting mask, be prepared to clear it several times a dive.

Bonus scuba diving tips – use a low-volume mask, and be prepared to have water up your nose!

Share Air

A quick refresher on how to share air with your buddy is always good. That way you know that you both can bail each other out in an event of an emergency.

Scuba diver performing buddy breathing

Regulator Recovery

So your buddy has poor buoyancy control and kicked your regulator off, or you turned your head too fast and your regulator is now ripped out of your mouth.

Don’t worry, regulator recovery is super easy. You just need to refresh your memory on how to sweep to find it, pop it back in, and purge it.

Emergency Weight Drop

This is rarely used, but it is a good skill to have. Imagine if you had 10 lbs of weights on your weight belt and had to climb on a boat.

Wouldn’t it be easier to remove the weights and hand them to someone on the boat?

This is a one-minute skill to relearn how to quickly drop your weights in an event that you had to.

Safety Stops

3 minutes at 5 meters for recreational diving. Just remember that! We’re sure your dive guide will hound you on this.

Fin Pivot And Hovering

Always nice skills to hone, the fin pivot and hover will fine-tune your buoyancy control skills and breath control. Remember, the goal is always to be neutrally buoyant!

You really don’t want to be bumping into your buddy or coral during your dive, so a quick refresher course wouldn’t hurt.

βš™οΈ 7. Good-To-Have Refresher Course Skills

Depending on the training agency, some of these skills might not be compulsory.

It is always good to have though and it is what we constantly teach our students in our scuba refresher course just so they are more comfortable with their equipment and dive protocols.

Then they can concentrate on just their scuba skills and enjoy spectacular marine life!

​Equipment Setup

You need to know how your scuba gear works and to do that, you need to learn to set it up. BCD goes on first, then the first stage, then connect it all, remember?

Buddy Check – BWARF

After checking your own equipment, check your dive buddy. BCD, weights, air, regulator, final check!

Giant Stride

Put on all your stuff, inflate your BCD, hold your mask and regulator in place, step way clear of the boat, and jump in the water. (and don’t hit the boat). That’s pretty much it.

Scuba diver jumping off boat

Weight Check

This one is a tricky one. You have to bob on the surface and make sure you can sink. How much weight you use significantly depends on your body weight. Neutrally buoyant is the goal!

We can’t tell you how many divers, even the experienced ones, can’t sink and end up needing more weight.

At the surface, just deflate your BCD, breathe out to release the air from your lungs, and see if you can sink.

5 Point Descent

Divers love our acronyms. Mnemonics are a great way to teach students and refresh our own memories. To descend, SORTED is used.

  • SIGNAL your buddy that you are descending
  • ORIENTATE downwards and make sure you’re not descending on a reef
  • REGULATOR in your mouth. We cannot tell you how many times a student has had a snorkel in their mouth instead of a regulator
  • TIME that you’re starting the dive
  • EXTEND your inflator hose to deflate your BCD

5 Point Ascent

STELA is the one you are supposed to use in preparation for ascent.

  • SIGNAL your buddy
  • TIME that you are ending the time
  • Elevate your inflate hose
  • LOOK where you are going

Mask Removal and Replacement

This is the more advanced version of mask clearing. You completely take off your mask, breathe a few breaths into your regulator, replace the mask, and clear it.

Alternate Air Source Swim and Ascent

You practice this with your buddy. You use the alternate air source of your dive buddy and practice swimming together. This exercise is so you know you can both get each other out of trouble.

Free Flowing Regulator

Even well-maintained regulators sometimes spring free flows, especially in extremely an cold water temperature.

If your regulator starts to free flow, you still can breathe and get yourself safely to the surface. You’ll experience loads of bubbles and quite a mess but hold your dive mask in place and sip air. You’ll make it up.

Hover Orally Inflate

Many beginner divers tend to over-inflate their BCDs while trying to control their buoyancy.

When you are practicing hovering, try orally inflating the BCD through the low pressure inflator (LPI) instead.

This permits only small amounts of air into the BCD and results in more pinpoint accuracy.


The controlled emergency swimming ascent.

You’ll need to know how to swim upwards (practice sideways) while saying “ahhhhh………” to ensure that you are breathing out.

This makes sure you never violate the first and golden rule of scuba divingnever hold your breath.

Five point ascend training

No Mask Swimming

In the unlikely event that you lose your mask (you never know, some currents are extremely strong), you have to know how to swim without a mask.

Don’t breathe in through your nose! It is extremely uncomfortable!

Weight Belt Removal Underwater

Why we make you practice this skill is because sometimes, a scuba diver misjudges the weight that is needed. Now this diver can’t sink or is struggling at depth.

As dive leaders, we always have spare weights for this particular situation. You’ll need to take off your weight belt, put an extra weight on, and put the weight belt back on again.

Scuba Unit Removal Underwater

Even though we have dive buddies, sometimes, we need to sort out our own problems.

If there was something going on with your scuba unit, you need to be able to take off the unit underwater and either fix it or share it with one of us.

A word of caution: never let go of your scuba unit!

Loose Cylinder Band

Another reason why you need to know how to remove your scuba unit.

If the scuba tank comes loose (and it does at times), simply whip the unit around, tighten the strap, and you’re good to go again.

Scuba Unit Removal at the Surface

Same thing as underwater, just at the surface. Imagine this huge ladder you have to climb getting up a dive boat.

Wouldn’t it be easier just removing it at the surface and having the deckhands haul it up while you climb up the ladder unimpeded? Be sure to tip well!

Disconnect LPI

The LPI, or low pressure inflator, is what pumps air from your tank to your BCD. Sometimes, this leaks. As much as everyone tries to maintain dive equipment, saltwater can be a difficult challenge.

A small leak doesn’t mean very much, but if you’d like to save your air, you can disconnect the leaky LPI during your dive and orally inflate your BCD.

This also protects you in a very rare event of a malfunction and your LPI auto-inflates your BCD.

Disconnect it immediately and purge the air off. We have never seen this happen though.

Scuba diver disconnecting LPI

Equipment Disassembly

What you put together, must come apart. Practice taking all your gear apart and caring for them. Saltwater is difficult to handle, and your gear could certainly use some TLC.

πŸ› οΈ 8. What Gear Do You Need For A Scuba Refresher?

Nothing. It’s always nice to have the basic equipment like dive masks, dive computers, a wet suit, and fins.

Having your own equipment means that you are already familiar with how everything works and can concentrate more on having a good time on your fun dive.

However, traveling with a ton of dive gear isn’t feasible at times.

Fret not! Most dive shops are well-equipped with top-notch, well-maintained equipment that you can practice on.

❓ 9. Frequently Asked Questions About The Scuba Refresher Course

What’s Involved In A Scuba Refresher Course

Your instructor will go over mandatory scuba skills that you need to have and cover some other skills that are good to have, preparing you for your next dive even after a long period away from the water

How Do I Get Back Into Scuba Diving

Take a scuba refresher course and muscle memory will come back! It will also help you enjoy your diving more instead of fussing with unfamiliar skills and equipment.

What Should I Remember Before Scuba Diving

Nothing! Only that you love it. The refresher course is designed to get divers that have been out of the water for a long time back into the water with as minimal training and effort, and yet ensure their safety and comfort.

How Long Does A PADI Refresher Course Take?

Depending on the dive shop, it can take one or two days. It might involve sessions in a swimming pool first and then in open water, or go straight to open water.

Do I Need A Scuba Refresher Course?

It is a personal preference. However, some dive centers do not allow divers that have been out of the water for a while to go on a fun dive without a refresher course, especially if it is a diver with a few dives. Trust your dive professional and only progress at your comfort level.

πŸ€” 10. Final Thoughts On The Scuba Refresher Course

It is hard to take sides, but we are big proponents of the scuba refresher course. Not only will it make our lives easier, but it will also keep you way safer and ensure optimal enjoyment that you have on your dive.

We have had countless divers uncomfortable, fussing, and even panicking throughout their dives because they were unprepared. With a short, affordable course, we can make sure that we all have a ball of a time together. We hope that these scuba diving tips make it better for you to get back into the water.

Thanks for reading, happy bubbles, and safe diving out there!

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