More thorough than a check dive, a refresher is for divers who haven’t been in the water for several months or more. You may be a bit rusty when it comes to remembering dive theory, equipment assembly, managing problems, buddy checks and buoyancy. PADI refresher courses have now been developed to embrace the modern world. Once upon a time the floppy Recreational Dive Planner (RDP) was re-explained to confused, out of practice divers who squinted at its tiny numbers. Over the years this was replaced by a calculator-style version and thankfully we are now able to discuss the intuitive dive computer, leaving the old-skool behind!
Most diver training agencies have a similar program. For example BSAC have their Scuba Refresher and SSI have a Scuba Skills Update. PADI’s Refresher evolved into the Scuba Review program with a Tune-Up quiz. This followed a user-friendly but intense pattern of theory review, equipment set-up and pool skills. Many dive centres would conduct a subsequent open water dive. You were then rewarded with a sticker to go on your existing certification card.
Today the PADI ReActivate Program has entered into Gen Z with self-study e-learning materials. They can be viewed on a PC or mobile device, to be completed in comfortable bite-sized chunks. If required, you can follow your theory review with in-water practice at a local dive shop. A new card is issued (available as an eco-friendly digital version) showing a "ReActivated Thru" date.
E-learning takes between 2-3 hours and any in-water practice between 2-4 hours, depending on the amount of skill review needed. You will need to show proof of certification and fill out a PADI Medical Questionnaire prior to participation. You might need a refresher:
- After a period of inactivity
- If you haven’t dived for a while since being certified
- After purchasing a new set of equipment
- To upgrade from a Junior certification at age 16
- If you are completing a referral
- As a pre-assessment for a Con-Ed program
If it has been many, many years since you dived however, a ReActivate program might not be enough. If you learned in the 1990s for example, so much will have changed in decompression theory and in the way scuba equipment operates, that it would be better to start again. Why not re-take your entry level course? If you now have children - rather than watch from the sidelines - why not do the course with them and learn all over again? It would be a rewarding, shared experience after all.
Completing a refresher is showing consideration to other divers in your group, to your instructor and to the environment. Diving in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar equipment on day 1 of your holiday is hard enough, despite there being 2 years since your last immersion. We are taught at entry level to practice good judgement after all. There are many skills that you may have forgotten such as how to breathe from a free-flowing regulator, clear a mask, the correct ascent procedure and hovering. Whether it be buoyancy or emergency, refreshing these skills will make your first dive back in the water more comfortable and less stressful.
It is also a good opportunity to familiarise yourself with equipment. Where are the dump valves, quick releases and inflator? Does your mask fit correctly and how much weight do you need? Remembering how to thread a weight belt properly, secure fin straps and tighten a tank cam band are all valuable skills in themselves. Your self-confidence will increase, you will meet new people and you will earn respect for showing responsible diver behaviour.