Recreational diving

Beginner diver in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands

Recreational diving or sport diving is diving for the purpose of leisure and enjoyment, usually when using scuba equipment. The term "recreational diving" may also be used in contradistinction to "technical diving", a more demanding aspect of recreational diving which requires more training and experience to develop the competence to reliably manage more complex equipment in the more hazardous conditions associated with the disciplines.[nb 1][1] Breath-hold diving for recreation also fits into the broader scope of the term, but this article covers the commonly used meaning of scuba diving for recreational purposes, where the diver is not constrained from making a direct near-vertical ascent to the surface at any point during the dive, and risk is considered low.

The equipment used for recreational diving is mostly open circuit scuba, though semi closed and fully automated electronic closed circuit rebreathers may be included in the scope of recreational diving. Risk is managed by training the diver in a range of standardised procedures and skills appropriate to the equipment the diver chooses to use and the environment in which the diver plans to dive. Further experience and development of skills by practice will improve the diver's ability to dive safely. Specialty training is made available by the recreational diver training industry and diving clubs to increase the range of environments and venues the diver can enjoy at an acceptable level of risk.

Reasons to dive and preferred diving activities may vary during the personal development of a recreational diver, and may depend on their psychological profile and their level of dedication to the activity. Most divers average less than eight dives per year, but some total several thousand dives over a few decades and continue diving into their 60s and 70s, occasionally older. Recreational divers may frequent local dive sites or dive as tourists at more distant venues known for desirable underwater environments. An economically significant diving tourism industry services recreational divers, providing equipment, training and diving experiences, generally by specialist providers known as dive centers, dive schools, live-aboard, day charter and basic dive boats.

Legal constraints on recreational diving vary considerably across jurisdictions. Recreational diving may be industry regulated or regulated by law to some extent. The legal responsibility for recreational diving service providers is usually limited as far as possible by waivers which they require the customer to sign before engaging in any diving activity. The extent of responsibility of recreational buddy divers is unclear, but buddy diving is generally recommended by recreational diver training agencies as safer than solo diving, and some service providers insist that customers dive in buddy pairs. The evidence supporting this policy is inconclusive.

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