Not a Bird, Not a Fish!

Article and Photos Provided By: Jean-Marc Claes


We can not fly, we are not birds, but we can temperately be in the air.

We can not breathe like a fish underwater, but we can temporarily be underwater.


But why do we look at sky diving differently than scuba diving?

Let’s look at some points that are equal in both activities.



To become a scuba diver, we take an introductory course (also known as the Open Water Diver course). Spending some hours in a pool or confined water, next some open water dives, maybe even in salt water, and when clicking through the online theory course, you might as well call it ‘done with’. The oceans are at your fins, ready to get wet and explore.


Is the sky also that accessible?

Taking a skydiving class is a bit more of a deal.

A few years ago, I took this class to gain insights into sky diving and teaching techniques.

Just remember, a skydive is over in merely a few minutes compared to the hour(s) we can spend in just one scuba dive.


Once scuba certified, it is for life, which is what most scuba organisations proudly announce.

In sky diving, there is a minimum amount of jumps/per year to perform, or you will not be allowed to exit the plane by parachute on voluntary bases.



Are you surprised that a sky diving course takes two instructors for one student?

Scuba diving has ratios of as high as eight students by one instructor.

And even higher ratios are found in different organisations.

Does this have an influence on safety during training?

You will all agree, YES, of course.

Imagine teaching scuba with two instructors for just one student.

What is a dream job, or not?

Would this ratio affect the course price?

You can all agree, YES, of course.


Comparing sky diving with scuba on the financial part, it is instead a lot more expensive.

But still, sky diving is a growing sport; the prices of the different courses are not lowered to unprofitable rates and sky diving appeals to men/women/youth.

We can see a completely different flow and image of scuba diving.


Teaching levels go from Try Sky Diving up to getting certified for solo sky diving.

Speciality courses are being offered in sky diving as well.

So, scuba is not that different at all from the world of sky diving.


Scuba diving versus sky diving and the costs of getting rigged up.

Check-ups: In skydiving, different people do different checks to ensure safety!

Is this comparable with the ‘buddy-check’ in scuba diving?

No, equipment checks are done by certified safety officers, not ‘just’ anybody jumping with you!



Is there such a thing as annual maintenance in scuba and sky diving?

In sky diving, the maintenance is done by time and usage!

In scuba diving, manufacturers advise annual maintenance, but who does it, and who checks this?


What about buying used equipment?

How many years can you keep on using your scuba gear?

Remember this thought:

You will know when it breaks during use, as you will suffer the consequences!

How can you prevent this from happening on your next dive?

Regularly, dive equipment dating 30+ years old is offered on the second-hand market!

Does this mean safe or unsafe, and how to test it? Just use it in a pool, not too deep.

So, when buying a second-hand parachute, do you jump off the church tower to test it?


Other equipment:

Skydivers need an airplane to get high up there; scuba divers need boats to get to the reef.

Both machines need maintenance, pilots or captains, fuel, insurance, etc.

All that brings costs to the user!



A CCR unit versus a wingsuit? During the many years of evolution in both sports, they have seen technological innovations. In scuba diving, most innovations are visible in the world of technical diving; the rebreathers are more present than ever, giving us more time to stay below the surface and reach deeper spots than before. In sky diving, the wingsuit gives skydivers the same advantages, staying longer in the air during one jump out of a plane, and travelling large distances when ‘flying’ the wingsuit. We strive for wings or gills…we want to become birds or fish or as close to it as possible.



In both worlds, we travel to see and do. The sky and the ocean look blue everywhere we go, but it seems so much different worldwide, so we travel to explore, see and experience the differences. We keep exploring new highs and lows, looking for that ultimate discovery. We save money for that next trip somewhere in the world, but we practise the same thing over and over again…



Although we are ‘alone’ in our gear, we seek others to enjoy/share the activity

together. Could we say that even skydivers can help each other while descending? Yes,

they can, and you could even call it a buddy system. In scuba diving, we uphold the buddy system as holy as it gets, but does a scuba instructor, teaching even just one new student, consider that he is using the buddy system? What about if he has four new students at the same time? Can we really call this a buddy system with safety? Is this the difference with sky diving, where two instructors are in the air with one student?



The ratio in scuba accidents versus sky diving accidents is rather interesting!

Talking about fatalities:

Sky Diving: 0.006 fatalities by 1000 jumps or one fatality every 167,000 jumps

Scuba diving: 0.0056 fatalities by 1000 dives or one fatality every 200,000 dives

Guess what?

Most skydiving accidents and scuba accidents reach the public through scary press articles and lots of rumours, unknown data and speculations.

The accidents are mostly interesting, and public opinion is quickly made and shouted.

BUT…compared to all other outdoor sports, scuba and sky diving are considered low-risk activities and the ratios show for it!


So, is it all that different between sky and scuba diving?

We still need that airplane to get us up there so we can jump out of it again, try to make it back safe with two feet  on earth, and need a boat to get to that pristine reef or deep wreck. Is it just walking off the beach and getting wet compared to jumping off a high tower we can climb on? Are the barriers in scuba and other sports so lowered these days that we do not see the real dangers anymore? Is it because of the easy access to scuba, nobody remembers how it started and that we are not fish indeed? Did sky diving change much over the last 20 years compared to scuba diving?

What progress was made in scuba diving?


Many questions are not answerable immediately without some very long-term research!

Maybe we, the scuba professionals, should all take a break from teaching scuba and take a sky diving course, experience the difference and learn from the experience as I did. It might result in taking a new look at your scuba business and adapting to some of the great ideas sky diving offers.


We can all learn from each other, and you might convince your two skydive instructors to take a scuba course with you! Look at that as an upper hand situation as they need to be with 2 to teach you, so there are two candidates for you to convince to get into scuba: quite a challenge and an opportunity.


Just think about it and remember to safely land on 2 feet and go scuba diving again when you jump out of that

perfect plane.

But don’t scuba diving before flying!

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