25 Tips For Easier Scuba Diving
Even after over twenty years of underwater adventures, I have found that, at every diver’s experience level, we are always learning new things about the world we are exploring, our companions, our gear and ourselves. As more information becomes available about all of these components and our understanding grows, our journeys become easier and the experience becomes enriched. The following 25 tips will make your diving experiences much easier and much more fun.
Invest In Equipment You Can Depend On
In general, SCUBA is an equipment intensive activity that involves a basic technical understanding and requires that the diver has equipment that is appropriate for the conditions they plan to be in. This doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank, but you don’t want to skimp either. The most common phrase that applies to buying a Life Support System is to “Get the best gear that you can reasonably afford.” This means that you won’t find yourself needing to replace gear that’s not that old.
The most important piece of equipment a diver uses is their scuba regulator. This is where we get the air that we are going to breathe once we slip into the world beneath the surface. It should be quite apparent that we want as high performance as we can get. This insures that it will fit a wide variety of applications and requirements for different locations and conditions. For example, a regulator that works well in both warm and cold water and in deep and shallow water will cover all of a diver’s bases for years to come without needing to invest in a new one as the diver’s skill level increases.
Alternate Air Sources (Octos)
This piece of Safety gear is what goes into action in the rare instance that a buddy runs low on or out of air. Most divers are trained with an alternate that has its supply hose wrapped around the rib-cage on the right side. The second stage is secured somehow within the triangle from the bottom of the chin to the lower corners of the rib cage.
An excellent way for a diver to streamline their gear and maintain the safety of an alternate air source is to get one that integrates into the B.C.. This attaches on the left side of the BC and is used in conjunction with the inflator hose or replaces the inflator entirely.
A dive computer is a fantastic time-saver and information resource. This piece of gear is an information management system. They will not only display critical information about the dive you’re on but, while in surface mode, they will allow you to view the dives you have previously logged or run simulations for upcoming dives. They come as wrist-mounted units, in consoles with other instruments or as tethered units that utilize a retractor for quick deployment.
Some of them even integrate the remaining air function into the display. The integrated hose-less/wireless units eliminate a hose from the rig. When these are used with the BC integrated Alternate Air Sources, you wind up with only two hoses. This makes the unit compact, lightweight and again, STREAMLINED.
Relax While You Dive
The Excitement of a trip and making a dive can work some folks into a frenzy of activity. This excited attitude can lead to rapid arm movements and fin kicking which in turn causes rapid breathing and depletion of air supply. This means your dive gets cut short. A short rapid trip over an area probably means that many of the animals and features that make the dive interesting were hurried right by unnoticed.
On the way down, divers should maintain neutral buoyancy, and once on the bottom, check their gauges and signal each other. This short procedure allows the group to stay together so no-one is trying to catch up. It also gives everyone a chance to get oriented to the new environment and take a few slow deep breaths before calmly setting out to dive the planned route. With a more relaxed group, the dives will last longer, everyone will see more and divers will be less fatigued at the end of the day.
Properly Weight Yourself For The Area You’re In
When diving in a new area, do a weight/buoyancy check with the equipment you’re going to use for that trip either in a pool before you leave or in a shallow controlled environment when you arrive. On a trip to warmer water, divers will use much thinner wetsuits than in a local cold-water environment which means less weight is required. An over-weighted diver may have trouble staying off of the bottom which may harm animals or remaining streamlined underwater which wastes energy and air.
Before entering the water, you should fill your BC enough to float at the surface before descent. This allows for any last-minute adjustments of gear for you or your buddy and allows the divers to descend as a group.
During the descent, maintain slightly negative buoyancy for a controlled descent, and once at your desired depth, establish neutral buoyancy. Divers should then orient themselves far enough off the bottom so as not to disturb the animals or stir up silt. This maintains optimal visibility and gives the diver a good vantage point for scanning the area for points of interest and animals of interest.
Adjust Your Equipment Properly
Taking the time topside to make sure that all of your equipment is adjusted properly before you even get in the water can save you time once you’re in. Be sure that straps of all kind (BC, Mask, Fins) are not twisted and quick-releases are shut and snug but not restrictive. A mask strap that is too tight will cause headaches and a ring around your face. A fin strap that is twisted will be uncomfortable on your ankle and may cause a failure on the release, resulting in its loss.
A diver will also want to be sure that their gear is set up with easy access to pockets and D-ring storage. This means that, if you need to use a piece of gear you brought with you, it will be available.
Don’t Exceed The Limitations Of Your Skills Or Equipment
Because of the amount of water there is to enjoy on the planet, there is also a wide diversity of conditions that you can find yourself in. From warm-water shallow reefs with little current to icy Northern waters with raging currents, you can also experience everything in between. With the proper equipment and training, you can safely have fun where few people ever go. Without the proper equipment and training, you can find yourself in a stressful and possibly dangerous position. Diving is a fun activity, and learning new skills is fulfilling. For a safe and relaxing adventure, be sure that you are ready for what may occur.
Photographs and images of all kinds have described the world around us for thousands of years. Modern underwater cameras allow us to capture moments that otherwise, no one else would ever see. This is a great way to further enrich your diving and that of those around you – divers and non-divers alike. Quite simply put, “One picture is worth a thousand words.”
Dive With People You Know And With Locals When You Travel
Diving is a great way to meet new and interesting people. Dive buddies that are familiar and have diving likes and practices that are similar to your own will make it more enjoyable. The objectives of the dive will run parallel and will not cause friction between goals during the dive and will. For instance, two buddies that are going to take pictures or are looking for a certain species of fish in an area can work as a team.
When diving in a new area, find a local guide or diver with experience who can show you the better locations and has knowledge of the animals and conditions. The Scuba.com online bulletin board has a find a dive buddy section for exactly this purpose.
Take Animal ID Courses
There are classes and seminars that are usually taught before a trip occurs. Be sure to become familiar with the wildlife above and below the surface before going someplace new. It will be more exciting to recognize an animal you are familiar with than to be surprised when you are exposed to it for the first time. Knowing an animals habits and behaviors will also allow you react to it properly for photo opportunities and other interactions. It will also help you find them if they are particularly interesting.
Find Specialties You Like
Take courses for skills beyond the basics. Continuing your skills development can help you enjoy diving immensely. There are many levels of certification in all agencies and they all have their own rewards. If you’re traveling to a new place with conditions unfamiliar to you, take a class at the local shop that will give you the skills to enjoy where you’re going to be. You may also be taking new gear that you will want to become proficient with before you leave. This will all add up to more enjoyment and easier adaptation to the new surroundings.
Take Your Time
Many divers are excited about getting in the water for their next experience. This can lead to being in a hurry from the moment they start unloading and un-packing their gear. Even an experienced diver can forget the most basic piece of equipment or procedure which can cause stress later. A relaxed and methodical approach to the dive from gearing up to gearing down will insure that nothing or no one is forgotten or left behind.
Learn And Use Hand Signals
Knowing how to signal your buddies can make diving much more enjoyable. In an environment where the spoken word winds up lost as a bubble at the surface, it is critical to be able to communicate coherently with one another. Hand signals are the easiest way and they can be recognized from a distance in clear water. Some people actually use forms of sign language and have conversations about the conditions and animals they are experiencing.
In most cases where divers are close to each other or in poor visibility, slates are used to write on and leave very little room for confusion. Some may be erased and written on repeatedly during a dive. Others must be cleaned at the surface. Further still, there are communications devices which actually divers to talk into a microphone and have their buddies listen live time.
The right wetsuit or dry-suit for your destination is critical. Check with local operations and chat boards regarding temperatures and what is commonly used in that area at the time you’ll be there. Being cold can detract from your fun and can cut your diving short.
Stay Current With New Techniques And Theory
The science of diving is always advancing for the recreational and technical enthusiast. The most current techniques and equipment are good to practice and have as they are there for a divers’ safety. There are many resources for these new ideas such as magazines, discussion boards, certification agencies and even dive club guest speakers.
Equipment that has been properly cleaned and stored after your last trip will be in good condition and ready for action when your next trip comes up. Gear should be stored in a cool dry place out of the sun. It should also be kept together so that it is organized for use. It is also a good idea to keep a checklist with your gear so that nothing gets left behind.
Proper Transport/Packing and Baggage
Proper packing and transport of gear is critical for easier travel and more enjoyable travel. Pack your gear tightly so that it doesn’t shift when moved. It should also be organized for easy inspection if airport personnel need access. Items that could be considered dangerous such as knives and spear-guns should be packed in check-in luggage. Be prepared to answer questions about your equipment as some officials may not be familiar with the equipment.
Maintenance begins with cleaning your gear thoroughly after every use. It should be soaked and dried completely so as to remove all salt and organic matter. Your gear should also be inspected before you leave for a dive, whether it’s down the road or across the globe. It may be hard to fix or replace if you find that it’s broken or has a problem when you get there.
Regulators and BCs should be inspected and serviced annually by a certified and authorized service center and technician.
Making sure that all of the equipment you are taking with you is secured so it can’t be lost is a good idea. It is also good to have your Gauges and alternate air source secured to your body so that they don’t dangle on the rocks, coral or sand. This keeps them from damaging the area and your gear. There are many different types of clips and retractors for these purposes.
When traveling, keep your paperwork together and organized. Passports, I.D.s, immunization records and even your C-Card are important to have. The faster you can produce these documents, the easier it will be to get processed into a new country. The dive shop will need your C-Card and may keep it in a safe place for you while you dive with them.
Where equipment is concerned, you always want to make sure that it comes with a warranty. Purchase your equipment from an authorized dealer and be sure to register your equipment within the manufacturers’ specified timeline. This protects you if something happens to your gear and it will be covered by the warranty. It will also serve as a record of ownership if your gear is damaged or stolen
Insure your equipment. In the unlikely event that your gear is subjected to a disaster such as a fire or is stolen, insurance will replace it. This is extremely rare, but can mean the difference between a waiting period and starting over.
On behalf of all the instructors at Scuba.com, I wish you happy and safe diving. If you have any questions, feel free to email our diving experts, or call us at 800-34-SCUBA 7 days a week, 8am-6pm PST.