Manta Divers, August, 2015 Diving Pearls
There is a real learning curve to diving. Most students start out awkward, not able to hold our bodies in one position for long, hitting the bottom, then bouncing to the surface and sputtering through the mask clearing skills. Once the students make it through their open water dives, though, they are fairly competent. Building on that, they go on to Advance Open Water, and expand on their skills even more. However, to move beyond “competent” or “pretty good,” it takes lots of dives with concentration on skills. Diving is not just about techniques, though. It is also about the whole dive experience. The more one dives, the more one learns. I thought about the things I’ve picked up along the way as well as the things I wish I had known (or understood) when I was a new diver. Here are my top 12 lessons!
- Practice your basic scuba skills. This is important to do on every dive, but it is especially important on the first dive of a trip or your dive season. Leave your camera behind and review skills, reacquaint yourself with your gear (or meet the gear for the first time if you are renting.), check that you are weighted correctly (including checking your trim), practice alternate air use with your buddy and fine tune your buoyancy.
- Respect your personal limits and be honest with your dive buddy or the dive leader if you have reservations about the
- dive. If you find a lack of confidence/experience keeps you from doing dives you and your buddy would like, consider taking Advanced Open Water, or some the many available specialty courses to bring up your skills and better prepare you for different dive experiences and environments. If you’ve not been diving for a while, definitely take a refresher course.
- Plan your dive, dive your plan. Even if the dive operator has laid out the dive profile and the divemaster will be leading you on the dive, there is still much to plan with your buddy. When will we turn the dive? At half our tanks? One third our tanks? How deep should we go? Where will we be in relation to each other? Side by side? One behind the other? Who will lead? Review hand signals, emergency steps and buddy separation procedures. Dive your plan! Unless you and your buddy are fluent in sign language, it is very difficult to communicate a change in plans underwater. That said, at times, it is necessary to deviate from the plan. That is why it is important that at least one member of the dive team carries a slate so, if necessary, communication can be written and understood.
- Bring a flashlight, even on day dives. I was surprised to learn how many creatures, corals and fish are hiding under ledges and in shaded parts of the dive site. Bring a small, compact dive light on every dive. You can stow it in a pocket and know that it is always there if you need it.
- Mind your gear. Mark every piece of your personal gear. Never assume that you (Or another diver, for that matter) will be able to readily tell your gear from
gear of the same brand that belongs to someone else. Maintain your gear according to the manufacturer’s schedule. If you must rent, don’t settle for ill-fitting gear. Check everything out (Does the BC hold air? Are the batteries in the computer good? Are there any leaks in the regulator hoses? Is the mouthpiece intact?). Make sure you know how to operate everything (How does a diver ditch these weights? What kind of Octo set up does it have?)and that everything is easily reached when you are kitted up. Be responsible for your own gear and pack it with your personal check list in mind.
- Once your mask is defogged and rinsed, put it on your face. This will ensure that your dive is fog free. If you are going to wear your mask around your neck or on the top of your head, don’t bother with defog.
- During your dive, check your air and No Deco time frequently. Even an experienced diver can suddenly be lower on air than anticipated due to equipment malfunction or if they are working harder than they thought during a dive. In addition, in the case of computer failure, it would be comforting to know that you had recently checked your gauges and know about where you are in regard to air pressure and NDL and can plan accordingly.
- Be a good buddy. Establish before you are underwater who will be leading, where you will be in relation to each other and then follow the plan. Do a thorough buddy check prior to entering the water. Air on? No hair in mask? All clips clipped and gear streamlined? Keep your hands to yourself and don’t use them to compensate for poor buoyancy control, lest you knock your buddy’s mask off or regulator out of his mouth. Stick with your buddy throughout the dive.
- When diving from a boat, ask for permission before boarding. The crew may not want you under foot when they are finishing preparations for your group. Set up your kit and secure it with the tank clips or bungie cord provided. Stow all bags, cases, accessories and stuff you brought with you under the bench. Clip your mask to your BC and have your boots and fins out of your bag so they are easily accessible when it is time to gear up.
- Listen carefully to the dive briefing so you know what the plan is and how the operators want you to enter and exit the water. If you choose not to listen to the briefing, at least be courteous to the other divers and be quiet while the dive leader is talking.
- Never take off your fins before you are in contact with the boat, either at the ladder or on the trail line. Never position yourself directly under a diver exiting the water up a ladder. If you can see the bottom of that diver’s tank, you are in danger!
- For the Underwater photographers out there, do not chase the marine life. The best way to photograph a sea creature, is to wait for it approach you. It is not worth stressing the animal just so you can get a photo, and besides, they can out swim you any day of the week. In fact, chasing the animal usually results in a bunch of shots of the back end of fishes! If the divemaster points out a creature you would like to get a photo of, take your shot and get out of the way of the other divers. If you would like more time with the subject, and your buddy is agreeable, allow the rest of the dive group to get a look, then return to the spot and shoot away. Your subject will be calmer and you will have time to compose the shot without being rushed.
In Other News…………..
There are still several spots on Team Manta’s trip to Grenada Feb. 20-27, 2016. Grenada has some of the best and easiest drift diving you can do at some of the most wonderful sites in the Caribbean. Come explore the sunken cruise ship, Bianca C and the underwater sculpture park.
Be sure to get your reservations in for the Lake Wazee trip, Aug 29-30. And the Haigh Quarry trip on Sept. 19 and 20. Either of these trips would be great for completing open water or advanced open water dives.
Congratulations to new Rescue Divers, Sean Bellinger and Anthony Townsend, and new Open water divers, Sam Nudi, Cooper Siudak and Nick Christensen!
Announcing!! We have decided to do a dream dive trip to Fiji in January of 2017. Start saving up now! Details to come!