Tips for better and safer diving.

Some risk is possible in recreational diving and it increases with Technical diving.  We cannot eliminate all of the risks, however; we can minimize them.  The best way to survive an emergency is to avoid one!  Let’s look at some of the things you can do as a diver and the steps you can take to make sure your safety is utmost concern.  YOU, and you alone, have to take personal responsibility in assessing your diving abilities and know when to do a “no-go” on a dive.  Here are a few tips:

Are you trained for this dive and do you have the experience in this environment?  We teach in the Open Water Course that you need to plan your dive and dive your plan.  You should plan your dive on depth and gas consumption.  Plan one dive 10 feet deeper than your main plan just in case you want or need to go a little deeper.  This alone will help prevent some situations underwater.  When divers ignore their plan and go nilly-willy on the dive, things that you cannot control can and sometimes will happen.  If you go deeper than your plans is your gas supply sufficient?  Knowing your gas consumption rates is a must so you can calculate your dive time along with nitrogen absorption.  When you plan your dive and dive your plan, you are not outside your training and knowledge of the environment.  AVOID SITUATIONS THAT CAN PUT YOU IN DANGER!  Pay attention to your dive computer!  Your Dive Computer is not on your wrist for it’s looks, showing you have the latest equipment,  and neat numbers showing on it’s face.  Read the instruction manual.  I once had a diver that bought a very expensive computer and we went diving the following week.  He was a competent diver and we had a great dive on the U-352.  After we surfaced and started our surface interval we were discussing the dive.  His quote to me was: “ I am so glad I got this computer it is fantastic.  What does all the numbers mean?”  Be proficient in using your dive computer and, if not, have your PADI Instructor who is familiar with the unit you are using give you a briefing on using it and what the numbers mean. Again, read the instructions and play with it prior to using it on a dive.

Have you been trained for this environment, depth, and type of dive?  This is one of the most abused of all.  Take Deep Diving for instance.  Have you planned your dive with nitrogen absorption and gas usage for this depth?  Do you know your active and passive gas usage?  Have you had any formal training in depths past 70 feet?  Some feel that once you take an Advanced Diver Course and have done one 70-100 foot dive; you have obtained all of the knowledge to allow you to go this deep and deeper.  They state that you need experience. This is very true, however; could you get any better experience than with your PADI Deep Diving Instructor that has many if not hundreds of dives deeper than 100 fsw?   The PADI Deep Diver Instructor can help you avoid situations by having the experience to teach you the pitfalls.  There are physiological and psychological factors in deep diving that can reach up and bite you in the butt.  If you haven’t taken a true PADI Deep Diver Specialty, you just might not and most likely not have the knowledge to do deeper diving.  Same with UW Navigation as one time trying UW Navigation is not enough to make you proficient.  Taking a PADI UW Navigation Specialty give you an in-depth 4 training dives on how do it efficiently.  Training is the best way to prepare yourself for the type of diving you wish to engage in.  Learn to Live by Proper Training and Experience with Proper Equipment for the Dive.

Is your equipment serviced properly and is it working properly while preparing for the dive?  If you have a problem on the surface and fail to gain a solution to it, you are asking for a world of hurt underwater.  Problems have a tendency to grow and escalate with depth.  Don’t ignore the small stuff, as they can become an 800-pound gorilla when you least expect it.  Have your equipment serviced by a trained Professional when it is due.  A yearly service routine is generally sufficient; however, if you are a monster diver and dive more than most, you might look at a couple of service cycles during the year.  At the very least, bring your equipment in to the dive shop and let a trained service technician look it over and check it.  Most of us are glad to do this, FOR FREE!  It only takes a few minutes and can avoid problems on a dive.  Now, let’s talk about taking care of your equipment.  Just rinsing your regulator off doesn’t remove all of the salt, especially if is dry.  It is kind of like a sponge bath, you are not as clean as you would be if you took a full shower.  You need to soak your regulator at least a couple of hours in clean water to put the salt back in solution then rinse heavily to make sure you have all of the salt deposits off.  Be sure to put your dust plug on the inlet area.  If, by chance, you forgot to put the dust plug on, take it to a technician to clear any fluid in the regulator, Your BCD needs to have water put in the bladder and let soak, just like your regulator, as this will avoid any salt crystals forming.  All crystals have sharp edges and can eventually cut your bladder.  A little care of your equipment and proper servicing will go a long way avoiding incidents and it will protect your investment in equipment.

Have you ever heard this being said by a dive buddy as you are getting ready to do a dive you are not trained for:  “You will be alright, you will be with me.”  Yea, right!  It has been written in magazines and preached during your initial training, DO NOT EXCEED YOUR TRAINING!  Friends sometimes can get you in a situation where they cannot or do not have the experience to help you.  I constantly hear of divers coming to the surface with less than 500 psi of air in their tank.  These are accidents just waiting to happen and if you gain that mentality, you just might be next.  Remember:  There are a lot of old, bold divers, but few bold old divers.  Sometimes the cowboy gets bucked off the bull.  Gaining experience thru PADI Advanced, Specialty and Technical courses will help you prepare for the diving situations you will encounter.  Practice, practice and practice some more on the out of air and air sharing skills.  This is a personal opinion, but I firmly believe that anyone that dives deeper than 100 fsw needs a redundant pony kit for added safety.  What better preparation can you have than to be prepared for an emergency?  If you have and use a pony kit, then it is for emergency situations, not to extend your time underwater.  If you are diving with a less experienced buddy, plan your dive around their experience, not yours.  Feeling discomfort in a diving situation can be avoided by staying within your training and diving your plan.  Do not let pier pressure talk you into a dive that you are not sure or have not been trained for.  One of the biggest reasons for diver dropout is that they are not comfortable in diving situations, so as good dive buddy, let’s help them become more comfortable by encouraging them to take PADI Advanced and Specialty courses to gain the experience needed.  AND, PLEASE do not make fun of someone who doesn’t want to do the dive because they don’t feel comfortable or abort a dive for the same reason. Remember, you were once a beginning diver also.  Encouragement can do wonders in keeping a buddy diving safely.  If you think training with someone who is not a Professional PADI Instructor or one from a reliable agency  is good training, think again!  It is difficult to impossible to breathe water, don’t try!

Practice diving skills!  If you have been out of the water for a period of time, you should engage in the PADI ReActivate scuba program.  Get refreshed and be safe.  Prior to any dives, go over in your head the skills needed and mentally do the dive.  Practice your air sharing skills, your controlled emergency swimming ascent, and navigational skills.  It is better to practice your diving skills in a controlled environment instead of needing them in rough seas with a current or bad visibility.

Now let’s talk about Buoyancy!  Yes, we are going there and for good reasons.  Improper buoyancy is a true sign of a diver who is not comfortable, doesn’t’ have his diving skills honed and has no regard to the environment.  Proper buoyancy is a must to become comfortable in the water.  You were introduced to trim in your Open Water Class, now extend your knowledge and make your buoyancy correct with the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Specialty.  Proper buoyancy can reduce gas consumption, CO2 issues, and on and off gassing of nitrogen.  Most new divers see a diver who has perfected his buoyancy and are envious.  You too can be that diver.  Education and practice with lots of time underwater under the guidance of your PADI Instructor can make your diving more pleasurable. 

Listen and pay attention to dive briefings before entering and de-brief yourself when you come out of the water.  Most operations have a good PADI Divemaster giving information on what to see, where to see it, the places you don’t want to go, depths and loads of good data to help you mentally prepare for the dive. A good briefing is worth its weight in gold as you will see highlights pointed out and enjoy the dive so much more.  De-brief yourself after the dive.  What did you do right and what could you do better.  With increased experience and constantly learning from your experiences, you will become a better and safer diver. 

Protect the environment.  This will increase your safety underwater.  A coral cut will really become very sore.  A brush against fire coral will feel like you are being stung by a herd of bees.  Keeping your hands to yourself and not touching things will keep you from a sting by a venomous spine of a fish.  Plus, things underwater can scratch, cut, sting or scrape you and your equipment!  If you prize your fins, don’t let them touch the coral, wrecks or anything else underwater.  If you like your BCD, a sharp edge on a wreck can slice the bladder.  Proper Trim and Buoyancy.  Again, the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course will add to your diving comfort as well as help you protect the environment and your equipment.  If you fin hits coral, you have killed many living organisms.  They are water based and can rupture and die if compressed or hit.  Stay off the bottom.  Buoyancy and Trim.  Master them both.

Learn to be still!  Being calm underwater can help you solve any little hiccup that comes your way.  Stop,
Access, Adapt and Overcome.  Think and prepare.  Over training is one great way to remain calm when something arises that you are not expecting.  Stop, Think, Breathe!  There is only one true emergency underwater, no gas to breathe.  Everything else can be handled.  If you are a good buddy and you see your partner struggling with entanglement, go help.  Keep them calm as well as yourself.  If you are entangled, signal your buddy and get them to help you.  A good buddy system is worth the effort when a situation arises. Clear heads will create solutions.  Taking PADI Specialties and putting them in practice will help you over train and create better diving skills.  The PADI Advanced Diver and Rescue Diver Courses plus Specialties will help put you on the way to a better understanding of calmness underwater.  Of course, all of the courses and skills taught within them are useless unless you practice and become proficient with your diving skills.  Practice, practice, practice and you will learn to be still!

Blazing hot sun and bare skin.  Last, but not least, let’s use some common sense when on the water.  Protect yourself with sunscreen and a wide brim hat.  Skin cancer is common enough that you need to be aware of your sun exposure.  A little protection will go a long way.  Wear sunscreen, wide brim hat and sunglasses-  The other thing 50 years of this has taught me is that my cohorts are getting cataracts removed in their 40’s and 50’s and dealing with skin cancer… that sucks to survive a few thousand dives and die early in a miserable fashion because sunscreen and a hat were too much work. REALLY?

Be smart.  Be well trained.  Be a safe diver.