by Sean Harrison:
We’ve all heard the phrase “it’s just like riding a bike.” Often times diving, like many things in life, is compared to riding a bike. To an extent this is correct, if you have not ridden a bike in a while your balance is a little off and you may wobble, you are also not as confident in your ability to ride and not run into something, or another rider. You might also be missing some of the basic “tools” you need before setting off for a bike ride: a spare tube, bike pump, lights, etc. To use this analogy, diving is similar in that: balance = buoyancy, running into something = navigating or controlling the dive overall, missing tools = surface marker buoy, serviced regulators, compass. Once the cobwebs have been cleared from your memory all these things will come back to you, but you need to take it slow and not expect to be able to dive as if your skills were at 100%. Here are five tips you should do on every dive whether you dive every day or once a year.
1. Always perform a buddy check:
All divers have been taught how to do a buddy check, here is a way to perform that buddy check covering the same tasks but in a more streamlined manner. Sit with your buddy and do a call out. One buddy calls out what needs to be checked, the other buddy confirms the check. Example: breathe from primary regulator – buddies response “primary regulator working.” Follow this sequence for every part of the buddy check: weights, compass, octopus, BC inflation, fins, dive computer, etc. etc. etc
2. Clear Mask:
On every dive find a time to remove and replace your mask, even if it is during your safety stop. While this skill may have no apparent benefit, it pays off big time in the long run. Removing your mask during your training may have been a less than comfortable thing to do but you did it, so you can do it again. By removing your mask on every dive you will build your comfort level in the water so the next time you do need to remove it, or even just flood it, you will be able to with great ease. Doing this will also greatly reduce your overall anxiety during dives. Once you have mastered removing and replacing your mask, step it up a notch and do it while maintaining buoyancy and not holding on to anything.
Good buoyancy at its basic level means: not bumping into the aquatic environment, not going deeper than you planned, and ascending at the proper rate. Buoyancy when refined has a lot more dimensions. On every dive you should strive to get your buoyancy to a point where you are not kicking to stay down or up, and you should be adding and removing the air in your BC minimally. Perfecting your buoyancy will also decrease your air consumption, and help maintain proper trim in the water. For more information on proper trim, follow this link http://www.tdisdi.com/the-perfect-trim/
4. Finning Technique:
Efficient finning techniques are a must for comfort in the water. Using proper finning for the environment you are diving in is also key. The basic finning or kick techniques are: scissor, frog, modified frog, and flutter to name a few. Each of these has a purpose; scissor for fast and longer distance swimming, modified frog for overhead environments and low siltation. Each of them also works different leg muscle groups, which is important to remember – should your legs get tired you can change your finning technique and use different muscles. Ultimately with good finning and good buoyancy you will reduce air consumption, increase efficiency underwater, and not kick the bottom and stir up silt or damage the environment.
5. Weight Check:
The weight check was saved for last. To ensure you are properly weighted, you should do a weight check at the end of a dive when your cylinder pressure is at 34 bar / 500 psi or pretty close to it. You want your air pressure at this level because your cylinder has made a shift to the positively buoyant side. If you are weighted properly now; you have minimal air if any in your BC and you are neither rising to the surface nor kicking to stay at your safety stop. Being properly weighted during your dives has many benefits. Two of the biggest benefits being: reduced air consumption and reduced dive fatigue. Most divers are very surprised at how little weight they actually need to be properly weighted. This exercise must be checked and repeated every dive as the more comfortable you get in the water, even over the course of a week, the less weight you will need.
So strap on that dive equipment and work the wobbles out of your dive. One sure way to get better at diving is to dive. Skills deteriorate over time if not used and this is not unique to diving, it applies to everything we do. One last tip, when diving with diving professionals, such as the divemasters that lead dives, watch them closely underwater and not just the cool things they point out, you can learn a lot just by watching the people that dive every day. Most important, is that you are having fun!