by Rob Bradish:
Deep diving is a portion of recreational scuba diving that can present dangers and concerns for any diver. These factors can be avoided through proper technique and training. First, divers must utilize common sense and safe practices prior to getting wet.
So, let’s start off with a level set. I started diving in 1977. I was not a professional until about two years ago, and while I have traveled a fair amount, I am certainly not a once-a-year, off to the islands kind of diver. I am, for the most part, just like most of you; I like to dive. This is just my opinion and I encourage you to think on it and more importantly, develop your own response. That said, with over 35 years of diving, I have never gone into unplanned decompression, never run out of gas, and never had an incident become an accident.
I am constantly shocked at the number of divers on a boat dive that need to spend 8 – 10 minutes on the line at 20 feet during a recreational dive. Even scarier is the frequency with which I will hear someone come up the ladder with their computer beeping. When asked, they seem shocked and say something like, “I wondered what that was.” Moreover, an informal survey among charter professionals seems to indicate many of these divers are younger, some with just a few years or dives under their belt. This worries me because as I review the training and knowledgebase available to divers today, the detail is much greater than what we previously had.
So, it begs the question, why are divers today, who are better trained and have more information available than ever before, experiencing incidents that we all know, for the most part, are avoidable?
So, what are some differences between new divers and those who may have more experience? Well, right off the top, I have a few rules I dive by, many of you may have heard before.
1. Plan your dive, dive your plan. We have all heard this for years, but how many especially in our age of computers, actually do it? Most computers even have a modelling software built in to help you. But this goes way beyond anticipating your depth and runtime. In sports and high risk activities, people are taught visualization as a means of preparation. The point here is to, first, psych yourself up for a positive outcome, but more importantly, try to visually prepare and foresee any incidents before they occur. Sure, you can talk about what you hope to see and your separation plan, but do you talk about your dive time? What happens if you go to deep, or stay to long? You get the idea, sit with your buddy and talk about the dive, the goals, and the contingencies to insure you both have success and a good time.
2. Three strikes, I’m out. This is one that is personal. I have found that if I have three mini-incidents, my head can get out of the game, and the best thing for me to do is call it. This even includes driving to the charter! I have also learned for me specifically, the number one thing that can lead to an incident is new equipment or a new configuration. Not yet familiar with that new computer? Get a phone call from the boss about work on the way to the site? Can’t quite get your kit to feel right? Any of these items can take your mind out of the game, but a couple or more together, and I know I will be distracted.
3. There is no dive today worth all of my diving tomorrow. Seems simple, but I am always shocked at the number of people who are afraid to call a dive. Fifth dive of the day and you suddenly get a booming headache? Long ride out and you notice the boat bobbing more than you are used to? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t wrap your head around the dive? CALL IT! There is no dive that is more important than all my future diving. This also leads to an additional rule that tech divers frequently state. Any diver can call the dive at any time, for any reason, without fear of repercussion. Now don’t get me wrong, there will likely be some good natured razzing, but we have all called one. It makes no sense to harass someone when there mind isn’t 100% in the game! More importantly, this rule does not just apply above the waterline.
A few years ago, I was privileged to complete my cave diving certification, a section of diving which is dedicated to rules that are necessary to have a successful cave penetration dive. Now, years later, nearly every time there is a death in caves, one or more of these rules was broken, frequently by divers with a great deal of experience and practice. It is important to note however, it was likely not the broken rule or rules that lead to tragedy, but complacency that lead them to ignore the rules in the first place.
I won’t tell you that there is never a reason to run out of gas or go into unplanned decompression. I will tell you however, if you refuse to be complacent about the rules taught to you as a new diver, then the likelihood of you experiencing an incident or accident will be greatly reduced.
Rob Bradish – who refers to himself as “a recreational diver with Technical Interests,” has been diving since 1981, and crossed over to “the Dark Side” last year as an instructor with SDI/TDI. He works as an independent contractor through Air Hogs Scuba, of Garner, North Carolina and Blackbeard Scuba of Southport, North Carolina.