Five Ways to Become a Better Diver

By Daniel Xerri

Once you take up diving you soon realise that it is an activity rich in improvement potential. What you learn while getting certified is only a portion of the available knowledge and skills that you can acquire. If you’re interested in developing further as a diver without necessarily going down the professional route, these are five ways in which you can become better at this sport.

Courtesy: Jon Borg @jonborg

1. Dive, dive, dive

This might seem obvious but one of the best ways of developing your skills as a diver is to dive as often as you can. The number of years diving don’t really amount to much if you only dive on holiday once or twice a year. You could still be a relatively inexperienced diver despite having taken up the sport several years ago.

Similarly, the number of dives you have is only a partial indication of your level of experience; if most of your diving took place in ideal conditions and in the safety of a guided group then the quality of your experience is rather uniform. It lacks the variety of someone who has experienced poor visibility, adverse weather conditions when doing a boat dive, strong currents, tricky shore entrances, and cold water.

While it is imperative to dive within your comfort zone, it is unlikely that you will develop the kind of skills you require as a more seasoned diver if you never push yourself a bit further. Diving regularly and in different kinds of conditions allows you to rapidly develop the experience you require to master some of the skills you need to feel more confident as a diver.

Courtesy: Jon Borg @jonborg

2. Learn as much as you can

Experience alone isn’t enough to make you a better diver. While you can learn a lot from different kinds of diving experiences, this isn’t a substitute for formally acquiring the knowledge, skills and dispositions that will enable you to be aware of certain limitations or to use more effective techniques. For example, someone who hasn’t taken their diving education beyond the open water level might be unfamiliar with different finning techniques, ways of navigating underwater, or assisting a diver in distress.

The easiest way of expanding your knowledge as a diver is to do different kinds of courses, from brief speciality courses to ones that introduce you to new kinds of diving. For instance, someone wishing to dive in non-tropical environments would benefit from learning how to use a dry suit safely by doing a speciality course rather than merely buying one and jumping into the water. Recreational divers who feel they are ready to extend the depths at which they dive would definitely learn why it is vital to have equipment redundancy and to use specialised techniques by enrolling on a technical diving course. Relying on one’s experience alone in such cases can result in potentially fatal consequences.

Courtesy: Jon Borg @jonborg

3. Join a club

A good way of honing your skills as a diver and learning more about the sport is by becoming part of your local diving community. Diving clubs exist in many countries and while some of them are highly specialised (e.g., cave diving or deep wreck diving), others welcome divers with a broad range of abilities and interests.

For instance, the club I belong to (ATLAM Subaqua Club) is led by highly experienced rebreather divers who have created a well-knit community of technical divers. However, the club still makes it a point to organise a recreational boat dive once a week that is open to all certified divers. Members of the club get to dive with and learn from people with varying degrees of experience.

Besides being a great way of socialising with people who share your passion, joining a club is also a means by which you can wean yourself off the sense of dependence that many novice divers have on instructor-led dives. If you feel ready to start diving with a group of friends but don’t yet know enough experienced divers, you might want to join a diving club or look for similar communities of divers in your area.

Courtesy: Jon Borg @jonborg

4. Lead and follow

Once you start diving with different kinds of people and developing your skills further, it is important to avoid being someone who always follows the more seasoned divers in the group. While those divers can teach you a lot about technique, conditions and dive sites, the knowledge you accumulate should also give you the confidence to take a more leading role during certain dives. For instance, if there’s a shore dive that you’ve done many times but have always relied on someone else to lead, maybe it’s now time to exercise your dive planning and navigation skills more fully by adopting a central role in the dive.

Diving with more experienced people is highly instructional, but so is diving with a less experienced buddy. This doesn’t mean that you’re putting yourself in the position of a qualified instructor. However, some of your friends might have less knowledge and experience than you and on certain occasions they might benefit from what you can offer if you develop the confidence to share it with them. Striking a balance between leading and following enables you to become a more competent diver because you develop an appreciation for learning from all kinds of diving situations.

Courtesy: Jon Borg @jonborg

5. Seek feedback

One of the most effective ways of reviewing your performance as a diver is to be open to the feedback that others can provide you with. While feedback is a cornerstone of diving education and instructors are meant to help trainees to evaluate the positive aspects of their performance as well as those areas that require further consolidation, feedback should be something that you remain receptive to long after you complete initial certification courses.

If you continue your diving education, you will receive further feedback on your performance and this can lead you to enhance your ability to execute both new and foundational techniques. However, feedback isn’t only part of formal diving education. If you regularly dive with a buddy or a group of friends whose opinion you trust and respect, you can devise ways of evaluating a dive so that each one of you learns about what went well and what could be done better.

The main risks associated with the feedback process consist of mistaking it for the need to criticise someone or the act of giving advice to those who haven’t asked for it. If you are interested in improving your performance via feedback, you are likely to ask someone for it and to expect a constructive review.

Courtesy: Jon Borg @jonborg

Bonus tip: Stay humble

When some divers gain a lot of experience and become highly competent, the temptation to sneer at those who aren’t yet at their level is very high. They seem to forget their own starting point and how long it took them to achieve perfect trim or an excellent air consumption rate. Even if you are a natural and progress very quickly to become an excellent diver, you must never lose sight of the fact that arrogance isn’t going to make people think more highly of you as a diver.

Some of the divers I admire the most are exceptionally skilled and yet incredibly humble. They make you feel that the sport you love is inclusive rather than elitist, and that what they know and can do is something you can acquire too. Moreover, their humility has also stopped them from becoming over-confident and averse to safety rules. It’s as if they have taken to heart the popular saying, ‘There are old divers and bold divers, but there are no old bold divers.’ They lead by example and make you realise that staying humble not only enables you to keep learning but even allows you to enjoy the sport safely.


Daniel Xerri is a trimix diver based in Malta. He holds a PhD in Education and works as a university lecturer and researcher. Follow him on Instagram @daniel.xerri


SDI Shallow Water Scuba Diver

SDI Scubility Diver Program

Non-Diving Specialty Instructor

SDI Master Scuba Diver

SDI Equipment Diver

ERDI Non-Diving Specialty Instructor

ERDI Underwater Crime Scene

This course is designed to provide information and hands on training to Certified Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T) officials, Coroners, Deputy Coroners, Certified Medical legal Investigators (ABMDI) and non-P.O.S.T. members to include; search and recovery dive personnel, rescue personnel who may respond to an in water evidence search or a water related drowning. Evidence search may include items of interest or cadavers.The purpose of the ERDI Underwater Crime Scene Investigations program is to provide necessary skills and knowledge in performing underwater crime scene investigations, preservation and proper documentation for court ready testimony.


After successful completion of the ERDI Underwater Crime Scene program, responders are expected to understand the constitution, responding, preparing the crime scene, death investigations, medical aspects, fingerprints, characteristics of bodies in water, recovery procedures, and court ready documentation.

Find an Instructor for this Course

Underwater Crime Scene Articles

Crime Scene Management and the Dive Team’s Role
Recovering Evidence at Depth

ERDI Testifying in Court

This awareness level course is designed to introduce the non-law enforcement public safety diver or team member to the court system and the requirements and techniques of presenting testimony in legal proceedings.The purpose of the ERDI Testifying in Court program is to provide insight into the requirements and techniques of presenting testimony in legal proceedings, provide insight into legal systems and how criminal legal processes work.


After successful completion of ERDI Testifying in Court program, the non-law enforcement public safety diver or team member will have a better understanding of the court system, how to present testimony and how to prepare for testimony as well.

Find an Instructor for this Course

Testifying in Court Articles

Are You Prepared to go to Court?

ERDI Swift Water Ops

This course is designed to provide information and hands on training to students / team members who may be called upon to respond to a swift water call where no water entry is practical or possible. This is defined by NFPA 1006/1670 guideline as “water moving at a rate greater than 1 knot.”Swift water is typically found in high hills, mountain areas or in flash flood areas designed for moving water away and represents water in a natural setting moving downhill. With large scale flooding now common in rural and urban environments, moving water may be swift and the need for safe and effective training programs are in demand.


The purpose of the ERDI Swift Water program is to provide necessary skills and knowledge in performing life saving operations in swift water, and the importance of understanding the dangers of moving water such as strainers and hydraulics.

After successful completion of the ERDI Swift Water Ops program, responders are expected to understand how to recognize the presence of hazardous conditions, protect themselves, secure the area, call for additional resources, activate an emergency plan, assess conditions and attempt a rescue.

Find an Instructor for this Course