Things Divers Should Never Do
by: Dr. Thomas Powell
In the world of scuba diving, everyone has thoughts and opinions about what divers should or should not do every time they hit the water. Sometimes these opinions are based on experience and education. On other occasions, these opinions may be based on hearsay developed from online reading, dive boat scuttlebutt, and even fear. The reality is that scuba diving is largely a sport based upon common sense. For this reason, the following are sensible suggestions of things divers should never do, based entirely on common sense.
Never neglect your equipment!
Diving is an equipment-intensive sport. We as humans do not naturally breathe in the underwater realm, but it is amazing how many divers do not clean, care for, service, or even perform pre-dive checks on their equipment. Scuba equipment is designed and employed to keep a diver alive underwater. When we head to the water, we need to prepare our equipment to dive, and then work with a buddy or perform an independent equipment check. If valves are leaking or O-rings are faulty, we need to fix these issues before we enter the water. Following a dive, we need to remember to clean and store our equipment where it is safe and protected. Factors such as extreme temperatures can ruin seals, soft products, and even the O-rings in our life support gear. Finally, we need to pull the gear out on occasion to make sure everything works. If things are faulty, we do not want to find the problem right before we hope to head to the water. This is why proper service and maintenance are critical. Remember to swing by your local dive shop when the time is right and make sure everything is functional and up to date. We want to have fun diving, not deal with life-threatening issues. Your gear allows you to participate in the sport, why would you not want it to be in top shape?
Never dive outside of your comfort zone or beyond your limits!
We have all heard this one many times. Every training agency teaches the concept that divers should always dive only within the scope of an individual’s personal training, experience, and comfort level. The honest truth is that this is why training exists. Over many years, forerunners of the dive industry took risks and made educational leaps that the rest of us get to avoid. The knowledge of the past has led to the development of training programs that allow divers to advance through various skill sets at a comfortable and sensible pace. The reality is that we dive to have fun. Unnecessary risks do nothing but hinder the enjoyment of scuba diving. If we want to try something new in any activity, the best method is to find someone with experience who can teach us how to safely enjoy ourselves. Diving is the same way. If you feel you are not prepared to perform a dive, then do not partake in the dive. If you wish to try the type of diving that concerns you, take the leap with a dive professional who can guide you and help keep you safe while you try something new. The worst place to realize you have made a mistake is when you have gone too deep or penetrated too far with no ability to plan an emergency recovery, with no one there to assist you in a proper fashion. Dive training classes are designed to let you work through problems, fix issues, and recover yourself all while under the watchful eye of a professional educator.
When you feel bad or just “aren’t feeling the dive,” call the dive!
We always hear of divers who joke about diving when they feel bad. The diver may have been hung over, sick, or just emotional. Each of these factors hinders enjoyment underwater. If you are physically ill, you need to take time to recover before you get wet. Why push yourself and risk dealing with other physiological problems underwater? Similarly, if your head is not in the dive because you are worried or too emotional, you immediately elevate your personal risk factors. Will you remember to monitor your computer? Will you keep an eye on your buddy? Too many people often feel they paid for boat time or the chance to be near the water, and they choose to dive even though they are not physically ready for the dive. We always have tomorrow. Enjoy the underwater world when you feel better. Otherwise, how much enjoyment can you really be having if you are miserable?
Unless you are diving prototype equipment or in a location untouched by man, there are few occasions when you will ever find yourself performing a dive or type of dive that has not already been performed by someone else. In scuba diving, we are taught to plan our dives in advance, carry the proper equipment, and partake in training essential for the types of diving we do. Despite these factors, there are many occasions when a diver may find his or herself making an assumption. If you have a family member in the hospital, are you ok with the idea that medical staff members will just assume someone else gave your loved one his or her medication? What if that medication is critical to life support? Apply this concept to scuba diving. If your child is diving with you, are you comfortable if they just assume that following you is the correct plan of action? Or would you prefer your child understand the dive and how to get back to the surface if a problem arises or if you can no longer provide help? Do not make assumptions about diving. We carry equipment that tells us how much gas we have and how long we can remain at certain depths. When these data-providing instruments fail, we are taught to call the dive and ascend. If we are unclear about what is going on, call the dive and discuss your concerns back on dry land. You can always perform the dive again later. If you are a new diver making assumptions, this only leads to habits that must be broken later, or they could cause life-threatening problems. Again, do you think divers who explore new cave systems make assumptions and shoot from the hip? Or do you think they plan for every factor possible and dive within limits that allow them to bailout if needed? In many cases, dives of this type may require days of preparation with preceding dives, but these are the steps needed to avoid unnecessary risks and basic assumption about what might happen underwater. As you progress through levels of training, remember to be clear about what you are learning, how to handle problems, and how to gather and use critical information as needed. If you do not learn these concepts at each level of dive education, fixing problems may only become more dangerous as you progress further into scuba diving.
So we have discussed caring for our equipment on all levels, diving within our limits, diving when we are physically prepared, and avoiding assumption. Each of these concepts is very basic and can be derived from any common open water course. The reality is that many of us get comfortable and complacent with years of diving. Sometimes, things like training can even be used to bring old divers back into focus by reinforcing safe habits that have slipped by the wayside with time. In close, diving of any type is supposed to be fun. Even the divers who dive to explore, push limits, or reach goals choose to perform these tasks because they have a desire and a drive to do so. Many of the people who have been diving for the past 40 or 50 years can tell you about bad habits they have seen, what to avoid, and the things they will always do because not performing certain tasks caused friends to be lost. As a diver, take the time to listen to those with experience, but then employ some common sense. Be safe and maximize your potential fun underwater! Do not cut corners and always try to learn more so that you can better understand your sport.
Dr. Thomas Powell – Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC