10 Training Tips for Newly Certified Divers
by Jesse Iacono:
Hello, and welcome to the world of diving! Regardless of how new you are to the sport, I’m sure there are some questions that are still running through your mind. Your open water course just can’t cover everything there is to know and I’m here to provide a few answers. I have seen numerous “10 tips for the new diver” articles on the web and can’t help but notice that they all are very useful, but incredibly similar.
Here are my 10 not so typical tips for the recently certified. They have been developed through my experiences as an instructor in the field, numerous conversations with other instructors, and, most importantly, the polling of divers at many levels as to which topics were the most elusive to them.
- Purchases – Buy a computer first.
Once you are certified, you will want to start considering which gear to own. I would highly recommend looking to a personal dive computer as your first investment. Dive computers have become extremely affordable and are your best friend in dive safety! Additionally, with their small size, they are a breeze to travel with and having your own guarantees that you will be diving with a unit that you understand how to use. Also, in many locations, an array of dive gear will be available for rental, but unfortunately computers often don’t make the list.
- Skills – Show your compass some love.
Compass navigation is an integral skill for divers of every level. Unfortunately, this skill is often only briefly touched on in many open water courses. Don’t wait until your navigation specialty course to become familiar with your compass! Take a compass with you on every dive and pay attention to which directions you are going and which directions landmarks are in. They can seem like an intimidating piece of equipment at first, but don’t overthink it; use basic directional headings to gain your bearings and ensure you are swimming in the right direction. Try carrying it around with you on land too for some extra practice.
- Mindset – The best dive is the one you come home from.
This phrase has always resonated with me. It may sound pretty dire at first listen, but it is a blaring truth for all levels of diving. Let’s look at the reality of things; we are entering an environment in which we are not naturally adapted to in any way. Without our equipment, we cannot effectively see, move, or breathe! The phrase is not here to scare you, but to remind you to respect the foreign environment you are entering, keep up with your training and gear, and never fall victim to the “justs” – It’s not JUST a 20 foot dive, it’s not JUST a small equipment malfunction, it’s not JUST this once. Falling into these habits on the smaller dives increases the likelihood of being okay with poor practices on the bigger dives. At the end of the day, no dive is worth losing your life over. We’re all in it for the enjoyment of this wonderful sport, so let’s keep it happy and healthy.
- Continuing Education – Log your damn dives!
This is one of my personal pet peeves and a habit that needs to be formed from the beginning. If you have not logged all of your dives at this point in time, then go get your logbook right now and make it current; you are not allowed to continue reading until it is done!
Updated? Perfect, let’s continue! Keeping an accurate and up-to-date logbook posts many benefits for the diver, especially in the earlier stages of diving. One of the most important benefits is proving experience. Many of the courses that you will participate in will require a certain amount of experience to be shown before starting the course. Without your logbook as verification, you are as good as freshly certified. So please, for heaven’s sake, LOG YOUR DIVES!
- Community – Get involved and pay attention to other divers.
As nasty as we can seem to each other online sometimes, most divers are pretty friendly people when they aren’t behind the keyboard! Diving is very much community based and, once you are in, it really is an awesome community to be a part of! Divers are usually very passionate about what they do (which is where some occasional tension can come from), but in every diver’s heart lies the desire to see the sport grow and witness the spark of scuba in a new diver turn into an unstoppable wildfire. One of the best ways to enhance your diving experience is to join your local gatherings of divers and absorb everything you can from them. Becoming a great diver is all about experience and unfortunately you lack that right now. Take full advantage of what the community is willing to pass on and you will certainly thrive while making some great friends along the way.
- Preparedness – Always check your gear.
Create a checklist, don’t wait until the last minute, do it yourself, check it at home, and check it again before the dive. I have witnessed countless missed dives, close calls, and issues underwater by students and professionals alike resulting from ill-preparedness. Unfortunately, it took a scare to make many of these individuals realize the importance of being thorough with their equipment. When we place so much reliance on our equipment, it is paramount that it is functioning properly and that all of it makes it to the dive site!
- Moving Forward – You don’t have to be perfect, but be mindful.
You are a new diver, everyone knows it, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody is going to expect you to be a pro right off the bat. Experience must be built, questions asked, and mistakes made. Never fear judgment for taking some extra time or needing clarification on a topic. The important thing to remember is to be mindful of your skill level and never lose the desire to improve! Continuing education and keeping an honest eye on your own performance will lead you to success!
- Reality – Your buoyancy sucks.
It just does. Don’t take it personal, so did mine. In fact, I didn’t even start to really understand what neutral buoyancy was until I had close to 50 dives under my belt. Even if you are starting to get it much sooner than I was (which you probably are), don’t ever forget that great buoyancy is a habit, not a skill. It requires constant monitoring and practice and is NEVER absolutely perfect. Remember, neutral buoyancy is about more than looking like a total boss in the water; it poses many benefits to the diver and the environment. It doesn’t have to be all business either; have some fun with it! Grab a buddy and play some skill building games or get in front of a camera to pinpoint which areas need improvement. Whatever method you choose, keep up with it – it is worth the work!
- Lifestyle – Pump the breaks, assuming that you remember how to use them.
Diving is a culmination of skills that should be mastered and maintained, not a checklist to be blown through. As a new diver, you probably want to take every course available and move up to the advanced levels as soon as possible. I whole-heartedly encourage you to do so, but keep in mind that each course you take relies on the understanding of any prerequisite courses. Take the time to give more practice to what you have already learned before advancing. Having a thorough understanding of the basics ensures comfort in the water and that they are second nature when you start becoming task loaded or run into a sticky situation.
- Computers –Understand your NDL.
The no decompression limit is one of the most important functions of your dive computer. It is the number that counts down throughout your dive and that you don’t want to hit zero! Exceeding your NDL will enter you into decompression diving – something that is much past your current level of training and can potentially put you at a significant risk. If you are uncertain of how and why it works, please seek further info or consult with an instructor before your next dive.