When I originally certified in 2006, it was warm, it was clear, it was the Florida Springs. Once I finished college and moved back home to be closer to family, I learned real quick that diving wasn’t always 75 degrees and crystal clear. I do not claim to be the expert. There are way more experienced North East divers than myself. Regardless, I will share 10 things I’ve learned in my short six seasons of diving the area.
1. You have to expand your comfort zone.
My first thoughts at Dutch Springs were; why’s it so green? Why can’t I get off the bottom? Apparently, I thought all water was crystal clear and my dive skills would simply carry over to the new environment. Wrong. If a diver wants to get better, expand your comfort zone and try new things. If you’re unsure, try expanding your comfort zone under supervision by taking a class!
2. You have to build on your current skill set.
I’ve learned how to juggle multiple things at once underwater. Try running a wreck reel, aiming a light, and a spear gun all at the same time. The only way to get good at these things is to practice. It all sounds easy until you try and do it underwater and with gloves on.
3. Have confidence in your life support equipment.
Personally, I always suggest investing in high quality regulators. It’s not sporting equipment, it’s life support. What’s your life worth to you? Spring for the high-quality regulators and have confidence that you’re diving the best.
4. The importance of having the right equipment.
Once again, getting the cheapest isn’t always the best. I’ve fought with reels that “bird nest” themselves just by looking at them. I’ve seen the old school lights that are big, heavy, and take 10 C-batteries to power them. It’s 2020. It’s time to upgrade. To each their own, but I prefer quality, smaller, and brighter. Look at more user-friendly options as well, especially when gloves are being worn.
5. Take it slow.
I’m famous for some very slow descents on my first dive of the day. If I’m unfamiliar with the dive site, I tend to take it slow, get a lay of the land, and really pay attention to my surroundings. I find the second dive to be easier and will try to expand upon the first dive performed.
6. Be honest with your buddies.
Tell them what kind of dive YOU want to do. Tell them what sort of buddy you want them to be for YOUR comfort. Tell them if you want them to move slow and not swim off. This is not suggesting you need babysitting; however, some buddies are known for splashing and disappearing or never checking in on you. It’s a sinking feeling when you look back and they’re gone. Tell them what your plan and goals are for the dive. If they have something else in mind, you may want to find a different buddy.
7. Expand your dive possibilities.
If you’re limited to warm water only and live in the north east, you’ll never dive unless on vacation. Expand your possibilities and try out a drysuit or give the heavy wetsuit a chance. Try it more than one time before deciding that it’s not for you! Whatever it is, any chance to get in the water is another possibility to try something new.
8. Learn something new on every dive.
I’ve learned I can talk myself out of slight panic. I’ve learned how to dive with a gun, bag, reel, and light while avoiding getting caught on anything. I’ve learned the importance of running a wreck reel and carrying a surface marker buoy. I’ve learned how to hunt lobster and fish. I’ve learned how to get back on the boat with fins on and carrying doubles. Every day is a day to learn something new in diving.
9. Bring your friends.
My first few seasons off New Jersey, I would have never brought new buddies. Now, I try and introduce new people to the scene each season. I want people to experience what the North East has to offer. Confidence in my own dive skills have helped other people get their feet wet.
10. Nobody else cares.
No matter what level of diving you are, personal goals, where you dive or how often you do, nobody else cares. Gloating doesn’t make you a better diver than me. Diving off of New Jersey doesn’t make me a better diver than you. All dive experiences are stepping stones to becoming a better diver. Stop comparing resumes. Get in the water and have fun.
Expand your dive horizons and build confidence by mixing up your dive locations. Nobody learns anything by taking the easy way out. You might end up enjoying it more than the usual, old routine.
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