When to take an Inactive/Refresher Course

by Dr. Thomas Powell:

Every day around the world, divers who have not been wet in a while get that urge. They desire to don the gear once again and venture back below the surface of the waves. This desire is often accompanied by a realization that it has been a while since that person hooked a regulator set onto a cylinder. For an individual who has not been diving in a while, the return to the water can be both exciting and nerve wracking. Anxiety and concern over what has been forgotten, or what may happen, can get to the nerves of anyone.

Refresher courses were designed for the diver who has taken a break, for whatever reason, for a long period between dives. The truth of the matter is that the skills we learn to use and perform underwater will deteriorate or get “rusty” if we do not practice. For this reason, a refresher course allows a diver to hit the pool with an instructor and walk back through those basic open water skills to make sure that the rust falls away and the diver regains confidence. A scuba certification from most certifying agencies lasts for a lifetime. This does not mean that standards do not require all scuba divers to remain proficient and capable of performing basic skill sets. A refresher course is just a practice period during which a diver is allowed to ask for little reminders while working with an instructor. This type of program helps get rid of any anxiety or concern, and allows a diver to have more fun. It is much easier to work through any worries in the pool with a dive professional when compared to dealing with any concerns after jumping off the back of a boat while on vacation.

When warm weather hits, divers often flock to dive shops and dive destinations ready to hop in the water. In many cases, these divers are confident that no knowledge has been lost during the winter months in regard to how to scuba dive. Despite this, we all know that a practice run placing our hands on equipment is often the best way to shake off any cobwebs. Shops in the United States often give the advice that if a person has not been diving in two years, then the person needs to entertain a refresher program. The reality is that a refresher program can have value for anyone. As a scuba diver, you should test yourself. Hand your old open water scuba diver manual to a friend and have that person ask you questions. What is an emergency swimming ascent and how is it performed? How fast should a diver ascend? What is the primary function of your regulator system? If these questions are hard to recall, or you are not quite sure of the answers, then perhaps a little time with an instructor is a good idea for the sake of safety. Conversely, if you own a scuba shop, a training group, or even a charter, take the time to test customers. Make the experience fun, but ask questions to see the quality of education that an individual has retained. Like before, if the questions are difficult to answer, perhaps it is time to offer a refresher program to the diver. Sometimes life happens and we do not get to focus on scuba diving for a while. When this happens, a refresher lets us jump start the move back into the sport we love.

Another thing that refresher programs bring to the table is knowledge regarding changes in equipment and techniques used by divers. If a person has been out of the sport for an extended period, a refresher program may allow an instructor to show new types of equipment, new teaching methods, and even share any new knowledge taught within the industry. Essentially, a diver may be brought “up to date” on how the sport has altered or become different.

A refresher program is a course that is available for any type of diver who simply needs to tune up skills and get ready for some fun safe underwater activities. A person should not put a time limit on refresher programs, but instead realize that sometimes we do get rusty on skill sets, or simply need a pair of eyes other than our own to help us get back “in the game.” Refresher programs are designed to be a practice period during which we can mess up and work to improve as needed. Activities such as this build confidence and reduce stress associated with trying to remember how we used to do things. Essentially, any time you think it might help or you have a little bit of anxiety, a refresher class will not hurt. Instead, it will better prepare you for the water, and help to maintain the excitement related to scuba adventures. Sometimes even the best need to take a moment and get things right when it has been a while since you last donned the gear. So, whether you have been diving for one year or many years, a refresher class may be something to consider.

– Dr. Thomas Powell – Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC

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