Here are a few items you can include in your logbook to help you stay organized and honest, track progress, and work on self-improvement as a diver.
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.
This article will discuss 3 mistakes that are common for new divers, how to avoid them, and how an experienced diver could easily end up making the same mistake..
by Lauren Kieren:
Picture a clear sky, slight breeze, warm sun beating down on flat calm seas, and limitless visibility underwater… What could make this picture perfect dive day go from fantastic to terrible? Having to skip out on a dive! If you are a new diver or this is your first dive of the season – there are a few Do’s and Don’ts to consider before taking a giant stride in and having to skip out on a dive. This list by no means covers every item to consider, but it’s a good head start to diving back in.
To start, don’t compare scuba diving to riding a bicycle. We all know the saying, “if you don’t use it – you lose it,” the saying applies to diving as well. Regardless of how many certification cards are in your wallet or how many dives you have logged, after a period of inactivity, your skills will diminish over time.
Do participate in a SDI Inactive Diver or refresher course if you have not been diving within the past 12 months. It’s better to go through a tune up in a pool or confined open water setting under the guidance of an active dive professional versus trying to figure everything out during your initial descent.
Don’t forget your certification card while prepping for your dive trip. Nothing is worse than having your gear packed while you’re getting excited for the dive, and you get turned away during check in for not bringing your certification card. If this happens and the location has internet access, you can verify your SDI Certification online without missing the dive and order a replacement card.
Do check in early for your dive trip. You might be able to pick the best spot on the boat or find an empty bench if you’re shore diving. Allow yourself some time to set up your gear without rushing and verify all of your equipment is on, functioning, and ready to dive.
Don’t be “that guy” (or gal) on the dive boat or at the shore site with a suit case full of scuba equipment exploding all over the place. This can cause people to trip over it and it can be invasive to their personal space to set up.
Do make a checklist of necessary dive equipment for the day, lay everything out before packing it, and only bring what you need. If you are diving off a boat, store your empty gear bag under the bench and be attentive to keeping your equipment streamlined and confined to your space.
Don’t get yourself in trouble or put yourself at unnecessary risk of Decompression Sickness (DCS) by not paying attention to your personal dive computer (PDC). Don’t be “that guy” (or gal) who ends up back on the dive boat or shore location with a screaming dive computer sounding like a fire truck coming down the road.
Do keep an eye on your PDC and pressure gauge during the dive. In addition to your depth, time, no decompression limits, and air consumption rate. Get to know the functions of your computer and learn how to read the displays before making the dive. Take the proactive approach to safety in the water and be aware of your limitations. Your first dive of the season or after a period of inactivity can go by very quick! Pay close attention as the time may sneak up on you.
Don’t ascend faster than your bubbles.
Do CYA… Computerize Your Ascent. Your dive computer is a necessary piece of equipment; no different than your mask and fins. It’s a fantastic tool to utilize to enhance the safety of your dives. During your ascent, pay close attention to your computer. Most modern day computers have an ascent alarm to warn you if you’re going up too fast. If your computer does not have an ascent alarm, watch your depth and time to ascend no faster than 18M / 60FT per minute.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun! Do give us a call or send an e-mail to tell us about your dives. While we’re stuck in the office, we want to hear about your fun, exciting experience underwater!
Did you like these condensed Do’s and Don’ts for your first dive back in? Feel free to pass these on to your dive buddies and share it on Social Media. If there are specific Do’s and Don’ts you want to see, let us know in the comment section below. We will continue to add more Do’s and Don’ts lists in the future so keep an eye out for the next round to come!
by Joshua Norris:
At any given point throughout the day, there is a dive shop employee hearing a story that is repeated time and time again. An individual will walk in or call and start a conversation by explaining “I used to dive all the time but then ______________ happened and now…” The reasons usually revolve around some sort of life change. It could be a divorce, prolonged sickness or injury, or a new addition to the family. No matter what the reason is, the fact remains that the diver has been dry too long and now wants to return to the sport they love. How can this be done safely? Divers should know that leaving their gear and knowledge hanging in the closet or garage for ten years equates to needing some sort of an update. Sadly, this is not the case in many instances. Needing to update or at least service your equipment is arguably the least of your worries. Having the ability to dive with confidence is something that perhaps has been lost during a diver’s time off. With the SDI Inactive Diver Course, an individual has the opportunity to ask all of those “embarrassing” questions that they may not otherwise get to once on a boat.
What is the SDI Inactive Diver Course?
This course is designed for individuals who feel the need to reinforce their skills and knowledge prior to scheduling a dive. Spending time with an instructor in a contained and monitored environment allows a diver to slowly remind themselves of what diving is like instead of jumping right back into the water and realizing their comfort level has diminished. The course begins with a reintroduction to the knowledge side of diving. The instructor will take time to bring the student up to speed with current standards and practices. From there, the student will conduct a dive under the supervision of the instructor in a controlled environment. During this dive, the student will perform the open water skills. The goal of the course is to make the diver who may question themselves into the diver who knows the answers.
So how long is too long out of the water?
There is no magic switch that will force a diver to become uncomfortable in the water after “X” amount of time. How long someone is out of diving does not dictate when the Inactive Diver Course should be completed. The comfort level of the individual in the water does. It is ultimately the responsibility of the diver to inform a dive professional if they are not 100% confident in their skills and knowledge prior to diving again. Without this information, the dive professional cannot and should not assume that someone will have issues in the water while others will not. To minimize the chance of having an incident, the diver should go through the course if they feel the slightest need. In essence, if you are questioning yourself then you need to entertain the idea of participating in the Inactive Diver Program. It is an easy way to regain confidence.
When a diver stays out of the water too long, skills begin to deteriorate and comfort levels start to fade. Going through the SDI Inactive Diver Course is the best way to refresh those skills. This is especially true if the diver is coming back from an injury of some sort. While the body may feel better, the way in which one dives could be impacted. Once the diver is comfortable and confident, the anxiety and hesitation should fade away. At that point, the diver can begin to remind his or herself why he or she got into this sport to begin with. It is important to remember that meeting people from all walks of life is one of the diving industry’s unique offerings, on a single dive boat there may be a range of individuals – from heart surgeons to cash-strapped college students. The SDI Inactive Diver Course leaves you no excuse for missing diving.
Air Hogs SCUBA
Among the constant surprises that accompany the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new dive season are the number of divers who seem totally unprepared to dive!
Most of us – especially those who live in places where winter temperatures dip below “I’m comfortable standing outside dressed in a light hoodie and long pants” – take some sort of hiatus from regular diving during the cooler months. While it’s perfectly fine to drop out of the groove for a few weeks or even a few months, a common mistake seems to be thinking that a break like this does not have any effect on our abilities. Simply put, it’s unrealistic to think we can pick up the pace and intensity exactly where we left off.
While it may be a little late to suggest a New Year’s Resolution, perhaps it’s a good time to think seriously about making a few New Dive Season Resolutions. Here are some suggestions of what to add to your list.
Your first resolution should be to start the new season in better physical shape and a positive frame of mind.
It’s said that to be successful at technical diving we have to balance the physical aspects of the sport with the mental challenges that go along with them. So it follows that any “workout” regimen that exercises both will have its benefits.
A good starting point is to get an all clear for diving from your family doctor. The Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) recommends that divers get an annual physical from a health professional familiar with the rigors of diving and diving medicine. This may be a tall order for the rank and file, but it is a good plan to tell your doctor or nurse practitioner (or whoever is running your tests for you) the type of activities your diving entails. This will include lifting heavy gear, swimming against high flow and current, cold, sun, etc.
DAN medics are constantly researching ways to keep divers a little safer; one study being carried out in Europe is worth noting, especially for those of us with a few miles on our treads.
As we age, one ‘side-effect’ is that our blood vessels become less elastic. This is thought to be a factor in several issues including heart disease. Diving, and the resultant increase in nitrogen partial pressure, also has a temporary effect on the elasticity of a diver’s blood vessels, similar to the aging process. Therefore, diving – especially deep diving — may exacerbate any pre-existing health condition related to this issue. While there’s a fair amount of speculation informing the advice, it seems like a great additional check for those with either a pre-existing condition, a high-risk profile, or those who are simply older, to have some form of stress test to help identify any factors that might come into play while participating in technical dives.
Of course, an active lifestyle, regular exercise and a health-conscious diet all help to keep us in shape for diving, especially when local conditions make it hard to keep our fins wet for weeks or months at a time.
Any aerobic activity is recommended (given the OK from your doctor), but certainly one of the best is swimming. Most divers enjoy the water – now that’s not a surprise, is it? – and many find that a regular date at the local pool helps to maintain and increase cardio-vascular fitness. Pool time is also invaluable to work on scuba skills. Check to see if your local SDI/TDI facility opens its pool to customers or dive club members during the less active dive months, or if there are club dates for the local municipal pool; even a couple of hours in the water can help keep skills “game ready.”
Maintaining mental “match fitness” may sound a little more challenging, but staying physically active is something recommended by the medical profession. Of course, one of the mental challenges divers have to be ready and “in shape” for is staying focused and coming up with the right solution – or at the very least a workable one – when something hits the fan at depth. We can simulate this type of event – which seems to help when the real thing rears its ugly head – but when we are not actually diving, what’s a viable alternative?
The role and positive contribution of “targeted visualization” to help competitive athletes in this regard is widely accepted, and although technical diving is not an Olympic sport, we can certainly gain some pointers from pro sportsmen and women.
Visualization coupled with familiarity with our kit really does help maintain a mental edge. Sitting on the sofa watching TV while doing regulator switches and practicing bailout procedures might get you locked up in some states – or at least locked out of the bedroom if your significant other is a non-diver – however, several well-known technical instructors swear by the benefits of “dry-land role playing” during inactive and active dive periods. The thinking is that it helps to maintain muscle memory and a deep, lasting familiarity with the configuration and position of one’s kit. All of which may help to sway the outcome in the diver’s favor when something fails at depth.
Speaking of equipment and failure, one of the most useful things to do to get ready for the upcoming season is to make the effort to maintain and prepare every piece of kit in your dive locker while there’s some slack time.
In addition to making arrangements for tanks, regulators, and anything else that requires at least an annual check by a factory certified or qualified tech, this is a great time to cast a critical eye over every o-ring, hose, valve and connector on your rig (even cave line, cable ties and the like need replacing occasionally). Replace anything that looks worse for wear, lubricate everything that needs it, and get the voltmeter out to check on batteries and fuel cells to find out how well they’ve done on their holidays.
Finally, if you do not currently use a checklist to help your gear assembly, gear packing, and pre-dive procedures, consider developing one, or download ours here >SDI-Diver-Checklist. The value of a physical checklist to aid CCR divers has been well-documented and well-promoted following Rebreather Forum 3.0 held in Orlando last May, and now several technical diving professionals are calling for open-circuit divers to follow suit.
The TDI pre-dive check, START*, goes part-way to meeting a basic need, but there is value in creating a personal checklist for packing and assembly now during a dry spell to help eliminate that sinking feeling when you arrive at a dive site missing a vital piece of kit. Even something as simple as making a note of the basic hand-signals used in technical diving, and having that as a printout to share with your buddies, would be a smart move.
A smart man once said that the secrets to success are to Plan, to Organize, to Check and Check Again. And as simple as that may sound, it’s a great policy to adopt if you’re looking for the simplest way to get yourself and your kit ready to take advantage of what looks like the best year ever for great diving.
Dive safe and dive often!
*START is an acronym developed by TDI to remind divers to check: S-DRILL including a check to make sure that ALL regulators and inflators work, no hoses are trapped, everything is connected, and there are no bubbles where bubbles do not belong; TEAM, which is about team readiness and understanding of the full dive plan; AIR, which means gas volumes, gas limits and gas toxicity have all been taken into account; ROUTE, which is not just a call to identify safe entry and exit points, but also to plan the dive around a series of waypoints to help keep it on course; and TIME, which is a final check on the dive and ascent schedule as well as contingencies.
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