Before You Get In the Water, Remember These Scuba Tips
Interested in becoming a certified scuba diver? Bird’s Underwater can help! Contact our office at 352-563-2763 to speak with one of our expert dive instructors who can start you on an exciting new path of underwater exploration.
BEFORE YOU DIVE:
Check and double-check your gear
This goes for your equipment as well as your dive buddy’s. Inspect your BCD, make sure your tank’s secure, no hoses will get snagged, and be certain your air is turned on and flowing properly. Then do the same safety check for your dive partner.
Test out your equipment first
Excited about a new piece of gear? Try it out in a controlled environment first. A swimming pool is a perfect place to familiarize yourself with a newly-purchased piece of gear like a BCD or dive computer. Once you’re comfortable with the tech, then feel free to bring it on your next open water dive.
Plan your dive; dive your plan
The more details you know coming in to your dive, the better prepared you’ll be. Know exactly where you’ll be diving, as well as any unique hazards or topographical quirks, plus how long you’ll be underwater and how deep you plan to dive. Then stick to that plan. Staying inside your comfort zone is very important.
Always dive with a buddy
Never dive alone. Ideally, you’ll want to partner with someone you know and trust. But that’s not always possible while on vacation, especially if you’re traveling by yourself. Try to choose someone that has some experience with the conditions you will be dealing with and has been in the water recently. Having a card doesn’t mean you have the skill.
Practice skills and emergency situations
If you haven’t been in the water for a while, it’s smart to brush up on the basics. PADI recommends a refresher course if it’s been six months or longer. More involved emergency skills like CESA or CPR should also be practiced regularly. Better to have the knowledge and never need it than need it in a real emergency situation and be at a loss.
Don’t dive while sick
Scuba diving requires your sinuses to be in peak working condition. If they’re not, it can mess with your equilibrium and internal pressurization. So if you’re sick with a head cold, you should cancel the dive. Hungover from the night before? Cancel the dive. Allergies acting up? Cancel the dive. Coughing fits or a fever? Cancel the dive. Do you see a pattern developing?
DURING YOUR DIVE
Never hold your breath
You want slow, regular breaths at all times. When you’re new to diving, breathing underwater can seem unnatural. Your body reflexively wants to hold a breath. Any air that’s trapped in your lungs, however, will expand or contract depending on whether you’re going deeper or headed toward the surface. That’s a huge safety risk you need to avoid.
Equalize pressure often
This is something you should do regularly, like checking your air gauge (or reminding yourself to breathe). Equalizing pressure in your ears and sinuses is easy: pinch your nose between your fingers and blow gently. It’s just like popping your ears while on a plane ride. Barotrauma to the inner ears is the number one diving injury, and it’s easily avoidable. Remember, early and often.
Descend slowly, and ascend even slower
Slowly ascend from every dive is the common advice. And don’t forget your safety stop. A slow ascent is like a rolling safety stop. The longer it takes you to come up, the more time your body has to scrub out any excess nitrogen. The three minute stop at fifteen feet also gives you time to take a mental note of the dive and how you’ll get back on the boat.
Look but don’t touch
Scuba diving is about seeing, not touching. If a curious fish or other animal swims by, curb the impulse to reach out and touch it. The same is equally true for wreck dives or reef dives. The underwater environment is very fragile; direct human interaction is nearly always harmful. Be mindful with your equipment too. Be careful that your gear won’t catch on anything, for example, or an errant kick from your fins doesn’t drag through a delicate coral reef.
Don’t dive outside your comfort zone
Again, something to discuss with your dive buddy prior to getting in the water. Make sure you’re both comfortable with the dive plan you’ve mapped out. Don’t give in to peer pressure if that means going outside your comfort zone. Don’t want to dive below 150 feet? Be clear about that. Does the thought of cave diving make you uneasy? Bring that up beforehand. Dive within the skillset you possess; over time, as your skills expand, that zone of comfort will naturally grow too.
Remember the rule of thirds
You’ll want to divide your air reserves into thirds. Use one-third during arrival to your point of interest, plus another one-third on the return trip to the starting point. Keep the remaining one-third still in your tank as a backup in case of emergency.
AFTER YOUR DIVE
Log your dive details
Preferably the day of your dive, while the details are freshest. Make sure to log particulars in your dive journal: location, depth, length of dive, water conditions, visibility, etc. Nowadays you can use any number of apps or websites like ScubaEarth or DiveMate if you prefer a digital journal to an ink and paper one. Remember to include anything that might change your weighting. The thickness of your suit, tank material, fresh to salt water, all these things will make a difference in the amount of weight you’ll need to get down.
Take care of your gear
Wash your BCD, your wetsuit and other gear afterward. Wash it with baby shampoo, Woolite, Dreft or any other MILD cleaner and rinse it with warm freshwater. This is especially important if you’ve been diving in seawater, as salt will corrode your equipment. Don’t pack away your gear while it’s damp, it will mildew and crystalized salt will be like little pieces of glass grinding away at the fibers of your expensive equipment.
Don’t fly for 18 hours
Should you be travel diving, remember not to dive the day before getting on an airplane. Leave the last day of your vacation for sightseeing. Your body needs at least eighteen hours to fully scrub any remaining nitrogen in your system.
This is a pretty simplistic list, to jog the memory of some of you that might have been out of the water for a time. For you non divers, this might look like something that you would be interested in learning more about. Feel free to call the shop at: 352-563-2763 or email us at: bird@birdsunderwater for more information.