So you have jumped on the scuba diving band wagon and have fallen in love. Congratulations, and welcome to the beautiful world of scuba diving! You have had your first breaths underwater and you’re hooked! Every instructor and Divemaster have started where you are now. We all have to start somewhere, right? An initial spark of interest in scuba diving can lead to a lifetime passion. We have compiled some tips and advice for you to use as a reference as you embark on your new journey into the scuba diving world.
1. Go Slow
Relax and enjoy the experience. It’s not a race to be faster then everyone else, move slowly and take in your surroundings. You will notice that your air consumption will decrease if you relax and take it easy. Add air to your BCD in small increments, wait a few seconds, and see how the air you have added changes your buoyancy. Add a few more puffs, take a few breaths and reassess. Remember, you don’t need to add air to your BCD to ascend, use your fins instead and slowly release expanding air.
2. Air Hog? Want Better Air Consumption?
The answer to your questions - log more dives. It is as simple as that. It’s natural to breathe more and consume more air when you are a new diver; the more excited and nervous a diver is, the more air they will inhale. This is normal and happens to most people new to the sport. The good news is, your air consumption will improve and it’s important not to get to discouraged. As you gain more experience, you will become more comfortable with your gear, and develop better buoyancy control. And it will become second nature after a while! Think about when you first started driving as a teenager -- you may have had a similar experience.
3. Don’t be peer pressured.
Taking up scuba diving should be exciting and stimulating, and it is a great way to push your personal boundaries. While you’ll want to embrace new experiences in diving, don’t allow others to pressure you into doing something that doesn’t feel right. Any diver can call off any dive for any reason, no questions asked. Respect the fact that sometimes it is not safe to dive, and there will be times when you need to call a dive. Also remember that if something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. Trust your gut.
4. Get a well- fitted mask.
You might not think it’s a big deal, but I can assure you that the biggest diver complaint is a leaky and uncomfortable mask. The whole point of diving is to see underwater, right? If you are always having trouble with a leaking and/or foggy mask, it will distract you and impair your vision. Sometimes finding a well-fitting mask can be a hit or miss. Take the time to try on different kinds of masks, until you find the perfect one. Try on different masks in the pool and figure out which style is the right fit for you.
5. Control your weight.
Now I’m not telling you to go on a diet here, we are talking about the weight in (or on) your weight system. It is commonplace for new divers to overweight themselves, which will in turn make your diving experience a lot more difficult. Take the time to experiment and fine tune your weighting. The payoff is neutral buoyancy throughout your dive. Neutral buoyancy is the sweet spot, the holy grail of being a good diver. Once you find that sweet spot, everything seems to come together. Come to a Monday night pool session and experiment with different weights. When you find that perfect weighting and have achieved neutral buoyancy, it will keep you from bumping into reefs, help with controlled descents, reduce the risk of ear injuries, and also improve your air consumption dramatically.
6. Equalize Early & Often.
Another common complaint in new divers is ear discomfort when descending. If you descend faster than your ability to equalize, you will put yourself at risk for an ear injury. Use a descent line to help gauge your speed. The moment you feel any discomfort, stop and go back up a little bit, until you can equalize and you no longer feel discomfort. Do not keep going and hope the pain will go away – IT WON’T. If you really can’t equalize, it is time to signal your buddy and call the dive. Only continue when you can equalize the pressure in your ears. Pushing your ears past their limit can cause serious injury and it is not worth the risk.
7. Keep Diving – Continue Your Education
Practice, practice, practice, and log more dives. Just like any new hobby, practice is the key to mastering a skill. Every minute you spend underwater, you are becoming a more experienced diver. With every dive you will learn something new, see something different and experience new environments. A great way to improve your skills is to enroll in the PADI Advanced Open Water Course, which is the next step up from PADI Open Water Diver. The PADI Advanced Course involves theory and 5 dives, each dive introducing you to different specialties. Some options include: deep, navigation, wreck, night, boat, and peak performance buoyancy dives, and there are many more that might spark your interest. The PADI Advance Open Water also lets you go deeper (to 100ft/30m), which lets you experience deeper wrecks and environments.
And there you have it newbies! You are well on your way to becoming experienced divers! We all start from the bottom, we all get nervous sometimes, and we are not all perfect divers. Every diver has strengths and weaknesses, like most things in life. The best advice I can give you is to practice your little heart out, find your perfect weight balance, and move up in the diving world. Diving should be fun and exhilarating, not stressful. Unlike most activities, diving brings a whole different level of benefits. Which form of exercise lets you swim with sharks? What other hobby lets you explore a 100 year old ship wreck? None that I can think of!
Safe & Happy Diving!