There are certain habits that scuba divers get taught on their entry level course that get discarded as ‘small, perhaps even insignificant, details’ as soon as we graduate from ‘Students’ to qualified divers. There could be many reasons why we chose not to follow these practices but their importance should not be forgotten.
That irritating tube that hangs uselessly on the left side of your mask. The clip is often awkward and gets stuck in long hair. It usually floats around with either the mouth-piece or splash guard at the top floating at the edge of your field of vision. Sometimes when there is a current it gets jogged by the water and moves the seal of your mask which leaves you to do 50 masks clears in as many minutes and surfacing with stinging eyes, red and puffy from the salt water.
There is a purpose for snorkels though. Perhaps the most obvious use is to do some snorkelling before a dive while waiting for other divers to get into the water, or afterwards to wait for the boat to come pick you up. They are especially handy to keep you from swallowing half the ocean when the surface is a bit choppy.
Snorkels are there to make you more comfortable on the surface. They are designed to keep you from being able to do skills such as donning or removing your weight belt and gear in the water with better ease.
Right hand release weight belts
Customers often tell me: “I wear my weight belt with a left hand release because I am left handed”. The real reason why divers wear their weight belts with a right-hand release is to standardise it. In an emergency your buddy might have to remove your weights for you. A consistent right hand release avoids confusion and saves time in a critical situation.
Checking your gear before you go on the boat
There is a thin line between providing outstanding customer service, and good, independent and responsible diver behaviour.
Many dive centres see preparing their customers’ gear for them as good service. And perhaps this is true. But while we are doing this, we are creating divers who become dependent on the dive staff to take responsibility for everything from putting baby shampoo in their masks, to setting up gear, and even to – quite literally – put the fins on their feet!
Keeping your mask on your face or around your neck
Usually the first thing that divers do upon reaching the surface, after removing their regulator, is to remove their mask. I used to do this all the time… until the first time that I lost a mask because of this. If you put your mask up onto your forehead you run the risk of it being knocked off by a wave. You also run the risk of someone mistaking you for a panicked diver and making an attempt at saving you. Now, if you have a particularly attractive dive master or instructor this might not be such a bad thing as rescue breathing is almost always necessary!
Divers often believe that being over weighted is better than not having enough. This is true up to a point. When doing a deep dive it is especially important that you can maintain your depth for the safety stop at 5 meters. While having enough weight to safely complete your safety stop it is equally important not to be too over weighted. Adding more weight to get you down and keep you down leads to a less efficient and streamlined diving position. There are a number of ways to descend easier instead of adding more weight to your weight system.
Diving is kind of like riding a bike. Once you are on it, and you’ve gained some kind of momentum, the muscle memory returns and it starts to feel natural (or at the very least somewhat comfortable) again.
Refreshers are important to help you become comfortable in the water again. If you haven’t dived for a while it is a good idea to get a refresher to remind you of the important dive theory and how to do the most common skills. Like I mentioned this makes you more comfortable in the water. By doing a refresher you don’t end up spending the first 20 minutes of your dive getting used to breathing through your regulator again or playing around with your buoyancy. It makes your whole dive more relaxed and leaves you to focus on why you are diving: to look at fish and have fun!
*A version of this article first appeared at www.scubadiverlife.com