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Sunday, 12 June 2016

SCUBA DIVING- 5 Rookie Errors not just made by Newbies

Scuba Diving is something that, if you are reading this blog, I have to assume you are qualified to do or, at least, are interested in learning someday. From our first day of training, there are a number of things that we are told we must do if we want to stay safe while we are in the water doing what we love. 

Hopefully, we take this all in and we become great scuba divers but there are certain mistakes that are easy to make when we are Rookie Divers that can also affect those of us with lots of experience from doing this for years.

So, here are just 5 Rookie Errors that are not only made by beginners in Scuba.

1. Watching your Air Gauge

As a new diver, there is so much to think about while you get your buoyancy sorted, used to the regulator in your mouth and the mask on your face, finning correctly etc, that it can often be, just the gentle reminder of your instructor, Dive Guide or buddy asking what air you have left that causes you to  check that little life-safer, the SPG (Submersible Pressure Gauge).

The SPG is very very important because, like the fuel gauge in your car, it lets you know how much longer you can keep swimming underwater without running out of air.

Ok, so Newbies have an excuse, so what about the more experienced divers.

It can get to the point, especially if you are diving the same sites regularly that you have an idea of how much air you are using at any given point. In fact, if someone asked me my air at any given point on a dive, I could probably tell them to within 10 bar based on the dive time and dive profile. I wouldn't need to check the gauge... but I do!!

I could have a leak somewhere in my equipment that is causing me to lose air faster than I think I am using it!

Maybe, I am feeling a little tired or the under the weather and my consumption has gone up. Don't mock, it can be a considerable difference, especially if you pair it with a current or a buddy that you are trying to assist.

Bottom line is, you have the gauge for a reason. Don't guess your air, you should know what you have at all times to ensure you can ascend safely from every dive and don't get caught short.

2. Not making Buddy Checks

As a new diver, you are taught to make buddy checks before every dive you do. There are usually 3-5 steps depending on which agency you learn to dive with and you learn them by doing the checks over and over. Then, the training finishes and you start to dive and the guide no longer makes you do the checks while watching over you and your buddy just doesn't seem interested.

For the experienced Divers, I get it! You have done this enough and can check your own gear before you get in the water. You know how your own equipment works and those rental ones are always the same controls! 

I know I switched my air on before I got into my rig and I am ready to go, if you aren't?  Tough!!!

Buddy Checks are a great way to make sure you know exactly where everything is on your system and your buddy does too. In the event of an emergency, this could be the difference between life and death.

Alternate Air Sources and Weight Releases can vary quite drastically from one rig to another and if the stuff really hits the fan, do you want something so basic like not finding the weight release to be the reason an incident becomes an accident?

If nothing else, buddy checks have often helped to catch those times when cylinder valves haven't been opened, opened fully or re-closed by a well-meaning "checker" who didn't know which way to turn the valve.

3. Not Dropping Weights in an Emergency

This one gets me, as I have heard Dive Professionals say to their students that weights should only be dropped as a last resort since they are so expensive. This is certainly not a mantra that divers should die by.

If there is any kind of problem and you cannot get yourself buoyant, release the weights. If your diving buddy is having problems and you need to help get them buoyant, drop the weights.

6 kilos of lead (average diver) here in Cyprus costs around €30. You cannot be replaced so easily! So, if you need to drop the weights, even if you just aren't sure, let them go. Better safe than sorry!

4. Rushing

I see this from all level of divers at all points in diving.

Completing skill circuits with beginners and Dive Masters alike, rushing through a skill often means you miss a step and mistakes happen. Take a bit of time, it gives you the opportunity to think through what is coming next and likelihood is, you will nail it sooner.

The other way to ruin your diving by rushing is when preparing for the dive. 

I myself, have spent so much time rushing around helping other divers that I have driven all the way to Limassol to dive the wrecks and then realised I have left all my equipment here in Protaras. Thankfully, I was able to rent kit, otherwise that could have been very embarrassing and a total wash out for my divers.

Moral of the story is, when getting ready for a dive, no matter what level you are at, you need to take a bit of time (sometimes just 10 minutes is enough, sometimes it is just better to get as much as possible organised the night before) and concentrate on you. When you are certain that you are prepared and ready for the dive to come, you can help others and be more productive.

5. Task Overloading

Many Diving incidents are caused, not by equipment malfunction or bad planning but by creating stress underwater by doing too much all at once.

When we start teaching Technical Diving, one of the main points of the Dive Plan is to set an Objective or a Mission. This is so each member of the team knows what the point of this particular dive is. To do everything you want to achieve may take several dives but you have the time on each dive to do this properly and safely.

For beginners and experienced divers alike, one of the biggest causes of stress we see comes from diving with things like underwater Cameras. Even something as minimal as a GoPro can be too much for divers that aren't used to using them and may be diving with new kit in new environments that could also be challenging for them.

The best tip we can offer anyone who is Scuba Diving is the KISS principle.

Keep It Simple Stupid. 

If you are making changes to your rig, make them gradually or, if you have new equipment or have gone for the complete overhaul of your kit, start off shallow at a dive site with gentle conditions to minimise stress and task loading and panic.