Top 5 Mistakes New Divers Make (& how to avoid them!)
BUYING ALL THE WRONG GEAR
Doesn’t matter if its the cheapest or most expensive, if you purchased the same gear your instructor wears, if everything matches in your favorite color, if you bought it from your local store or online or you got one of those full face masks because that’s what they wear in 47meters down UGG! If you bought your gear straight after certification without any other experience dives or trying any other gear you may have bought all the wrong gear. Don’t be sad, it can happen to the best of us. We often look to our dive professionals and copy what they have. We assume they dive the best gear because well, they’re PROFESSIONALS, but that also means their gear is probably made for professionals, hard working, rugged gear that is easy to repair, breathes well under pressure and in all kinds of conditions and positions and that fits their body, style of diving and the general conditions they dive in. Take your time, try out different types of gear by renting gear from different shops, attending ‘try before you buy’ activities some shops or manufacturers offer or renting from different locations at home and on vacation. Either way the more time you spend diving the more you will come to understand what you need personally in the way of comfort fit for your bcd, type of weight storage, D-rings & pockets. With more experience you will learn if you are a slow and steady breather or an air sucker, do you tend to put your gear through a lot of rough dives and toss it around or are you very careful with your gear even treating your rental gear meticulously? There is the perfect gear out there for just what you need, make sure your gear fits your dives and you aren’t trying to force it the other way around. Create a relationship based on trust with your instructor or divemaster FIRST - then ask for their help in finding the gear that is right for YOU.
THROWING OUT THE RULE BOOK-
Don’t hold your breath, Always Dive With A Buddy, Go up slowly, Stay with your buddy, Don’t poke/prod or touch anything! It’s easy to get over confident after getting your cert card in the mail. Have you heard of the Dunning Kruger Effect? It is the inability to understand your incompetence, leading to inflated self-assessment, in the case of scuba diving assuming that your cert card means you know everything there is to know about diving- so why take that ‘specialty course’ on cave diving / deep diving etc - you’re certified and you’ve the equipment or ability to rent it, so, well, who is going to stop you? That’s right the ‘rules’ of scuba aren’t laws and you can totally break them, but doing so will only increase your risk of accident, injury and quite possibly DEATH! You are taught these rules because they keep diving safe and fun, and PADI (or your certifying agency) has constructed these rules with your safety and fun in mind over the last 50+ years. Which to me are enough reasons to find a qualified instructor or dive operation to teach me what I don’t know or lack experience in, no matter what my current level of training - there is always something someone more experienced or specialized can teach me and I can learn. So stay humble, and follow the rules.
DITCHING PRE DIVE SAFETY CHECKS (BUDDY CHECKS, WEIGHT CHECKS, BUOYANCY CHECKS)-
This kind of goes along with following the rules but Buddy Checks, Neutral Buoyancy Checks tend to be left in the ‘skills’ catetory. The things new divers think are course requirements but ‘optional’ once they get certified/ The thing is, the most experienced divers have their predive rituals which include equipment setup & donning exposure gear (as needed) their personal & buddy checks, weight check for themselves based on configuration & conditions, etc. Its common for experienced divers to do weight or bouyancy checks at the beginning of a dive or dive trip especially if it’s been a while, you’ve gained or lost weight, or are using new or different equipment are just a few reason why they might. So don’t be shy about asking your buddy or the dive leader to do a proper buddy check / pre-dive safety check with you, or asking for a minute at the mooring or descent line or even upon descent to double check your weight/ buoyancy with a little hover practice.
ASSUMING SKILLS ARE ONLY FOR STUDENTS
While we are speaking about skill practice, some divers ‘forget’ these skills after their instructor gives them the high five for mastery during their open water dives but these skills are crucial for your comfort and continued safety while scuba diving! Assuming skills are only for students is a potentially dangerous mistake. We teach these skills precisely because you will use them in your ‘day to day’ diving or might need them in case of emergency. Alternate Air Source Use is one of the most frequently ‘forgotten’ skills that I suggest you keep up with. I suggest you go over (on the surface) alternate air-source configuration as part of your buddy check (when checking air - check to see what type of alternate air source your buddy and or dive leader is using, is it built into the inflator/deflator and if so can you tell the difference between the purge button and the inflate or deflate buttons? Or does your buddy have a standard ‘octopus’ probably brightly colored / yellow?) Make sure you know how to secure and breath off of your buddy’s equipment in case of out of air emergency or gear malfunction. Next on our list are the top HATED - Mask Skills (mask clearing, mask removal / replacement, no mask breathing and no mask swim) I know mask skills can be a touchy subject for some people. I used to be one of them, but that is why I know how important mask skills are to practice regularly and feel confident using during any dive within your limits. Many divers try to ‘get it over with’ when it comes to mask clearing, mask removal / replacement, no mask breathing and the no mask swim but the truth is, this is the skill you should practice almost as much as neutral buoyancy. I went from someone who hated to put even a little water in her mask to someone who confidently removes, swims and replaces their mask on regular dives ‘for fun’ (but mostly to blow my nose underwater). I want my students and divers to feel like they have conquered skills, not just ‘got through them’, so getting to the root of what makes the skill uncomfortable for you and separating it from your ability to do the skill and then practicing it in shallow water, at depth, during normal dives (not just training dives) is crucial to accomplishing a real level of ease with the skill. Remember mask skills aren’t really emergency skills but rather practical ones for when your mask fogs up during a dive, or your leaking water because your smile is HUGE and creating gaps in your mask.
STOP DIVING and/or LOGGING DIVES
Can you believe it, plenty of people complete their final open water dive, get certified and NEVER DIVE AGAIN, or maybe wait 10 years before showing up at a dive shop and being told that they need to take a refresher / scuba tune up or even re-activate. If you have under 100 LOGGED dives and have been out of the water for a year, we still require a checkout dive before taking you on dives applicable to your certification level. It’s for your safety and ours. So we recommend logging all your dives, having them signed by your dive buddy, divemaster/ instructor or dive guide, stamped or stickered when the shop / diver has one and just keep diving. You never know when a site or course will be restricted to divers with a certain number of dives. If you have an interest in becoming a dive professional there are minimum dive requirements for starting and completing Divemaster & Instructor Development Courses. You will be surprised even in the most land locked places you can find at least one dive shop that probably has a fairly active dive community always looking to meet new divers/ buddies, plan local or international trips / excursions. If you live in a coastal community, by a lake or flooded quarry you are in even better shape because there are guaranteed active divers (even in the ‘worst’ conditions). So don’t make excuses like its too expensive, or too far, or there is no diving in my area, once you actually start looking you will be surprised at what you find (facebook dive groups or meetup is a great place to start looking for divers near you, dive clubs and even discount dive deals) Once you’ve got a buddy or buddies you are more likely to keep diving!
The more you dive, and continue to learn the better you will get and the more fun you will have, so get out there meet some divers and don’t be ‘that guy’ making these mistakes!