Here Are My Top Tips for Divers, But Be Aware: Everyone Has an Opinion
When you first start diving (and even after you have been at it for a few years,) people will be compelled to give you advice. Non-divers will always tell you that it is a dangerous sport, while experienced divers will give you advice because they want to make sure that you progress steadily and continue to gain experience and enjoy the sport.
A Dangerous Sport?
Is diving dangerous? No. Can it be dangerous? Yes. That is why the best advice you will ever receive is to dive with safety first. This will mean different things to you with every dive, and at every stage of your SCUBA journey.
Safety first means that you are self-aware and have assessed your dive skills and health—realistically, not optimistically. While you should always be ready to learn and try new skills, you ought to do so within your own parameters.
Build Your Skills Intentionally
Don’t try to dive beyond your comfort zone unless you are with a skilled dive buddy who knows your skills and understands where you are taking it a little further. This is relevant to all dive situations, whether it is your first deep dive, night dive, or even your first time taking navigation point for your team. For an experienced diver, it might be your first time diving mixed gas or doing a penetration dive.
The Best Simple Advice for Great (Safe) Dives
Plan Your Dive, Dive Your Plan
Plan your dive before you get in the water. While you can rely on your computer to calibrate air and depth, nothing beats a full brief before you dive. I’ve heard stories of novice divers expecting a drift dive, not understanding the brief that explained that it was an anchored dive and finishing their dive miles from the boat!
Your Kit, Your Responsibility
Your dive safety begins with maintaining your gear in top condition. Don’t procrastinate routine maintenance, ever. Wash and stow your gear carefully between dives. Do pre-dive checks to ensure that everything is functioning as it should. In addition to maintaining your kit, maintain your own safety and buy dive insurance to cover any gaps in your regular healthcare.
Good Habits Make Good Divers
On the boat, set your gear up in the same way every single time, keeping it tucked out of the way of your fellow divers. This will minimize the chances of forgetting a piece of gear or losing gear onboard between dives. Once you are ready to dive, do the last safety check with your dive buddy, every time. Don’t be the guy who giant strides into the great blue to discover that he forgot his weights. (You see everything given enough time.)
Know When to Call a Dive
A dive buddy shared this story with me. He had been down to South Africa to do some diving, including a white shark experience, and was thoroughly enjoying his time in the “Fairest Cape,” but Cape Town is also called “The Cape of Storms,” which explains the many wrecks around the coast! He was off on a dive with four locals that he met through friends. As they set out, the weather looked like it might change for the worse, and while the sea was choppy, they called for decent conditions at the dive site.
They suited up, loaded their kit onto the small rubber boat, and set course. My buddy recalls that as they progressed, what was choppy water had turned into two-meter swells, which they cut through at high-speed hammering down on the other side. He explained that each time they bottomed out, he hit the floor of the boat, and with each pounding became more concerned that the dive might be out of his league.
My friend faced a real-life moment of choice. He was with four macho South African guys and didn’t want to look cowardly in front of them. At the same time, he reasoned, when you put your safety at risk as a diver, you are, in essence, putting the team at risk. If my buddy got into trouble on the dive, one or all of the other divers would be placed in jeopardy having to assist him.
By the time they arrived at the dive site, he had made his decision to suck up his embarrassment and to own his skills and sit out the dive. The guys he was with knew the dive site, having experienced many dives there over the years, and they respectfully gave him the thumbs up for a good decision. After they then assessed the conditions of the sea, they unanimously called off the dive. They had a hell-raising trip back to the beach and then they all headed out for brunch and beers.
Calling off a dive is painfully responsible, and you have to have the guts to know when to say when.
Diving safely is the best insurance that you have for future dive adventures and I want you to keep on exploring the amazing underwater world for as long as you can!