5 Reasons To Love Moalboal
Cebu is a very well-loved destination, and for good reason: no matter what type of traveler you are.
There is just too much to see — from the northern islands of Malapascua and Bantayan, to Camotes, all the way south to Sumilon — that it would take multiple trips to see just the well-documented sights of this province.
On the western side of the province, facing the Negros landmass and Tañon Strait — an incredibly rich marine environment — is the tiny town of Moalboal. Moalboal has a quiet, small-town feel, perfect for those of you yearning for a vacation from their vacation — until you discover what’s underneath its waters. Quiet, sleepy Moalboal sees unmatched action underwater — yet another reason to keep coming back to Cebu.
Here are 5 reasons why this underwater paradise is worth it, and why you should consider it for your next Cebu adventure:
The Sardine Run
Sardine Run by Owen Ballesteros
The sardine run — a phenomenon in which millions of sardines form shoals as a defense mechanism against predators — is one of the most fascinating underwater spectacles to witness. Moalboal makes it rather easy to appreciate this sight: just off the shore at Panagsama Beach, millions of sardines congregate, creating long swaths or tornado-like shapes, moving in a slow rhythm that will leave most spectators speechless.
The best way to see the sardine run is from down below, by scuba diving or freediving. But it is still possible to see the sardines from snorkeling depths.
World-Class Scuba Diving
Diver surrounded by sardines by Owen Ballesteros
Moalboal is home to several spectacular dive sites, including Pescador Island, just 10 minutes from Panagsama Beach. Considered one of the world’s best dive sites, Pescador Island offers fairly regular sightings of sea turtles, schools of jacks, frogfish, sea fans, and sundry soft and hard corals. Snorkeling trips are also possible for non-divers.
Other dive sites around the area include Tuble, Tongo Point, White Beach, Basdako Sanctuary, and Airplane Wreck, in which a two-seater plane was sunk to serve as an artificial reef. Sea turtles are also regularly sighted at the house reefs off Panagsama Beach.
With world-class dive sites just a stone’s throw away, Moalboal also makes for the perfect place to take scuba diving certification courses.
Sunset at Panagsama Beach by Owen Ballesteros
Facing the west with a distant view of Negros, Moalboal’s sunsets are another stunning sight, especially after spending a long day underwater. It’s not unusual too to spot a sea turtle wading in the waters of Panagsama as the sun sinks and bathes the beach various hues of red, orange, and purple.
White Beach, Moalboal, Cebu by Ian Ong
With its long stretch of white sand and clear waters, White Beach, or Basdaku, compensates well for Panagsama Beach’s lack of shoreline for those who want their dose of sun, sea, and sand. White Beach also hosts a line of resorts, making it an alternative base to Panagsama Beach.
Kawasan Falls by Kenneth Gaerlan
Most travelers to Moalboal opt for a sidetrip to Kawasan Falls, which is about 30 minutes away in the next town of Badian. A multi-tiered falls, Kawasan’s first and biggest tier can be reached by walking 1.5 kilometers inland, where a natural pool awaits visitors. Snacks are available from stores surrounding the falls. Getting to the second and topmost tiers will require another 15 to 20 minutes.
Why Touching Is Never Okay
By Jessica Vyvyan-Robinson
Respecting the ocean is a huge part of being a responsible diver, as is the understanding that we are privileged visitors to the underwater world and should conduct ourselves accordingly.
Any good Divemaster’s briefing always includes a reminder not to touch, tease or take anything from the marine environment, and the mantra “take nothing but photos, leave nothing but bubbles” is one that every diver will have heard at some point. Respecting the ocean is a huge part of being a responsible diver, as is the understanding that we are privileged visitors to the underwater world and should conduct ourselves accordingly.
Touching underwater creatures and corals can not only harm them; doing so can harm us too. There are many animals in the ocean that can cause injury if alarmed, disturbed or aggravated, some of which we know about, and many more that we do not. From innocuous looking stinging hydroids to the beautiful but venomous lionfish, from shells equipped with deadly poison to all manner of stonefish, scorpionfish, sea snakes, urchins and jellyfish, marine inhabitants are better admired from a distance suitable for your health as well as theirs. Contact with the reef itself can cause nasty wounds; many of us know from firsthand experience how long coral cuts take to heal, and how disproportionately painful even the slightest graze can be. The majority of shark bites among divers occur as a result of inappropriate behavior or reckless contact on the part of the diver. As divers, we are ambassadors for the ocean and all the creatures that live there. Particularly where threatened species like sharks are concerned, our ability to interact with them without incident is key in changing public perception of them and consequently promoting their conservation. If we follow the no-touching, -teasing or -taking rule, we can easily avoid most injuries caused by marine life. As divers, we have the potential to do great good in the underwater world. Through our explorations, we raise awareness about the marine environment and the necessity to conserve it for future generations. Divers tend to be among the most committed and conscientious promoters for ocean preservation — it’s our dive sites that we’re fighting to protect. By refraining from touching the creatures and plants that make up that world, we ensure that our impact continues to be a positive one.
40 Insider Tips For Dive Travel
Part 2 of 2
Experience is expensive, which goes along with the old adage that an expert is just a person who's made every mistake possible in a very narrow field. Whether you're approaching expert status in the world of dive travel, or you're just hoping to lessen the cost, we offer these tips on getting the most out of your diving vacation. 21. Wear sunscreen beginning on the first day. A sunburn in paradise is no fun. 22. If the divemaster sets up your gear, check it before the dive. 23. Stash a pen in your carryon for filling out immigration forms. 24. If you're traveling with new dive gear, give it a test run in a swimming pool or watering hole before the trip. 25. Dive suits have a way of shrinking, especially over the holidays. Make sure yours still fits. 26. Keep a protein bar and bottle of water in your carryon to stave off hunger pangs. 27. Flying to the other side of the world? Stay up as late as possible the night before leaving to lessen jet lag. 28. Baby powder. You'll know what it's for when you need it. 29. Keep a firm grip on your luggage upon arrival, not because of crime, but because island cab drivers can be very aggressive in soliciting your business. 30. Get some cash changed into the local currency at the beginning of your trip, even if credit cards and gringo bills are widely accepted. It's great for tipping and light souvenir shopping. 31. A bottle of the pink stuff can be worth its weight in gold. 32. Forget to log a dive? Check with your boat crew or dive shop, they can verify site names, dive depths and the name of that funny little fish with the thingy on its head. 33. Full-foot fins, even ones that fit like a glove, can cause blisters after several days of hard diving. A simple pair of socks will help. 34. If you rent a car, first find out what the terms of the agreement are and what the local regulations are (do you need a special driver's license? is the driving on the opposite side of the road? do you need to return the car with a full tank of gas?) 35. Stay healthy by washing your hands the same way you clear your ears on a dive: early and often. 36. If you have a sensitive tummy, beware of ice cubes made from the local water supply. 37. Smile. You're on vacation! 38. Slip-on deck shoes or Teva-style sandals are better than flip-flops for a week on a liveaboard. 39. Sometimes a bad movie is better than a boring flight.40. Hardworking dive crews appreciate verbal praise, but a good tip is worth a thousand words.
40 Insider Tips For Dive Travel
Part 1 of 2
Experience is expensive, which goes along with the old adage that an expert is just a person who's made every mistake possible in a very narrow field. Whether you're approaching expert status in the world of dive travel, or you're just hoping to lessen the cost, we offer these tips on getting the most out of your diving vacation. 1. Don't overstuff your bags — you'll need room for souvenirs.
2. Place fins along the edges or top of your dive bag's main compartment to protect your other
3. Koozies rule! Foam drink holders make great protective sleeves for dive computers.
4. Protect your mask by storing it in an open-heel fin pocket. 5. For added cusion, pack wetsuits around regulators and other sensitive equipment.
6. Don't forget to pack a few save-a-dive tools, like a crescent wrench and Allen keys.
7. WD-40 or similar lubricant is great for cleaning up bag wheels, dive knives and other items that corrode.
8. Backup gear is great, but do you really need an extra set of booties? 9. A new mask will only work if you remember to clean it thoroughly before the trip. 10. Avoid checking luggage with huge dive flags and other obvious diver insignia emblazoned on it. There's no need to advertise. 11. Get insurance.
12. Answer the airline staff's questions patiently and with a smile — they just want to make sure your pony bottle isn't an incendiary device.
13. Weight limits are stricter than ever. Take the time to weigh your bags before you go.
14. Keep a few heavier items (like dive lights) easily accessible so you can move them from one bag to another if you don't make weight.
15. Dive bags are heavy, so tip the sky cap well.
16. A smile goes a long way with customs and immigration officials.
17. Liveaboard divers often take two wetsuits so they always have a dry one to slip into.18. Batteries, batteries, batteries. 19. Sudafed or another decongestant can help you on the flight home if your sinuses act up. 20. Dress in layers and keep it cool. Island airports and other facilities are not always air-conditioned.
How To Make A Successful Shore Entry
By Jessica Vyvyan-Robinson
Depending on where you live, or where you travel, you may find that the simplest way to dive is from the shore. There are excellent shore diving sites all over the world, and as well as saving you the cost and travel time of boat diving, shore diving offers the freedom to choose where and when you want to dive, how often and for how long.
The “plan your dive, dive your plan” mantra is one emphasized over and over again to all divers during entry-level training, and it’s particularly applicable to shore diving. Attempting a shore entry in a place that you’ve already dived a hundred times is one thing, but when visiting a site for the first time it’s imperative that you know what to expect. Researching a shore diving site means finding answers to a long list of questions, from dive conditions to the rules surrounding scuba diving in a particular area. You will need to know what to expect underfoot, as there is often very little visibility in the surf zone and your head will be above water for much of your entry. A beach may look sandy from the shore, but concealed hazards could include sharp coral, rocks and rubbish, unexpected gullies and potholes and sea urchin beds. You need to find out how quickly a dive site drops off into deeper water, whether you should expect current once you reach back line, and the optimum time to dive in terms of weather conditions and tide. The best way to find the answers to these questions is to seek the advice of local dive centers or fellow divers who have experienced the site before. Failing that, tide charts, weather forecast stations, maps and guidebooks are all useful sources of information. How you choose to research your dive site is up to you — what’s important is that you do so.
When planning for a shore entry, you need to make sure that you have all the equipment necessary to protect yourself, especially in those areas with more challenging conditions or terrain. If you are making a shore entry from a beach with uneven or sharp ground (for example, loose rocks or exposed reef), you may want to ditch your closed-heel fins in favor of open-heel fins with thick-soled booties that will protect your feet. Similarly, while a shorty wetsuit may provide adequate protection when diving from calm beaches in the tropics, you may want to cover up with a full suit and even gloves when facing rougher conditions. In the event that you do get knocked over by a wave when entering the water, you will be glad of the added layer of neoprene protection. You also need to consider what additional equipment you take with you — is a dynamic surf zone really the best place for expensive camera housings and torches? When shore diving, it is important to remain relatively unburdened, with your hands free during entry. Anything you do take needs to be securely attached, or confined to a BCD pocket.
Preparing for entry
No matter how thoroughly you have researched a dive site, it is important to take a moment to assess conditions on the dive day. You may have been told to expect moderate surf, but if you arrive after a big wind, that same surf will pose a much greater hazard. Observe the waves, and decide whether they are manageable or not. If you decide that they are, watch the sets until a pattern emerges and then time your entry to coincide with the smaller waves. Watch for rip currents or concealed rocks, the former of which is often denoted by a line of sea foam traveling towards the horizon, the latter of which will cause the incoming waves to break irregularly as they pass over the rocks. Armed with this information, you can decide your best entry point; once decided, try to find a static reference point on the shore that corresponds with your place of entry so that you can use it to exit as well. When you are ready, it’s time to don your gear, making certain that all trailing equipment (including your gauges, alternate air source and pressure inflator) is securely fastened or tucked away. When preparing to make your entry, you should have all equipment in place, with the possible exception of your fins.
Taking the plunge
After all your preparation, it’s finally time to get into the water. You should have your mask on, and your regulator in place, in case you find yourself submerged earlier than expected. If there is no surf or it’s relatively calm, you can enter the water with your fins under your arm. Wade in until the water reaches chest level, then put your fins on and swim backwards with your BCD inflated until the water is deep enough to make your descent. You can also enter the water with your fins already in place, making sure to walk backwards to maintain your balance — it’s up to you. In extreme surf, you will need to execute your shore entry slightly differently. It’s a good idea to enter the water with your fins already in place to reduce the risk of losing them should you become overpowered by the waves. Walk into the water sideways in order to minimize the impact of oncoming waves on your body. As soon as you’re deep enough, let all air out of your BCD and descend to the bottom; there, you can use your hands to pull yourself to deeper water in coordination with the pull and lull of the waves crashing above you. When making a simple shore entry, it’s usually possible to maintain contact with your buddy, but in rougher conditions, it’s easy to become separated in the surf zone. For this reason, you may want to agree to surface upon reaching calmer water so that you can reconnect and orient yourself with the shore.
The keys to a successful shore entry are planning and preparation. Before attempting an entry of this kind, make sure that you have all the information you need to remain safe. Never hesitate to cancel a dive if you feel insufficiently prepared or if the conditions seem too challenging on a given day — as with all kinds of diving, there’s always tomorrow. If the conditions are right, however, tailor the tips in this article to the specifics of your chosen site, and prepare to discover for yourself the unique freedom of diving from the shore.
10 Tips To Make Ear Clearing Easier
As we descend on a dive, pressure from outside water exceeds the pressure in our middle ear. If left unattended, this pressure can cause not only pain but also damage to some of the small, delicate parts of the ear. The solution is to make sure we’re properly equalizing the pressure as we descend. This skill comes easier for some divers than for others, though, and if you sometimes struggle with equalization, try one or more of the following tips to make ear clearing easier. Start before you hit the water Before you even get wet, pre-pressurize your Eustachian tubes (the small tubes that run from your throat to your inner ear) by closing your mouth, pinching your nose, and attempting to blow out softly through your nose. This will slightly increase the pressure in your Eustachian tubes, making it easier to equalize as you descend. As with any equalization technique, go easy and don’t overdo it, as this may cause discomfort or damage. Equalize early and oftenThe most common cause of problems during descent is that divers often wait too long before they start clearing their ears. If the pressure difference between the inside of the ear and the ambient pressure becomes too great, clearing becomes almost impossible. Don’t wait for the first signs of discomfort — start as soon as you begin your descent. And equalize often. Some people will need to clear their ears every few feet, while others can get away with doing it much less frequently. You need to find your own frequency, but there’s no harm in equalizing more frequently than you need to. Feet firstIf you have problems clearing your ears, maintain the upright position longer. By staying vertical, rather than leveling off into a horizontal position, the slight pressure difference between the air in your lungs and the air in your ears will help you equalize. In fact, studies have shown that some clearing techniques require 50 percent more force in a head-down position rather than in a head-up position. Go slowThe faster you descend, the harder it will be to equalize. If you’re dropping like a rock, you’re probably over-weighted, but if you must inflate your BC slightly as you descend, do so to slow your rate. If you struggle with equalizing, slow your descent rate until you reach a point where you can adjust to the pressure a little at a time. Look upLooking up can help with clearing your ears, as doing so opens up the Eustachian tubes. SwallowSome people find that swallowing, maybe forcefully, can help clear their ears, sometimes on its own, other times in combination with other techniques. Try a different techniqueThere are more ways to clear your ears than the traditional nose-pinch version, which is formally known as the Valsalva maneuver. Swallowing, as mentioned above, and also known as the Toynbee maneuver, is one alternative. The Edmond technique can be particularly helpful to those who have trouble equalizing, but it requires a bit of practice: tense up your soft palate (the rear part of the roof of your mouth) as well as your throat muscles, and push your jaw down and forward, then do a Valsalva. And my personal favorite is the Voluntary Tubular opening: tense up your soft palate and throat; then extend your jaw as if trying to stifle a yawn. This will push your Eustachian tubes open, allowing pressurized air to flow to them, equalizing the pressure. StopTry making little stops along the way down. Sometimes, it can be quite a task load to manage your descent, keep an eye on your buddy and equalize. So make little stops by doing a few kicks with your fins (if you’re in the upright position, this will halt your descent) and do your equalization before continuing your descent. Consider food allergiesCertain foods, such as nuts and dairy, can irritate the mucus membrane, causing it to generate more mucus, which can block the nasal passages. This can make equalization hard, or even impossible. If you suspect you may have food sensitivity, try to avoid the item for a few days before a dive and see if your equalization improves. Allergy tests will also help with a diagnosis. Drink waterDehydration can cause the mucus in our nasal passages to become thicker, making it more likely to block the passages, and with them, equalization. So make sure you’re well hydrated before a dive (for a number of reasons, but now you have one more). Article By Thomas Gronfeldt
Valve on, Valve off
By Thomas Gronfeldt
Every year, divers enter the water with their tank valves off, resulting in interrupted dives — and worse. Speak to dive guides and instructors the world over, and you’ll realize it’s a more common scenario than you’d expect: a diver descends to begin a dive, only to suddenly realize he’s got no air. Those who remember their training dump their weights and head for the surface, performing a controlled emergency ascent. Some, tragically, panic and rush to the surface, risking decompression illness, or drown. Out-of-air (or more correctly, out-of-gas) situations are among the most common causes of dive fatalities, and a surprising number of these occurs right at the beginning of a dive, such as in the example above. The problem isn’t usually the fault of the diver having depleted the tank in the first few minutes of the dive, but that the tank valve was never opened to begin with, or was only partially opened. A good equipment assembly and check process should of course include both turning on the tank valve and checking that it is indeed opened, often by breathing in one of the regulators. This is then double-checked by looking at the manometer to confirm that the operating pressure of the tank is sufficient for the dive. This is then reconfirmed during the buddy check. Ideally, these multiple checks will catch any situation where a diver hasn’t turned on his tank valve, but the world is far from ideal.The Divers Alert Network (DAN) has consulted two experts, Peter Buzzacott and Gareth Lock, on the issue in their recent edition of Alert Diver, the leading DAN publication. The ReasonsThe out-of-air situation often occurs due to one of the following reasons: 1. Divers have failed to open their tank valves all the way. This can happen either due to an interruption when the diver was assembling his gear or through a simple error. The tank valve may be open far enough that it allows sufficient air to pass through to supply the diver with air at the surface, but as the diver descends, they’ll consume increasing amounts of air, maxing out the capacity of the valve in its partially open state. 2. Divers accidentally partially close their valve after opening. This is usually due to the practice of opening the valve all the way and then turning it back a quarter or half turn. If a diver exaggerates this final part, they may find themselves closing a valve partially, which means it won’t be able to supply enough air at depth. 3. Divers turn their tank valves off, but don’t reopen them. If some time passes between assembling the scuba unit and the dive, many divers will turn off their valves and then forget to reopen them before the dive. The remaining gas in the system will give them a reading on the manometer, and even a few breaths from the regulator before the air is gone, making it harder to spot the error. 4. Another diver accidentally turned the valve off. Sometimes other divers, in an attempt to be helpful, may turn the valve of a seemingly unattended scuba unit off, or may accidentally turn the valve off thinking they are in fact turning it on. As with the example above, the remaining pressure in the system may make this hard to catch. Avoid The Valve-Off ScenarioDAN recommends the following to avoid out-of-gas situations early in the dive: 1. Always do a complete gear assembly and check, possibly aided by a checklist to ensure all steps are covered. 2. If a gear assembly and check is interrupted, go through all the steps again to avoid accidentally skipping one. 3. Open valves all the way, avoiding the classical practice of opening them and turning them back a quarter or half turn. This practice stems from when valves were made of brass, and very susceptible to getting stuck if the brass cooled, but modern valves aren’t. And a partially opened valve can lead to confusion over whether the valve is indeed opened or not. For this very reason, many technical diving organizations teach their students to always open valves all the way. 4. Do a buddy check before entering the water, and monitor your manometer as you take a few breaths from your regulator. If the needle drops with every breath, your valve is most likely closed, either fully or partially.Should such a situation ever befall you, it’s important to keep calm, signal your buddy that you’re out of air and switch to your buddy’s octopus. Your buddy can then check your regulator and valve to see if the problem can be fixed or if you must abort the dive.
GoPro Underwater Photography Guide
Article by Thomas Gronfeldt
Housing, Filters and Hardware
The wildly popular GoPro camera seems ubiquitous these days, having made its way into most active sports from surfing to mountain biking to rock climbing, and, of course, to scuba diving. And for good reason: the small cameras deliver high quality, full-HD footage in a travel-friendly, fairly inexpensive package.
However, as most people who’ve bought one have discovered, buying the camera is only half the battle. Learning to use it, along with purchasing a range of extra accessories, will help you get the best footage possible during your sport of choice. In this article series, we’ll cover all you need to know to make your GoPro into a lean, mean, dive footage-creating machine.
First and foremost we must look at the housing. The original GoPros came with a durable housing, rated to 60 meters (197 feet). It was somewhat large and cumbersome, though, and had a few diving-related problems, such as a moderate wide-angle effect intended for land-based shooting. GoPro subsequently redesigned their housing and camera to be smaller, lighter and more suited to diving. The current version, the GoPro Hero3+, features a much slimmer housing, but it’s only rated for 40 meters (131 feet). GoPro has also produced a separate, dive-specific housing, rated to 60 meters. Although recreational dive limits top out at 40 meters, because of the difference in dynamic and static pressure, it’s recommended that if you routinely dive to 60 feet or deeper (18 meters+), you get the dive-specific housing to reduce the risk of flooding. The good news about the new version is that the wide-angle capabilities are much better than on previous versions, allowing divers to move very close to the motif of the photo, while still capturing all of, say, a reef shark. We’ll get into shooting practices in a later article.
Light starts to fade away as we descend, but we don’t lose light equally across the spectrum. Normal light contains all the primary colors, which fade away one by one as we get deeper. The first to go is red; the last is blue. Because of this, underwater photography and film footage often seems blue, a tendency that increases the deeper we go. To remedy this effect, a red filter is a highly useful for underwater photography. There are filters for all types of cameras, including the GoPro. Some filters simply click on over the lens; other, multiple filters allow divers to switch between them on a multilevel dive. The latter configuration makes it possible to account for the lighting conditions at any given depth, but these filters are typically more expensive and bulkier, and determining which filter goes with which depth takes some training. Other filters are made for specific lighting conditions, such as the greenish hue of freshwater, or for night diving. In any case, a red filter will greatly enhance your photos, and along with a photo light, make the colors and details pop, ending the age of blue or green dive photos.
Photo and video lights
Which brings us to lights. Again, light disappears as we descend, and while compensating for this with a filter is important, so too can be compensating for the general loss of light. Powerful photo and/or video lights can help. Think of photo lights as underwater flashes that shoot off a burst of light as you take a picture, helping to illuminate the scene. Video lights are more like flashlights or dive torches that shine continuously, illuminating the scene as you film. When using either, instead of being directly beneath or directly above the lens — as in a traditional camera flash — it helps to put the light at an angle to help reduce backscatter. Our next article will cover more on light placement and mounting options.
In its most basic configuration, the GoPro works pretty well as an underwater camera, in particular for snorkeling and shallow dives. But to take it up a notch, requires a little more of an investment, including lights, filters, and possibly a dedicated dive housing. With these, you’re ready to take your underwater photo and video to the next level.
8 Tips To Help You With Your Open Water Course
Article from Scuba Diver Life
1. Listen to and watch your instructor. When he or she is demonstrating a skill, pay attention. They’re doing so for your benefit, and hopefully they have already mastered the skills themselves. 2. Everything in your course has a purpose (even that damn snorkel), even if to begin with you don’t understand what the reason is. Your instructor should explain why you are required to do A, B and C. They are not asking you to do something for no reason. 3. Relax — easy to say, not always easy to do. Nearly everyone has problems (sometimes major, sometimes minor) when they start off; it is almost expected. 4. Don’t beat yourself over the head about something you’re not getting; your instructor will work with you until the perceived problem is no longer. 5. Don’t worry if the student next to you seems to grasp the theory or water skills quicker than you do. It’s not a competition; people learn at different speeds. It doesn’t matter how quickly you complete a skill or piece of theory, all that matters is that you competently complete the course. 6. Never be afraid to ask questions. People often don’t ask questions or for another demonstration as they’re afraid of appearing stupid or slow-witted. 7. Don’t confuse the Open Water course with diving. Some people get halfway through the course and decide diving’s not for them. For most people, a dive equals a jump in the water, a look at the fish or wrecks, and getting out of the water. On most general dives we don’t remove our masks underwater, perform fin pivots, remove our regulators, and so on. The course is a means to an end, not the end itself, and will make you a more confident diver when the time comes to just jump in. 8. One last thing – enjoy it. Diving is essentially about fun; that’s why we call it recreational diving.
Reasons To Take A Refresher
By: C. David Conner
While scuba diving is no doubt all about adventure, it’s also all about staying safe. As with many potentially risky hobbies, if you haven’t been diving in a year or more it may be time for a refresher course before taking that next trip. There are several reasons to keep current on your skills, and one of the most important has nothing to do with your competency when practicing them and everything to do with your state of mind: people tend to get nervous when placed in uncomfortable situations. And while nerves may not be a big deal if, say, you’re out of practice with your bowling game, a severe case of the nerves can lead to any number of dangerous situations when you’re diving. Underwater panic can turn a diving inconvenience, like a flooding mask, into an emergency in seconds. Avoiding panic, no matter how serious the situation, is absolutely vital and could save your life should you ever face a real underwater emergency. A refresher course will do as much to ease your mind as it will to exercise your skills when getting back in the water. Nerves can also affect air consumption and equalization. The body responds to tense situations with faster breathing in preparation of the “flight or fight” response, which affects scuba divers in two ways. The most obvious effect of heavier breathing is faster air consumption and thus not as much bottom time. A lesser, but also inconvenient, effect is increased buoyancy. Refresher dives are also a great opportunity to check your equipment. You don’t want to go on the trip of a lifetime only to watch as your housing floods and that fancy underwater camera is ruined because of a bad O-ring — and yes, I’m speaking from experience. Regulators have O-rings; hoses can rot; BCD bladders can wear out. Scuba gear is designed to be durable, but equipment will wear out, especially if not used in a while. If you’ve got any doubt, take your gear to a qualified professional for service before diving as well. It can be difficult to pick up right where you left off with scuba diving, so keeping those skills current is essential to make for more enjoyable and safe diving.