How To Make Your Air Last While Scuba Diving
By Thomas Gronfeldt
For many divers, available air dictates the length of the dive more than any other factor. Now is the time to learn how make your air last longer for longer dives.
Your dive ends when your bottom time runs out — at least theoretically. For many divers, though, the dive ends when one or more divers run low on air. The easiest way for many of us to extend our dives is to focus on air consumption. These tips will help you get the most out of your tank.
It’s simple physics: the larger your profile in the water, the more energy, and thus air, you’ll consume. Consider the difference between a bulky semi-truck and a streamlined sports car. In the water, you’ll want to be a sports car. Go over your gear setup and make sure everything is tucked away neatly, creating the smallest possible in-water profile.
2. Leave things behind
A number of divers seem to dive with the saying “it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it” in mind. They bring so much stuff on each dive that it seems like they’re carrying their entire gear bag. Often, they think it’s easier to just clip everything to their BCD than to assess their gear before each dive to determine what they’ll need. There’s some merit to this, but bringing too much gear weighs you down and increases your profile in the water. So bring the things you need and leave behind the things you don’t. And don’t forget to square it all away neatly.
3. Slow down
Diving is the lazy man’s sport, someone once told me, and there’s much truth to that. Diving is not swimming, and you’re not really supposed to get your heart rate up. So slow down — and not just underwater. Get into a relaxed mindset even before you get to the dive site; when you start gearing up, don’t rush. Don’t linger on the dive deck unnecessarily, of course, but go about things in a deliberate, calm manner. Swim calmly and slowly underwater. The more you rush and fidget, the more air you’ll consume.
4. Breathe deeply
Note the difference between deep breaths and big breaths. When you tell people to breathe deeply, many people will forcefully inhale, filling their lungs to the brink. A deep breath should be just that, but it doesn’t have to be a big breath. To learn to breathe deeply, lie down on a firm surface, like a yoga mat or a firm mattress. Put one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Now breathe, but try to breathe in such a way that only the hand on your stomach moves. This way, you’re filling up the bottom of your lungs, rather than the top, which is what happens when only your chest moves. A deep-belly breath replenishes the air in your entire respiratory system, rather than just part of it, as when you breathe from the top of your lungs.
5. Swim shallow
An easy way to extend your dive time is to take full advantage of the traditional multi-level dive profile by starting your dive deep and moving to increasingly shallow water. Here, we consume less air, so simply moving shallower reduces your air consumption drastically, and with that, extends your dive time. If you’re the air hog of a group, you can, to some extent, offset this by placing yourself slightly shallower in the water column than the other divers. And just by making a habit of ending your dive in the shallows, you’ll ensure that any dive you do can be extended quite a bit.
6. Dive more
One easy way to improve your air consumption is quite simply to dive more. Most of the above pieces of advice require some practice, so diving a lot will definitely help you master them. Diving more also helps you become more comfortable in the water, which, in turn, helps a lot when it comes to conserving air.
By Shelley Collett
Everyone hates it, right? It’s why you see so many people holding their noses before they jump into the water. One of the biggest problem skills I’ve seen as an instructor is breathing without a mask underwater. Some people handle it fine, but others have extreme, nearly insurmountable difficulty with it. After a couple of difficult sessions with some student divers, I decided to try to learn how to teach the skill better. I needed a better way to impart knowledge instead of just saying, “Just don’t let the water in!” without really knowing how to tell them not to let the water in. I really didn’t understand why or how I was keeping the water out myself. I just did it! I always have. I was never a nose-holder.
After some research, I thought I’d share here. I realize there are a lot of experienced divers here, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anyone who has issues with this. And, I’m sure we also have some newer divers reading who perhaps barely made it through that skill in the hopes that they would never, ever have to do it again. I’m sorry to say to those individuals... you probably will have to deal with it again. Masks flood, they get knocked off. It happens and you should be prepared for it and be confident that you’ll be okay with it.
While I’m sure you’ve noticed people jumping in while holding their noses, have you noticed all the people not doing it? What do they know that you don’t? Some double top secret dolphin technique? Nah,they just know how to control their body to keep the water from entering too far into their nose. There’s no way to prevent water from getting into your nose proper, but you can stop it from ending up down your throat and choking you. (But if you do know a double top secret dolphin technique, please let me know!)
There are a couple of things that help you keep from inhaling water through your nose in the situation we’re talking about: Soft palate control and Epiglottis control. The two things work in tandem, so it can be difficult to distinguish which is which. I’m hoping the exercises below will help with that.
Testing soft palate control
Put on your mask without the strap around your head and suck in through your nose to try to keep the mask on. If your mask fits correctly, this shouldn’t be a problem. (This is how most folks “try on” masks before buying them anyway) While you’ve got the mask ‘stuck’ to your face, start breathing normally through your mouth and keep the mask on your face. Tilt your head down a bit so that you know the mask isn’t just balancing on your face.
If you can do this for a bit, then you have what it takes to breath without a mask on; you have soft palate control. You just need to get over the psychological aspect of breathing with water on your nose.
If the mask immediately drops off of your face, then you don’t have very good soft palate control at all and you should learn and practice it.
Epiglottis and soft palate control
Now a new test. While exhaling through your mouth, cover your mouth with your hand to prevent air from escaping. Did your cheeks puff up? They should have! And, you should not be exhaling through your nose. That’s soft palate control.
While still trying to exhale, move your hand away. If you immediately exhale through your mouth, you used soft palate control. If you paused before exhaling through your mouth, that was your epiglottis. Either is okay, we’re just trying to get you to understand your own body at this point and how things work and feel.
Now we’re going to try alternating a bit. Take a breath, exhale through your mouth, then cover your mouth and switch to exhale through your nose. Did you feel a little nudge or jolt above and at the back of your tongue? That was your soft palate opening to let the air out of your nose.
Maybe you felt a little jolt closer to your lower neck or chest. If so, that’s your epiglottis.
Alternate now between exhaling through your nose and trying to exhale through your covered mouth. Do you feel that control? Remember it. That’s how you keep water out too!
Practice makes perfect if you’re having difficulty with this. I don’t think I can stress enough how important it is as a diver to be comfortable with water on your nose. Comfortable to the point that you’re not going to panic and bolt to the surface, at least. Practice in a tub, pool, hot tub, even the shower. (you could flood your mask in the shower, stand with it flooded and just breathe through your mouth) Practice it a little every time you dive until you are comfortable with it. It will make you a more confident diver and a safer diver.
Guidelines For Post-Dive Equipment Care
By Jessica Vyvyan-Robinson
If you own scuba equipment, knowing how to properly take care of it after a dive is crucial. Not only does good post-dive maintenance increase the lifespan of expensive equipment, but it also minimizes the risk of gear-related issues the next time you dive. Our equipment is our lifeline underwater, so keeping it in working order is of paramount importance. Basic rules apply to the post-dive maintenance of all scuba gear, including rinsing items thoroughly with fresh water after a dive, and allowing them to dry completely before being packed away. Dive gear should never be left in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time, as sunlight can degrade, crack or fade materials, including neoprene and rubber. Specific considerations relate to particular pieces of equipment, most of which are listed below.
Like the rest of your scuba equipment, your regulator needs to be rinsed in fresh water at the end of the day’s diving. Make sure that no water enters the regulator’s first stage, as it’s internal components are susceptible to damage when exposed to moisture —allowing them to get wet will most likely result in an expensive trip to an equipment technician. Before rinsing, replace and securely fasten your regulator’s dust cap, first ensuring that the dust cap itself is dry. You can do this by using compressed air from your cylinder to blast excess water from the dust cap before fastening it in place, but that method’s not without detractors.
Instead of leaving your first stage to soak in fresh water, rinse it thoroughly under the tap; this will safeguard against water seeping past the dust cap. Alternatively, you can fully submerge your regulator if the first stage is still attached to a pressurized cylinder, which will prevent any water from entering the system. Do not press the purge button on either your primary second stage or your octopus while you are washing your regulator, as this will also allow water to enter the first stage. If you have hose protectors, make sure that you rinse underneath them during the cleaning process; similarly, move your low-pressure inflator connector back and forth to remove any salt, grit or sand. This way, even the least visible parts of your regulator will be kept corrosion free, and will continue to perform as they should. Once you have finished rinsing your regulator, hang it up and allow it to dry completely before packing it away.
When it comes to washing your BCD, it’s hugely important to remember the inside after having thoroughly rinsed the exterior. During a dive, salt water leaks into the BCD through the dump valves and the low-pressure inflator, and must be drained out during your post-dive maintenance routine. To do this, use a hose to flush fresh water into the BCD’s bladder via the low-pressure inflator, making sure to hold down the deflate button as you do so. Allow the water to flow into the BCD until it is approximately one quarter full, and then orally inflate it. This will allow the water to easily circulate around the inside of the BCD. Then, shake it to make sure that the water reaches every part of the jacket before allowing the water to drain through the dump valves, simultaneously rinsing them too. You can repeat this process several times before inflating the BCD partially and storing it. Ideally, you should keep your BCD hung up in a cool, dry place; the partial inflation will prevent the insides of the BCD from sticking together.
Wetsuit, booties, hoods and gloves
All of these items should be washed both on the inside and on the outside. It’s a good idea to use soap or disinfectant to eliminate any odors, but make sure that you buy one that’s appropriate for use on neoprene. Wetsuit soap is readily available at most dive centers or equipment stores; rinse it off with more fresh water once used. After cleaning your wetsuit and other neoprene items, hang them up to dry completely before packing them away. If you don’t, mildew and other bacteria will develop, degrading the quality of your equipment and causing it to smell. The best way to store a wetsuit is to hang it up, preferably on a purpose-built wetsuit hanger. Do not use wire hangers, as they will crease and mark your suit — the wider the hanger, the better. For transporting your suit or for storing it for short periods of time roll it rather than folding it. Folds can cause creases in the neoprene that may not come out, and make the suit uncomfortable to wear. It is also a good idea to lubricate the zips on your wetsuit or booties, ideally with zipper wax specifically made for this purpose.
Many divers overlook their cylinders when it comes to post-dive care, but they also need to be rinsed with fresh water. This prevents salt buildup and consequent corrosion, and also displaces grit and sand from around the tank valve; if left, these particles can make it difficult to turn your air on and off. You should never put a cylinder into storage either emptied or filled completely. When empty, the absence of pressure can make it easy for contaminants to enter the cylinder; if stored too full they can eventually crack over time. They should be stored lying horizontally, or in a secured upright position to prevent them from falling and becoming damaged.
Mask, fins and snorkel
Your soft gear is easily maintained; like everything else, it must be rinsed in fresh water, dried and put away carefully. Your mask should be packed in a hard case to protect the lenses from scratches and the mask itself from possible impact. Make sure that any other items that you store with your mask (e.g. dive computer, compass) do not bend, squish or deform the silicone; otherwise, your mask’s shape could be altered causing it to leak or become uncomfortable. Similarly, save the plastic inserts that come with your fins when you buy them, and replace during storage to retain the shape of your fins’ foot pockets. Do not store your fins by balancing them on their tips, as this can also cause distortion and diminished performance. Instead, keep them lying flat, or hung by the strap on a wide peg.
Each of your dive accessories has unique care requirements. Underwater cameras, for example, have a lengthy post-dive care regime. They must be left to soak for as long as possible in fresh water, to allow all salt to dissolve from the housing. You should gently work all of the housing’s moving parts to dislodge any salt, grit or sand stuck beneath them. Once you are satisfied that the housing is salt-free, you must dry it completely before opening it to remove your camera. You should remove your batteries and memory card from the camera, and make sure to wipe clean and lubricate all O-rings. Do not store your housing with the main body O-ring in place, as the constant pressure will eventually change the shape of the O-ring and reduce its ability to create a sufficient seal. Instead, remove the O-ring carefully, clean it and store it with the rest of your equipment in a sealed plastic bag. Strobes and underwater torches should be treated similarly — wash, dry, remove batteries, then clean and lubricate all O-ring.
When washing your dive computer, make sure to depress all the buttons while holding the computer underwater in order to flush salt deposits from beneath them. Rinsed and dry dive knives thoroughly, then apply a thin coating of silicone grease to the blade before storage to prevent rusting. All other diving equipment, including signal marker buoys, compasses, whistles and octopus attachments should be rinsed at the same time as the rest of your gear, and stored appropriately.
No matter how diligently you take care of your equipment, make sure to fully check and test your gear before use to ensure that it’s in full working order. Above all, remember that by properly looking after your dive equipment, you are allowing it to continue looking after you.
The Pros and Cons of Owing Your Own Equipment
Most divers will, at some point, have to decide whether or not to invest in their own gear; for many, the list of pros and cons can become convoluted and confusing. Dive centers, teaching organizations and retail outlets constantly extoll the value of owning one’s own equipment, but it’s sometimes difficult to know how much of their zeal has to do with improving your dive experiences versus making a profit. This article aims to explore the ins and outs of owning gear from an unbiased perspective, so that those thinking about purchasing their first mask, BCD or set of regulators can make an informed decision.
Divers considering purchasing equipment should ask themselves several questions first, including the extent of their commitment to the sport, how often they plan to go diving and whether the majority of their dives will take place at home or on vacation. A full set of gear can be expensive, and perhaps not worth the investment for someone who intends to dive only once or twice a year. However, for those who dive frequently, the costs of purchasing gear pale in comparison with the cumulative costs of repetitive equipment rental. When it comes to dive equipment, it is easy to spend huge amounts of money, but it’s also possible to buy a basic set of reliable, fully functional gear for a reasonable price. A basic set includes a mask, snorkel, fins, exposure suit, regulator and BCD, and the price for a set of mid-range equipment should total at around $1,000 to $1,500, not including a computer. If cared for properly, scuba gear can last for many years; therefore, if daily rental prices for basic scuba gear average between $25 and $60 depending on location, frequent divers can easily recoup the money spent on purchasing equipment. Additionally, the cost can be spread out — instead of buying a full set of gear all at once, start with the essentials (mask, fins, snorkel, exposure suit), and work up to the higher range items (BCD, regulators and dive computer).
Another cost of owning one’s own equipment comes into play for those who primarily dive abroad. Although luggage allowances for long haul or transatlantic flights tend to be a little more forgiving, the normal weight restriction for hold luggage is around 50 pounds, depending on the airline. An average set of dive gear will use up most of that allowance, forcing travelers to pay overweight or excess luggage fees. There are workarounds, including packing heavier items like regulators in carry-on bags and choosing airlines that offer allowances for sports equipment, but increasingly tight regulations mean that even these measures can incur additional costs. Traveling divers must weigh these additional costs against paying rental fees and reliance on unfamiliar foreign equipment, and decide which is the lesser of two evils for them personally. Some scuba manufacturers have come out with lightweight gear meant for dive travel, which can eliminate excess luggage fees. Those who opt for these models, however, should be aware that they are often only suitable for diving in tropical climates and may not be compatible with the more taxing conditions of colder, rougher seas.
Safety and Peace of Mind
Although the financial aspect of buying gear is the first concern for many divers, there are other, equally important factors to consider, including personal comfort, safety, health and convenience. Two of the biggest advantages of owning your own gear are fit and familiarity; when you buy gear, you know that it fits your shape and size, and you know exactly how it works. Often, those who rent gear have to put up with ill-fitting equipment that can seriously hinder their comfort. A mask that’s the wrong size can leak; a wetsuit that is too loose leads to rapid heat loss; a BCD that’s too small may not have sufficient lift to allow for positive buoyancy on the surface. In extreme cases, these issues not only lead to reduced enjoyment, but can also compromise a diver’s safety, particularly in the event that a diver’s movement is restricted such that he can no longer effectively perform skills. Unfamiliarity with dive gear can also be dangerous thanks to the subtle differences between different styles and brands. Knowing exactly where your dump valves are located on your BCD or how to dump your integrated weights could be the difference between diverting and exacerbating a disaster.
By owning and becoming familiar with your own gear, dealing quickly and effectively with an equipment-related emergency becomes like second nature. Similarly, good fit allows for maximum comfort and capability underwater, allowing you to focus on activities like photography or fish ID rather than gear adjustment. The peace of mind and enhanced safety you’ll feel when using your own gear is a main reason for doing so. When you rent, particularly abroad, you have no idea how the gear has been maintained, whether it has been recently serviced, whether the dive center in question has items available in your size, or who has used it before you. Uncertainties are eliminated when using your own gear, which offers heightened confidence in an environment where your safety depends largely upon your equipment. Additionally, in a sport where divers routinely spit in their masks, urinate in their wetsuits and cough through their regulators, being the first and only person to use your gear is a matter of personal hygiene.
Of course, owning your own gear involves some work that renting gear does not. Instead of emerging from the ocean and having your equipment washed, taken apart and packed away for you, you’re responsible for the day-to-day care and long-term maintenance of your gear. As well as rinsing your equipment thoroughly with fresh water after each dive, and packing, transporting and storing it in a way that will increase its longevity, you must also get your BCD and regulators serviced annually. Cylinders must be inspected visually and hydrostatically, and dive computer batteries must be changed manually or sent in to a technician for replacement after a specific amount of time or dives. Each of these inspections or services costs money, as do repairs after any damages occur. You’ll also need to allocate storage space for your equipment in your home, making gear ownership a commitment in more ways than one. However, many divers find that the time, money and effort that they put into maintaining their gear works as a good incentive to go diving more often, thereby getting the maximum use out of their investment.
Too Old To Dive?
Whether or not scuba diving has a retirement age is the source of much debate, as is the question of whether one can ever be too old to start diving. According to the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN), older divers are defined as those over the age of 50, and in recent decades, these older divers have constituted an increasingly large percentage of the global dive community. Two main factors are responsible: First, those divers who took up scuba in the first flush of its popularity 30 to 40 years ago have aged, and second, today’s older generation is typically wealthier and more active than ever before, and is adopting diving as the pastime of their golden years. I recently conducted a Discover Scuba course for a 70-year-old woman, whose other high-adrenaline goals for her 70th year included bungee jumping and sky-diving. She was enraptured by the underwater world and surfaced determined to pursue her scuba career, a goal that she was easily physically and mentally capable of attaining; indeed, she was one of the most fearless and competent first-time divers I’ve ever encountered.
Seniors who wish to continue diving, having started in their youth, may be safer than many younger divers, precisely because of their experience. Over the years, they will have encountered and learned how to deal with a wide range of problems and scenarios that younger divers have yet to encounter. For these divers, the only potential limitations on a future of diving are physical or mental age-related problems that could hinder underwater safety. Regular medical check-ups ensure a sufficient level of diving fitness, but a medical professional should immediately evaluate symptoms like chest pains, shortness of breath or blurred vision. Similar advice applies to those seniors wanting to take up diving — as long as the student in question has no existing medical conditions that could pose problems in the water, there is no reason not to take the plunge.
Dive courses are designed with a wide spectrum of prospective students in mind, regardless of age, weight, gender or disability. With age comes a higher risk of heart and lung issues, and, like all divers, older students must answer a medical questionnaire before being deemed fit to enroll in a course. These forms have specific sections for mature divers; the PADI Medical Statement, for example, asks those over 45 years old to answer questions regarding cholesterol levels, familial history of heart attack and lifestyle habits.
Whatever your age, acknowledging any of the pre-existing medical conditions detailed on these forms means that you cannot learn to dive without a physician’s written consent; conversely, upon passing the medical questionnaire, you are considered fit to dive no matter how old you are. Similarly, the swim tests that are a component of any entry-level course are designed to establish satisfactory physical fitness. Completing them indicates that an individual (whether they are 19 or 90) is capable of diving.
Many of the reasons experts once advised against diving at an advanced age have since been disproved. For example, doctors previously thought that the general decline of the lungs over time would make older divers less able to cope with pressure changes and breathing compressed air. Particularly, scientists hypothesized that elderly lungs would retain dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. However, studies conducted by Duke University Medical Center showed that older divers did not retain levels of gas that were significantly higher than those in younger test subjects. Many of the problems that once affected senior divers can now be mitigated, too; while age typically slows metabolism and creates susceptibility to hypothermia as a result, this problem can easily be solved with a thicker exposure-protection suit. Similarly, poor vision can be corrected with contact lenses or prescription masks. In fact, diving is increasingly becoming accepted as a healthy form of exercise for seniors, thanks to its low impact and the relief of painful joints granted by the weightlessness of water.
That being said, it is vitally important that all divers, but particularly older ones, maintain responsibility for their own physical fitness. Being fit at the time of certification is one thing, but for new and experienced divers alike, a lapse in physical ability is a danger not only to their own safety but to their buddy’s as well. General health tends to decrease over time, with the heart, lungs and muscles bearing the brunt of the aging process. Blood vessels become stiffer, causing increased blood pressure and a thickened heart muscle. Lungs lose their elasticity, which helps explain why dive theory teaches us that age can heighten the risk of decompression illness. Additionally, while previous heart problems, paralysis or serious surgery do not necessarily preclude a person from diving, those who have suffered such conditions must seek medical advice before enrolling in a course, and should be aware that some medication is not compatible with diving. A recent study that investigated global diving deaths found that 45 percent of fatal accidents in divers over the age of 40 were caused by cardiac problems; in many cases, the victim had been controlling a preexisting condition with medication. Obviously, any decrease in mental capacity that affects a person’s cognitive abilities also renders diving unsafe.
Ultimately, although age carries with it potential health implications that may affect a person’s ability to dive, no one rule applies to all situations. As long as a person is physically fit enough to pass the standard swim tests and medical questionnaires requested of all students, they are capable of learning to dive. Equally, as long as a person maintains the required level of fitness and goes regularly for health check-ups, there is no reason why they should not continue to dive for as long as they wish to do so.
If further proof is needed, we need look no further than the most famous diver of all time — Jacques Cousteau continued to dive until his death at the ripe old age of 87. Age affects everyone differently, which is why when it comes to diving, age really is just a number.
5 reasons why Nudibranchs aren’t boring
For some reason, Nudibranchs – also known as sea slugs – are often associated with being boring. Maybe that’s due to their land counterparts, the slug, but more than likely it’s because divers just don’t know enough about these incredible creatures.
Credit: Sami Awed Ali (2012)
Here are just five reasons why nudibranchs deserve extra appreciation:
1. There are over 3,000 species
Every new nudibranch you see on a dive will be a completely different experience. That’s because there are over 3,000 species of nudibranchs and there are still more being discovered today. Nudibranchs can be seen in a wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes, and are found in both cold and warm waters across the world.
2. Nudibranchs are toxic
Divers don’t have to worry about nudibranchs being poisonous, but predators do. Since they lack any protective shell, nudibranchs send warning signals that let other animals know they might be toxic to help keep enemies at bay.
3. They change colour based on their diet
Nudibranchs are carnivores and eat other small animals such as hydroids, sponges, anemones and barnacles. But, what makes the nudibranch unusual is that they often adopt the colour of their prey, leaving them looking brilliant, colourful and perfect for photos!
4. Nudibranchs are hermaphrodites
Although they don’t usually self-reproduce, nudibranchs possess both female and reproductive organs. This means that any nudibranch can mate with any other nudibranch of the same species, rather than being limited to male or female partners only – a nifty trait which makes it easier for them to reproduce.
5. They leave a slimy trail
As nudibranchs move across the ocean floor with their foot, they leave a trail of slime behind. This slime trail actually serves a clever purpose – it communicates messages to other nudibranchs, such as where to find a mate or that danger is nearby.
As you can see, nudibranchs are far from boring. In fact, they’re really quite interesting!
Top 5 Reasons to Try A Scuba Group Trip
Posted By Megan via PADI
If you’ve never enjoyed the experience of a group scuba diving trip, now’s the time to sign up for one. Group trips offer many advantages and opportunities that you miss out on when traveling alone. Here are five reasons why you might want to sign up for a group trip:
1. Enjoy activities and locations chosen by experienced travelers
When planning a scuba trip in unfamiliar territory, it’s difficult to know where the best dive spots and operators are located. If you go on a group trip, all of the locations, dive operators and activities are chosen by experienced, knowledgeable travelers so you can enjoy the best experience possible.
2. Save money
Traveling can be expensive, especially when you travel alone. Going on a group trip is cheaper than booking an individual flight, which means you can spend less money on the travel fees and more money on fun souvenirs and experiences.
3. Great photos and videos of the experience
If you go on a scuba trip with a group, there will be other travelers who will shoot photos and videos, which will make it easier to show others some of your memories from the trip.
4. Create long-lasting friendships
Just like the summer camp you went to as a kid, group trips allow you to meet new people and create long-lasting friendships. A group trip is one of the best ways to meet new people and find new dive buddies. We often hear about folks who live in different parts of the world and meet up once or twice a year just to go diving.
5. Network with other guests
You never know how the connections you make can affect your future. Networking with the right people can open up opportunities for you down the road, whether it’s in your personal or work life. By signing up for a group trip, you are not only making new friends, but you are also making new connections.
Scuba Wetsuit Care: Removing Odors & Extending Suit Life
By Christine Beggs
If you want your wetsuit to last as long as possible, a bit of proper wetsuit care is all you need. The difference between a wetsuit with a 1 year life and 6 year life depends, to a certain extent, on how often you are using it. But to a larger extent, how well you take care of your wetsuit is going to either quicken or slow its deterioration. Below are 13 care tips for extending wetsuit life.
1. Neoprene and Hot Water Are Not Friends
Neoprene loses some of the flexibility when soaked in hot water. So hop in a cold shower with your wetsuit on or only soak it in lukewarm water.
2. Sun & UV Rays Deteriorate Neoprene
Sun and UV rays both cause your neoprene wetsuit to age more quickly. So if you need your scuba suit to dry, don’t try to hasten the process by placing it in the sun. In the long run, the neoprene will become hard and lose flexibility.
3. Don’t Put Your Wetsuit in a Hot Trunk
If your car has been sitting in a parking lot on a hot day, then putting your wet suit into the trunk is not a great idea. This will essentially “cook” your gear, increasing smells and breeding bacteria.
4. Turn Your Wetsuit Inside Out to Dry
To dry your wetsuit, its best to first turn it inside out before hanging it up. By turning the suit inside out, flexibility will be maintained on the outer side. This means that even if the wetsuit it not 100% dry to next time you put it on, you’ll for sure be crawling into a drier side.
5. Carefully Store
Carefully store your dry wet suit on a flat surface or hang on a wide coat hanger in your closet.
6. Quickly Clean & Dry Your Suit
After a dive, don’t let your wet wetsuit sit in your dive bag, all stinky, messy and sandy. Clean the suit quickly and dry it completely before storing away. This type of regular wetsuit care will be sure to increase its lifespan.
7. Avoid “Messy Dressing”
If you’re doing a beach or shore dive, keep your wetsuit up and aware from the mud/ sand. Its not so comfortable to pull on a sandy wetsuit! Also, when you take off your wetsuit, stand on pavement, a rock, your changing bag, grass or anything besides the middle of the sandy beach.
8. Wetsuits Don’t Belong in the Washer
Neoprene wetsuits must be handled with care and can’t be put through the washer and dryer. You have to hand wash and air dry.
9. Can I Iron my Wetsuit? …. No!
It’s a no-brainer that you should not iron your wetsuit. Just look at the rubber areas around the zippers and knees. Also, if you were to iron the neoprene, that amount of excessive heat would make the suit very stiff.
10. Bleach is Off-Limits
Strong washing agents, such as bleach, are way too harsh for your neoprene wetsuit (not to mention the discoloration that will occur). There are some mild cleansing agents, such as “Sink the Stink” and “Trident Wetsuit Cleaner" that you can purchase from your local dive shop, but regular dish detergent will work just as well (read on to find out how to get rid of wetsuit smells on your own).
11. Why Does My Wetsuit Stink?
Your wetsuit can stink if it was left, wet, in a bag for a while and wasn’t rinsed. The smell comes from bacteria that begin to feed on the normal sweat and body oils and odors clinging to the wetsuit after we use it. Also, if you urinate in your wetsuit, the pee can leave an odor behind.
12. How to Get Rid of Wetsuit Smells & Odors
As I mentioned, there are special cleaning soaps and solutions for getting rid of wetsuit odors, but I personally, find that there is an easy, more economical way to erase suit smells. Here is my homemade recipe for washing smelly wetsuits:
- 1st: Fill the tub up ¼ of the way with fresh, warm (not hot) water.
- 2nd: Add a couple tablespoons of dish washing detergent, just enough to get a dilute bubbly water bath for soaking.
Note: Some people will use laundry detergent, but I think even that is too harsh for neoprene (and tougher to rinse off). The only laundry detergent to consider using is Woolite.
- 3rd: Wash your wetsuit in the tub of soap and the detergent will break down the body oils and odors. In addition, it will help wash away the bacteria that caused the smell in the first place .
- 4th: Rinse your wetsuit in fresh water in order to get all the detergent off. Then hang your wetsuit up to dry in the fresh air (away from direct sunlight).
- 5th: Every few weeks, repeat this process to keep your wetsuit completely odor-free!
Why Becoming A PADI Rescue Diver Is Seriously Fun
By Jessica Vyvyan-Robinson
Divers often describe PADI’s Rescue Diver course as the most rewarding of all their training experiences. Becoming a Rescue Diver not only teaches you how to prevent dive accidents and emergencies — and how to manage them should they arise — but it also consolidates your skills and experience from earlier courses, making you a more confident and accomplished diver. More than any other course, Rescue Diver training increases awareness of the dive environment and the factors that affect diver safety. Learning how to interpret and react to those factors makes the course both fulfilling and fun. It is designed for anyone interested in expanding on the basic rescue skills that they learned in their entry-level courses, with the goal of becoming equipped to help themselves and others in an emergency situation. It is also a mandatory step in becoming a PADI professional. There are a few prerequisites to enrolling in the course: potential Rescue Divers must be at least 12 years old, and have completed their PADI Adventure Diver certification with Underwater Navigation as a mandatory specialty. In addition, candidates must have undergone EFR Primary and Secondary training within the last 24 months, although this can be done in conjunction with the Rescue course. The Rescue course will teach you how to adapt the skills learned during EFR training to situations pertinent to diving.
Unlike previous courses, the Rescue Diver course involves relatively little time spent underwater. Instead, there are two main components, the first of which is a theory section comprised of five knowledge reviews and a final exam. Divers will explore a range of topics including the psychology of rescue, recognizing diver stress, and preparing an emergency assistance plan for a specific dive site. The second component of the course is devoted to skill mastery. While that may not sound particularly interesting, this section involves a lot of teamwork and role-play, which demands constant awareness and quick thinking. The skill sequences are challenging, adrenalin-inducing and above all, fun. The practical section of the course is divided into three sections: self-rescue skills, ten rescue exercises and two rescue scenarios. The self-rescue skills are basic and should be familiar from earlier courses; they include cramp release, establishing positive buoyancy at the surface and using an alternative air source. As simplistic as these skills may seem, they are effective ways of alleviating problems that without proper attention could become far more severe. Much of the Rescue Diver course is dedicated to preventing accidents from happening in the first place or to mitigating them in their early stages. It is always preferable to avert an emergency rather than to face one.
The ten rescue exercises are the backbone of the course, and teach individuals how to react to a variety of potential accidents or scenarios. They include learning how to appropriately assist tired and panicked divers, how to respond to distressed divers from shore and underwater, the most efficient ways to search for a missing diver, proper exiting techniques, and how to administer oxygen and in-water rescue breaths. Mastery of these skills could one day mean the difference between tragedy and survival; by knowing how to perform them effectively you become equipped to save lives. Your instructor will have assistants simulate these scenarios at any given time throughout the course, often without warning. You will be expected to react to them quickly and efficiently, as if the accident had occurred in real life. The skills that you learn as a result of this training will be put to the test in the rescue scenario section of the course, when you will be required to react to an unresponsive diver at the surface and an unresponsive diver underwater, performing the necessary steps for a rescue from start to finish.
Most divers who complete their Rescue Diver training will never have to provide assistance in the aftermath of a dive accident. Thankfully, serious dive accidents happen with a scarcity that means the most valuable skills divers take away from their training are normally preventative ones, such as recognizing and managing diver stress or eliminating vertigo before it becomes a problem. However, knowing that you are able to cope with an emergency not only makes you a better buddy, but also a generally more confident, capable diver. It is important not to let your newfound skills stagnate; keep them up to date and refreshed with frequent practice. That way, whatever situations arise, you will be sufficiently equipped to deal with them in the safest and most effective way possible.
Nitrox For Beginners
By Jessica Vyvyan-Robinson
Although nitrox has been used for recreational diving for almost 25 years, it is still often misunderstood. As an instructor, I’ve found myself correcting countless students who are under the impression that nitrox enables a person to dive deeper than normal air — just one of the common misconceptions about nitrox diving. Although specific training is required before diving nitrox for the first time, these basic facts will help to make more sense of what it is and what it can do for you.
What Is It?
Quite literally, nitrox refers to a mix of nitrogen and oxygen, regardless of the percentage of each in the mix. The nitrox we use while diving is more properly called enriched-air nitrox, and refers to any blend of nitrogen and oxygen in which the oxygen concentration is greater than that of normal air. This means an oxygen level of 22 percent or higher, although the most common enriched-air nitrox blend is 32 percent. The recreational diving limit is 40 percent oxygen.
What Does It Do?
As every entry-level diver knows, increased pressure at depth causes the nitrogen in the air we breathe to be dissolved into the bloodstream. The time that we can spend underwater is limited by this nitrogen absorption — as we dive deeper and for longer, we absorb more nitrogen at a greater rate. Our no-decompression limit correlates to the amount of nitrogen our bodies can absorb before we must perform compulsory decompression stops or suffer the consequences of decompression sickness.
Enriched-air nitrox slows down the rate at which nitrogen dissolves into our bloodstream, because there is less nitrogen available to be absorbed from the mix that we’re breathing. The higher the percentage of your enriched-air blend, the more nitrogen is replaced with extra oxygen.
There are several reasons divers use enriched-air nitrox. One of its biggest benefits is an increased no-decompression limit, which means longer bottom time. The lower percentage of nitrogen in the nitrox you’re breathing means your bloodstream is also absorbing nitrogen more slowly. For example, on normal air a diver has a no-decompression limit of 50 minutes at 60 feet; using a 36 percent enriched-air mix at the same depth will extend this limit to 130 minutes. In terms of increasing bottom time, enriched air is most useful for depths between 50 and 100 feet; any shallower and no-decompression limits are already so long that divers usually have no need to extend them.
Surface intervals are usually shorter on nitrox as well. Since there is less nitrogen to off-gas, a diver on enriched air will be able to re-enter the water sooner than a diver using normal air after completing the same profile. This also means that divers using enriched air typically have longer maximum bottom times on repetitive dives, and less off-gassing means that enriched air divers are often less tired at the end of the day than divers using normal air. Enriched air can be a valuable safety buffer for divers who choose to use it while following normal air tables, computers, profiles and procedures. Doing so creates a considerable conservative margin that further reduces the risk of decompression sickness, and may be advisable for anyone who may be susceptible to it, such as those who are tired, overweight, older, have suffered decompression sickness before, or are diving with injuries.
Myths, Considerations and Dangers
Although the benefits of diving with enriched air are significant, doing so also involves certain risks. One of the most common misconceptions about enriched air nitrox is that users can dive deeper than with normal air; in fact the opposite is true. Under pressure, oxygen becomes toxic. The percentage of oxygen in normal air (21 percent) only becomes toxic at depths greater than the recreational limit, but the increased percentages of oxygen in enriched air mean that toxicity can become a problem at much shallower depths. Toxicity causes convulsions that put a diver at risk of losing his regulator and subsequently drowning. However, enriched-air courses teach divers how to work out their maximum operating depth using the percentage and partial pressure of the oxygen in their mix. As long as the maximum operating depth is adhered to, oxygen toxicity should not be a problem.
Oxygen also requires caution in the sense that it is an exceptionally flammable gas. Although standard scuba equipment is safe to use with air blends containing up to 40 percent oxygen, the process by which an enriched-air cylinder is filled often involves much higher concentrations. Partial-pressure blending exposes the cylinder to pure oxygen that is later diluted with normal air, and cylinders that are not treated for exposure to such high levels of oxygen can explode. Therefore, any part of the cylinder that comes in to contact with pure oxygen needs to be “oxygen clean,” and cylinders used for enriched air and normal air are not interchangeable. Enriched-air cylinders require decals or stickers to differentiate them from normal ones; they should be serviced annually.
There are a few other equipment considerations to bear in mind when considering enriched-air diving. Before each dive, you are personally responsible for checking the percentage of oxygen in your cylinder. If it is even slightly off, your maximum-operating depth calculations will be too. To check, you will need an analyzer, and although you can usually borrow one from your dive center, it’s a good idea to have your own if you intend to dive nitrox regularly. If you dive with a computer, you need to make sure that yours has enriched-air settings and correlates to the details of your mix before beginning each dive. Remember that enriched air does not improve air consumption, and neither does it give immunity to decompression sickness. Continue to check your gauges, depth and time limits as often as you would when diving on normal air.
With these precautions and the necessary training, enriched-air diving is a fantastic way to get the most out of your diving experience. You’ll spend more time in the water, and less time waiting to get back in.