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.
Beginner Tips: Buoyancy Control
By Shelley Collett
Have you ever seen those divers out there just effortlessly floating inches above the bottom, moving as if they were one with the water, expending little, if any energy to swim around? Ever wish you could do that too? Well you can. All it takes is some knowledge and practice. And in my not so humble opinion, aside from an understanding of Boyle’s Law and how it relates to scuba diving, buoyancy control is the number one thing to have down pat. I can help a wee bit with the knowledge, but the practice is all on you!
First off, why should you have good buoyancy control? Well that’s a great question! It helps to understand why you should do something in the first place. What advantages will good buoyancy control give you...
- Less air consumption (you expend less energy, so you use less air)
- Less effort - so you’re not as tired (and you use less air)
- Lower chance of harming marine life (sorry about that crater hole in the reef!)
- Lower chance of harming yourself ON marine life (like banging your face on fire coral)
- Lower chance of harming yourself on ascent (oops, blew right through that safety stop!)
- You don’t have to lug around as much weight (or pay as much in luggage fees)
- You feel more at ease and comfortable in the water (as opposed to feeling like a large bull with an air supply)
- You feel more in control
- Because of the last two, you gain confidence
- You look cool (this is, of course, the most important one)
Power inflator is NOT an elevator button
If you inflate to ascend, you run a big risk of an out of control ascent. Remember Boyle’s Law? The air you put in at depth is going to expand as you go up, and the more you go up, the more buoyant you’re going to become. At a certain point, you’re not going to be able to control your ascent any longer and you will have put yourself at risk of DCS as you rocket to the surface like a cork. I’ve been there and done that, it’s not fun!
This may seem contrary to common sense, but you should only inflate to stop a decent and then you deflate while you’re ascending. In other words, while underwater, you’re actually going to inflate on your way down and deflate on your way up. In fact, try to use your power inflator as little as possible in general, and when you do use it, make very small adjustments.
Okay, now that’s out of the way.
The Right Gear
First off, make sure your BCD fits properly. A BCD that’s too big or too small is going to make your buoyancy control that much more difficult. It should hug your body, not pinch it and not move around much independently. You want to make sure you have the right amount of lift for the diving conditions you’re going to be in, too. In colder water, you’ll need more weight and your BCD needs to be able to handle that.
Weights and Trim
Once you’re clear on how to use your power inflator, or rather now NOT to use it, weights and trim are your next step in becoming a buoyancy control expert. Lugging around too much weight underwater can increase your drag, force you to use much more air in your BCD to compensate, and will wear you out in the process. Try this test. Go to a pool or some other easily accessible body of water. Do the buoyancy check (no air in BCD, holding breath, float at eye level) starting with zero extra weight. Then keep adding a couple pounds and redoing the check until you float at eye level with an empty BCD and a normal breath held. Now, descend (remember to exhale fully!), and swim around. Come back to the surface and grab 5 - 10 lbs of weight (the average amount of extra weight divers carry that they don’t need to) and descend again and swim around. You will see how much more effort it takes to swim around with that extra weight. Just try it. It may surprise you. Remember that your descent should be slow, and also remember to put on a couple extra pounds in anticipation of a lighter tank at the end of the dive.
As much as you don’t want to be too heavy, you don’t want to be too light either. If you have to struggle to get down and you’re sure you’ve fully exhaled and fully emptied your BCD, then you’re underweighted. Don’t force yourself down because when you come back up on ascent with a lighter tank, you could end up with an out of control ascent. Another tip about difficult descents: Sometimes it’s just that the BCD isn’t completely empty. Be sure to raise the inflator hose high, lean to the right a little, and lean back just a tad. That should get it completely empty.
Everyone is different when it comes to trim. Do what makes you feel the most comfortable, but figuring that out may take some trial and error. Some folks are perfectly fine with all of their weight in their BCD front weight pockets. Personally, I like my weight distributed all over my body. I wear ankle weights, tank weights, and put weight in my BCD front and back pockets. That’s just me, though. Experiment with trim weights and see if it makes you feel more streamlined.
Look Ma, No Hands
While diving, your hands should be used to check gauges, computers, adjust your BCD, point at pretty things, and poke your buddy. What they should not be used for is swimming. Yes, sometimes you find yourself listing to one side or another. That’s where the trim weighting (see above) comes into play. Some of us have more muscle mass on one side or another and will just naturally tilt that way. Fix those problems with trim weights, not your hands.
Swimming with your hands in general is a big no-no in scuba diving. For one thing, it’s dangerous to all of the divers around you. Your flailing limbs are just unexpected obstacles they have to try to avoid so they don’t get smacked in the head, or their mask knocked off, or their regulator knocked out of their mouth. Secondly, you’re scaring all the fish away! Third, you’re risking beating your limbs on someone or something and injuring yourself. Fourth (this list just keeps getting longer the more I think about it) you’re wasting energy and if you’re wasting energy, then you’re wasting air. That’s a scuba diving party foul. Fifth, it doesn’t help anything. Your legs are your power, your arms do very little underwater (see the whole wasted energy thing). And last, you’re making it harder to feel the buoyancy adjustments you need to make. By flailing around and using your hands to try to adjust your buoyancy, you’re not learning how to do it with your lungs or BCD. You need to feel those sensations, understand them, and then compensate using your lungs, inflator, or your fins.
There are times that a rapid swimming adjustment must be made and hands must be used, but those are few and far between. If you can’t seem to stop using them, then force yourself to clasp your hands together, or grab onto your BCD somewhere comfortable. Get your hands doing something else to help keep you from immediately flailing them out.
Horizontal. That’s how you should be diving. Not only diving, but it’s how you should descend too. As you descend, you start to pick up speed as your wetsuit compresses and the atmospheres add up above you. If you make yourself horizontal as you’re descending you can more easily see the bottom you are plummeting towards, and as your body creates more drag it will naturally slow your descent. Small bursts of air will help control your body too, and help to prevent you from cratering into the sediment or reef below. If you’re not sure what cratering is, go to the bottom of a lake, quarry, etc, where a lot of new divers are being trained and just watch. You’ll see them drop like rocks to the bottom then hit the bottom with a great big POOF! as a crater is formed in the sediment around where they landed. That’s cratering. Stop doing that.
Horizontal is best while swimming around too. Not slightly angled up... not slightly angled down. Either of those positions means you’re not weighted properly. You should be horizontal for ease of movement, range of vision, and best buoyancy control. If you’re angled slightly up, each fin kick is going to move you up, vice versa for being angled down. Just like driving, people tend to go the direction they are looking. Be aware of this and try to maintain a horizontal position, and if you do look up to take in some scenery, stop kicking.
Remember a couple paragraphs up I said that you should use your power inflator as little as possible? You may have wondered how, or why. The answer to both is: use your lungs. Once you’ve used your inflator to get neutrally buoyant on your initial descent, you really should rely primarily on your lungs from there on out. Big deep breaths will cause you to rise a little in the water column, big deep exhales will make you drop a bit. Use these to your advantage while diving and you’ll find that you’ll need to kick less and spend less time fighting your buoyancy because you accidentally added too much air to your BCD. The only way to truly master this is to practice, practice, practice. You know that brief hovering skill you did for your open water cert? You should be practicing that all the time until it becomes natural for you. It’s real easy to just grab that inflator and pop some air in, but fight that urge. Try using your lungs instead. Imagine this scenario:
You’re diving along a beautiful reef when you come to an area you need to go up and over. You take a deeper than normal breath and let your natural buoyancy lift you gently upward as you continue with your normal kicking. Once you’re up a little bit, you resume breathing normally. Then, as you need to come down the other side, you exhale deeper than usual, allowing yourself to easily sink deeper in the water before resuming your normal breathing cadence.
Doesn’t that sound much better than kicking your way up and kicking your way back down? Or putting air in your BCD, only to realize that once you do go up a little bit that you’re too buoyant and must now let air back out as you fight to get back down to your desired depth?
One of the biggest problems with newer divers is that they’re very tense, with good reason. You know how you did a weight check in a pool somewhere and you know what weight you should be using, but you just can’t seem to go down right now? Chances are you’re all tensed up and are holding extra air in your lungs. You don’t even realize you’re doing it, it’s just a matter of not being relaxed and the air just isn’t coming out. I know it’s easier said than done sometimes, but relax. Take some nice deep cleansing breaths, and let them fully out. I tell people to fully exhale and they blow out a little puff. Most of us don’t realize just how much air our lungs can and do hold. Practice relaxing your muscles to allow yourself to really fully exhale. Do it on land when you are very relaxed so you can feel what it's like to fully exhale, then remember that when you’re trying to descend.
Aside from descending issue, being tensed up in general will affect your buoyancy control. Have you ever tried to float on your back on the surface of the water while tensed up? You can’t do it. You have to relax to float. Well, at least I do! Similarly, you need to relax to have good buoyancy control underwater too. This takes some time, comfort, and confidence to get there though. Speaking of which...
Practice Makes Perfect
You have to practice these things. The best divers among us weren’t born knowing how to float effortlessly while sitting in a buddha fin-holding position. It takes practice to get there. We can tell you what you need to do, we can give you pointers, we can show you, and we can tell you what works and what won’t, but to master this you need to FEEL it. And that, my friends, is a very personal thing that you have to attain on your own. Eventually, it will click. That lightbulb will go on and you’ll wonder why it seemed so hard to begin with. I promise you. Practice WILL make perfect. Every chance you get, just do it. You’ll thank me later when you’re carrying less weight, using less air, feeling less tired, and aren’t being maimed from crashing into reefs.
9 Pieces of Gear Every Diver Should Know
By Thomas Gronfeldt
Properly using these 10 items will make your dives safer and more enjoyable
1. DSMB A delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB), or safety sausage, is a long, tube-shaped balloon, usually orange, that you inflate underwater with your regulator or octopus, sending it to the surface to signal the dive boat or someone on shore of your presence. It is often used in situations of moderate to high current to let the Zodiac know where you are after a dive ends. But simple as it sounds, it can be tricky to use these properly, and divers tend to get tangled up in the line or to ascend uncontrolled along with the DSMB, so practice is important.
A jonline is a simple hook or carabiner attached to about 6 feet of webbing. If you’re stuck on a shot line during a safety stop with lots of other divers, it can be difficult for everyone to stay within the safety-stop zone. By attaching the jonline to the shot line, you can move away from the shot line without being carried off by a current, leaving more room for everyone else.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of snorkels, but if you do bring one, make sure you know how to use it. Take the time to learn how to breathe effectively in it, how to clear it, and how to place it properly so it doesn’t get in your way. I’ve seen a number of people nearly drown from inefficient snorkel clearing.
4. Trauma shears
Knives are popular, but often trauma shears can be even more effective. They can be operated with one hand, even while cutting a line; there’s less risk of inflicting damage on yourself or others; and there is less potential for legal issues when traveling.
5. Line reel
Line reels are one of the multi-tools of scuba diving. Often used for an easy return to a specific point, such as an ascent point or an exit point in a wreck or cave, or to tether onto a surface buoy, they are inexpensive and reliable. They do tend to get into a tangled mess if you’re not vigilant, so learning proper line-handling skills is important.
6. Signaling mirror
A diver on the surface doesn’t have a very large profile, making him hard to spot even for people who are actively looking. And the ambient sounds at sea make it nearly impossible to shout loud enough to get someone’s attention. So if you need to communicate with someone, either on land or on a boat, a simple signaling mirror can do the trick, even over fairly long distances. At night, a powerful dive torch can do the same.
7. Dive computer
Most people have computers, but few take the time to get to know their functions. Nothing is more disconcerting than seeing a warning go off during a dive and having no idea what it means. Read the instruction manual thoroughly and get to know your new dive computer’s functions.
8. Reef hook
A controversial piece of equipment, the reef hook is used to hold on to a reef if you need to come to a stop in a strong current, either to wait for a potential marine life sighting, to prevent yourself from being swept away, or as part of a safety stop. If used incorrectly, they can damage sensitive coral reefs, but when used correctly they can be a lot less damaging than holding on to the reef with your hand. Place them only on the rocky part of a reef, and check for plant or animal life first.
9. Common sense
While not, strictly speaking, a piece of gear, common sense is still the single most important thing to use before, during and after a dive. Remember your training, respect your limitations and don’t do anything stupid. This, more than anything, will keep you safe.
8 Ways to Increase Your Diving Confidence.
By Polly Philipson
Many people feel anxious before a dive when they are starting out on their scuba diving journey. It is completely understandable as it is a new realm that is being explored. Beginners don’t know what it is going to feel like underwater or if they will enjoy it. It feels like there are so many things to think about to start with. These tips help build confidence that will assist you prepare for your amazing underwater experiences
1 – Professional Training Builds Your Diving Confidence
Years of research and tried and tested techniques have gone into formulating today’s scuba diving courses. Modern scuba diving training has been specifically designed to alleviate stress and slowly build on skills to a point where divers are ready to go out into open water. Organizations, such as PADI, have skills and procedures that divers must learn in sequence – these standards are adhered to by PADI Instructors worldwide. Studying theory, watching videos and learning skills in the pool is followed by practicing in the sea with your instructor. This allows you to slowly develop at your own pace – only progressing when you are comfortable with each section.
2 – Knowing Your Equipment Increases Diving Confidence
During your scuba diving training, you will learn how to set up, adjust, check, and don your equipment. Understanding how your equipment works will give you added confidence and alleviate stress. Making sure everything is fitted correctly and securely, with the help of your instructor or buddy, is very important.
3 – Confined Water Practice Raises Diving Confidence
As mentioned earlier, your training is performance-based, and you will have ample time to learn and practice scuba diving skills in the pool before heading out to the open water. Your instructor will assess your capabilities and allow extra time for practice if needed. Likewise, if you haven’t dived for a while then it’s a great idea to jump back into the pool for a Scuba Review.
4 – Correct Weighting and Buoyancy Assist Diving Confidence
Divers perform weight checks on the surface before a dive to determine that they have the correct amount of weight. You will be taught this during your training. If you are worried when you start your open water dive that you may be under weighted, then ask the instructor to carry spares or have spare weights available at the end of the dive on a descent line. It is a mistake to overweight yourself, as this will make you consume air faster and alter your buoyancy and trim when underwater.
5 – Breathing Techniques Help Diving Confidence
Begin your dive relaxed and calm – give yourself time at the start of the dive to become relaxed with slow, deep breathing. Allow yourself to orientate to being underwater by pausing after your descent. Take time to regulate your breathing, check your equipment and computer, and to signal to your buddy that everything is OK. Then you can focus on having fun and discovering the amazing marine life!
6 – Discuss Diving Confidence
Build your confidence by talking to your instructor and other divers about their experiences. You will find people’s passion and love for the sport is infectious; divers love to share their underwater adventures and knowledge. If you feel nervous before a dive then talk to your instructor or buddy. They will assist you in identifying what is causing your nerves and help you to solve any issues.
7 – Watching Videos
Training agencies such as PADI have videos that complement their courses. They are a great way to see what it is like underwater before you go! Watching videos will prepare you for your first experience by visually demonstrating the theory you have learned. Popular online sites such as YouTube are a good resource for finding footage of various dive sites and marine life.
8 – Relax and Enjoy!
The final piece of advice is to relax, take your time and enjoy. Don’t rush to set up your equipment and work at your own pace when getting ready for your dive. When you rush, you create stress and may not follow the procedures you have been taught. Similarly, don’t rush around underwater – take time to appreciate what nature has created and enjoy the full experience of breathing underwater.
Travel Guide that appeared in Singapore Expat Living
Divers – especially those who are keen photographers – are
drawn to rare underwater sights. Moalboal, in the Philippine
province of Cebu, offers a great opportunity to dive with (and
film) the ocean’s biggest fish and some of its biggest shoals.
Chris White of Turtle Bay Dive Resort tells us more
about these two unusual Moalboal dive experiences.
Photograph by Tim Digger
Let’s start with the big boys. The
entrepreneurial fishermen of Tan-awan
Oslob in Cebu – a previously sleepy
little fishing village just 77 kilometres
from Moalboal – discovered in 2011
that when they fed visiting whale sharks
a daily supply of krill (their natural diet) it
was enough of a temptation to convince
them to stick around. This soon caught
the attention of the international media
and all of a sudden Oslob was on the
world dive map.
The attraction for divers is that they
are guaranteed an up-close encounter
with many whale sharks (mature adults
and juveniles) every day of the year from
a shore-entry dive. The whale sharks are
also accessible to snorkellers and even
passengers in paddle boats operated by
the local municipality.
While fish feeding is a controversial
topic, frowned upon by many naturalists
as it can disrupt the natural behaviour of
fish, the whale sharks in Oslob are well
protected, with strict rules in place for all
divers and snorkellers, and are now the
subject of scientific study.
Moving down to the other end of the
spectrum, for a number of years (with
a few gaps in between) divers in
Moalboal have been able to experience
diving among the swirling clouds of
sardines that have made Moalboal
their temporary home, and provided its
nickname of “Sardine City”.
They started out at Pescador Island but
later, inexplicably moved to Panagsama
Beach, Moalboal, where they swim
just metres from the shore. Not only can
divers witness the countless sardines
swimming in formation with the sunlight
flashing off their scales, but they will also
see the many predator fish attracted by
a free meal – schools of jacks, needle
fish and, occasionally, thresher sharks.
at Sardine City
The family-run Turtle Bay Dive Resort
has 28 air-conditioned rooms set in
landscaped tropical gardens, facing
the bay at Moalboal. Relax around
the lagoon pool, or enjoy a soothing
massage between dives.