8 Tips To Help You With Your Open Water Course
Article from Scuba Diver Life
1. Listen to and watch your instructor. When he or she is demonstrating a skill, pay attention. They’re doing so for your benefit, and hopefully they have already mastered the skills themselves. 2. Everything in your course has a purpose (even that damn snorkel), even if to begin with you don’t understand what the reason is. Your instructor should explain why you are required to do A, B and C. They are not asking you to do something for no reason. 3. Relax — easy to say, not always easy to do. Nearly everyone has problems (sometimes major, sometimes minor) when they start off; it is almost expected. 4. Don’t beat yourself over the head about something you’re not getting; your instructor will work with you until the perceived problem is no longer. 5. Don’t worry if the student next to you seems to grasp the theory or water skills quicker than you do. It’s not a competition; people learn at different speeds. It doesn’t matter how quickly you complete a skill or piece of theory, all that matters is that you competently complete the course. 6. Never be afraid to ask questions. People often don’t ask questions or for another demonstration as they’re afraid of appearing stupid or slow-witted. 7. Don’t confuse the Open Water course with diving. Some people get halfway through the course and decide diving’s not for them. For most people, a dive equals a jump in the water, a look at the fish or wrecks, and getting out of the water. On most general dives we don’t remove our masks underwater, perform fin pivots, remove our regulators, and so on. The course is a means to an end, not the end itself, and will make you a more confident diver when the time comes to just jump in. 8. One last thing – enjoy it. Diving is essentially about fun; that’s why we call it recreational diving.
Perfect Buoyancy On Every Dive
Want to reduce your air consumption? Be able to fin faster and farther with less effort? Look relaxed and in perfect control? Finish the dive with less fatigue? Receive approving smiles from divemasters?
The secret is pinpoint buoyancy control, and it all begins with fine-tuning your weighting—that's how much lead you thread on your belt or put into your pouches. If you are carrying just the right amount of weight, you will have the smallest amount of BC inflation. That means less drag and more efficient finning. Less BC inflation also means less buoyancy shift with depth, so you'll make fewer adjustments.
How Much Weight Do I Need?
Correct weighting depends on your personal buoyancy needs and is influenced by a number of factors—from the composition of your body to the thickness of your wetsuit. You can get a rough estimate of how much weight you'll need by using our exclusive buoyancy calculator. You should be able to estimate the proper weight within 4 to 5 pounds. Now, go diving and:
Make One Final Check
Got your weighting exactly right on the first day of your vacation? Great. Now check it again a few days later. Chances are you can drop a couple more pounds. Why? You're more relaxed now, so you're breathing with less air in your lungs.
Is "Perfect" Weighting Always Perfect?
Because excellent buoyancy control and minimum weighting are the hallmarks of an expert diver, many of us feel pressure to eliminate every pound of lead we can. But sometimes that's a bad idea.
When you're wearing little or no neoprene, there's little or no buoyancy change with depth. You can therefore minimize your weighting without risking too much positive buoyancy when you ascend.
But wearing more neoprene means more changes in buoyancy as it compresses. At depth, you'll probably have to inflate your BC to compensate for it so you lose a good deal of the streamlining benefit. As you ascend, you'll have to vent that air accurately to avoid positive buoyancy. Here, a couple of extra pounds of lead will give you a margin for error.
Think of minimum weighting as you would the edge of a cliff. You don't want to fall over into positive buoyancy and an uncontrollable ascent. When in doubt, it's safer to stay a few steps—or pounds—back from the edge.
Fine Tune Your Trim
Finding perfect buoyancy isn't just about finding the right amount of weight, it's also about the distribution of that weight. Proper trim—the distribution of your weight front-to-back, side-to-side and head-to-toe—helps you keep your fins off the reef and maintain an efficient horizontal swimming position. You should be able to hover in a horizontal position (or, ideally, in any position) without your feet sinking or rising, without rolling to one side or the other.
If your weighting is spot-on so that you're neutral during your 15-foot safety stop, try these exercises to see if you're properly trimmed. If not, you can shift some weight to compensate. Don't expect perfection, but you can get close. (You've got at least three minutes to kill anyway.) The trick is to be as relaxed as possible. Don't fidget.
|Buddha Hover Illustration by Mike Gushock
The Buddha Hover—Assume the modified lotus position (feet under your thighs) and grab your fin tips. This is a good position from which to fine-tune your buoyancy because your hands keep your fins from wiggling. It also detects trim problems: Do you fall over to one side or the other?
|Prone Hover Illustration by Mike Gushock
Prone Hover—Stretch out face-down and concentrate on relaxing and not moving your hands and feet. Do you roll to one side or the other? Do your fins rise or sink?
|Side Hover Illustration by Mike Gushock
Side Hover—This is a better way to detect front-to-back imbalance. Stretch out on your side and, again, concentrate on not moving your hands and feet. Do you roll?
Cleaning the Ocean One Dive at A Time
By Torben Lonne
Over the past 20 years, scuba diving has evolved into a vibrant worldwide community. Scuba diving, and a shared love for the ocean, brings people together despite geographical distance and language barriers. One unfortunate aspect of scuba diving that rings an emotional bell for most divers is garbage, specifically, the scourge of marine debris that we see first hand on many, if not all, of our dives. The oceans are, and always have been, a dumping ground for humankind’s unwanted materials.
Our planet’s waterways, from oceans to ponds, are being polluted like never before in human history. Garbage has found its way into every conceivable waterway system there is, which has motivated many concerned people to ask where all this garbage is coming from.
The many sources of ocean garbage
Uncomfortably for many westerners, most of the unwanted garbage floating in the ocean, or on the sea floor, comes from industrial countries. Many industrialized countries tow large barges, filled to capacity with garbage, approximately 6 to 10 miles off shore and then dump their cargo. Some countries, such as the United States, have set further limits, requiring municipalities to dump their garbage over 100 miles out to sea. This may help prevent much of the garbage from washing up on shore, but it hasn’t solved the problem of using our oceans as a human waste dump.
Garbage washes up on shore every day, of every year, in every coastal country. Land lovers complain when they see garbage on the beaches they visit because it mars nature’s beauty. Scuba divers the world over share in this pain every time they come across a candy wrapper, plastic bag, tire, cigarette butt, tin can or any other man-made piece of trash lying on the ocean floor or on top of a beautiful reef. Those unfamiliar with scuba diving and boating don’t realize that even personal garbage that people discard outside of a trashcan also finds its way into the oceans. One of the worst types of garbage to end up in the oceans, lakes and rivers of the world is not plastic bags, tires, paper, aluminum or steel cans — it’s batteries, which are toxic, and poison marine wildlife as they deteriorate.
Is there anything to be done about this seemingly intractable problem? The answer is complicated. No individual can fix the world’s dumping dilemma alone, but collectively people can come together and bring worldwide awareness to the problem. Demand that international organizations such as the United Nations nudge industrial countries to lower, limit, and hopefully cease dumping their garbage into the ocean. Divers working together on a regular basis around the world can also help by picking up garbage off the ocean floor when they dive. This may seem a small contribution, but it won’t be seen that way by the turtle that doesn’t choke on the six-pack ring you picked up.
Scuba divers: Cleaning the ocean one dive at a time
Scuba divers working together around the world could theoretically make much more than a dent in the global garbage problem. According to PADI, there are more than 22 million certified divers in the world, in over 120 countries. Add in the world’s NAUI- certified divers and that’s a lot of potential unsung heroes. Conservative estimates predict that each diver will average two dives per year; suddenly you’ve got a number that can make a difference.
If divers started collecting garbage on a regular basis, even one or two pieces per dive, at popular dive sites around the world, it would bring a huge amount of public awareness to the issue.
Organized garbage cleanups already exist via organizations, but all scuba instructors, divemasters and recreational divers can add to the database by logging the amount and types of garbage they collect on their dives. Logging such information can be a great way to engage other divers in conversation about keeping the oceans clean.
Collecting garbage is, of course, a good thing to do, but recording what you find, along with its approximate weight, may be more important. Why is that? This information, when collected from divers around the world, can be a powerful tool to encourage world governments to focus on the serious consequences of dumping garbage into the world’s waterways. As garbage is collected and recorded, a picture will begin to form about the areas of the world that are most affected.
Garbage isn’t going away anytime soon, but if each of your dives is a cleanup dive, your efforts will at the very least positively impact that dive site. The best way to get this movement going is to spread the word. Get your dive buddies to clean up when you’re on a fun dive. You won’t miss any of your diving by picking up a few pieces of plastic and other trash, and you may just be some turtle’s hero.
OSLOB WHALE SHARKS
By Atilla Kaszo
Whale sharks originated about 60 million years ago, and today, they are listed internationally as a vulnerable species, but still commercially targeted in some Asian countries. Fortunately, not all Asian countries hold the same harvesting view, and many fishing communities have turned to tourism as the main source of income.
Donsol and Oslob in the Philippines are such examples. Whale sharks had been visiting these regions for decades and during those decades were hunted. In 1998 at Donsol, they were apparently “discovered” and after international support hunting turned into whale shark watching which turned into eco tourism. Oslob went much the same way but later in 2006.There appears to be some controversy and confusion regarding the Oslob site, in that feeding the whale sharks by the locals has somehow upset the ecosystem and accordingly drawn criticism from some quarters.
Clearly, feeding any wild animal is not something that should be encouraged, but given the relatively small amounts of fish “burley” that is put into the water and the area in which these sharks are being fed poses little impact on the regions biodiversity. More important to the animal’s welfare is the extent of physical human contact with these giants. As human nature has it, people get a bit excited when a 14-meter fish swims past, so the impulse to touch it and grab that Kodak moment seems to prevail over common sense. There is certainly a case in keeping people at a “safe” distance, and I would completely support such action.
On the flip side however, whale sharks like most wild creatures have the ability to leave the area or move away from a hazard almost instantly. So if the shark wants to it does just that, as do whales I have worked with and so on. In fact some of my best work has been outside the “viewing areas” where the sharks had left the feeding zones and were swimming about 200 meters away and in a blink almost on top of me having a close up and personal and then gently swimming away.
Before I went to Oslob, I read a number of petitions against visiting the area, mainly for the reasons I have outlined, and that some reports indicated that the sharks had severe rub marks on their necks, apparently from trying to get into the boats carrying food, and other reports suggesting that the sharks had deep cuts and abrasions over their bodies from boats crashing into them. I saw none of this at all. The only cut I saw on a shark was on it’s back and it could well have been an outboard propeller, I don’t know. All the sharks I saw, about thirteen, looked very healthy and active, and had no problem swimming away from people in the water.
My research also indicated that the sharks at Oslob were transient and that different individuals moved through the region during the year. Unfortunately there is still relatively little known about these sharks, which makes management of them difficult. Nonetheless, erring on the side of caution may be the prudent way to go, along with considering the needs of the locals who depend on some form of income for their survival. From my perspective, it’s a better option to accept how the village manages its resources now than to entertain the harvesting practices of the past.
How to Gear up your Scuba Kit Quickly, Easily and Efficiently?
Posted by Rutger Thole
How often have you seen someone dance around in circles trying to grip their wetsuit zipper or even spotted people walking into the water like frogs because they already have their fins on, or seen their masks fly off into the air as they tried to put it on?
All of this is a complete waste of time and an unnecessary one at that. If you know how to gear up quickly, easily and efficiently, you will have far more time to enjoy diving as well.
Organizing Your Scuba Gear
Always make sure that your scuba gear is organized. If everything is in its place, you will be able to get things on much quicker as well, as you won’t have to waste time trying to find your belongings.
Not just that, you will always be aware of the condition your gear is in, enabling you to replace it as and when necessary.
Make sure, of course, that you look after your gear, drying it off before storing it and keeping it somewhere dry and safe from the elements.
Bring a Plastic Carrier Bag
How hard is it to get your hands and feet into a wetsuit? Although once on, they are incredibly comfortable, getting the suit on can be an absolute nightmare.
Interestingly, a simple plastic bag can help you with this. It goes without saying this plastic bag should be stowed away properly so it will not end up in the water. Have you ever heard of the great pacific garbage patch?
You may be tempted to use lotions to make your skin more slippery, but this can actually be damaging to your suit whereas a plastic bag does not.
Simple put it over your hand, feet, or whatever it is that you are trying to get through and you will notice it slips on and fits like a glove straight away.
Always Help Your Fellow Divers
If you see that someone else is struggling or looks like they don’t know what to do, go help them out. Just share your knowledge, including the above two points, and you will make sure they can enjoy their time a lot better as well.
Remember that scuba diving is something that you do together, which is why it operates according to a buddy system.
You are not competing to be in the water first or to have your gear on first. If you have any knowledge you can impart on less experienced divers, then make sure you do so.
This will also show them that divers look after each other and that it is ok to ask questions.
Scuba diving is fun and should be a relaxing hobby. This means that there is no time or energy to waste by things such as struggling to get your gear on.
9 Reasons Why Regulators Leak
by John Francis
|Common Regulator Leaks.
The leak - First stage.
Where - From orifices and seams in the first stage housing.
Looks like - Anything from an occasional bubble to a constant small stream.
The problem - Wear and tear, or misadjustment of the internal parts during overhaul.
The fix - Requires a technician.
Abort the dive? - Judgment call. It's not likely to get worse quickly, and an occasional bubble might be tolerable for the day. If leakage increases, head for the surface.
The leak - Sherwood first stage bleed.
Where - From a single orifice of a Sherwood first stage.
Looks like - A steady stream of very tiny bubbles.
The problem - None. The bleed is intentional, a design feature of the dry piston-type first stage.
The fix - Put your wrench away. Please!
Abort the dive? - Read my lips: there's nothing wrong. The air loss, by the way, is minuscule—less than one breath in an hour.
The leak - Regulator yoke.
Where - Between the tank valve and the high-pressure valve seat at the yoke.
Looks like - Anything from an occasional bubble to a constant stream.
Sounds like - Bubbling from almost-flat soft drink to a boiling kettle.
The problem - The O-ring is dirty, cracked, worn, dry or the wrong size. Or the seat is nicked or dirty. Or the yoke is loose or not positioned correctly. Some DIN-to-yoke adapters make alignment of the yoke difficult.
The fix - Remove the O-ring, clean and inspect the seat. Replace the O-ring with a new one, coated with just enough silicone to make it supple, not greasy. Tighten the yoke by hand, but firmly. No luck? Try a different tank.
Abort the dive? - Judgment call if the leak is very small, but it's better to return to the surface and replace the O-ring.
The leak - Tank O-ring.
Where - Between the tank valve and the high-pressure valve seat at the regulator yoke.
Looks like - Other divers leap backward like they've seen a cobra.
Sounds like - A Boeing 727 on thrust reversers.
The problem - This usually happens when you first turn on the air, if you haven't tightened the yoke enough. With the seat loose, pressure forces the O-ring to squeeze through the gap and tear, causing a loud escape of air. Another cause is using the wrong-size O-ring.
The fix - A new O-ring and a stronger hand on the yoke screw.
Abort the dive? - Only until you calm down.
The leak - Hose O-rings.
Where - At either end of any hose, between hose end fitting and whatever it screws into (first stage, second stage, BC inflator, SPG, etc.).
Looks like - Anything from isolated bubbles to a constant stream.
Sounds like - Nothing, or a faint hiss.
The problem - The O-ring is dirty, cracked, worn, etc., as above. A leak immediately after an overhaul probably means the tech has not tightened the hose enough. If very loose, the O-ring can blow out with sound effects as above.
The fix - Also as above. Where there is a swivel on the hose, be sure to separate between the swivel nut and the next nut, not between the two nuts and the SPG or second stage. How much to tighten the hose? One ungh on a short wrench.
Abort the dive? - If it's the high-pressure hose to the SPG, it will be a small leak. As long as it doesn't seem to affect the gauge, you can probably continue the dive. The high-pressure hose leak looks dramatic but involves very little air—the orifices are tiny. A low-pressure hose actually leaks more air, but you will still have time to return to the surface calmly and deal with it.
The leak - Worn hose.
Where - Anywhere on any hose, but usually near the first-stage end fitting.
Looks like - A tiny bubble, or chain of tiny bubbles on the surface of the hose. Or a steady stream of bubbles.
Sounds like - Maybe nothing, maybe the fizz of ginger ale.
The problem - The inner, woven layer of the hose has developed a weak area, usually through constant flexing. Air leaks to the outer, scuff-protecting layer of the hose, which has a chain of tiny relief holes along its length. That's where the bubbles come out.
The fix - Replace the hose. High-pressure and low-pressure hoses are not interchangeable, nor are low-pressure regulator and inflator hoses, though the industry is moving in that direction.
Abort the dive? - As with hose O-rings: The high-pressure hose is a judgment call, depending on how serious the leak is. Surface to replace a low-pressure hose.
The leak - Second stage, due to excess intermediate pressure.
Where - From second stage exhaust.
Looks like - Anything from a bubble every few seconds to a constant stream.
Sounds like - Anything from a slow "glub, glub, glub," to a pot at full boil.
The problem - Several possibilities, same symptoms: (1) first stage out of adjustment and delivering too much pressure; (2) second stage "cracking pressure" too low.
The fix - Dial back the second stage adjustment (if you have one) for more breathing resistance until the leak goes away. If you have to dial it back again and again as the dive continues, this is a sign of first-stage problems. By the way, flipping the minimum/maximum or venturi switch will have no effect. Have your reg serviced at the first opportunity.
Abort the dive? - if you can keep the leaking under control by adjusting the second stage. But if the problem is getting worse, head for the surface.
The leak - Second stage, leaking valve seat.
Where - From second stage exhaust.
Looks like - Same as excess pressure leak, above.
Sounds like - Same as excess pressure leak, above.
The problem - Sand, grit or corrosion under the second stage valve seat prevents it from sealing.
The fix - Swirl the second stage through the water while working the purge (tank pressure must be on). The sand or grit may be washed out. Back on the boat, you may be able to remove the purge cover for better cleaning. Just be absolutely sure to put all parts back in the same order. If it's a corroded seat, only a technician can make the repair.
Abort the dive? - Swirling may reduce the leak to manageable proportions. Otherwise, make a calm, normal ascent; air is not disappearing as fast as it sounds (though watch your SPG).
The leak - SPG spool.
Where - Between the swivel fitting and the body of the submersible pressure gauge.
Looks like - Anything from a steady stream of bubbles to a constant fizz.
Sounds like - Anything from a boiling tea kettle to a roaring jet engine.
The problem - The spool is the hollow stud on which the swivel mechanism mounts. Banging and dragging the SPG can bend or break the spool, or distort its O-rings.
The fix - Requires some technical knowledge, but take heart: many dive boat captains, resort operators and dive shop folks can do it.
Abort the dive? - As with all high-pressure hose leaks, it looks and sounds worse than it is because the pressure is high but the volume is low. As long as the SPG is reading correctly it is a judgment call.
Diving With Less Than 20/20 Vision
By Jessica Vyvyan-Robinson
For those whose eyesight requires corrective measures, the prospect of diving — a primarily visual pastime — can be a little daunting. Proper diver safety also relies on keeping a keen eye on your buddy, your location and your gauges. But a lack of 20/20 vision is by no means a barrier to diving, as there are many options available to facilitate participation despite all manner of sight issues. Many people with mild vision impairment don’t need to take any corrective action, as objects in water are naturally magnified by 33 percent. But if corrective measures are needed, there are several methods of compensating for sight problems underwater, making for safer, more enjoyable dives.
One of the simplest ways to deal with poor eyesight is to wear contact lenses, just as you would on land. Certain precautions should be taken to minimize eye irritation and to prevent losing the contacts, but generally, diving with contacts is a safe and hassle-free solution. The Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) recommends using soft contact lenses for scuba rather than hard or gas-permeable ones, however, because increased pressure may cause hard lenses to suction to the eye, causing pain or discomfort. Hard lenses typically dry wearers’ eyes out more, too, resulting in redness and irritation upon surfacing. Most importantly, soft lenses allow the nitrogen absorbed by the eye while diving to escape; hard lenses do not. Bubbles can form between the hard lens and the eye, causing blurred vision, which effectively negates the purpose of wearing the contacts in the first place.
Wearing contact lenses underwater also means keeping the eyes closed when performing any skills that require the flooding or removal of the mask. If you are enrolling in a scuba course, be sure to tell your instructor if you wear contacts so that he or she will allow you to keep your eyes closed during skills, and to wear a mask during surface water skills or swim tests. Similarly, if you’re using vision-correcting equipment, from contacts to prescription masks, make sure to alert your buddy: if you should lose your mask underwater, they need to know that they’ll need to help you find it. In terms of comfort, even soft contact lens wearers often report some dryness as a result of diving; it’s a good idea to bring lubricating drops with you to the site for use before and after diving. Rinsing lenses in fresh saline solution between dives can also minimize irritation from residual salt water; divers should consider using disposable contacts for live-aboard trips so that they can use fresh ones each day.
There are alternatives to wearing contacts while diving for those who are squeamish about using them or simply prefer not to. Depending on the severity and type of eyesight issues, the lenses of some stock masks can be quickly and easily replaced with pre-made corrective lenses. For those with astigmatism or other, more extreme vision impairment, pre-made lenses may not work sufficiently. Custom-made prescription masks are also an option, wherein a mask is made specifically to your requirements. Those who opt for prescription masks should consider purchasing two customized masks in case of loss or damage to one of them, as it can be exceptionally hard to find a replacement in many of the world’s remote dive destinations.
The most permanent alternative is corrective eye surgery, but it is imperative to consult an ophthalmologist before your first dive, after surgery, in order to respect the healing period. If not properly observed, the effects of pressure and trapped gas on an unhealed incision could be incredibly painful.
The final option, particularly for those who require bifocals, is adhesive magnifying patches, which are applied to a stock mask lens and can be purchased at most large dive equipment stores or an optician’s office.
For most people, however, contact lenses are the simplest choice for correcting eyesight while diving. They are cost-effective, and divers are able to wear them both while kitting up and during the dive. Whatever your preference, there are plentiful corrective options available to ensure that everyone can experience the beauty and wonder of the underwater world.
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.