“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.” – Jacques Cousteau
There is no denying the fact that in order to become a skilled scuba diver, you got to learn it from a professional but a complete myth underlying this reality is that there is no learning or scope of improvement outside of a formal course environment. I would beg to differ. I agree that diving courses are important in order to elevate one’s diving skills to the next level, but the truth is such courses are only a starting point. They can give you a foundation and you have to build upon it eventually with practice.
Note the key phrase – develop by yourself. Improvement is something that happens with every dive. So here is the list of 10 tips for the divers for constantly improving their diving skills.
1. Engage your brain
One should not blindly follow the divemaster. A good diver is the one who uses his own brain. This does not mean that you should ignore what your instructor is saying as he knows better that is why he is your master. But make sure, you are not at his mercy for directions all the time. You should be well prepared in case he goes out of sight for a while.
At all time, you should know, where your boat is, where your buddy is, how much ndl you have left etc.
2. Test your weighting
This is important as when you are properly weighted, you do not need a lot of air in your BCD. For this you have to do a simple exercise – after a dive, run your tank down to 30-40 bars. Empty your BCD. Lock your ankles together and fold your arms close to your chest, so you don’t scull. When you exhale, you should sink and when you inhale, you should come up the same amount. If you are sinking or not coming up when you inhale, you are too heavy.
If you are going up and down by the same amount, that’s your correct weight for that gear combo. It can change a little depending on the BCD type and saltiness of the sea but it would give you a starting point.
3. Know your air usage
This is something that you could acquire with practice. All you need is a routine. Start doing this exercise – Before you begin your ascent, note your depth and air. Then notice how much you have when you surface. Maintain a logbook. Also note down whether it was a free ascent or on a line. With time, you would know exactly how much air you need to ascend from 10, 20 or 30 metres respectively. Double check it by testing yourself. Soon, you would have an exact idea regarding how much air you need to surface safely.
4. Fix your buoyancy
So how do you fix it? Simple – after every 5-10 min into your dive, make sure you are over a sandy patch or you have a water column below you and stop kicking. Try to stay more or less where you are, going down when you exhale and up when you inhale. If this is not happening, add a small squirt of air and repeat until you get it right.
Here comes the tricky part though. Your muscle memory is still used to kicking in a way that keeps you off the bottom. With the above exercise, you have just sprung a surprise on it. In order to re-train your breathing and kicking style, you will do kick-pause-kick-pause rather than kick-kick-kick. Wait till you start to descend before you exhale. Keep practicing this till you get better at it.
5. Dive with a buddy
I know you are the adventurous type but you have to live a long healthy life, have children, grow old and die. So do not take any chance. Diving solo is always risky. Studies have shown 97% of all fatalities ever have happened when the diver was alone in the sea. So a friendly advice, Always dive with a buddy. It is safe and fun at the same time.
6. Keep your eyes and ears open
This basically means keen observation. Observe your dive master, fellow divers and interact with them. Ask them questions. This would help you learn some useful little tricks that would help you getting better.
7. Be aware of your abilities
You have done 50 successful dives and now you are over-confident, nothing can harm you. and overconfidence won’t just bite you in the ass in the sea, it will tear big chunks out of you. Always be realistic about your capabilities when you are under the sea.
8. Learn to say no
Many a times, people travel from far for a fun and adventurous holiday. But being there, everything is making them nervous to an extent that they do not want to dive anymore. If you are like a lot others, you may suck it up and go for the dive anyways. And then, if something goes wrong, your stress increases significantly till it becomes panic.
I am not saying, don’t push yourself at all but don’t push to an extent that you think you would regret this later.
9. No mask, no problem
The biggest reason of injury to beginners is uncontrolled ascent and uncontrolled ascent usually happens when water in the mask leads to inhaling a little water through the nose. This causes panic. This skill can be acquired with practice.
You can practice it by lying facedown in a bathtub (or swimming pool) with just a snorkel in your mouth and get used to breathing in and out from the mouth and keeping water from going in your nose.
10. Dive often
“Practice makes a man perfect.” So keep diving. It is something you love to do so I don’t think there would be any issue there. Always remember – “Diving is learned in the water and not from books and magazines.”