You’ve done it! You’ve just finished your certification course and are now a certified diver; the question now is, where do you go from here? Frequently, many divers obtain their certification, but slowly the excitement wears off, and some divers will not dust off their card for years before undertaking another scuba dive. If you are going to keep diving, we’ve assembled some tips to help make sure you stay safe and get the most out of your diving holiday.
1. You’re Responsible for Yourself. Newly-certified divers have been used to their course instructor telling them what to do, and it is common for many divers, even those with lots of experience, to rely on Dive Guides when going to an unfamiliar location. Well, now that you are certified, you are responsible for yourself, as well as your buddy. Indeed, it is only after divers complete the Rescue Course that many appreciate what a great responsibility it is to look after oneself and your buddy underwater, as well as anyone else you may encounter underwater (i.e someone underwater swimming up to you indicating they are out of air). We highly recommend the Rescue Diver course, as it teaches you a wide range of skills, most of which relate to anticipating and preventing problems before they occur underwater.
2. Know Your Diving Surroundings. Diving new locations is one of the most exciting aspects of the sport; exploring new locations and being comfortable enough to enjoy them make scuba diving one of the most exciting activities you can enjoy. It is important that you know the diving conditions, environment, and surroundings before jumping in. Listen intently to the dive briefing, ask questions–even ones you think are simple or silly. Go over scenarios including the lost buddy procedure, what the dive profile will be like, entry and exit procedures–in short, make sure you are qualified to do the dive and are comfortable with the parameters of the dive.
3. Know Your Weighting. Nothing will ruin a dive faster than improper weighting. Take too little weight, and you expel energy and tear through air struggling to stay underwater. Take too much weight, and you struggle to stay off the bottom, again using air faster because of all your efforts. Perform a buoyancy check before every dive, or at very least, the first dive of the day, so that you can get a sense for proper weighting. To check your weight at the surface simply place your regulator in your mouth and take a normal breath in, then hold your breath (you can safely do this at the surface) and at the same time dump ALL the air from your BCD. The idea is that if you are correctly weighted, you should float at eye level with an empty BCD whilst holding that normal breath, then, breathe out slowly and you should sink slowly. In order to do this you need to keep your arms and legs completely still as you’ll never sink while kicking. In addition to weighting, think about your breathing; new divers will often take shallow, panicky breaths which adds air to the lungs and increases buoyancy. Remember to breath slowly, deeply, and gently.
4. Perfect Your Buoyancy Control. Even with proper weighting, many new divers still struggle to stay neutrally buoyant. Be aware of your body position; ideally, you want to be horizontal so that your kicks propel you forward. Many new divers, especially those with cameras, will kick their legs while they are in an almost vertical position, which leads to ascending. If you are adding air, remember to add in small increments and give it time to take effect–remember, the inflator button is not anelevator button, and you don’t want to ascend too fast, intentionally or not.
5. S.A.F.E. (Slowly Ascend From Every dive). This is a great acronym to remind yourself before every dive and share it with the diver around you! The majority of diving incidents can be avoided by always controlling your ascent to the surface in any situation from a normal dive to an emergency ascent.