It’s that time of year to be setting resolutions so why not make them scuba diving related and perhaps a little more likely to achieve!
These resolutions cover all levels of scuba diver as there are some skills that are regularly used while others tend to either be avoided or forgotten.
Some will improve your skills as a diver and some will help you be a more confident dive buddy.
1. Improve buoyancy
2. Understand the dive computer
3. Be comfortable with mask removal in the ocean
4. Refresh on running out of air procedures – CESA, alternate air source share and dropping weight belt
5. Deploying a Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB)
1. Improve buoyancy
The feeling of weightlessness is something only scuba divers and astronauts are able to experience for any length of time.
Scuba diving is a lot more accessible to most of us than becoming an astronaut!
Learning how to effectively use your buoyancy control device (BCD), how much weight you need to add (based on the wetsuit you’re using (or not using), the type of tank you have and any other equipment you use that floats, and to some extent, where you happen to be diving), and then using your breath for other adjustments is well worth the practice.
Perfect buoyancy then requires little effort and you will also find your air consumption improves which can then lead to a longer dive times.
The other benefits of great buoyancy, aside from safety aspects, include finally being able to take a photo of a fish before it swims away as well as not stirring up sand or causing damage to corals when nearer the bottom.
Aside from spending more time diving, you can:
- enlist the help of your dive buddy to watch you underwater and give you some tips. Make sure you dive buddy is someone that has already mastered this themselves!
- professional help is also possible from whoever may be leading a dive you are on (ask them in advance to give you some suggestions) or from a Dive Instructor who can take you through the Peak Performance Buoyancy Course.
This course focuses on everything from adjusting where your weights sit (your trim), through to kicking styles, breath control and much, much more. Many new divers choose to do this after completing their Open Water Course and some of it can also be applied as part of the Advanced Open Water Course as one of the speciality dives.
2. Understanding the dive computer
Most dive computers have similar settings but where to find them changes with each computer.
Understanding the display beyond the depth and the saftey stop countdown is also a good idea as this makes for a safer dive for you and your buddy.
In particular, learning what the “no stop time remaining” number means and where to find it as well as what happens on your computer if you exceed this (some have emergency decompression stops at particular depths, some add these to the safety stop time and others don’t etc) and where to find your ascent rate will enable you to have a lower risk dive.
3. Be comfortable with mask removal in the ocean / open water
Everyone learns this skill in the pool / confined water and then has to repeat it in the ocean / open water yet not many are comfortable with this exercise and once they have done it, hope they never need to do it again.
This is a good one to be more comfortable with as you may need to remove your mask if it becomes foggy, your strap is twisted or it’s too tight and you realise this while underwater, it catches in a snag or your contact lens comes loose and you need to rub your eye. There could be many other reasons too!
This is great to practice in the pool first however, if you don’t have access to a pool, practicing while on your next safety stop is another option. Let your dive leader and dive buddy know first so they know to watch out for you and may also even help your buoyancy if needed.
If you do have the opportunity to practice in the pool first, start by not even wearing your mask and putting your head underwater while breathing through your regulator. This helps you get use to the feeling of water on your face as well as reminding you not to breathe through your nose.
Then put on your mask for the next part of the practice.
In the pool or on your safety stop, hold your mask in place with one hand while removing your strap with the other. Then slowly move the mask away from your face.
Remember to keep the mask close to you and have the nose pocket pointing down so it’s ready to put back on.
Making sure your hair is out of your face, place the mask back on your face before pulling the strap back over your head. It’s easiest if you use the same hands for the same job you did when you removed your mask.
Check the strap isn’t twisted and is sitting a bit above your ears.
Clearing it is the same as clearing a fully-flooded or partially-flooded mask.
4. Refresh on running out of air procedures
These are techniques that most of us should never have to use which is why then can go a little rusty and why it’s good for a refresh.
Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent – CESA
Used for when you are out of air, the surface is less than 9 metres away and you’re closer to it than you are to someone who you could share air with.
Remember the Superman pose from your Open Water Course? Keep your regulator in your mouth, left hand to vent air and right hand up to protect your head and ascend no faster than 18 metres a minute while breathing out continuously (in your course, you were probably saying “ahhhhhh” to make sure that you are not holding your breath.
At the surface, orally inflate your BCD.
Using an alternate air source
If you and your buddy have been keeping the recommended disance between you and run out of air, it is time to share.
Signal to your buddy, take their alternate air source (they may give it to you or you may need to take – it is a good idea to agree on the procedure during your buddy check before diving), remove your regulator and replace with this and purge before breathing normally.
Link right arms (also known as the Roman handshake) and signal to your buddy that your ok and again when you are ready to ascend.
Ascend at a safe rate and orally inflate your BCD at the surface.
Ditching your weights
The only time these are ditched underwater is when you are so deep and away from an air source that you would be unable to reach the surface if you didn’t do it.
The ascent is then like the CESA however it carries more risk as it is highly likely you will exceed a safe rate of ascent. For this reason, try to slow your ascent as you near the surface by forming a star shape with your body so you create some drag.
Weights can also be dropped on the surface when it is difficult to maintain positive buoyancy eg if your BCD isn’t working properly for some reason.
Do big scissor kicks in an upright position while removing your weight belt / integrated weights as this will help to keep your head above water.
5. Deploying a Delayed Surface Marker Buoy (DSMB)
Perhaps you completed your Open Water Course before this was a requirement or perhaps you just haven’t done it for a while. In any case, it’s a good skill to refresh as you may need to deploy yours in the future.
A Delayed Surface Marker Buoy is a buoy attached to a line and reel that is sent up from underwater to signal to boats and others that there are divers below.
These are usually deployed while on a safety stop or just prior.
In can take a little bit of practice to add just the right amount of air and to keep the reel flowing freely while the buoy ascends.
Ask your buddy or dive leader when you are next diving if you can be the person to signal and have a refresh prior.
6. Learn about the fish and corals in the areas where you like to dive
It’s no secret that I enjoy fish identification so this one shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise!
Knowing more about the creatures you are seeing can add to your enjoyment of diving. Understanding why some behave the way they do or what fish of various species look like makes it easier to find them and also easier to write about them in your logbook.
As with any New Year’s Resolution, it all takes practice before it becomes a habit and you can do it without thinking.
Unlike with most New Year’s Resolutions, your local dive centre will be available to help you as needed.