Looking After Yourself
Diving is apparently a sport, which still amuses me every time that I hear it as by default, that makes me a professional sports person which I’m both fully on board with and find utterly hilarious in equal measure!
For many people, diving is so much more than that, it’s a way of conquering fears, pushing personal boundaries and making new friends as well as giving people a reason to explore new corners of the globe that many can’t even imagine.
With such a rewarding but extreme activity, there are of course risks and these are apparent at every stage of proceedings whether it is when buying kit, getting set up or in the water. Regardless of your level whether you’re new to the sport or at a professional level, we need to remember these things, otherwise there’s a real possibility that we will end up in the Chamber of Secrets (with only cold toast to sustain us).
Let’s have a look at the different elements to safe and successful diving to make sure we can all have a lot of fun in the water.
Dive gear is, as a general rule of thumb, a little on the expensive side. There is no way around this. If you think about it and what the equipment is designed to do, the monetary cost should become less of a consideration.
Dive equipment is designed with a lot of skill, technology and experience from the manufacturers to keep you alive in what is effectively an alien environment.
If you are on a budget, have a think about what you can stretch to and whether the places where you are going to dive have rental equipment available as an alternative. The majority of dive centres and resorts make sure that all of their equipment is fully serviced so you know that anything that you are renting will be in good working order. That being said, if you did get given a piece of equipment that you’re not happy with, make sure you speak up and get it changed.
Second hand equipment can also be a total minefield and there is a saying “buy online, buy it twice” that sadly rings true a lot of the time. Always proceed with extreme caution when buying dive gear online. A cylinder that has “only been used one” might be several years old and require testing (and may even fail) similarly with regulators, they may not have been used, but they may not have been set up correctly in the first instance so should always go through a complete service before you go into the water with them. With used equipment, or even some new on sites such as eBay or Faceache, there is always the risk that you will end up with a piece of equipment that fails servicing or requires replacement parts and you end up spending more money that you would have if you’d bought new.
The other risk with buying second hand, unserviced equipment is that you could arrive at a dive site, assemble your kit and only then find out that you’re going to have to miss your dive due to equipment malfunction or worse, have a catastrophic failure whilst underwater which has the potential of creating an emergency situation!
With any activity that we do repeatedly, it is always possible, and likely, that we will forget things. I am particularly good at losing my keys which I pride myself on doing at least once a week! Although this is frustrating, in the grand scheme of things it is just a mild inconvenience. However, when preparing for a dive, forgetting to do a thorough check of your kit could result in equipment failure or malfunction which at best would cause you to have to abort a dive or worst-case, lead to injury.
It doesn’t matter what acronym or pneumonic you use to remember your pre-dive safety checks, you should always go through each part of your equipment to make sure that it looks right, is fitted and assembled correctly and that everything is in working order. Also, most importantly, make sure you are familiar with your buddy’s set up. They may have their alternate air source on the opposite side to you or dive with a wing and twinset where you are only familiar with a single cylinder so take the time to really make sure you’re happy with their set up.
The last thing with set up is to make sure that you have your weighting correct. It is very easy to get into the habit of chucking on an overweight belt or loading up your pockets with more lead than you need to just so you can get in the water a few minutes quicker. If you always dive with the same equipment and thermal protection, you don’t need to do this every time, but it would probably surprise you how much difference thicker thermals can make or a brand-new wetsuit versus one that you have worn and loved for many years and especially the difference between steel and aluminium cylinders! One final task that is prudent to perform is a tec diving style bubble check where you descend a short distance and get your buddy to make sure that there are no bubbles coming from any part of your equipment which could indicate a leak and that something isn’t quite right.
Going for a dive
Everyone has s**t days regardless of whether they are in the water or on land. Sometimes things just don’t click and for whatever reason, you’re off your game and feel uncomfortable. If you’re sat at your desk, this isn’t really a problem, you can just switch focus and spend time on other tasks before you’ve collected yourself and can resume the tasks you’re meant to be concentrating on. When diving however, this is not necessarily a good idea.
I always try and drive home to any of my students that one of the best things you can do as a diver is to have the confidence to say no and call a dive. Due to its relaxing and often meditative nature, people forget that diving is an extreme sport with risks involved. You wouldn’t jump out of a plane if the straps to the parachute were slightly twisted or the harness didn’t feel right or comfortable so why should diving be any different?
As a diver, you also need to have awareness of your buddy and other people around you in the water. If you’re with someone that you know, and they seem in any way different, check that they are happy to complete the dive and don’t put any pressure on them if they’re not comfortable for any reason. If you’re with people that you’ve not been diving with before, make sure you keep communicating with them to make sure everyone has fun underwater.
After dive care
Once you have finished your dive, shared out the high 5s and beers, make sure that you’re drying and storing your equipment properly to help prolong its life but also, make sure that you are listening to what your body is telling you. Even if you have not been diving to depth and stayed within limits, there is still a chance, however small, that you could suffer from the dreaded bends. These may even take a day or two to present themselves so it’s always worth talking to a dive doctor if there is anything that is causing you concern.
In summary, diving is a great activity that brings people so much peace and joy in a busy world with benefits far beyond exploration and adventure. We all just need to make sure that we never take our safety and wellbeing for granted to make sure that we can continue to enjoy the other 70% and experience a world that so many don’t get to see.
Blog by Bettie Comley