New SCUBA divers have to be forgiven of their transgressions in the beginning, for the simple fact that there is so much to learn. Of course, SCUBA diving is always a learning experience, but when you’re new, everything is coming at you like a charging freight train and some things will inevitably get lost in the mix, until practice makes them second nature. There are many ways in which a new diver can let their green horns show, but here are a few tips we think can help you hone your craft while earning good marks in the diving community.
Respect is a key factor in most things in life, and it is paramount in SCUBA diving. Respect for your dive master, your buddy, and marine life is the number one way to climb quickly up the rungs of the SCUBA education ladder. When the dive master is briefing the boat on the upcoming dives, pay attention, and don’t distract others. Always check your buddy’s gear and discuss your dive plan before entering the water. If you don’t feel comfortable with your buddy or the dive for any reason, you owe it to yourself and your buddy to voice this to the dive instructor before the dive, so that changes to the plan can be made. Once you are in the water, pay attention to your buoyancy so you do not inadvertently damage any marine life. And of course, try to refrain from intentionally handling creatures, who can be highly susceptible to injury and disease from even the slightest of touches. You will inevitably come into physical contact with some sea creatures, but try to stay clear of them when possible.
While it is important to stay with your group and keep close to your buddy on a dive, there is such a thing as crowding underwater. Being aware of your own space and that of others will help keep everyone evenly dispersed, minimizing chances of getting kicked or punched in the head by a diver who has no idea someone else is below/above/beside him. A good rule of thumb is to keep about an arm’s length between you and other divers, and just do intermittent checks around you to make sure you’re not creeping up on anyone’s personal perimeter. This will also help you quickly get out of the way of a diver who doesn’t see you!
Part of being a good diver is looking after your own health, and making sure that you are fit and able to perform the dive. You should not show up to the dive hungover, as it not only affects you, but your buddy and the rest of the divers in the group. Hydration and plenty of sleep will go a long way to ensure you are alert and thinking with a level head. If you feel a cold coming on, or are having allergy issues, be sure to address this before you get in the water. Taking antihistamines and decongestants for at least 24 hours beforehand can help alleviate the equalization troubles that many suffer when those kinds of symptoms occur. Above all, just be confident that you are physically able to perform the dive and be of assistance to your buddy.
Always be practicing and perfecting your skills, especially buoyancy. Buoyancy will allow you to get closer to reef life, improve your air consumption, and relax and enjoy the dive, rather than struggle to maintain a position in the water column. This is an area where dive logs come in really handy as well — take note of what your weight was, if it was too much/little/just right, and any other observations or issues in your dive log as close to just after the dive as you can. This will help you remember important details of your last dive so you can avoid or change things for the next dive. Skills are all about practice, and there is no standard rate at which people become skilled. Just keep practicing, and learning from your mistakes!
Although there will invariably be those who disagree, diving is a social sport, not a competitive sport. Divers are part of a unique community that observes and experiences the planet in a way that so few ever will; a competitive spirit is just out of place. New divers obviously have much to learn, but the goal of all divers should be to help educate rather than ridicule over a lack of knowledge. Because you must rely on others for your own survival underwater, it just doesn’t make sense to have a negative attitude towards others’ experience levels. Ask questions, talk to other divers, and always be willing to help someone out. The alternative could be deadly.
What would your tips for new divers be?