A real diver never stops learning and growing. Here are 10 bits of gold from PADI dive professionals for honing your skills, improving your performance and having more fun down below.
- Learn to make good go/no-go decisions. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t go. If you don’t want to go deep, don’t.
- Keep a log. It’s an invaluable tool whether you have 5 or 500 dives. It’s not only a living record of your experiences; it’s also a place to keep track of your weighting, gas consumption and gear. Having a reference gives you quick information for planning a dive, getting your weighting right and noting when equipment needs to be serviced.
- From air-consumption rates to treading lightly on the environment to being able to relax while diving, it all comes down to buoyancy, and that means proper weighting. To ensure this, perform a buoyancy check on your next dive and then each time you change something that affects how much weight you need (different wetsuit thickness, salt water vs. fresh, different size or type of tank) and write down in your log book the amount of weight you need for each scenario. That way even if you go a few years without diving in that scenario again, you can quickly recall how much weight you need for any situation.
- Struggling to get down? Focus your gaze below you, breath out slowly and imagine you are getting heavier as the air leaves your lungs. Before you know it, you will be 5 meters down. This also works if you feel “floaty” during a dive.
- Don’t be fooled by a “full-tank” pressure gauge reading. With your gear on, take three breaths off your regulator while watching your gauge. If the needle does not move from the full position, your air is on. If the needle drops down and bounces back up, your air is not on all the way. If the needle drops, then drops and drops again, your air was on but now is off.
- To perform a buoyancy check at the surface, get all the air out of your BC by leaning back slightly while upright in the water, holding your inflator hose as high above you as possible, cross your fins, and hold a normal breath. While doing this, you should float at eye level, so that only when you exhale all the air from your lungs do you sink. If you sink while holding a normal breath of air, you are wearing too much weight.
- Slow down. Just about everyone goes too fast underwater. To most aquatic life, divers are big scary goofballs who make a ton of racket. When you slow down and relax, animals come out and you’ll see some amazing life. You’ll also maximize your air supply and you’ll be able to get your buoyancy dialed in better.
- Bring a Sharpie to mark your water bottles or cups in the community cooler.
- Plan your dive; don’t just rely on your divemaster, or on your computer, which is powered by a battery that has limited life. I’m old school — my plastic tables are always at my side.
- Standard 80 aluminum cylinders are 4.4 pounds more buoyant than neutral/compact 80s. The best way to tell which you are using is by checking the working pressure inscribed on the neck of the cylinder: Standard 80s are 3000 psi, while others are 3300. Avoids the, “The dive was great, but I started to float away halfway through,” syndrome.