I didn’t learn how to swim properly until my early 30’s. In fact much of my sporting recreation was featured on a court playing european basketball, so if you where to ask me 8 years ago if I could see myself cave diving in the Cenotes, Mexico I would have simply laughed at you until I coughed up a lung.
This is why I know what I’m saying when I mention that scuba diving is not the easiest thing to learn for most people, even those who learned how to swim long before I did. To buy your own kit isn’t the cheapest either, but as great as scuba diving can be for some who get to grips with it post becoming a qualified diver, it can be terrifying for others.
If you only have a few dives under your belt, the kind of apprehension or fear you may probably feel before doing a dive is beyond healthy limits.
So here are a few tips that served me well when I started diving back in 2007.
This is first on the list as you’ll need to address this point first before you even get in the water. If you are renting gear, you’ll come across quality problems more often that will inevitably affect how much you enjoy the dive. However if you want to own your own gear, the biggest mistake is to buy diving equipment that is cheap or easy to get hold of. This will make all the difference when you dive.
Few people can eat and drink for a whole country, but I would recommend that you eat or drink only small portions before a dive or during dives. However you need to drink enough to be hydrated. So there is a balance. I’ve seen several not really know what to when bursting for the loo because of drinking too much. Seeing as you are new to the water, going in your wetsuit will seem – unnatural – but believe me, when you need to go you need to go! It’s beeter to drink too much and go than get dehydrated and run into problems. Controlling the urge to throw up helps if you eat small portions. It’s pretty simple math.
When going out on a dive as a newly qualified diver, you’ll get briefed before the dive, just like you did when doing your 4 open water dives in the practical of your diving test. You’ll find that many divers simply won’t ask questions. Some because they are more experienced and others because they simply don’t want to feel embarrassed for asking “the question” many already know the answer to.
Ignore the divers who look cool, say nothing and look at you questionably when you are about to ask a question. It is best if you are comfortable with the impending dive or you know what you need to do! This will in turn benefit those diving in your group because you are more confident knowing the answer. If you are nervous discuss it. At lease you’ll know you have your buddy watching your back looking out for you and there is nothing more relieving than that.
Don’t hold your breath! It’s natural for humans to hold their breathe under water but this is really important as you need to regulate your breathing. As you dive more you’ll learn that the air in your lungs also help in controlling your buoyancy. Breathe slowly, relax and when you breathe out, breathe out completely. Another tip which someone told me was to “hum” when exhaling. For me it added 5 – 10 extra minutes to my dive after a few dives trying this technique.
This brings us nicely to this point. Thrashing around when underwater uses up way to much energy and more energy means more air! Stay relaxed, enjoy the dive, take your time without dragging your heels with your dive group. You’ll use up less air.
I’ve seen several fellow divers, end their dives early or injure themselves because of not equalising their sinuses. Equalise early and often. Don’t wait until you start feeling pain. The deeper you go the more pressure you feel in your sinuses. If you do not equalise, you then begin to feel sharp pains in your inner ear. In an earlier post I gave similar tips. A common way to resolve this is to pinch your nose and simply blow – not too hard though.
The bottom line is that you are not going to be an “ace” in buoyancy control to begin with so your guide or instructor would have advised you most likely to be a bit overweight. That is okay to begin with but you will soon realise that you use up air quicker than others more experienced. It’s because you have to put more air into your BCD for it to be neutral or to float it. This also means that you’ll use up more energy travelling with it through the water because it is larger. The more you dive the less weight you’ll eventually need carry because you become more skilled in the water and you also learn how to control your breathing more. Do more dives.
It’s so important to relax, I cannot stress this enough. It may not be easy to do so but find something that you like to do, chewing gum before and after dives (helps with others things after a dive as well), listen to your favourite music, find a regular dive buddy or whatever helps to to stay relaxed.
You’ll find that as you dive more, all of the above will come much easier and you’ll either start to love scuba diving or like many dive once or twice then let life get in the way. My advice would be to take the plunge and don’t look back, what you will experience will be second to none and the things you’ll see will amaze you!