By Todd Simons
As a new diver, I learn something on every trip. Diving can be stressful at first as you’re getting acquainted with foreign procedures and equipment, but the more you know, the more fun you’ll have — and isn’t that what diving is all about?
1. Take a snorkel
For some reason, new divers don’t want to float on the surface with regulator in their mouths; they would rather fight splashing waves while trying to breath. This seems like some form of water boarding to me, so I always use a snorkel while waiting to descend. When the water is choppy, using a snorkel is a good way to keep water out of your mouth and to maintain normal breathing without using air from your tank. Distressed breathing before you descend is not how you want to start a dive.
2. Buy a properly fitting mask
As for most divers, my introduction to diving involved a rental mask, which meant a lot of leaking and constant clearing. Until you become comfortable performing a mask clear, this can be stressful. I spent a fair amount of time at the dive shop trying out every mask, and now that I’ve found one I like, water in my mask is one less thing to worry about.
3. Wait on the wetsuit
Know your body. If you get hot easily, put your wetsuit on at the last minute. The first time I used a wetsuit, I put it on with everyone else at the beginning of the 35-minute boat ride. By the time we arrived, I felt like I’d spent 35 minutes in a sauna. Now I wait until I’m five minutes from the dive site.
4. Look for shops that offer dive guides
On my first two dive trips, the shop provided dive guides, which I thought was standard procedure. On my third trip, the shop did not provide a guide. The dive group consisted of me — with all of eight dives under my belt — my dive buddy, and a stranger who was completing his first dive after certification. To top it off, we were in some rough seas. Needless to say, it was not a pleasurable dive. Until I become more comfortable, I look for dive shops that provide a dive guide on every trip.
5. Stay hydrated
This topic has been covered in detail, but it can’t be stressed enough. Not only is proper hydration critical, but proper vitamin and electrolyte balance is also equally important.
6. Learn proper buoyancy control
Observe the experienced divers and see what they’re doing with their arms — you don’t want to look like you’re trying to direct air-traffic underwater. Not only does it waste energy and therefore your finite cylinder air, but it also scares off the wildlife. Once I became better at my buoyancy control, I was able to get closer to the fish. With my arms tucked close to my sides and with good buoyancy, I noticed fish checking me out as much as I was observing them.
7. Join a club or engage with your fellow divers
Although I am new and an introvert, I like to glean any tips I can from more-experienced people. Somewhere, someone learned something the hard way, and they’re probably more than willing to share the lesson so you don’t have to do the same. Just ask.
8. Keep a dive log
I see very few divers filling out dive logs, but there is so much information you can record after each dive. Whether or not it was a good site, what you saw, what weight you used, bottom time versus depth — these are all bits of information worth remembering. It’s easy to recall what you saw a day or two after a dive, but will you remember if someone asks you six months later?
9. Be a great dive buddy
It’s great to go diving with your significant other or best friend, but there will be times when a complete stranger is your dive buddy. Get to know that person; build some rapport before getting in the water. I believe it’s a great responsibility to be someone’s dive buddy, as they are counting on you for assistance if need be. Knowing you have a true dive buddy is a comforting feeling.
10. Know your limits
It’s your dive. Stay within your comfort zone and don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. Never be afraid to hold up your group in order to address an issue; everyone will understand.