The Importance of Check Dives and Scuba Reviews

Perhaps you haven’t been diving in a while, but you’re about to submerge again. Should you do a check dive or participate in a scuba review?

“How about a scuba dive today, Lucy?”

“We’re supposed on our honeymoon. That sounds way too energetic.”

“Well it’s nice to relax but we can’t hang around the hotel for two weeks doing nothing. I have our C-cards in the room and there’s a dive center on the beach. Why don’t we go check it out?” said Chris.

The cheery voice behind the dive-center counter greeted them as they walked in. “Are you diving today? We have a boat going out in 30 minutes, why don’t you join it?”

The dive center looked modern, with a clean reception area and a shop full of new equipment, books and wetsuits. A number of stickers, logos and wall certificates adorned the entrance. The counter woman wore a crisp ironed shirt with a gold, shiny name badge.

“We haven’t dived in four years, so we’re a bit rusty, and my wife is only a novice,” said Chris. “We’d like to have some practice in the shallows first if that’s okay.”

“Don’t worry about that,” said the woman behind the counter. “The water here is warm and clear, and there’s great guide on the boat, along with some very experienced divers. I’m sure you’ll be in good hands. Grab a seat and I’ll get you some gear. What sized feet are you both?”

Chris and Lucy stared at the young couple at the front of the line and then turned to each other.

“Let’s get out of here. There’s another place just down the beach.”

The next dive center looked good as well — warm, friendly and busy. Instructors sat around with students. The diving guests drank coffee and chatted in a large shaded area.

“How can I help you both?” asked the friendly woman behind the counter.

“We’d like to dive but we don’t have much experience and it’s been a while,” said Lucy. “We didn’t really plan to go diving but the water looks so good.”

“Well, you can do as little or as much as you like,” she said. “We’re open every day and we have dive sites for all levels of experience. When were your last dives?”

“Two and a half years ago, I’m afraid,” said Chris. “We’re only open-water students. I have 20 dives and Lucy has six. We never really did much after our course.”

In this scenario, the shop employee directed the couple to a few seats, where they filled out medical questionnaires. “In a few minutes the regular divers will be leaving, and then we can chat and arrange a swimming pool or shallow beach dive to get you both back in the swing of things,” she said.

Keeping Scuba Skills Fresh

A scuba-diving license is for life. In fact, it will last longer than you given that it’s coated in non-biodegradable plastic. Scuba certification never expires; no diving police will suspend it, cancel it, or penalize you for disuse.

Your training agency issued your C-card after several days of close supervision, skill development and the familiarity that goes with continuous, daily diving. You lose that connection after many months of aquatic absence, and the place to be reunited with it is not in deep water, fast currents or out in the blue on a drift dive.

Many people forget little snippets of information from their initial training — the handy hints, the bits you didn’t listen to while rubbing sunscreen across your salty skin. This was the moment your instructor reminded you to sign up for a scuba review or check dive if you had a lengthy gap between dives. If you’ve only got a day or two for diving, it’s natural that you don’t want to spend time in a pool or swimming around a sandy bay. But check dives or skill reviews are essential. They’re not penalties or community-service sentences. Neither are they just safety measures that you should interpret as overbearing regulations, obstructing your path to enjoyment. When an inexperienced diver or out-of-practice diver enters challenging environments, everybody is at risk.

Why take a check dive or scuba review? 

There are a number of reasons you should always do a check dive or take a scuba-review course. Among them are:

  • Practice sessions will expose weaknesses so you can address them.
  • They are carried out in a forgiving environment.
  • They contain a selection of skills to reintroduce you to diving and give you the resources to handle problems and emergencies. Practicing correct weighting, mask clearing, regulator recovery and clear, out-of-air drills, buoyancy control and hovering, monitoring your instruments and signaling will all help add the polish back into your diving.
  • You can also request additional skills — it’s your dive, so ask for more help if you feel like it.
  • You’ll become reacquainted with the feeling of being underwater and knowing how your scuba equipment operates.
  • A check dive or scuba review can last well over an hour. Aside from skills practice, you get to swim around and enjoy the sensation of diving.
  • The experience goes in your logbook. You won’t need another check dive if you dive again in the near future.
  • On your first scenic dive afterward you’ll relax more. Your air consumption will fall; your dives will last longer; and you’ll feel more comfortable in challenging conditions.
  • You’ll be an asset to your dive buddy and dive team instead of a potential liability.

Back to Chris and Lucy

To return to our scenario, Chris and Lucy knew what they needed and so did the dive center. They took a two-step approach — one hour in the pool followed by an hour in the sea.

“We had 62 minutes underwater, that’s a record,” said Chris.

“Okay, I’m hooked again,” said Lucy. “It looks like our honeymoon is going to be a scuba vacation after all.”

As the couple planned their next day on the dive boat, they saw a police rescue boat speeding toward the jetty with its lights flashing and siren blaring.

“I wonder what that’s about?” asked a guest.

“We just heard about it over the radio,” said the divemaster. “It was a decompression injury. A couple bolted from depth during their dive. No details but they’re from the place down the beach. It’s not the first time.”

By guest author John Kean