You finally completed your dive course and are ready to dive exotic — and even not-so-exotic — dive locations. Once divers are qualified they seldom think about keeping their dive skills fresh but it is something that should all do.
Dive skills, like anything else, become rusty over time. Have you ever tried playing the musical instrument you mastered in high school after years of letting it collect dust in the closet? Or speaking a language that you were once fluent in after a long time of not speaking it?
We use some skills often, like mask clearing and buoyancy control. You may not have practiced other skills since your training — think navigation and emergency skills like alternative air-source use and performing a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA), or even assembling and disassembling your dive gear.
While people with more dives under their (weight) belts might need little time in the water to finely tune their skills, someone who has done less dives, such vacation divers who complete 20 dives in three years, will need more practice to remember their skills.
Keep in mind that no matter how long you’ve been a diver that if you’re not actively practicing your skills, you’re not staying on top of them. During your course you might have practiced them until it was ingrained in your muscle memory, but after some time of disuse, we tend to forget what we’ve learned.
Practice makes perfect
Dive, dive, dive. Getting into the water and diving is the best way to improve your skill and keep them fresh. Spending some time in the water with an experienced diver or — better yet — a dive professional, will help you not only practice the skills but also avoid picking up bad diving habits.
How do you know your skills are adequate and current? Ask yourself whether you and your buddy can perform all the skills for the dive that you are about to do. That includes everything from mask skills to navigation and emergency procedures.
Your dive skills are the key to making you a safer diver. Competence makes you more comfortable in the water, helps you avoid pre-dive anxiety and, ultimately, adds to your enjoyment of the sport. Keeping your skills up to date by practicing is the best way to ensure that you keep enjoying every dive experience. You may also want to consider a rescue course, even if you don’t intend to pursue diving professionally.
A final reminder: If you are not enjoying yourself, you are doing it wrong, even if you are just practicing some skills in the pool. Have fun with your skills training and diving will be more enjoyable all around.