Most divers will jump at any opportunity to get in the water. For those who don’t work in the industry, diving every day is an unrealistic dream. The chance to rack up that next dive only comes around on vacation or the weekend. With limitations like these, it’s understandable that we never want to skip a scuba dive. But there are times when you should opt out. This article takes a look at when it’s prudent to skip a scuba dive, even if it means having to wait another day, week or month before you get in the water.
Depending on your experience and the severity of the situation, poor conditions (either topside or below the surface) can mean anything from minor inconveniences to serious safety risks.
Extreme surf is an issue particularly in those areas that necessitate a surf launch and for divers attempting a shore entry. In the first instance your skipper, whose training will allow him or her to assess the risks, will decide whether or not you dive. In the latter instance, you must honestly decide whether you’re capable of making a safe entry. If not, it’s better to simply try again another day. If you are prone to seasickness, rough conditions pose another problem. You must decide whether your dive will still be worthwhile if you’ll feel nauseous throughout. Decide whether the weakness and subsequent distraction inherent in seasickness will affect your ability to stay safe underwater.
Poor Viz and Currents
Although some dive sites feature permanently impaired visibility, unexpectedly bad visibility can also provide a good reason to skip a scuba dive. In the first place, extremely poor viz will drastically affect your enjoyment of the dive. But, more importantly, poor viz can also cause disorientation, panic and diver separation. Sometimes, bad visibility may only become apparent after you descend. In this case, you must decide as a group or a buddy pair whether or not to continue the dive.
Strong currents can be normal for certain dive sites. But when they’re ripping significantly beyond your expectations you may also want to reconsider. This is especially relevant if you’re an inexperienced drift diver, or if you are ill-equipped to deal with diver separation. Always carry and know how to use a signal-marker buoy or other signaling device. Getting lost is the most obvious problem with severe currents, but other issues include overexertion, panic and even uncontrolled ascents or descents in the case of currents that flow vertically up or down.
Divers often make the mistake of pushing their physical boundaries to dive, but in doing so, they may make themselves unfit for diving for quite some time.
For example, it’s never a good idea to dive with a cold or cold-like symptoms. The risks of ear barotrauma as a result of inefficient equalization are simply too great. If you damage any part of your ear, you may be unable to dive for weeks or even months. It’s not enough to take decongestant medication, either. If the effects wear off during the dive, you’re likely to experience a reverse block during your ascent. Instead, wait until you’re fully recovered before getting back in the water.
Although the effects of pressure on an unborn fetus are still uncertain, scientists also strongly recommended that pregnant women do not dive during their pregnancy. They should also seek medical advice as to when they can safely start diving again after giving birth. The same applies to those recovering from major surgery. In fact, if your health has changed in any significant way since you completed the medical questionnaire that was part of your entry-level course, you should seek a doctor’s opinion before you resume diving.
Hangovers and Dehydration
Other health issues may be temporary, but are equally important. For example, avoid diving when hungover or exhausted. Both conditions may increase your susceptibility to decompression illness. They will almost certainly affect your ability to react quickly in an emergency situation. Stress, whether caused by an external issue or directly connected to the dive itself, can also affect a diver’s safety underwater. You must be able to tell the difference between pre-dive jitters and debilitating nerves that could lead to panic underwater. The only person who can make the decision about when to skip a dive is you. If you don’t feel up to a dive, listen to your gut instinct and try again another day when you feel better prepared or less distracted.
Ultimately, knowing when to skip a scuba dive could save your life. It can be incredibly difficult to pass up the chance to get in the water, especially if it doesn’t come around frequently. But remember, there are always other days and other opportunities; your safety must always be the top priority.