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Safe Scuba Diving
Scuba Diving, for all its allure and excitement, is not for everyone. So how do you know whether you’ll take to diving like a duck to water or experience immediate panic and never go near it again?
Your first step is to talk to the experts, ideally at a reputable diving school, to learn more about the rigorous training program you need to follow to become a certified diver.
What does being certified mean? You’ll become someone who is knowledgeable, fully safety-aware and able to keep a cool head in a crisis.
Questions to ask yourself before trying scuba diving
- Are you a strong, confident swimmer?
- Are you at ease in the water?
- Are you in the best of health? Or do you smoke, have respiratory issues or heart problems? Fitness matters – running, walking, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes and getting enough sleep are all essential for diving safety
- Do you have either high or low blood pressure?
- Do you have sinus trouble, or ear, nose and throat problems?
- Are you nervous around sea creatures?
A Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) or National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI) dive certification course teaches you a wide range of essential skills and lets you practice them, either in a pool or – later on, as you become familiar with things – in open water.
Here are some of the essential skills you’ll be taught. As you can imagine, it would be very foolish indeed to go diving alone without this knowledge.
You will learn how to control your buoyancy so you don’t keep bobbing to the surface during a dive. This can be horribly dangerous, especially when you’re on a de-compression dive where you’re going deeper than 70 feet.
Removing your scuba diving mask
You’ll find out how to clear your mask while underwater. You will be asked to remove your mask entirely, put it back on and clear it, all while underwater.
It goes without saying that proper visibility underwater is essential for your safety. It usually takes time and practice to master mask-clearing and become fully confident.
The three cardinal rules of diving
You’ll be taught the three most important rules for safe diving:
- Do a full equipment check before and after every dive, no exceptions.
- Never, ever hold your breath. It causes severe damage to the lungs.
- Always equalise. You must continue to equalise your ear pressure throughout the entire descent, every 10 feet, by holding your nose and blowing gently. A diver who doesn’t risks intense pressure-driven ear pain, which can easily burst an ear drum.
Your wet suit or skin suit
You will learn about the ideal type of wetsuit and how to keep it in good condition. A full wet suit could be important for your safety and helps your body maintain the right temperature during a dive. Even if you’re diving in warm tropical seas, the water temperature drops with every 10 feet you descend.
A surface water temperature of 88F, for example, drops to 70-72F once you dive 50 feet down. Wearing a wet suit or light skin suit also gives you essential protection against stinging sea creatures like jellyfish.
Your Regulator and ‘Octopus’ alternate regulator must be kept in top condition at all times. They could save your life or someone else’s, another thing you’ll be taught on a proper scuba diving course.
Safe wreck diving
Only a very experienced diver, someone specially trained, should attempt wreck dives. Once iside a shipwreck, two or three decks down, you can easily become disoriented and lose the way out.
A diver who isn’t specially trained in wreck diving should only attempt wreck dives accompanied by a qualified instructor / guide, preferably in a group.
Safe drift diving and shore diving
A drift dive begins with a giant stride or backward roll off a dive boat, which then remains in the area until the divers surface. You should only try this if you’re in a group and you’re all familiar with the area.
The same rule applies to Shore Dives, where the divers simply walk into the sea from a beach and find their way back afterwards.
The most important thing of all, for dives like this, is to NEVER dive alone. You’ll learn all this and more on a proper diving course.
Safe resort dives
Many island resorts offer easy resort dives to non-divers who don’t have the time to take a full certification course. A qualified dive instructor leads the way, giving novices a crash course in diving before guiding them on a supervised shallow dive.
The safety of these dives depends entirely on the instructor and the water skills of the students, and of course they carry a certain level of risk. So you should always exercise common sense.
Exciting… but dangerous
Recreational scuba diving is a hugely exciting and rewarding activity, but it also requires a high level of skill and awareness.
Being prepared and staying knowledgeable about all the potential dangers is the best way to ensure every dive is a safe dive.
- Keep your diving kit in good condition, carrying out regular maintenance and checks
- Stay familiar with the important things you’ve learned, revising frequently to keep your knowledge fresh