By James Lapenta
Last month we looked at the new gear you may have received for the holidays and how to familiarize yourself with it. This month we take a look at familiarizing yourself with you! Chances are you’ve been out of the water for a bit. Either due to the cold weather, the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or work has been so crazy trying to meet those ends of the year goals. It’s sad when your boss doesn’t understand the need to keep your dive skills sharp.
Too many people wait until a week or even the day before that first big trip or outing to refresh their skills and knowledge. The latter is just as important as the former. Your understanding of dive theory, how your gear is supposed to work, the site you’ll be diving, and how to plan a safe dive is just as critical as maintaining a horizontal hover while clearing your mask as you also recover the regulator at the same time.
Yet I often see divers that use our pool devote little time to the books. They come in and work on their buoyancy and trim, but don’t ask to go over the tables, deco theory, gas planning or other classroom related information. Yes, before everyone gets in an uproar, you have a dive computer, so you think you don’t need the tables.
That may be true in 99% of recreational vacation diving. There may come a time though when you forget to change the computer battery, and it craps out. The operation is out of rental computers. They offer you a watch and depth gauge. Because you didn’t train on tables or forgot how to use them, you don’t dive that day. Unless you’re willing to forego safe practices and endanger yourself and others by following someone else.
Any reasonably intelligent person can be taught the fundamentals of tables in less than a half hour. It isn’t rocket science, and it may save your dive and also be kinda fun. Basic Gas Planning can also be taught in a refresher in a reasonable amount of time. Not the “Be back with 500 PSI” planning that some seem to use. That’s not planning. Using SAC (Surface Air Consumption) and RMV (Respiratory Minute Volume) as well as Cylinder Matching based on those calculations can be covered in an hour or so.
Another area I like to cover in a classroom refresher is Dive Planning. I’ve written about this previously. The approach I take to dive planning is one that I often find new to those who’ve not trained with me. They are not used to hearing that the actual dive plan begins when the decision to dive is made and includes everything from who you’ll ask to dive to who’s bringing what for lunch.
It’s not just arriving at the site and deciding to swim out to the bus, turn around at 20 minutes, then swim back to the dock and have at least 1000 PSI in the cylinder. It can be, but there is much more that goes into even getting to the site. Any part of which can result in the dive not happening or someone getting injured in a worst-case scenario.
Part of the planning process is using a checklist. I would say that of all the recreational divers I run into, the majority of them do not use a formal list. Your experience may be different, but I see many divers relying on the “absolute knowledge” that they packed everything in the bin or bag. They don’t need to pull out a list and check off the items. For the longest time, I didn’t use a list regularly. Then I started tech diving and later teaching tech classes. As the dives became more complex and gear intensive, the need for a list grew more critical. So much so that I began to use them for recreational planning and then teaching their use in Basic Open Water classes.
Each of my new Open Water students receives a set of basic wetnotes. They are told to start creating a list in the first pool session. The list should include gear information, amount of weight needed, and maybe even small diagrams to show how the regulator is positioned on the cylinder. They are told that it’s their list and to set it up the best way for them. In a refresher, I will also recommend this and have the wetnotes available at reasonable cost.
Some are very good at lists. My girlfriend is a Master of Lists. She has them organized for different gear setups, fresh or salt water, day or multi-day trips. There are lists for all of the surface needs such as food and clothing as well as other personal items. Mine are not so detailed I admit but as I get older, they are becoming more information rich. Some of us in the mature category, at some point, are forced to acknowledge that our ability to forget things is increasing. A list begins to make a great deal of sense.
All of these items are those that can be covered in a refresher or tune-up of the knowledge portion of diving. Along with the in-water skills, keeping your knowledge base fresh will help to ensure that your next trip or outing is successful. It may be that you have spent a great deal of time and money planning this trip. Having a problem due to a knowledge issue that puts a crimp in it or results in canceled dives or dives is not what you want to happen. When you do the winter tune-up, consider the classroom as well as the pool.
Find more useful information in my books that are available on Amazon. “SCUBA: A Practical Guide for the New Diver” and “SCUBA: A Practical Guide to Advanced Level Training” will be well worth the investment.
About James Lapenta
James Lapenta from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a Diver, dive Instructor, Author and owner of UDM Aquatic Services has been diving since 2004.
He is a Scuba Educators Instructor # 204, SDI/TDI Instructor # 16810, CMAS 2 Star Instructor # USAF0012000204
For more on basic skills and education pick up a copy of either of my books