Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Skills Every Diver Should Practice

Image by Ahmad Faiz Mustafa via Wikipedia

How long has it been since you took your scuba certification course?  Months?  Or has it been years?  Many divers become complacent because they have been diving for "so long."  But being a safe diver has nothing to do with how long you have been diving.  The big question is, how sharp are your skills?  Are you comfortable enough that you know you can handle any problem that may occur underwater and confident that nothing will cause you to panic?  Do you remember and understand basic dive theory to keep you safe from injury and decompression sickness?  

Download the ReActivate program and do it anywhere!  ©PADI 2016

If you cannot answer "YES!" with confidence, it's time to consider Re-Activating your certification and doing a refresher course.  PADI's "ReActivate" program is a way for PADI divers to update their skills and knowledge before getting back into the water.  It's quick and easy, and personalized for you.  You download a program that goes over concepts you learned in your scuba training in a prescriptive way, so you can focus on the things you forgot.  You can do it anytime, anywhere!  Contact Aqua Action Divers or your local dive shop to get your code to download your ReActivate program and get started!  You get to keep the program forever so you can review your knowledge and skills again and again! 
Refresh your skills with a PADI Instructor ©PADI 2016

After you complete the digital portion of the ReActivate program you can sign up for a refresher course to practice your in-water skills with a PADI instructor.  If you complete both the digital and the in-water portions of the ReActivate course, you get a replacement certification card that says "ReActivated" on it.  Contact Aqua Action Dive Center to schedule your in-water practice time with one of our instructors!

At the absolute minimum, you should review your dive theory and practice your skills in a pool or in calm shallow water.  Here are a few of the skills that you should practice regularly because they are essential to your safety :

Image by TauchSport_Steininger via Wikipedia
No mask breathing - You must be comfortable with water around your face.  It is not uncommon for masks to leak a little bit on a dive.  Although less likely, your mask strap could break or you could lose your mask during a dive.  You must be able to stay cool, calm, and collected and avoid panicking if this were to ever happen to you. 

Image by Peter Southwood via Wikimedia Commons

Cramp release - The muscles you use when you are swimming with fins are muscles you may not use much in your everyday life.  Cramps can happen from dehydration or working a muscle more than you're used to.  Knowing how to deal with cramps in your feet or legs is important to avoid panic during a dive.  You should be able to calmly signal to your buddy, grab your fin tip, and stretch until the muscle has relaxed.

Image by Von Thomei08 via Wikipedia

Dealing with a sticky BCD inflator button - If your BCD inflator button sticks while you are on a dive, it could send you shooting to the surface and put you at great risk of decompression sickness if you do not know what to do.  Be familiar with the dump valves on your BCD so you can dump out excess air from your BCD and prevent a runaway ascent.  Practice disconnecting your low pressure inflator hose while under pressure, too, since it would need to be disconnected if you had a sticky inflator button.  To prevent your inflator button from sticking in the first place, wash your gear well after each use to make sure no salt crystals or sand can cause it to stick.  Also, have your gear serviced annually by a qualified technician.

Image by Mark.murphy via Wikipedia

Emergency weight drop - It is essential to know how to quickly get rid of your weights in an emergency.  For example, if you are on the surface and you cannot keep your head above water and your BCD is not inflating you need to drop your weights to get positively buoyant.  Being familiar with your weight system and knowing how to quickly ditch them can save you from drowning.

Image via Pixabay

Buoyancy control - Poor buoyancy control while diving can lead to ear injuries (read "10 Tips to Prevent Ear Injury"), decompression sickness, lung over-expansion injury, rapid air consumption, hyperventilation, injuries resulting from running into sea urchins or coral, and damaging the reef.  Buoyancy control is the skill that takes the most practice to master, but once you master it your dives will be immeasurably more safe, relaxing, and enjoyable.  

Image by Peter Southwood via Wikipedia

Alternate Air source use  - Although running out of air should never be an issue if you pay attention to your air gauge, it is important to practice using your buddy's alternate air source and having your buddy breathe using your alternate air source.  You should also practice swimming together while sharing air, since it is awkward and does takes team work and coordination.  In the unlikely event that you or your buddy do run out of air from a dive, being able to confidently perform this skill could save you or your buddy's life.

Which of this skills do you feel most confident with?  Are there any of these skills you haven't practiced in a while?  What are you going to do to make sure your skills are sharp before your next dive?  What other skills do you think should be on this list?

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