Thursday, October 27, 2016


In my last blog I talked about common issues that lead to water in the mask. I discussed at length how this problem is often caused because divers misunderstood the instructions that they were given. When I teach a skill I try to make sure my students understand WHY they are doing it to help avoid these misunderstandings. During this blog I will discuss mask on the forehead, right hand release weight belts, the controlled emergency swimming ascent and neutral buoyancy skills.

Since I discussed a mask issue the last time let’s start with another one. Why don’t we put our mask on our forehead? If your answer is “because it is a sign of distress”, you would be wrong. Ask yourself “Why is it a sign of distress?” A clear thinking diver would not want to get hit in the face with an unusually high wave that could possibly drowned him and/or cause him to lose is mask. Since having your mask on the forehead would make your face vulnerable to such a situation and probably cause you to lose your mask, a diver who is thinking clearly would not want either to happen and would keep is mask on his face. Since a diver who is thinking clearly would not put his mask on is on his forehead, it is assumed that the diver may not be thinking clearly when it is. A diver who is not thinking clearly could be because he is disoriented and in distress. Therefore, if you see a diver with his mask on his forehead he maybe in distress and should be checked on. If you feel you must remove your mask at the surface put it around your neck. This shows you are at least making a conscious clearly thought out choice. The best place for your mask is on your face and the best place for your regulator is in your mouth until you are safely back on board the boat.

I saw a diver put his weight belt on backwards the other day. That is, he put it on with a left hand release. I brought this to his attention. He replied, “I am left handed so my instructor told me to do it that way.” BAD INSRUCTOR. The reason we reason we put our weight belt on with a right hand release is because all divers are taught this so that a person responding to an emergency will know which belt to pull quickly.  Many of the older BCD’s and a few of the newer ones have a belt with the same release. That release is put on left handed. This avoids confusion when dropping a weight belt that could increase the risk of a serious accident. This skill has been brushed off more and more by newer technologies. Weight belts are not as common place with the invention of weight integrated BCD’s. Most BCD’s now use fastek clips instead of weight belt releases. This makes the weight belt less commonplace. Some divers think it is ok to put all of their weight in non-quick release pockets. Danger Will Robinson! Always keep the lion’s share of your weight where it can be quickly released in an emergency. If this means wearing a weight belt make sure the release is in your left hand when putting it on so that the clasp is opened by pulling to your right.

PADI is big on acronyms. (Ya think? Professional Association of Diving Instructors.) One of the most misunderstood is CESA. It didn’t amaze me that a Divemaster candidate did not know what this means. While some of the literary gadgets and pneumonics help us remember important things this is one that I think often confuses the issue. CESA stands for Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent. If you have to use this procedure you have already screwed up twice. You didn’t watch your gauge and ran out of air. You are too far away from your buddy. This skill is taught so that a person who has run out of air can ascend safely to the surface when the surface is closer than their buddy. To perform it, simply signal that you are out of air so that if someone does see you they know what is going on. Raise your low pressure inflator over your head with your left hand so that you can release any air trapped in your BCD. Put your right hand over your head like Superman to prevent running into anything, like the boat, on ascent. Look up opening your airway and slowly hummmmm or blow bubbles into your regulator. This keeps your airway open so that expanding air in your lungs can escape without causing an over expansion injury. Finally swim to the surface slowly. SLOWLY. The operative word in Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent is CONTROLLED. Don’t race to the surface and get decompression sickness. Ascend at a normal ascent rate of about 60 ft. per minute or slightly slower than the small bubbles exiting your regulator. When you reach the surface you are out of air. Orally inflate your BCD by blowing into the mouthpiece on your inflator hose while pushing the deflate button. Release it and repeat until you are positively buoyant. Another option to get buoyant would be to grab the RIGHT hand release and drop your weight belt or weight pockets.

Your instructor may have had you perform a skill called fin pivots. It is like doing push-ups on the bottom. No he didn’t want to help you prepare to join the Navy SEALS. In fact you shouldn’t be using your hands at all. This skill and hovering are actually the backbone of being a great diver. They should be teaching you to use breathing to control your buoyancy and not your BCD. Even carrying extra weight as a dive guide I never have to use air in my BCD as a mechanism to control my buoyancy. Try it! If you inhale deeply you can ascend. If you exhale deeply you will descend. That is what these skills are meant to be teaching you. The rest of the time a normal controlled breathing rate will allow you to move through the water with only a small variation in depth. THIS IS BUOYANCY CONTROL!!!!!

The next time you go diving watch divers who you respect as being great divers. You won’t see their mask on their forehead. You won’t see their weight belt on backwards. You will see them diving almost motionless through the water with no air in their BCD. Finally, you won’t see them run out of air. But, in the unlikely event they did, you would see them do a proper Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent.

Until next time always make your total number of ascents equal your total number of descents.

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