It can always be nerve-racking when going on your first dive; you’re going into a brand new environment using equipment that you’ve never used before and probably don’t even understand how it works, with somebody you’ve only just met saying “everything’s fine, just dive under the water and breathe”.
Everything probably will be fine because your Instructor is a highly trained specialist and the equipment is built to be as robust and safe as possible but there are a few tips that can help you on your first dive:
Now, we don’t mean put your wetsuit on over all of your gear, we mean don’t be the first person to put your suit on, because you’ll have to wait for everybody else to get kitted up while you sweat away in your wetsuit. Read the group and you’ll see if there are any slowpokes on the boat so, try and wait to put your suit on and get kitted up last. That way you won’t be in a skin-tight rubber suit in the sun any longer than you have to be. That is unless you are the slowpoke, in that case hurry up, everybody’s waiting on you to get kitted up. Just assemble your BCD and everything before you put your suit on, you want to be in your wetsuit on the surface for the least amount of time possible.
Not literally, you can use your BCD but try to use it as little as possible. Use your lung volume for minor adjustments but if you find yourself using and inflating your BCD a lot then chances are you’re wearing too much lead. Every time you inflate your BCD you’re using up valuable breathing gas, so try to minimise how much you use your BCD. Work on your correct weighting and wear as little lead as possible, only enough to make you sink. When weighted correctly the only time you’ll have a lot of gas in your BCD is on the surface, while you’re underwater you should only need a squirt or two to compensate for a wetsuit compressing.
My friend Beth always warned of the dangers of ‘listening to the mermaid’s call’. Not by luring you to crash on rocks, but there’s always something tempting a little deeper down to go look at and it’s easy to go beyond your max depth if you’re not paying attention. Dive computers will have a depth alarm to alert you if you go deeper than planned but if you don’t use that feature then it’s best to pay attention to your computer or depth gauge often. To this day no matter how deep I’ve been I still haven’t found any mermaids so I don’t think they exist, so don’t you worry about searching deeper for them.
The more excitable you are in the water, the more air and energy you’ll use and you’ll annoy the other divers on the boat more too. Much like surfing; while scuba diving the best method is to go with the flow and your gas and energy levels will reflect this. Just remember that you can’t control everything, if there’s a current then don’t fight it you’ll just end up where you started but more tired. The more you work the more heat you‘ll produce and the water will just sap that away from you so, take it easy and relax and you’ll enjoy your diving a lot more.
Both in and out of the water you’ll get cold faster than you’re used to on the dive site. In the water is obvious, water conducts heat away from your body about 25 times as fast as air so by covering as much of your body as possible with neoprene you’ll be far warmer. Most divers forget about the surface interval though, you need to bring warm clothes and keep dry in between dives too. A nice woolly hat in between dives will keep your head warm and hair dry, if you have hair. A decent coat too will keep you dry and warm and definitely a bacon sandwich, but don’t go rushing to the radiators as there’s some research that suggests that rapid warming after a dive can increase your chances of a bend, so warm up slowly.