Getting into scuba diving is pretty easy and you can get qualified all around the world, anywhere there’s a dive centre and deepish water but there is, of course, a test that you have to pass first. Now to put you at ease the test is designed so that 10 yr olds can pass it so don’t stress about it too much, but there are some tips that can help you pass your test and become a better diver faster.
The course itself is split into four parts; homework, the classroom work, pool work and open water dives. So you’ve got some book reading to do at home so you can get to grips with the theory, you’re tested on that in the classroom to make sure you understand what’s going on. You then practice fundamental skills in the pool and then you repeat those skills in an open water setting. Now I’m obviously not going to give you the answer key to the open water test but there are a few helpful tips and tricks that can help you complete your open water
Your book work should take some time to read it and take it all in so try to pick up your pack a few weeks before you start your classroom sessions, because there are some things that you just can’t work out on the day. The tests are multiple choice but some of them you just can’t guess and your instructor will be asking you all questions to make sure you understand the subjects. Spend time with the materials and go through them at your pace. If you don’t understand something that’s ok, just take a note and ask your Instructor to go through it with you in your classroom session.
The books are also interactive and some even come with a DVD to watch alongside. If you can, then opt for the DVD version because it’s set out in the same order as the textbook so you can watch it and re-watch it ready for your knowledge reviews and a video can better explain a concept than a still picture or a paragraph in a book. If you don’t understand a part then keep going with the next chapter because by the end you may better understand what the original problem was, don’t just give up or obsess over one part that you just can’t get your head around. But this all takes time and it’s a fairly chunky textbook you need to get through so don’t leave it to the last minute to try and complete. Get it done early so you can go back to any elements you don’t fully understand and if you still don’t get it, that’s what you Instructor is for.
And listen properly, if I tell you to reach over your left shoulder don’t mirror me with your right hand. Everybody does it but take a moment to practice the skills on the surface and don’t rush them, visualise what you’re supposed to do to make your life easier later on. Everything in scuba diving is done slowly and methodically. If your Instructor is telling you something then there’s a reason for it, trust them and do as you’re told because it’s probably easier. Practice on the surface first and ask your Instructor to watch and they’ll tell you if you’re doing something wrong. And don’t rush through your skills, if you do your skill rushed and haphazard, we’re taught to make you do it again until you’re fully competent in the skill so you may as well do it right the first time.
You also need to pay attention, scuba diving is incredibly distracting, everywhere you look there’s something to distract you but while you’re gazing off into the distance your Instructor is probably trying to get your attention, because you’re drifting off too deep or something. Underwater we use hand signals to talk so look at these and think about them slowly. It isn’t a race when we’re talking underwater and there isn’t a universal signal for everything so try to be as obvious as you can.
Part of every pool dive is dedicated to practicing your skills that you’ve just learned but most students will just want to crack on with the rest of the course. Take your time to practice your buoyancy in the pool and get used to the delay and the cycle of breathing. You float up when you inhale and sink after you exhale, it’s a natural cycle that takes a while to get used to and too many new divers rely on their inflate and deflate buttons to ascend and descend which just wastes gas and can get you hurt. Only use your inflator on the surface and for minor adjustments, not all the time.
When you hit open water take a moment to consider your buoyancy at all times. Everything should be controlled so you can go up or down when you choose to. Don’t dump every little bit of gas from your BCD, just a little, see if you sink, a bit more, and a bit more until you do. Before you get to your desired depth inhale and see if you hover, if you keep going down add a tiny bit of gas to your bcd. You don’t want to thud into the bottom, you don’t really want to touch the bottom at all.
Your Instructor knows a lot about scuba diving. They have focussed a lot of their professional career on diving and the equipment but while they can’t cover everything in the course if you ask them about something specifically they’ll be more than happy to explain it. If you don’t understand something but the rest of the group seem to be nodding their heads then ask, it could be important and the rest of the group may not fully understand neither. A good Instructor will be able to explain what you don’t understand in a different light until you get it.
In the classroom and pool you can pop up and chat with your Instructor almost whenever you like but once you hit open water once you get down to a certain depth you have to stay there so get any questions out there before you kit up. Your Instructor will go through the whole dive and what you’re going to cover in what order so take that all in and then visualise it before the dive. Don’t go worrying yourself into a muddle but think of anything that you may be unsure about because it isn’t easy to explain a concept 10m down.
Buy your own mask, school masks suck and some schools actually use rubbish masks as an incentive to sell you a mask. Take your time and invest in a good mask that fits you properly, not just the one that looks cool and prepare it 3 times before your course so it doesn’t fog up.
Splash water on your face, when you first get in splash a little of the water on your face to get used to it and the temperature. You do not want the first time you experience how cold the water is or water being on your face at 7m. It also helps to reduce your mask from fogging up.
Practice breathing, it sounds stupid but we call it airway control and you’ll use it in a few skills but a lot of people find it hard to control whether you exhale out of your mouth or nose. Basically if air is coming out of your nose then water can’t go up it and in diving you need to be able to control where your air comes out of for certain skills so practice breathing in through your mouth and out your nose.
Equalise, often, if you’re going down then equalise. If in doubt equalise your ears. Even if you haven’t changed depth equalise your ears. You can never over-equalise your ears, There’s no situation in which you don’t need to equalise your ears but never force it. It’s not a thing where the harder you do it, the better you equalise it’s just a casual thing. Your ears will thank you later.
Pee before pool sessions, you will need to pee during a pool session, a lot, and probably multiple times, you think I’m joking but diving in a pool will make your body need to pee often so you have to get out. You become an expert in equipment removal but you do interrupt the course every 30 minutes.
Bring an old T-Shirt or Rash Vest, school BCDs are made to be tough because they’re used frequently but comfort isn’t high on their features list so wearing them against bare skin sucks. An old T-Shirt that you don’t mind chlorine or salt water damage should help your shoulders from rubbing, if the pool is warm enough that you don’t need a wetsuit.
Don’t leave your cylinder standing up, it’ll cost you a beer and you can damage some really expensive equipment or your foot if it falls over. If you’re not touching it, lay it on the floor so the worst it can do is roll a bit.
Put your regulator in the right way, there is a right and a wrong way to put the regulator in and if you get it wrong you’ll get a mouthful of water. The bulky bit is always the lowest and the mouthpiece is always the highest. An always exhale first when you put it in.
Stay Organised, run through your whole day and pack everything you may need and pack it in the order you’ll need it. Don’t unpack your entire kit and leave it all over the place because you put your logbook in first because stuff gets lost and just in the way.
Wash and Dry your Stuff, your course takes place over multiple days and you’ll probably be wearing the same suit throughout. Imagine putting on a cold damp skin tight suit and compare that to a nice fresh one that’s been hung up properly. You decide.
Opt out if something feels wrong, nobody is forcing you to do anything and there’s no shame in saying ‘can I skip this dive?’. We actually prefer this and one of my proudest moments was when a kid told me that he didn’t want to do the dive even though his mother had been pressuring him to do it.
Never Ever Call this a Flipper, I don’t know why but we’re really passionate about this, These are fins, a flipper is something very different.