Night Diving – The Good, The Bad and the Alien!

When taking the Advanced Open Water Course, it’s the night dive that most people are, quite naturally, a bit wary of. Most people end up loving it, although if the correct procedures aren’t followed it can be nerve wracking. Dive Master Candidate Eain wrote a blog for us about his range of night diving experiences – the good, the bad and the alien!…

Waiting for Sunset
Waiting for Sunset

“There’s something about a night dive that makes everyone a little nervous the first time.  My experience was no different. Sitting on the edge of the boat geared up, ready to back roll into the darkness below you, nerves start to kick in. I was not sure what to expect from the dive.

For myself and my buddy, we were travelling around Indonesia and had not been under the water in around 10 months. So we were a bit rusty on our skills and wanted to get in the water before we started our PADI Advanced Open Water Certification. We chose to do a night dive as we had not had a chance to experience one before. On reflection, we should have asked – or been asked by the dive centre – to take a refresher or a shallow day dive first. Hello captain hindsight!

Going Down at Dusk!
Going Down at Dusk!

As I entered the water I was full of nerves, and it was not until we descended and got our bearings before they started to settle. Not being able to see the bottom or any topography around you, and only being able to see the spot of light from your torch can be unsettling. As the dive continued I began to relax and get a feel for the experience, although I did not manage to see a lot of marine life. The bio-luminescence from the plankton amazed me though, and when we all turned our torches to face our chests, slight movements from our hands lit up the water around us, sort of like fireworks underwater. As the dive continued with poor visibility (as our torches were not the brightest) my buddy and I managed to cause some problems.  Our lack of night dive experience coupled with time out of the water caused us to become very disorientated. Somehow we managed to ask each other for our air, and answered both thinking the other was our dive leader! Needless to say we were both low on air (50bar). Simultaneously we both signalled to go up, and then continued to the surface. Upon reaching the surface we both realised our mistake, made worse by both forgetting to perform a safety stop.

Following this the assistant surfaced, and was not too pleased with us. I can’t remember his exact words but they were not kind, and at some point he told us we should not even be certified divers, which was not a comment we were pleased to hear! Following this experience I can safely say that I was not overly keen on night diving, and did not believe it was an experience worthwhile doing. However this mentality was soon to change…

After completing my Advanced Open Water on Gili Trawangan I continued my travels to Thailand, where I decided to complete my Divemaster training with Master Divers on Koh Tao. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made as it has been a great experience. During this time, I’ve made several night dives and grown to love them. The schedule was tight for the course and the time constraints I had, so it became practical to make up dives and increase my logged dives by night diving. As I have become more experienced, I have been able to get more out of night diving, including navigation of dives sites at night, and knowing where and how to look for elusive marine life, which in some cases is far more active at night, or in some cases the opposite.  It really is an amazing experience when you do it properly – it’s a bit like being in space, and so interesting to see more marine life and note how the species and behaviour changes from what you see during the day.

Pufferfish at Night

All this led to my final dive on Koh Tao (for the time being), being a night dive at Pottery, which is a site I know well. Along with this being the best night dive I have ever been on, I would put it very close to being one of the most interesting and diverse dives I have ever done.  Perhaps symbolically, on this dive I was once again with the same buddy from my first ever night dive back in Indonesia. We managed to find 2 different species of puffer fish, some flat worms, blue spotted stingrays, several species of moray eel – some of which we need to look into as we are unsure of exactly which type they were! We also spotted the most intriguing organism which appeared at first glance to be some sort of jellyfish, only it was sitting on a small piece of coral, and it was still. Could it be some sort of star fish crossed with a jellyfish? Or perhaps it was an alien?! I did not have a camera with me so couldn’t get any pictures, but so far I am struggling to find any images or info on this organism. My research into this will have to continue, but being unable to find it makes me want to get back into the water to discover more!”

Puffer Fish

Eain’s experience is actually a pretty great case study for night diving. Can you pin point all the areas where things should/could have been done differently? It is important that you are well prepared for your first night dive, which includes having dived recently through the day, having the correct equipment, and being under the direct supervision of a PADI pro. If you’d like to learn more about night diving you can take the PADI Night Diver specialty course. Or for an altogether different experience join one of our UV Night Dives. It’s a whole different world down there at night – and it’s awesome!

 

Becoming a Dive Addict!

My name is Simone and two months ago I got the chance to work as a Dive Master at Master Divers. It was never my goal to become a Dive Master – or even to become a diver at all. Actually everything that happened from the first time I came to Koh Tao until now is by accident, but I enjoy every moment of it! It all started last year in November when I went on a holiday with my niece for two weeks. It was going to be a short holiday so the original plan was to go from Bangkok to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui and then home again. Like I said, that was the plan…. After some fun day’s in Bangkok we went to Koh Tao and met some nice people who were really enthusiastic about diving. Unfortunately we had already bought our tickets to Koh phangan so there was no time left to dive on Koh Tao. I felt sad about it because I really wanted to dive, but we decided to try and find some place to dive on Koh phangan. The morning we were supposed to leave, we lost our boat tickets (and no I didn’t make them disappear!). There were two things we could do; buy new tickets or stay a bit longer on Koh Tao.Koh Tao Viewpoint

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! So we decided to stay and why not try diving as well!? Because of the positive and good reviews about diving from our new friends, we went to Master Divers and we could start the next day with a Discover Scuba Diving programme. In the morning our instructor explained to us the basics of diving and what we could expect during the dive. After a lunch break we went out for the dive in the afternoon. I was a bit nervous in the beginning, but the experience and the feeling during my first dive was indescribable; it felt like ultimate freedom, flying under water and the fact that I’m able to breath while I’m on eye level with beautiful fish and coral amazed me. Me and diving; it was love at first sight.

 

Simone Diving

 

The two discover scuba dives I did weren’t enough for me, I wanted more. I had a chat with my instructor and decided to start  The Open Water Course. My niece didn’t join me, but decided to stick with our original plan and went to Koh phangan instead. The next day I started my open water course. It was low season and I was lucky to be the only student in the group. During my open water I learned so much about diving; the theory behind it, things to consider during a dive, how the equipment works and so many skills that I still benefit from every day. Every time, I entered the water, I felt more and more comfortable. On the last dive of the open water course I realized how happy I was with my new experience and I wanted that feeling to last. So, why not do another course? After a day off, I started my Advanced Open Water Course. This course gave me the opportunity to do five speciality dives; deep diver, peak performance buoyancy, navigation, multilevel diving and a night dive. A girl from Spain joined me during this course and, together with our instructor and the DMT who was assisting, we had so much fun. During the course I got the chance to dive with NITROX during the deep dive. My instructor told me that if I did the Nitrox course and made the exam, I would be able to dive with nitrox everywhere on the world. I was on a role so, to top it all, I did the NITROX exam. In the space of a week I did three dive courses and turned into a dive addict. Even though it was time for me to leave the island and go back home, I decided that I had to come back as soon as possible. I looked on the internet what would be my next step in recreational diving; Dive master training. Because of all the nice people I met and the great atmosphere at Master Divers, I wanted to do my course with them. After some emails everything was sorted and in March 2015 I came back to Koh Tao and Master Divers to do my dive master training. Before beginning pro level training there are some other courses that are required to make sure you have a solid base of skills and knowledge. The Emergency First Responder Course and Rescue Course are two courses that teach you how you can help/save a diver in trouble. These courses brought everything I knew about diving to a higher level. It wasn’t just about taking care of myself anymore, I was going to be able to help other divers and solve all the problems they could possibly have. Even though there is a lot of information in both courses, they’re also so much fun to do. With my new gained knowledge I felt even more comfortable in the water than I already did.

Simone Diving

During all of the following fun dives I trained my buoyancy and got more and more experienced. With 40 logged dives, it was time for the big step of becoming a professional diver: Dive master training. During my course I assisted different instructors on different courses. I saw different types of teaching and how every student, whatever difficulties they have to face, is able to get a certification. I also got a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the dive school and noticed there is a lot of work involved in making it possible for costumers to go out and dive. I learned how to navigate and lead dives, demonstrate skills, be a good boat master and how to map a dive site. Together with my fellow trainee buddies I had an amazing time, and I knew for sure that some day, I would love to work as a Dive Master. That day came pretty fast. Master Divers was looking for a new Dive Master, heard about my interest in a job and so it happened that right now I’m the lucky one who gets to dive for a living. While I’m typing this I realize just how lucky and blessed I am that I can live on this tropical island, work with amazing colleagues, dive almost every day and show other people all the beautiful fish and coral around Koh Tao. Who would have thought that a short holiday to Thailand would turn out to be career switch and a total different life? I’m living the dream, my dream!

Island Life

 

Simone Dekker

Voodoo Gas, Blend it Baby!

Voodoo Gas, Nitrox, or to give it the correct name, Enriched Air Nitrox (EANx) is still a mystery to some people. Why use it, why pay for the course to learn how to use it, and what are the benefits? I found out the answers to these questions many years ago when I did my PADI EANx Course. Back then it wasn’t that common, hence the nickname ‘Voodoo Gas’.

Nitrox Tank

For the uninitiated, EANx is used by divers in order to have longer dives at certain depths due to the fact that the percentage of oxygen is increased. This means that the percentage of Nitrogen is decreased, nitrogen being the limiting factor in depths and times of dives. Normal air is 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen, whereas the two most common blends of EANx are 32% or 36% oxygen leaving only 68% and 64% nitrogen respectively.

One of my biggest questions, however, remained unanswered – ‘How do we get Nitrox into our tanks?’ – I had a rough idea but it wasn’t until I recently undertook my PADI TecRec Gas Blending Course that this was fully answered!

For the first time in a while the instructor became the student as I was handed my Gas Blending Manual and told to complete Knowledge Reviews 1,2 and 3….now don’t get me wrong but I am used to being the person asking students to give up their evenings to study, now I am being asked! Oh well, for the greater good…

The next morning I met up with Wilco, who was to be my instructor for the next couple of days, and we walked through the reviews, adding ‘meat to the bones’ where we needed so I had a full understanding of how EANx is blended and the possible hazards of the differing procedures and how we avoid them.

Next it was onto the practical side of things and actually learning to fill a cylinder with nitrox rather than normal air. Knees knocking, I followed Wilco to the compressor room and started to learn all about all the workings of the complressor and how to blend different mixtures of gases correctly – but only after a stark warning from Wilco – ‘When filling nitrox, please don’t blow up the compressor room!’ – now I am not usually a nervous individual but that got the sweat trickling down my neck, or was that the 38 degree heat?

Gary Blending Nitrox

So we worked step by step through everything from attaching the tanks to the filling whips (the hoses used to put the Nitrox into the cylinder), to startup steps for the compressor, to how we add the oxygen to the normal air to achieve the desired percentage blend and finally to the full shutdown upon the fill of all the cylinders needed.

Ten cylinders later I felt comfortable in blending Nitrox, as long as I followed Wilco’s expertly written step-by-step guide! I went on to complete the rest of the Knowledge Reviews and take the final exam…scored an 88%…not too shabby!

I have been regularly blending and filling our Nitrox cylinders since my course and am getting more comfortable each and every time. I may even be able to ditch the step-by-step guide sometime soon!

For anyone who hasn’t got their PADI Nitrox Certification yet I highly advise doing it, maybe in conjunction with your PADI Advanced Open Water Course and that way, you too can experience ‘Voodoo Gas’ on your next dives!

PADI Self Reliant Diver Course

The PADI Self Reliant Diver course – so what made me decide to do this? After all, I am an instructor and dive centre manager, with not an insignificant number of dives under my belt; what else could I learn about e.g. my air consumption that I didn’t already know? As it turned out… quite a lot!

It was during a dive at Twins, one of Koh Tao’s most popular scuba diving sites, with a DM friend of mine and her Open Water certified boyfriend that the idea first came to me. My friend was, quite rightly, being the perfect buddy to her inexperienced boyfriend, and I thought “What if something happened to me right now?’ and it occurred to me that, whilst I was certainly not in any imminent danger, if I did suddenly have an equipment failure, who would be there to help me? Then I cast my mind back to when I was teaching full-time and again it struck me that as a dive professional there isn’t really anyone to look after you, should things go wrong. At that point I decided that I really did want to do this less well-known PADI course. Having done the first of the PADI Tec courses, Tec 40, a few years back, I knew from that training that you have to be prepared to end any dive and get back to the surface, no matter what the situation or the conditions, on your own. So doing the PADI Self Reliant Diver course made sense.

As soon as I got back onto the boat, I spoke to Wilco, our Tec and Self Reliant Diver instructor, and told him I wanted to do the course. “Why?” was his immediate answer; to which I carefully and knowingly responded “So I can dive alone”. Having worked with Wilco for the best part of 7 years, I knew precisely how he would react and what his next word would be: ”Wrong!” was his immediate response as I smirked cheekily at his predictability! And what Wilco said was completely correct; the premise of the Self Reliant Diver course is not so that you can simply dive alone; it is to provide you with the skills and knowledge to dive independently, whether that be leading a group of students, diving with other dive pros (let’s face it, most of us are too busy doing our own thing underwater!), or if the situation arises, diving solo, as in the case of underwater videographers and photographers. The course also makes you far more prepared as a buddy.

Wilco, Charlotte and Elaine
Wilco, Charlotte and Elaine ready for their dive!

I managed to persuade Elaine, co-owner of Master Divers, to do the course with me – which that meant double trouble for Wilco! Whilst there is no manual for the course, we still had a Knowledge Review to complete. Calculating our Surface Air Consumption (SAC) rate was the first job. Until we did the first dive, we would have to estimate it which we did at around 12L; we then had to determine, individually, how long we were going to dive for, at what depths and how long at each depth, using several formulae (don’t worry if Maths is not your strong point – they are straightforward); we then had to work out, using our estimated SAC rate, how much air we would use during the dives. What we found after the SAC rate skills (swimming as fast as we could for 1 minute at a depth of 10m and recording our start and finish pressure) was that our SAC rates were identical at 5.5L. Even Wilco was surprised at how low they were!

There are 3 dives for the course, and for the first 2 dives, you are with your instructor, as there are a number of skills that they have to assess during the dives. Having planned the dive ahead of time, we were each allocated a dive to lead. First off was the Self Buddy Check, which is exactly the same as a normal buddy check, but you are doing on yourself. As well as the required skills for the dive, we had to record our depth and pressure at 10 minute intervals and then our time and depth at specific pressures, regardless of what we were doing at the time, which may have been whilst doing a 2 minute no mask swim at 10m, switching from our back gas to our redundant air source and back, swapping from our regular masks to our spare masks, recording times and pressures in order to calculate a normal SAC rate at various depths, plus several more skills which seem a bit of a blur now; and all the time continuing to stick to the original dive plan that we had individually calculated, and making sure that we got back to the planned exit point. Those two dives that first afternoon were pretty full on, but great fun!

A few days later, we were back on the boat for the final dive of the course and our first solo fun dive! A double dive to Chumphon Pinnacle, which is located about 13km from Koh Tao,  and Elaine and I were both very excited! For the final dive of the course, we again had to plan our dives, this time using our actual SAC rates, to determine how long our air supply would last at much deeper depths. After a few adjustments – we were both somewhat over enthusiastic about how long our air would last according to the formula – we both had our individual plans! The Self Buddy Check were done, and as we agreed, we descended  down the buoy line together; once at the bottom of the buoy line I chose one direction and Elaine the opposite.

Elaine Self Reliant Diving
Elaine Self Reliant Diving

And then I was alone! Looking at my slate to re-assure myself as to the tasks I had to complete during the dive, I set off to explore on my own. All I can say is it was awesome! As I gazed out across Chumphon Pinnacle, going exactly where I wanted to go, without having to wait for my buddy or catch up with anyone, I felt completely at ease. Now I understood what all my underwater videography/photography mates were talking about! At the end of the dive, having followed my plan, the final skills to complete the course were the SMB deployment and then the 3 minute safety stop whilst breathing from the redundant air source. I had already bought myself an 85L “Spare Air”, and although I had had a short go with it on a previous fun dive, it was good to know that I didn’t run out of air on the safety stop!!

Elaine and I came up from our dives within a few minutes of each other, and were both very excited to tell each other about our first solo dives! I don’t think either of us listened to the other because we were both so busy talking at each other!  An hour later, we were ready to jump in again for our first post-course solo dives – no skills – just diving. I spent the best part of 30 minutes ambling around Chumphon Pinnacle, without seeing even the bubbles of any other divers. I have done a fair amount of dives, peering in amazement at wonderful and weird critters, riding along heart-stopping currents and hanging with mantas, dolphins and mola molas, but this was definitely up there in my top 10 dives.

So what did I learn – planning is paramount, regardless of how experienced you are as a diver; knowing your strengths, and your weaknesses, to better prepare yourself in the event of a mishap or emergency; and appreciating that no matter how long you have been diving or how experienced you are, there is always something new to learn!

A big thank you to my instructor, Wilco, and to my “non-buddy”, Elaine!! Let’s do it again!!!

 

My first dive.

This is the story of Jasmin our Eco Queens first diving experience.

I never intended on learning to dive, I was travelling around Thailand for 5 weeks in the summer holidays during my second year of university and had planned to go to Koh Tao but had already decided against diving as it wasn’t in my budget.

Jasmin Diving

 

Whilst on the boat from mainland Thailand to Koh Tao some of the people I met on the journey down from Bangkok persuaded me to do it with them, we got off the boat, had a couple of hours to sleep and it was straight into the theory! Wow, I thought, this is a lot to take in plus I’m SO tired, I’m not so sure I want to do this. After the first theory session was over I collapsed on my bed to continue with the homework given to me for that evening. I knew the next day was going to be a long one with more theory in the morning and our first water session in the afternoon, so it was an early night for me. The next morning theory went by easily, I had finally got my head around it, the next step was the confined session, this I was really nervous about, all the equipment seemed very daunting and heavy, I really wasn’t sure that diving was for me. We hopped in the pool and put the equipment on in the shallows of the pool. Our instructor the briefly explained the upcoming skills and told us to put our masks on our faces and regulator in our mouths and that we were going to all kneel down on the bottom and get comfortable with breathing through the regulator. The first minute of breathing underwater was the most adrenaline fuelled 60 seconds of my life, I did not enjoy it at first, I stood up out of the water and began to cry, the Dive Master Trainee (DMT) who was assisting our course calmed me down and asked if I wanted to give it another go, I’m not one to give up at the first hurdle so agreed to try again, this time the DMT calmy took me down and allowed me to take my time to get accustomed to the new sensation, after a couple of minutes I signalled that I was OK and it was straight into the skills, given the fact that the sensation of breathing under water for the first time had caused me such distress, everyone myself included expected me to have issues with the skills but I breezed through it and by the end of the session I was having the time of my life, I couldn’t wait for the open water dives the next day!

The following day we got on the boat which droves us to the dive site, we set up our gear, had a dive briefing, got into our equipment, buddy checked and were off! We descended nice and slowly down the buoyline and all I could think was ‘OH MY GOODNESS THIS IS INCREDIBLE!’ Within the first 5 minutes of the dive I was hooked, by the end of the Open Water Course I knew I wanted to be a professional diver. For me diving was a form of relaxation, even in the first dives when I was getting used to the equipment and trying not to swim with my arms  and trying to control my buoyancy I found it so soothing.

After my trip to Thailand I decided to finish university and save up some money and come back to Koh Tao and train to be a Dive Master, and that is what I did, I was lucky enough to be offered a job at Master Divers combining two of my greatest passions; diving and marine conservation and I haven’t looked back since!

Surveying Buoylines

What to consider before booking your open water course.

The first thing you need to consider is your health and the medical form.

Certain medical conditions may prevent you from diving, such as asthma and heart conditions. There are many more that could mean its unsafe for you to dive too so as you have not dived before please take a moment to have a look at the medical statement.  In Thailand you only need a doctors clearance to dive if you have one of the listed conditions otherwise you can simply complete the form upon arrival. If you have one of the listed conditions, please be honest. It wont necessarily mean that you can’t dive but it does mean you need to see a doctor first. It is always better to see your own GP before leaving versus leaving it to chance here in Thailand. Your own doctor knows you better whereas here a local doctor is more likely to say no if in doubt. In some instances your GP may refer you to or ask you to consult with a doctor qualified in dive medicine so make sure you don’t leave this until the last minute.

You do need to have a reasonable fitness level to dive. You don’t need to be super fit but you do need to look after yourself. Diving does place physical demands on you and you will need an average level of stamina and fitness to complete the course.

2

You do also need to be able to swim. Participants need to complete a 200m swim or 300m snorkel but there is no time limit in which to complete this.  Participants also need to be able to float for 10 mins too.  If this is not in your level of comfort please do consult your dive centre for their recommendation as to how you can enjoy the ocean if your abilities are less than this.

If you have a fear of fish, the ocean, open water or water in general its worth considering if committing to the full open water course is the best place for you to start. Most dive centres offer snorkelling or a try diving experience of some kind. These will get you into the water with no pressure and give you the chance to see what you think first.

3

Make sure you have enough time to complete your diving. Remember you need to leave 24 hours in between your last dive and flying.

 

 

 

 

How to be a good student.

This isn’t about being teachers pet or bringing your instructor coffee/chocolate/beer (after diving). Not that that wouldn’t be appreciated mind you! Being a good student will ensure that you get the most out of your course and your instructor too.

Studious.
Studious.

Firstly carefully read and clearly complete what can seem like the endless forms that are required. Please be truthful on the medical form and also regarding the swimming requirements if you are taking an open water course.

Be on time, it’s polite, and it ensures that no one’s time is wasted and nothing gets rushed. Island time doesn’t apply to scuba diving; we need the boat and the classes to run on time!

Listen to your scuba instructor at all times; don’t sit on your phone checking out Facebook. What they are telling you effects your safety and could save your life!

Do your homework! You have paid good money for this course so get the most out of it; otherwise you are wasting your money!

Stay with your buddy, its very exciting underwater but swimming off and leaving your buddy puts them at risk as well you. This will also cause your instructor to come after you which will be disruptive to the entire group.

Take care of your payment in a timely manner.

Take care of the rental equipment and treat it as if were your own.

Be conscious and aware of the others in your group, their needs and feeling too.

Make sure you keep an open dialogue with your instructor otherwise they cant help you if you are cold, feel unwell or don’t understand something.

Follow these simple tips to ensure your course is fun for everyone in it!

Leave us a comment below and tell us what makes a good scuba instructor and you might see this featured on our blog in the future.

 

 

Top 5 things to remember on the first dive of your open water course.

Apart from all your gear, your buddy and your pre-dive safety check there are a number of things to remember. The following are the most common things new divers forget in the nervous excitement of their first open water dive.

Ready to Go !
Ready to Go !

1)      Relax.

Remain calm, remember to breath out as well as deflating to go down. Over-excitement and nervousness will increase your breathing rate making it harder for you to control your buoyancy. It will also mean you use your air faster too. Remember that shallow breathing means that you will not get the best air exchange through your regulator which can lead you to increase your breathing rate further and so the problem gets worse. Slow, steady and relaxed breathing is what you are aiming for.

2)        Maintain proper diving position.

You need to be perfectly horizontal in the water which is not a common position for landlubbers and can feel a little awkward at first. It’s common for new divers to orientate themselves slightly upright.  As your fins will propel you in the direction that your shoulders are pointing then this can have you heading for the surface. As you will likely have air in your BCD this will expand with the reducing pressure and speed your ascent.

Like this....
Like this….

3)      Don’t use your arms.

Diving is not swimming but it’s difficult to drop that mental in water association at first. Using your arms only wastes energy and therefore air in your tank. Flapping can make it difficult for you to attain neutral buoyancy too, cause you to hit your buddy or the reef.  If you are flapping your arms, ask yourself why…what are you trying to do? If it’s because you feel like you are sinking then instead breathe in and/or add a little air to your BCD. If it’s because you are trying to come down then stop all movement and exhale. If that doesn’t work come upright and deflate a little air from your BCD.

 

4)      You need to be upright to deflate and let air out of your jacket.

Not only do you need to be upright but you need to hold the low pressure inflator hose high above your head and even slightly leaning back to let the air out. Remember air wants to travel upwards and it cant pass around a bent hose.  When you come upright to do this remember to stop kicking your legs otherwise you will kick yourself up to the surface.

 

5)      Fin from the hip.

If you have never used fins before they can feel awkward and ungainly. Stretch your legs out behind you and kick from the hip not the knee. You do not want to have a bicycle motion. This is very inefficient and will waste air and energy. Long leg strokes and think about it more like you were kicking a football than riding a bike.

 

Phew !  Awesome job …3 more dives to go !

The Value of the Buddy Check

Whether divers are on a course or fun diving, as dive professionals we spend a lot of time teaching and reminding divers about the buddy check. Each training agency offers a different view on how the steps are structured and there are so many mnemonics to help you remember it that it verges on the ridiculous.

This post is not about that debate but rather reviewing the importance of a pre-dive safety check. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you remember it, as long as you have a structured process and you use it.


 

Buddy Check
Buddy Check


 

So lets look at a scenario shall we? Suppose we have a couple kitting up on a small boat. You can walk around but it’s simply kit and divers. The couple have been seated opposite each other and they gear up separately. The dive is a drift dive which requires a negative entry and they backward roll off opposite sides of the boat and plan to meet each other underwater.

Without a buddy check they can not confirm that each diver’s air is on or that they have remembered their weight belts. If one diver has no air but went straight down and the other diver has no weight then they can’t help their buddy either. A simple run through each others air, buoyancy and weight systems would have circumvented this scary situation.


 

Ready to go !
Ready to go !


 

I find all too often that after being certified, divers no longer think a safety check is required or can be too shy to do it in front of other divers who are not checking their buddy before getting in.

Ask yourself this, how many times do you forget where your keys, phone, wallet, etc. are?   So then it’s conceivable that you can make a mistake – we are all human after all.

The check doesn’t take long and no matter what your experience level, it is every divers responsibility to do it. The more it’s seen being done, the more it will be done and eliminate the panic,stress or emergency situation caused by a problem that can easily be avoided.

When should you refresh your scuba skills?

Each dive centre will have its different policies as to when they require divers to make a refresher course.

Where I worked in the Maldives, a full refresher was not required unless you had not dived for 2 years or more. However they insisted that every diver make a check dive off the house reef. This included performing mask clearing, reg recovery and clearing and an out of air drill before enjoying the calm still water close to the island. This dive was necessary as divers needed to have a chance to get into the water, blow the cobwebs off and check their weight before heading to a dive site which would very likely have strong current. It also gave the dive staff an opportunity to assess the divers and be able to advise them accordingly.

Be comfortable and confident.
Be comfortable and confident.

At Master Divers, we recommend that if you haven’t dived for 6 months or more then you should make a refresher. However, there is some leniency here and we do take into account the number of logged dives and the frequency of logged dives too. We also have the option of a private guide taking you to a shallow calm dive site first.

Our policy is different from that Maldivian dive centre as the centers diving process is different. At Master Divers we don’t have a house reef and shallow lagoon we can take you out on. We strongly believe that refreshing your skills is essential for not just your own safety and enjoyment, but also for divers that you are diving with and our team.

Can you remember what this bit does and how to put it together?
Can you remember what this bit does and how to put it together?

Can you imagine for a second, a diver joining your group for the days diving who had not dived in a few years. They might not remember much. They might struggle putting their gear together, not know how much weight they need, have forgotten the crucial safety checks etc.. and this is all before getting in the water! If this diver was to be your buddy it turns what should be a relaxing holiday dive into a worry.  What if they forget to check their air or can’t remember how to clear their mask? You can see why we take this seriously for every diver.

Regardless of a dive centres policy it’s crucial to your safety and that of your buddy to keep your skills up to date. When did you last practice an out of air drill? How comfortable are you to remove your mask underwater? Could you take your gear off in the case of entanglement? Can you remember how to check for proper weighting?  Most divers only practice these techniques when they learn them on their open water course, a refresher gives you the opportunity to repeat these drills which will make you a more competent and confident diver.

So please take the request to make a refresher with good grace. Look at it as a great opportunity to improve your technique and grow as a diver. Understand that we not only have your safety and enjoyment in mind but everyone else’s too which should say something about the dive centre itself!

A refresher only costs 1500B and can very easily be fitted into your first diving day.

Check out PADI Scuba Review or SSI Scuba Skills update for more info here.