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Scuba Diving Safety

Despite what your life insurance company may think Scuba Diving is actually a very fun and safe hobby. Obviously safety starts with training and certification. But beyond that the principal rule of dive safety once you have become a certified Scuba Diver, is if you will pardon the pun – don’t get in over your head. Like with many so-called high risk or extreme sports, the biggest mistake divers make that gets them in trouble, is not knowing their own limitations.

 

Good Health 

Of course even before getting certified, Dive Safety begins with being in good health. If you have never scuba dived and think you may have a health condition, that could be a problem. It would be the safest idea to have a complete physical conditioning before taking a scuba certification class. Then once certified, understand the limits of your capabilities. Do not dive under dangerous environments and conditions that you have not been trained to dive in. Caverns, caves and wreck diving all require specialized skills. It is all too easy to become trapped and run out of air in one of these places if you do not know what you are doing.

 

Grab Your Buddy

Important: Never dive alone – always dive with a buddy. Let people know when and where you will be diving, and when you are expected to return.

 

Gear Safety

If you own your own Scuba equipment, make sure it is maintained regularly and well checked. If you are renting dive gear, make sure everything works and fits properly before going for a dive. If something does not seem right, make sure you ask or inform the Dive Shop or Dive Master (if you are on a group dive).

 

Protect Your Skin

Sunscreen is also very important. Many people do not realize how easily sunlight penetrates water, especially in some of the most crystal clear waters that are ideal for scuba diving. If you are not wearing a wet suit, be sure to wear waterproof sun block of at least SPF 15.

 

Weather Check

Know the weather conditions and the weather forecast where you are diving. Storms can change the diving conditions in certain areas dramatically. And remember: water conducts electricity. You are not safe from a lighting strike just by being below the surface while Scuba diving.

 

Avoid the drugs and alcohol

And while it may seem apparently obvious: do not scuba dive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes certain prescription and non-prescription medications. If you are on any medication, ask your doctor before diving.

 

Temperature Check

The water is not your body’s natural environment and you can be exposed to different conditions while you are underwater. It is important that you know the signs and symptoms of and proper first aid for heat stroke or heat exhaustion if you are diving in hot weather. Similarly of hypothermia if you are ice diving or diving in cold weather.

 

Get Yourself Trained

Speaking of first aid, if you are not Rescue Diver Certified, it is probably a good idea to get basic first aid and CPR training if you plan on being an avid diver, or dive with someone who has such certifications. When you are in trouble in a dive situation, communications can be critical. You can invest hundreds of dollars in fancy communications gear, or knowing the basic Scuba hand signals can save your life.

 

Scuba is an activity that does have certain risks. However going in with the understanding that you are “out of your element” and practicing a little common sense is your best way to dive safely and enjoy all the fun and excitement of one of the greatest recreational activities on the planet.

 

The Live-aboard Scuba Experience

You are a diver, right? You love to spend your time in and on the water. You have saved up all year and looked forward to that vacation. So why then go to a resort, and then slip out to your dive boat – after all you are not here to play golf or lounge around the pool – you are here to Scuba Dive. So why not book a Live-aboard Dive vacation?

As the name itself implies, a Live-aboard is exactly that – you live on board the vessel for the length of the dive trip. There are many good reasons to choose a live-aboard dive vacation, not the least of which is that you get to dive almost as much as you can and are physically capable of.

Unlike on a typical dive vacation, you can dive 3-4 or even more times a day, depending on your own capabilities and the location. More importantly, you are free to go where you want on a Live-aboard. The best captains of Live-aboard dive boats know how to find and get to the best sites. While on some live-aboard’s a diver may be close to “roughing-it” where diving is priority and accommodations are comfortable but nothing special, there are those Live-aboard’s that not only give you access to great diving, but then also treat you like the owner of your own luxury yacht – featuring luxury cabins and an executive chef to prepare state-of-the-art meals.

Most of the top Dive locations, Australia, Phuket,The Caribbean and the Florida Keys offer many well-known vessels and Live-aboard choices. A typical Live-aboard dive trip is 5 days to a week and would go something like this: wake up, grab your breakfast, go to a the briefing on what the days dive activities will be, walk to the back of the boat, grab your buddy and you’re ready to dive – just like that. Done diving? Then resurface, back on the boat for a hot shower, maybe a quick snack while the boat moves on to another dive site, and you’re back in again. This will go on through Lunch & Dinner, where dives will be scheduled (appropriate to decompression limits of course).

There are many reasons to choose a live-aboard dive vacation over a road trip. Not only do you get to experience the beauty of a variety of dive spots, but also as part of the itinerary on a live-aboard the crew may choose to spend an entire day at a single dive site. Being able to dive the same site at different depths and different times of day is a fascinating experience.  Different fish and marine life have different schedules making even a you are familiar with, a completely alien place at night, or even at dawn. To see how the underwater world changes over the cycle of a day is simply amazing.

 

Live-aboards offer a fascinating and exciting alternative to land-based trips. But like any dive vacation, do your research and know what you are booking – and choose a Live-aboard that best suits your preferences, stamina and interests, who knows, you may never take a land-based trip again.

 

Scuba is Evolving Both Technologically and Philosophically

Scuba as a recreational sport is really still in its early stages. Since the Aqualung first came available in the ‘50’s, diving did not really catch on until the 60’s; it reached its heyday in the 80’s, and experienced a technological boom in the 90’s. Much has changed since the early days, mostly for the better, and since dive certifications are for life, what you learned during your original open water training or even during a recent refresher course may have changed.

I for one received my Advanced Open Water Diver Certification over 20 years ago, and have been quite surprised at some of the new information and new practices that I have discovered while researching these articles. Like most divers I learned to “go deep” first. In other words to on any given dive descend to the lowest planned depth, and then gradually work your way upward, and also to plan the deepest dives in your day first. The rationale here was that the shallow depths will provide decompression for the deep dives that came before. But this year while the practice is still recommended – it is no longer a rule. The main reason is a technological advance – the Dive Computer. Dive computers take the guesswork out of nitrogen exposure, and are infinitely more accurate than using dive tables. More about Dive Computers, they are probably one of the single greatest advances in diving in the last ten years, and a must have dive accessory. Like with any piece of digital technology as the price of Dive Computers continue to drop, dive experts expect them to become mandatory equipment, soon rendering dive tables obsolete.

One of the other technological advances that have resulted in a philosophical change in a traditional training technique is the introduction of small bottles of emergency air such as “Spare air” and Pony bottles that have caused the industry to re-think Buddy Breathing. Dive instructors have always known that Buddy Breathing was a risky proposition; actually endangering the lives of both divers when one ran out of air. The introduction of the Octopus and now “Spare Air” has Buddy Breathing no longer being taught by the major Dive Organizations. If you or your buddy is out of air and neither is carrying a backup it is now recommended you make an Emergency Swimming Accent, rapidly swimming to the surface while exhaling. In fact I was surprised to learn that “The Buddy System” itself which was the “cardinal rule” when I learned to dive, isn’t that big of a deal anymore, with the new gear that is making scuba diving safer and safer, single diving is becoming a much more common practice.

Another fundamental change in Diving has been the overall change in age requirements. While there are still differences among the major certifying organizations, all have dropped their minimal age requirements, and have added some “entry level” programs for young children like Scuba Rangers and The SEAL Team program. This has been mainly to increase accessibility and raise interest in the sport to a new generation and to appeal to the “old generation” of Boomers who want to take their kids with them and get them into a hobby they have loved their entire lives. There is also an increased reciprocity among dive organizations, bordering on Universal Certifications. With the notable exception of PADI, you can now take classroom training with one dive organization, and then choose a resort for you dive trip based on their 5 star restaurant and Grilled Mahi-Mahi instead of being forced to go to a resort that is affiliated with the same organization for your Open Water Dives.