As divers, we can always improve our knowledge and technique to get more out of our dives. Advanced divers know this as well as what areas they need to improve and what they need to do to improve. But, if you are just starting out, it may not be readily apparent what you can do.
We’re going to help you with that. Below are five tips that you can implement to begin getting more out of your dives. Some of these will deal with learning, others will deal with your physical health. But, all of them, when implemented correctly, will help you become a better diver.
#1 Take Diver Speciality Courses
Many divers stop taking classes after getting an open water certification. At most, some will continue and get an advanced open water certification. Very few will keep going and become a master diver.
There are so many more courses that you can take. Each one can help when it comes to being a better diver and enjoying your dives more. All the major scuba organizations including PADI and SSI have specialty classes.
For PADI, these classes include:
- Fish Identification
- Digital Underwater Photographer
- Diver Propulsion Vehicle Diver
- Emergency Oxygen Provider
- Enriched Air Diver (No Dives)
- Enriched Air Diver (2 Dives)
- Equipment Specialist
- Multilevel Diver
- Night Diver
- Peak Performance Buoyancy
- Tec Gas Blender
- Underwater Naturalist
- Underwater Navigator
- Underwater Videographer
- Deep Diver
- Wreck Diver
- Search & Recovery
- Self Reliant Diver
Helpful for new divers are the peak performance buoyancy, underwater navigator, and fish identification courses.
The peak performance buoyancy class especially can help you to get more air time out of your dives. You will find yourself exerting less energy and having to use less air. As a new diver, this should be your number one goal.
Other classes such as the wreck diver and deep diver specialties can open up new experiences. You will gain the knowledge to navigate new terrain and open up dive sites currently off limits to you.
As with any other hobby, sport, or profession, you need to keep improving your knowledge. Organizations like PADI and SSI have made this easy with these specialty courses. So, make sure you are taking advantage of these opportunities. Most of these, you can even complete while you are on vacation in as little as one or two days.
Read this : Best Places To Learn Scuba Diving
#2 Regularly Review Your Dive Books and Memorize Important Formulas
We’ll say this once. The most important thing you can do as a diver is memorize dive formulas. Redundancy is important. It can save your life. Many new divers are completely reliant on their dive computers.
For the most part, this isn’t a major issue. Very few divers will ever experience their computer breaking down on a dive. But, if you are one of those few divers who finds yourself in that situation, what will you do?
If you are 40m (130ft) underwater and your dive computer dies, can you get yourself to the surface? Would you know whether you needed to add in decompression stops? If you did need to decompress, would you know how long you needed to stop for?
Dive computers are amazing. But, you cannot rely on them to always work perfectly. You need to have the information in your head to get yourself out of any situation that arises. This is why you need to regularly review your dive manuals. Also, you should have the formulas memorized for bottom time, decompression limits, etc.
This is one tip that will not only help you improve your diving but can also save your life. You will have knowledge to stay safe in emergencies, and better understanding of what is going on.
#3 Work on Getting in Better Physical Shape and Improve Your Breathing
On the surface, scuba diving can seem low level in terms of physical exertion. But, there is a lot going on that makes it quite physically demanding. Especially, the more advanced you get with diving difficulty.
You have to swim against currents, regulate breathing, and carry heavy dive equipment. There is also the toll that diving can take on your body. Being exposed to extreme amounts of pressure isn’t something your body was designed for.
So, the more in shape you are, the easier it will be for you to dive. This doesn’t mean you need to have six pack abs or be a high level athlete. It does mean that you should regularly be taking steps to keep in shape.
The main idea when diving is to avoid over exerting yourself or having to strain too much. It may seem counterintuitive but the more in shape you are the less you will have to strain yourself. The less in shape you are, the harder you will be working, and the more you will be breathing. This will reduce your dive times due to air consumption.
So, what are some things you can do to help get in better shape?
Any physical activity is a good thing and will lead you to being in better shape for your dives. But, there are two key areas which translate into diving specifically. These are:
- Cardiorespiratory Fitness
- Muscular Fitness
This refers to your body’s ability to absorb oxygen and then utilize it effectively. The better your body can absorb and process oxygen, the less air you will consume and the longer you will last on dives.
This is one reason two people on a dive starting with the same amount of air can have totally different results. One person with great cardiorespiratory health may use three quarters of their tank. The other person though may have to cut their dive short due to lack of air.
You don’t want to be that person having to come up before everyone else only because you ran out of air. So, you need to work on your cardiorespiratory health.
But, how do you do this? Here are some great exercises you can do:
- Other sports such as basketball, soccer, tennis, etc
The amount of time you should spend doing any one of these activities is ideally around 30 to 45 minutes each day. But, if you don’t have time, simply being consistent and giving some time each day will help you to see improvements.
Consistency is the key here. You could do three hours of cardio one day and if you don’t do anymore for a week you aren’t really getting much benefit. Be consistent and try to hit that 30 minute mark most of the time. If you can do this, you will notice your air consumption reduced and your dive times increasing.
Read Also : Tips To Improve Underwater Air Consumption
The other area you want to work on is your muscular fitness. This will help you reduce how much you exert yourself by conditioning your muscles. You are also less likely to injure yourself when carrying equipment due to a more solid base.
There is a lot of swimming involved in diving. Mainly topside as you swim to the site or swim back to the boat. But, you may find yourself having to work with currents or swim out to a certain spot during a shore dive.
The more conditioned your muscles are for these tasks, the less you are going to have to exert yourself. This is going to help you improve your air consumption as you won’t be breathing as hard. You will have more control over your breathing and will feel less tired at the end of a dive.
So, you want to focus on activities that specifically target these muscles. Also, having a strong base can help for carrying equipment without injury. Try some of these exercises to help you out:
- Planks (full body)
- Leg Raises (leg muscles)
- Push Ups (chust, abs, back, triceps, shoulder)
- Squats (lower body, core)
All the above exercises can be done at your home without the need for equipment. You should take your current level of fitness into consideration when planning. Do not try to go full on if you have not exercised in years or are overweight.
Remember, the goal here isn’t to become some high level athlete or fitness model, though power to you if you do. Instead, the goal is to improve your diving. Slow incremental progress is better than trying to go full on and injuring yourself. Especially if that injury keeps you from diving.
#4 Work on Your Buoyancy Control and Movement Control
We’ve talked a little about this already. The best thing you can do to transform your scuba diving is to improve your buoyancy control.
Do you remember the first open water dive you went on? Remember flapping your arms around and trying to stay in one place to look at something? Then, when you looked at more experienced divers in your group, they seemed to float there with ease. What gives?
Well, the difference between you and them is simple. They’ve learned to control their buoyancy and movements much better than you have. They don’t need to use their arms and struggle to stay in one place. Instead, they learned to control their breathing and movements to remain in one place.
Think about the fish you see when you go diving? They aren’t frantically swimming around going all over the place. Instead, fish seem to just float around. Often, they let the currents do most of the work. This is how you should think about it.
You want to use as few movements as possible when scuba diving and get the most out of those movements. As we’ve talked about already, this will help you to consume less air. But, there is another more pressing reason for this. The less you are moving about the less likely you are to do something like accidently hit a reef.
We’ve seen this time and time again. New divers who are trying to get a close look at something but don’t know how to back away from the reef. Or, who are moving around too much and don’t see that they’ve broken a piece of coral with their fins. It’s completely avoidable.
We recommend taking a peak performance buoyancy class if you haven’t already. This class is going to teach you how to improve your buoyancy and be more in control of your body when diving. In turn, you won’t need to use your arms as you will be confident in your ability to move around the water with just your fins.
For further reading on buoyancy control, we recommend this great article. It goes into more technical detail than we have the space to cover.
#5 Learn More About Your Surroundings
How many times have you been on a dive and seen a cool looking fish swimming by that you couldn’t name? Or, you notice your dive master using hand signals you have trouble remembering.
Wouldn’t diving be more enjoyable if, instead of looking at marine life, you could also identify it? Or, if you were able to view fields of colorful coral and pick out and identify individual species?
Of course it would!
The more you learn about the ocean and the life that inhabits it, the more you are going to enjoy diving. Yes, seeing pretty fish is awesome. But, understanding the specifics of what those fish are and how and why they act the way the do is way better.
How do you go about that?
The best starting point is a fish identification course from either PADI or SSI. There are also tons of videos on Youtube and pictures on Wikipedia with information about specific fish. But, those will only help you to a certain extent.
A fish identification course will teach you how to identify different types of fish based on certain characteristics. This will help you on every single dive you go on as you won’t just know the fish in one area, but all around the world.
The same applies with coral. Do some reading and begin learning the different types of coral in each area of the world. As you do more dives in different parts of the world, you will begin to see the same types of coral over and over again.
When you can pick out specific types of fish and coral you are going to enjoy your dives much more. One last thing to learn will be the different natural phenomenon of the ocean. Understanding currents and tides and thermoclines. This information won’t just help you better understand what is going on when you dive, but also could keep you safe.
You don’t need to become the top 1% of divers to enjoy the activity more. In fact, a few simple tweaks to your diving habits and some extra knowledge can be a great start.
Do you have any other advice? We love to hear from divers like you. If you have any tips that you think can help other divers, leave a comment. You never know how many people you can help by sharing your experience.