Top Scuba Skills to Master for a Better Dive
As with any hobby, the skills that you learn and practice when diving can be honed over time and be a lifelong pursuit. While some of the techniques are paramount for your safety, others help with the enjoyment level and even sharing your experience with others on your dive.
Basic Scuba Diving Skills
These are skills that you learn during your initial scuba training. They include:
- Gear set up and check
- Entries and exits
- Breathing and buoyancy
- Calculating your dive intervals
- Underwater communication techniques
Advanced Scuba Skills
A thorough understanding of the basic scuba diving skills lets you move on to more advanced scuba skills. In many cases, this is simply a very refined technique with basic skills, especially when it comes to breathe control and buoyancy. Underwater navigation, underwater photography and communication are all skills that you can work towards as well. As your experience grows, you can advance your certification level as well, increasing the depth that you are able to dive and your expertise.
Scuba diving requires a certification process with a professional, through an accredited program. Many of the skills learned during the initial training get better with practice. By practicing these skills and making them second nature, muscle memory can kick in when you need them.
Any diver can make the scuba experience more enjoyable all around by mastering these skills.
Scuba Safety Skills
Safety is always the number one consideration, before, during and after a dive. During your certification process, the skills that you learn are imperative for the safety of everyone. Solid knowledge of each piece of your gear and how they work together to support your dive is essential, and a thorough check of said gear is the start of every dive.
Tips for general scuba diving safety:
- Monitor your air consumption and use techniques to conserve air to prevent the need for an early ascent due to low air. Keep your arms at your sides to reduce drag, stay relaxed, breathe slowly and maintain good neutral buoyancy.
- As mentioned above, a complete check of all your gear should be done on the dock before setting off for each dive. Ensuring that your gear is in good working order sets you up for a successful dive.
- Ensure that you are able to clear your mask while at depth. There are many reasons why the seal around your mask may break, a quick fix underwater is something that you are sure to need from time to time.
- Double-check your schedule before planning dives to ensure that you will not be flying at altitude within 18-24 hours of your last dive. This helps to prevent decompression sickness.
Underwater Communication Skills
Communicating underwater while diving means using hand signals, as you are unable to speak with a regulator in your mouth. Many of the signals used are for safety so that you can indicate to your buddy or divemaster that you are ok or that you need assistance or have an issue that needs to be dealt with. The other main category of signals is to indicate a direction, including depth.
Tips for clear underwater communication:
- Agree with your buddy ahead of the dive the most important signals, and practice them together. This way you both will be confident that you can communicate when the need arises.
- Pay attention to the signals that you see others use frequently, and try to learn one or two new ones each time you dive.
- An underwater slate can be handy to communicate beyond hand signals. This is especially helpful during training courses or when conducting research and studies.
- Practice makes perfect! Hand signals become easier with continued use, and come back to you quickly when diving, just like riding a bike.
Scuba Buoyancy Skills
Attaining neutral buoyancy is a feeling most of us only get when diving, as you neither float nor sink. That being the case, it is a foreign concept when you first begin diving and is a sensation that many equate to flying. Being able to control your movements completely underwater can be a freeing sensation, though it can be quite awkward at first.
Tips for better buoyancy during scuba diving:
- Breathing slowly and controlling your breath not only helps with better buoyancy, it will help conserve your air supply as well.
- Dive with the correct weight. This may change depending on conditions.
- A calm diver is a more in control diver. If you are nervous, you are more likely to fumble around. Return to your calm breath and focus to relax into the dive.
- Use your BCD to help get neutral buoyancy once you have descended. As you removed all of the air from your BCD on your descent, you may need to add small bursts of air to the BCD to help with your buoyancy.
- Practice! Are you sensing a theme here? All diving skills, like anything else in life, benefit from continued practice.
Taking time to review these skills, especially after an extended break from diving, can make all the difference in your next scuba session. While many aspects of scuba diving become automatic with use, it’s never a bad idea to go back to the basics for review and extra practice. Your dive buddy will thank you, and you will have more fun too!