You can sum up most of what divers need to do to be safe under water in just six simple rules. While there is certainly a lot more that divers should know, it is these six things that can help you avoid most accidents. Not only that, these rules can help make diving easier and a whole lot more enjoyable.
This video is an excerpt from a project I did for a client back in 2014. It remains relevant today. Feel free to share it with students and fellow divers.
Want to know more? Just read what follows.
1 Breathe continuously, never hold your breath
Diving’s Number One rule should need no introduction. It’s among the first things new divers learn and it never stops being applicable.
Simply stated, if you are breathing compressed gas, you need to be either inhaling or exhaling. Period.
If the regulator has come out of your mouth for any reason, you obviously won’t be able to inhale. No problem. Just exhale a tiny stream of bubbles until you can resume breathing normally. Making a continuous “Ahh…” sound while you do this helps prevent you from exhaling too much.
2 Equalize early and often during descent
Get in the habit of equalizing at least once for every half meter or 18 inches of descent. Never go deeper than you can comfortably equalize. If at any point during your descent you are unable to equalize, stop, ascend to a point where you can equalize easily, and only then resume your descent.
3 Ascend slowly
Your ascent rate should never exceed 10 m/30 ft per minute. This is a lot slower than it sounds. It is also among the greatest benefits of using a dive computer, which will help monitor ascent rate for you.
Another good way to keep ascent rate under control is to come up the anchor or ascent line by placing one hand immediately over the other. This usually slows you down to the right speed.
4 Continuously monitor depth, time and pressure
In terms of breathing gas, you should always know how much gas you have remaining within 15 bar or 200 psi, even before you double check your gauge. You also need to keep track of:
- How deep you are
- How deep you have been
- How long you have been down
- How much no-decompression time you have remaining
On top of this, you should have a pretty good idea of where you are and how to get back to the exit. Occasionally this requires using a compass. For the most part, however, we can accomplish this by making use of natural navigation.
5 Always use the least weight possible
Never wear more weight than is needed to make you neutrally buoyant in shallow water. While you never want to wear so little weight that you are constantly fighting to stay down, you shouldn’t have to have air in your BC to maintain neutral buoyancy at safety-stop depth. Think of that safety stop as the ultimate weight check.
6 Dive like a fish
Let’s face it: You never see a fish walking, standing or sitting on its tail. You shouldn’t do so, either. Maintain neutral buoyancy and horizontal trim under water. Avoid standing, kneeling or sitting on the bottom. Once your head goes under water, your knees, feet and butt should never touch bottom.
But, wait! There’s more…
In addition to following these six rules, there are some other important habits you will want to develop as well.
- Don’t leave scuba cylinders standing upright on boat decks, pool decks or anywhere else they are likely to be knocked over. Either lie them on their sides or leave them standing up against a wall, other cylinders or an object such as a picnic table or tank rack.
- Putting your mask on your forehead is a great way to lose a valuable piece of equipment. In calm water, it is better to get in the habit of wearing it backwards, with the strap on your forehead. In rough water, your mask should be on your face, around your neck or in your hand.
- Do not enter the water without first making sure your air is turned on all the way. Do not turn it back a partial turn. Doing so is not only unnecessary, it’s an archaic practice that has actually gotten people killed. This is because they accidentally turned the valve all the way off, then opened it a partial turn. Do this and your regulator may breathe fine in shallow water, but starve you for air at depth.
Finally, remember that it is far easier to build good habits from the start than it is to have to break bad habits later on. Happy diving!