There are many dangers to scuba diving. Here we have compiled the top scuba diving mistakes newbie divers make and how to avoid them. These tips will not only save you from embarrassment but also helps to remain safe while scuba diving.
- Not defogging mask
- Wearing a weight belt incorrectly
- Leaving your cylinder stood upright
- Not wearing the right dive suit
- Wrestling with water
- Thinking you are better than you are
- Not checking gauges regularly
- Walking around in fins
- Diving when you are sick
- Breaking corals
1. Not defogging mask
It is important to get into the habit of preparing your mask before every dive. This will help you to avoid a foggy mask. A foggy mask will decrease your visibility and personally I used to find it pretty annoying when I started diving. To avoid having a foggy mask, you can put a defog solution which is available in most dive centers and gently scrub it on the insides of the mask. Alternatively, if you do not have access to a defog solution you can use your saliva, just spit a small amount in your hands or the dive mask, and scrub it gently. Rinse the mask right before you get into the water.
- Exhaling through your nose can contribute to fogging
- Breathe out through the regulator, not through your nose
- Allow the mask to dry before storing it in its original case
- After each dive trip, rinse your mask in clean soapy water to remove any sunscreen residue
- Avoid touching your mask after applying the defogger, the oil from your skin negates the effectiveness of the defog product
2. Wearing a weight belt incorrectly
I have seen most new divers making mistake on this one. One key thing to remember while wearing the weight belt is to make sure the inside of the belt goes towards the inside of the body, and balance the belt with the weight on the hips. Use a weight belt with a right-handed release. If you do not balance the weight on both sides equally, you will be unbalanced and your body will tend to roll towards the heavier side during scuba dive.
- Try different weight combinations to find out how much weight is sufficient for you
- If you are neutrally buoyant during 3m stop at 50 bar, you are using the right amount of weights
- Simulate the right-hand release right after you wear your belt
3. Leaving your cylinder stood upright
Leaving a cylinder upright by itself is easy to knock over. A cylinder can weigh roughly around 30 – 35 pounds (~15kg), and knocking them over someone’s feet might greatly injure yourself or a fellow diver.
In order to avoid such mistakes, always check with the dive center how they secure their tanks. For instance, some dive centers will have a cylinder holder like the picture below with which you can securely lock the cylinder so that it does not accidentally injure someone.
4. Not wearing the right dive suit
A lot of newbie divers usually complain about how cold they are right after they get out of water. This is a very common scuba diving mistake that most divers make. This is primarily because they are not wearing the right amount of exposure protection. It’s best to ask the divemaster what they are going to wear for the dive. Depending on which part of the world you are diving, the kind of diving suit you would need will vary. In tropical countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, the waters are usually warm enough that you would probably require just a rash guard. However, this again can vary from person to person. So always seek advice from the divemaster.
5. Wrestling with water
Another very common scuba diving mistake I see often is, new scuba divers struggling on the surface and using up valuable energy right before a dive. The BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) that you will be wearing during a dive is literally a life jacket that is designed to keep you afloat. Using up energy by finning vigorously to stay afloat or even swimming around on the surface will drain your energy. Learn to use your BCD properly.
- Right before jumping into the water, inflate your BCD
- Relax once you are in water and avoid moving too much
6. Thinking you are better than you are
After completing the first few dives, new divers tend to become overly confident about their diving skills. In fact, there is an actual name for this phenomenon known as the Dunning Kruger effect. It is a cognitive bias in which people mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. I have personally seen new divers forgetting to open the cylinder valve and finding themselves out of the air right after descending.
- Do a buddy check right before the dive session
- Remember, no matter how many dives you have done, there’s always something remaining to be learned
7. Not checking gauges regularly
Beginner divers usually check gauges only when the dive instructors ask them. It is best to make a habit of checking the gauges frequently, or right after you have spent some time watching the marine life. This habit is important because you don’t want to find yourself low on air during diving. This will help you to understand the rate at which you are consuming air and you can also figure out how to improve your breathing so that you can dive for a longer duration.
- Make an educated guess before checking your gauge and then compare how well you guessed
- Communicate your gauge readings with your dive buddy and vice-versa
8. Walking around in fins
While this may seem funny to watch, it can be very dangerous. You can easily fall and hurt yourself if you are walking around in fins while carrying all your diving equipment, especially on a moving boat.
- Wear your fins right before it’s your turn to dive
- Learn how to take off fins in the water before onboarding the boat after finishing a dive
9. Diving when you are sick
You should not dive when you feel sick, even if it is a light headache or simple flu. While you can catch flu from being in cold waters or wet clothes after diving, headaches can arise for various reasons. Sinus headache is caused by a sinus squeeze during ascents or descents. Failure to equalize properly causes sinus headaches. You could also be suffering from migraine headaches, tension headaches, or carbon monoxide toxicity headache. It is always advised to stay within your diving limits as diving can further aggravate the sickness.
10. Breaking corals
Corals take a very long time to grow and are extremely delicate. You can easily brush against them and break them or even kill them. I have seen many new divers get close to the corals to observe a fish or something interesting, and then ending up grazing the corals. This not only hurts the corals, but you can also hurt yourself since most corals are extremely sharp.
- Never touch a coral
- Master the skill of buoyancy
- Be aware of currents to avoid getting pushed into the corals
- Always maintain a distance of about 1 – 2 meters from the corals
So, these are some of the common mistakes newbie divers make. Let us know in the comments section, what else should be part of this list.