Hints and Tips for Scuba Diving

There are lots of little things you can do to make your scuba diving trip that little bit more enjoyable. Here we list a few expert pointers.

Avoid post scuba headaches

There are 3 main causes of brain pain after diving, all easily avoidable. Here’s what they are and how to avoid them.

  1. Excess Carbon Dioxide can build up in the body. Avoid shallow breathing, smoking and over exerting yourself during the dive. When diving be sure to breathe normally and keep relaxed. If you still have a sore head after coming out of the water, take a few deep breaths, exhaling fully each time.
  2. Don’t drink the night before a dive. A hangover is caused by dehydration. It is not a good idea then to spend an hour or so working out in an area where it is impossible to drink fresh water (which is what is involved in scuba diving). A severe hangover can seriously impair mental function, so it is also a risk when diving.
  3. Undissolved micro bubbles. A minor case of the bends can occur even in shallow diving, if you don’t follow the rules properly.

Staying warm underwater

Feeling too cold can ruin your enjoyment of just about anything. Staying warm while scuba diving takes planning, so you should start this before you even go to bed the night before.

  1. Get a good nights sleep a healthy rested body will resist the effects of coldness while feeling tired only slows you down and makes you colder.
  2. Eat well. A good breakfast with plenty of slow-burn carbohydrates will set you up for a day of scuba diving. Oats, wholemeal breads and fruits are a good option. Avoid the greasy fried ‘full English’, it will sit in your stomach for hours and make you feel lethargic. If you are diving after lunch have a pizza. Never scuba dive on a full stomach as you could suffer cramps and sink like a stone, after a meal always leave a couple of hours before you enter the water.
  3. Drink smart. Avoid coffee as it restricts the flow of blood to the limbs. Also avoid alcohol as it sends blood to the skin where it loses heat.
  4. Keep wrapped up. Wear warm, windproof clothing on your way to the dive site. Seaside areas can be notoriously breezy, especially in the UK! Heat loss is a gradual process, so stop its onset before you go diving.
  5. Don’t overheat as this will cause sweating which actually cools you down. You also lose water this way.
  6. Drink hot drinks. A thermos flask of hot fruit juice will be a welcome companion on the dive boat.

Don’t lose your dive mask

Losing your dive mask is a costly endeavour and can mean the end to diving if there’s no spares. Here’s a couple of schoolboy errors and how to avoid them.

  1. Hold on tight when entering. Whether you’re going feet first or backward off the boat with a classic roll, take care to grip your mask tightly when getting in the water.
  2. Remember it’s a mask and not a pair of fashion sunglasses. It may look cool up there on the top of your forehead as you bob on the surface but the movies have got it all wrong. Even a small wave will wash it right off, so pull your dive mask down around your neck when your head is above the water.

Check your eyesight

Scuba divers need to be able to see well. If you are shortsighted you may be missing out on the beauty of the intricate marine life around you and, indeed, if you are very myopic it can even be dangerous. Likewise you must be able to discern small objects at proximity, in order to read dive computers and other important gauges. There are a number of solutions for scuba divers with less than perfect eyesight.

  1. Prescription Dive Masks can be tailored to your requirements. Usually made out of scratch resistant glass, they are bonded to the screen of your dive mask. Check that your dive mask is big enough to take insert before you splash out.
  2. Contact lenses are a good choice but can get washed away if your dive mask floods. A good way of avoiding this is closing your eyes when flushing water from the mask.

Diving in low visibility conditions

Water visibility can be low in many UK dive locations. Here are some tips on making the most out of your scuba dive and staying safe, even in poor conditions.

  1. Use a guide line when entering the water from a boat, this will stop you from losing your bearings early on.
  2. Don’t stir things up. Avoid hitting the silty bottom with your fins, this will only worsen the visibility. Once moving try to remain buoyant in a horizontal position and avoid using your fins excessively.
  3. Take time to acclimatise to the water. After a few minutes your vision may grow accustomed to the low light, it may not be as bad as you first thought.
  4. Use a torch if there is a lack of light due to clouding. A dive light is a necessary part of your scuba equipment so make sure you carry one.
  5. Stay connected to your diving buddy by using a buddy line. It’s better than holding hands but losing each other underwater is terrible practice.
  6. Rely on your dive compass and make sure it is working properly. Even if your instincts tell you differently follow what the compass says, it is easy to become disorientated in low visibility.
  7. Check your readings often. This will stop you from becoming anxious and using too much air. It is easy to wander into shallower or deeper areas unaware so rely on your instrument more than you might normally.
  8. Rise above it all. Swim slightly higher than usual if visibility is better away from the seabed. Don’t swim so high that you lose your visual reference points though.
  9. Take a break if it becomes too much. Panic is your number one enemy so if things become completely unworkable stay put for a second. Take a few deep breaths, relax and focus your attention on getting back to safety. Once you have calmed down use your compass to plot a course back.
  10. Focus your attention on one small area of the sea bed. Stop excess movement so as not to stir up more silt and you will see a whole world unfurl in front of your face. Low visibility often just means you have to pay closer attention to what is in front of you.

How to use less oxygen while scuba diving

Novice scuba divers tend to use up a lot of air. This can mean that the dive has to end earlier than it should and spoil the fun somewhat for other divers too. Here are some easy to remember tips in order to cut your air consumption safely in those initial dives.

  1. Do relax. Number one reason for too much oxygen use is heavy breathing due to anxiety. Keep your breathing steady, focus on what you are doing and talk your own mental confidence up.
  2. Don’t overwork. Are you trying too hard? Again relax, go with the flow and you may find it requires a lot less effort to swim around than you thought it would. You have flippers and a buoyancy jacket to help you to take it easy. Do you have to swim within millimetres of everything you see? Or can you in fact scrutinise a lot of interesting undersea life from your present position?
  3. Do not mis-use your flippers. Learn from more experienced divers how to use your swim fins effectively. Keep that technique in mind when swimming, efficiency means more spare air.
  4. Get your buoyancy right as everything will come more easily after this is in place. Stop finning and check to see if you swim or sink, you should be doing neither. Get your dive buddy to have a look in order to see if you are horizontal, as being so reduces drag and improves efficiency.
  5. Use your snorkel. While on the surface there is no need to waste precious tank air.
  6. Do not swim using your arms. Your legs are much more powerful and energy efficient, particularly given the obstructions caused by your diving gear.
  7. Use currents to your advantage. When they are working against you hug the sea-bed and stick close to rocks and other undersea objects. When you wish to swim in the same direction as a current, move into it.
  8. Get yourself fit as your general fitness level impinges on the amount of oxygen you need to complete any physical activity. Working out on dry land or in a pool can really improve your performance in scuba diving.
  9. Use your buoyancy control intelligently. To ascend or descend fill or let air out of your stab jacket. This is much more energy efficient than finning up and down.
  10. Never hold your breath and do not engage in the controversial practice of skip breathing (missing alternate breaths by holding them in). Apart from being lethally dangerous there is evidence that such practices simply do not work and use up more oxygen in the end.

Get good at underwater navigation

Underwater navigation is one of the first skills that a scuba diver should work on. It is important at all levels of scuba diving and life saving in many situations. Underwater navigation can be made more or less challenging according to the nature of the diving spot. Here are a few tips that will set you in good stead whatever the circumstances.

  1. Read up on wrecks. Many shipwrecks have a common shape and configuration. Learning about them will help you both recognise and navigate them upon encounter.
  2. Always use your compass but be wary of magnetic interference from nearby shipwrecks.
  3. Don’t rely on currents to tell you in which direction you are heading. Currents can twist and turn around undersea objects thereby leading you astray.
  4. Listen out for sounds. In water it is impossible to pinpoint the location of a sound but you can tell if it is getting louder or quieter. The sound of your diving boats motor could be a welcome indicator!
  5. Read it in the lines of sand ripples. These will lie parallel to the shore line. The deeper imprint of the ripple is nearer to the shore.
  6. Swim underwater as that is what your kit is designed for. Avoid swimming anywhere on the surface although being just under it means that you can use your snorkel.
  7. Trust your instruments. If there is a discrepancy between what you feel and what your dive compass is telling you, go with the compass. Be sure that it is working properly before the dive and that there is no interference from undersea objects however.