Scuba diving is a popular recreational sport. And diving does include elements of risk. The risk involved includes potential injury to your body (both inside and outside) – and even the threat of death.
I’m fond of the saying: “It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make in life. As long as you eventually learn from the mistakes you make.” I don’t remember whom I heard that from. But I do believe it’s valuable knowledge to own. Stumbling, and falling, often is how we learn to walk.
But screwing up while you’re underwater is a little different. A diver doesn’t always get a second chance to correct his careless mistakes.
During basic training to earn your certification as a diver you hear all about the potential dangers to your health that you might experience while diving. You also learn how to avoid, and recover from, threatening situations when they happen.
Diver safety training is very serious. And to approach it with a “who cares” attitude means you’ll dive once after you get your C-card (certification card for diving). But you may dive only that one time.
Here are a few of the mistakes divers make while they’re scuba diving that I recommend you keep in mind for your dive outings. And rehearse them before each dive.
- Forgetting to open the valve on the air tank. This is an easy one to make, and even experienced divers do it. I still forget to turn my air on sometimes. A couple of times this mistake reminded me that I don’t have gills. It’s not a problem most of the time. But if you jump off a dive boat into a current (that pulls you away from the boat) nobody can reach you to turn that air on. Swimming back to the boat against the current with all that gear on is tough at the surface. Easiest way to get back is drop down to 15 to 20 feet. You can’t do that if you can’t breathe.
- Failing to clear the ears often as you descend. I made this one a few times back when I started diving. You don’t take long to realize you did this because the pain in your ears comes fast. The problem with this one is you risk injury to the inner ear. The result includes possible hearing loss, and the end of your adventures as a diver. As soon as you get into the water start clearing your ears. And clear them often as you descend to prevent trauma to the ear.
- Putting too much, or too little, weight on your belt, or in your buoyancy control device (BCD). Divers carry extra weight to counteract the natural tendency for the body to float. Too little weight doesn’t often cause a problem because normally an under-weighted diver can’t descend. But when descent does happen with a low weight condition the diver does have a life-threatening situation. As the air gets low in the tank, the tank gets lighter. It wants to float. Too little weight, and a near empty tank might shoot the diver toward the surface. Your lungs can explode when you ascend too fast. Too much weight can overpower the lift capabilities of your BCD. And when that happens you’ll keep descending until you hit bottom. Better hope you’re above a reef that’s no more than 80 or 100 feet when that happens. You can drop a little weight at a time to correct.
- Not paying attention to how long you spend at a given depth. Nitrogen builds in your body as you dive. The longer you stay at a certain depth, the more nitrogen build-up. You learn how to calculate how much nitrogen you accumulate at different depths. But while you’re underwater you must keep track of how much time you stay at depth. And you must know how long you can stay at each depth. Don’t keep track of this and you risk getting the bends.
- Rising back to the surface too fast. As you return toward the surface the air in your lungs expands. This happens because the water pressure gets lighter, and compresses your body less as you go up. Come up too fast, and your lungs could burst like an over-inflated balloon. In open water certification class you learn how to time your ascents so you don’t rise so fast that you risk this injury.
These are a few of the mistakes divers make that hurt them. There are more. Some are minor, and you recover from quickly. Some mean you’ll never dive again. And some make sure that you’ll never see another dawn.
Pay attention to your safety instruction when you take certification courses. And give yourself refresher studies for diving safety.
As a safe diver you’ll enjoy many adventures in the underwater world of scuba diving.