Scuba diving is one of the top 10 most popular bucket list items. And it’s easy to imagine why. We’ve all seen the beautiful shots of underwater life in movies and other peoples’ Instagram photos. We all also want to experience that once in our lifetimes. Lucky for us, over the past couple of decades, scuba diving has gone from a very niche hobby to a pretty standard vacation activity. And although the number of divers in the ocean have increased exponentially, the number of injuries have decreased! All this just makes us want to dive into the ocean right now. But before you make the list, check out the things to know before Scuba Diving to stay in the know of what you’re signing for.
Essential Things To Know Before Scuba Diving
Scuba diving is considered an extreme sport by many people because well, it’s not as easy or safe as some other sports. The high pressure of the deep sea coupled with the unknown wonders that live within it makes scuba diving dangerous enough. That is why it’s essential to know a few basics before you make your plans! Scuba diving is not for everyone, and that’s okay. After all, we are land animals, and it’s perfectly normal to feel scared or uncomfortable with the idea of being completely submerged underwater!
However, if you decide in favour of scuba diving and you have brushed aside your fears, then it could be one of the most memorable and enthralling experiences for you. And after your first dive, things are a lot easier; you can keep exploring different oceans and reefs, perhaps even oil rigs and ship wreckage, or maybe swim with sharks and dolphins. Each place you dive is entirely different from each other- that’s the magic of the ocean; no one still knows what’s in it. So, before you jump in, go over these tips and answered FAQs so that you are aware of things to know before scuba diving:
Don’t Hold Your Breath
Holding your breath is the least efficient (and most dangerous) way to prolong your dive. I get it- no one wants to be the guy who runs of air the first and cuts short the entire diving trip. But there are man other ways to get more out of a single tank of oxygen. Try these tips whether it’s your first time or tenth-time scuba diving:
- Relax – This may not be easy on your first dive, but the calmer you are and the less hurried your breathing is, the longer your tank lasts. Also, remember to breathe our completely to reduce your chance of hyperventilating.
- Don’t squirm – Imagine you’re in space, in zero gravity — same thing. You don’t need to do a lot of work to move. Use your fins to move forward. And contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be in a lot of motion just to stay in place!
- Shed the Baggage – Don’t carry anything your instructor didn’t explicitly ask you to take with you. Not only will you be adding unnecessary weight, but it could end up falling or catching onto the corals around you.
- Don’t Try To Stay Vertical – Being in a horizontal position helps with buoyancy and this way you’re also not fighting the natural ocean current. That means less stress on you and less oxygen needed. If you can’t seem to stay horizontal, adjust your tank and BCD (buoyancy control device) as they could be the problem.
- Don’t Go Deeper – You may not be happy to hear this but if you’re diving for the first time, stay shallow. The deeper you go, the more air you will use. So if you’re worried you’re running out of air too quickly, just swim above the other people with you.
Know The Age Limit
If you’re going with your family and you have young children, it’s usually alright to bring kids above the age of 10 with you scuba diving. As long as the child is old enough (and mature enough) to follow the instructions, it can come along. But it usually depends on the instructor as well- not all instructors are comfortable working with children, and not all establishments have equipment in child sizes. As for older people, it really just depends on your physical condition- if you have breathing problems or high blood pressure, it may not be safe you in high pressures. If that’s the case, stick to snorkelling as it’s done closer to the water surface, but you can still see the corals, fish and ocean floor.
Is It Only For Those Who Know Swimming?
Although it would help if you do know how to swim, it’s usually not a must unless you’re applying for certification. The main idea is that you need to be comfortable moving around in the water. So someone who flounders around even in the kiddie pool or screams and squirms away at the sight of fish may find it frightening and challenging to go scuba diving. If you’re still really interested, go for more training in the pool first, so you’re accustomed to breathing underwater and don’t panic in the ocean. This one surely makes for one of the primary things to know before scuba diving.
Will My Ears Hurt?
A common issue with first-timers, but it can be avoided. During your training, they will teach you the importance of “equalising”. This is to ensure equal pressure in your sinuses and middle ear spaces. Just pinch your nose and try to blow air out, you’ll hear a pop in your ears (like when you’re on an aeroplane). Here are a few more tips to ensure your ears don’t hurt during the dive:
- Start equalising your ears before you dive
- Get into the water feet-first. If you jump headfirst, you’re more likely to experience pain as air goes up your Eustachian tubes while fluid-like mucus tends to drain downward.
- Extend your neck downwards as it helps clear your Eustachian tubes
- Avoid smoking and drinking as they tend to block your Eustachian tubes by creating more mucus.
Beware Of Those Decibels
You may imagine the ocean to be a peaceful and tranquil place- sort of like floating around in some sensory deprivation tank. But that’s far from the truth. As water is more dense than air, sound travels clearer and faster underwater. This can be unsettling and strange in the beginning. You may feel that any sound you hear is coming from behind your skull. Also, you will be able to listen to yourself, breathing out steadily. When you breathe out, the bubbles may seem loud and annoying. You will start to ignore all that after a while, so don’t focus too much. The amazing experience will outweigh all of that! Always good to go through a list of things to know before Scuba Diving to keep your prepared, right?
You Can’t Completely Trust Your Eyes (Sort Of)
First of all, there’s a boxy scuba diving mask obscuring most of your view. Secondly, due to refraction, objects may seem about 33% closer to you than they are. You can try reaching out, and seeing for yourself how distances are not what they seem underwater. Try doing that in the pool during your training, so you don’t accidentally kick someone or something. As for the mask obscuring your vision, you just need to move your head more to see around you. So if you’re panicking that you can’t find your instructor, just lift your head or turn around and you’re sure to find them.
You May Feel The Urge To Pee
Due to the changes in pressure and temperature, it’s natural to feel the need to pee more often. The phenomenon is called cold water immersion dieresis. Don’t be surprised when I say most divers just end up peeing in the ocean. But if you’re in rented gear or are just grossed out by the idea of peeing yourself, don’t be embarrassed to end the dive! You can always go back up whenever you aren’t comfortable with anything. But always remember to go to the toilet before you go on the boat as it’s very likely that you may feel the urge to urinate when you’re underwater! So be prepared for that!
Don’t Push Your Limits
In any other situation, I would ask you to do the exact opposite! The whole website is about pushing your limits and facing your fears, but in this case, don’t! You are trained only to a certain extent, so you’re not qualified to dive any deeper or longer than that. If you badly want to explore more, just come back up and get additional training. Diving beyond the depths you were trained for can be dangerous! Worst case scenario, you get decompression illness. What that means is nitrogen absorbed during your dive forms tiny bubbles of gas in your blood from the sudden change in pressure. It happens usually when you ascent back up too quickly. Don’t worry- if you follow your instructor well, you’re going to be just fine.
Don’t Dive And Fly
The rule of thumb is to not fly within 12 hours of diving. But if you’ve had multiple dives, then the rest period increases to 18 hours. The reason for this rule is related to the previous point- decompression illness. The nitrogen that’s dissolved in your blood during your dive needs to be exhaled through your lungs. If it’s still in your body when you go on your flight, it can form gas bubbles and cause a considerable risk due to the flight’s low pressure. The result can vary from mild joint pains down to paralysis and even death! So make sure you plan your vacation to ensure enough time between diving and boarding your flight.
Keep Your Fins To Yourself
This one may sound obvious, but so many divers break this rule. It’s quite simple – do not touch the coral! Or any wildlife for that matter. Corals take thousands of years to form the reefs we see today! So it’s not just stupid, but also very selfish when some people decide to take a piece of coral with them as a souvenir. But even those of us with good intentions may accidentally knock over something through carelessness. That’s why it’s crucial to be extremely cautious when you’re near any sea life, and if you’re not sure you’re able to control your movements, then please don’t go too near the fragile ecosystems! As the saying goes “take only photos, leave only bubbles”!
So, now you’re all set to book your next vacation! Just remember, as long as you follow your instructor and pay attention during your training, you’re probably going to be okay! And although this sport is harder to get into (and more expensive) and requires more training and focus, the experience is definitely worth all the groundwork! Another pro tip- while you could easily get caught up with the captivating view underneath you, it’s essential to look up as the larger schools of fish and other larger sea creatures are more likely to swim by in the openness. With that being said, happy scuba diving and here’s hoping that this things to know before scuba diving article enlightened you better about the activity.
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