BUPA GLOBAL

Scuba diving

Scuba diving tips for beginners

A scuba diving instructor teaching the OK sign to a beginner diver

Diving beneath the waves is a thrilling experience. On your next trip, you may want to take the plunge, and go for a scuba excursion with friends or family. There’s plenty to learn before doing so – in addition to what you’ll discover during scuba diving lessons.

To bolster your confidence, here are six suggestions to help your scuba diving training go swimmingly if this is your first time.

1. Stay safe and self-aware

How well can you tread water? How is your stamina? Although scuba dives and swims are different, they both involve similar motions. You’ll need to be able to reach the surface unaided should any incidents occur.

Swimming 200 metres and staying afloat for 10 minutes continuously are examples of exercises that you may want to include in your scuba diving training. Yoga has its benefits too: if you get better at deep breathing, your body will be more controlled underwater. Furthermore, never dive with an injury or illness, as this may bring about infection and respiratory problems.

However, we also suggest being very selective with the scuba school you choose. Poor reviews, basic safety briefings and bad scuba diving equipment will have been flagged up by those who’ve already been there. Use all the online resources at your disposal, and then pick a training centre in the top tier.

2. Gain certification

Scuba diving holidays will demand some form of licence, as proof that you know what you’re doing. Tuition organisations – such as PADI and SSI – give you access to online lessons before you visit one of their academies. As soon as you’re there, you can expect to graduate from your basic scuba diving lessons within three to four days.

You’ll learn everything required for a monitored dive. Just note the difference between a ‘confined’ and an ‘open water’ lesson plan – the latter is what you’ll want for activities in the sea. 

Most courses stipulate that you pass several confined dives before getting an open water certificate. Each organisation’s training is slightly different, so make sure you thoroughly research them beforehand to find out which one is right for you.

3. Familiarise yourself with the gear

During scuba diving training, you’ll be shown the ins and outs of diving fins and wetsuits, as well as air tanks, masks and breathing apparatus. Become familiar with how to check the condition of the kit as a whole; faulty scuba diving equipment could hamper your holiday.

Consider your buoyancy control device, which has a set of valves and inflators that change depending on the manufacturer - practice filling it and breathing through the regulator on land, watching the pressure gauge needle swing. Your diving instructor will teach you what to look out for.

When buying or renting a diving mask, strap it on, and place your head underwater. If the face seal doesn’t leak, it’s ready for action. Likewise, attach the fins to your feet several times until you’re comfortable securing them.

And pick your attire carefully: wetsuits are suited to warm water, whilst drysuits can withstand colder conditions as they are insulated and feature waterproof seals.

4. Practice calm breathing

We’ve already spoken about yoga as a benefit for scuba diving holidays, but there are more methods to explore to aid deep, regular breathing. This is a crucial part of your scuba diving lessons. Deep water compresses our lungs, and holding a breath can cause the lung membrane to expand at serious risk of injury.

Consistent, slow breathing is key. Meditation is another fantastic source of control, teaching you to inhale and exhale at a steady rate.

Try it at home with a chair, a pillow and thirty minutes of silence. Prop your back on the pillow so it’s entirely straight. Then count your breaths one at a time, aiming for deep and even breathing.

5. Learn hand signals before scuba diving lessons

Although it’s going to be part of your official scuba diving training, a head start is never a bad thing. There are dozens of hand movements to master in order to communicate to your fellow divers. Signals such as ‘go in that direction’ or ‘low on air’ will come in handy.

To indicate ‘okay’, pinch your thumb and forefinger together. ‘I’m cold’ is signified by hugging your own arms. Instructors will give you their orders too, like ‘safety stop’, whereby three fingers are held over a flat hand, indicating you shouldn’t proceed closer to the seabed.

Recalling ten or so signals before your scuba diving lessons is likely to put you ahead of the class in terms of communicating well.

6. Above all – take your time

There’s no reason to rush your diving session. It’s made for taking in the sights; diving too far from your scuba buddy will also leave less room for assistance if there’s something to resolve.

People fresh from scuba diving lessons should remember to stay calm, never exert themselves too much, and keep an eye on their remaining air. Buddies are there to check the other diver, so stick with them, moving gradually in the ocean together.

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Sources

Aussie Divers Phuket (https://www.aussiediversphuket.com/helpful-information/do-i-need-to-know-how-to-swim-scuba-dive/), last accessed in July 2019

The Scuba page (https://rushkult.com/eng/scubamagazine/differences-padi-ssi/), last accessed in July 2019

PADI (https://www.padi.com/help/scuba-certification-faq), last accessed in July 2019

liveaboutdotcom (https://www.liveabout.com/confined-water-in-scuba-diving-2962877), last accessed in July 2019

Dive.In (https://www.divein.com/guide/dive-equipment-101/), last accessed in July 2019

Leisure Pro (https://www.leisurepro.com/blog/scuba-guides/pre-dive-safety-check/), last accessed in July 2019

liveaboutdotcom (https://www.liveabout.com/your-first-scuba-dive-2963219), last accessed in July 2019