5 common mistakes when diving
Hello everyone, diving friends and fellow Dive Academy members. Today I want to share with you 5 common mistakes made when practicing recreational diving.
These errors, although separately may seem unimportant details, they can negatively affect our technique and comfort when diving:
1. Diving with the wrong amount of weights (lead)
Frequently, we find divers that do not know how much lead they should carry and limit themselves to always using the same amount of lead. Variations in your body weight, the thickness of the wetsuit or the size of the tank influence our buoyancy, so it is necessary to regularly check how many weights you need.
It is important to carry the correct amount of weight, to have more control over your buoyancy underwater, and to have proper stability and balance.
If we are over-weighted, we will be forced to compensate that additional weight by inflating our BCD more often. You will have to make buoyancy adjustments at different depths and throughout the dive, which is an unnecessary waste of air. In addition, the greater the weight, the greater the effort to move. With the correct weight, buoyancy adjustments are minimal and you have more freedom to move without depending totally on the BCD. On the other hand, excess weight makes it difficult for us to adopt a hydrodynamic or trim position, which will mean an added effort due kicking your fins constantly.
In case of carrying insufficient weights, we are going to find a clear resistance when starting the dive, this will cause us to struggle in order to descend. It also puts us in danger as we will have a higher risk of making an uncontrolled ascent when ending the dive or missing the safety stop. In addition, the position of our body will tend to head down, since we will have to move our fins continuously to stay down.
To calculate the correct amount of weights (lead), we do the following:
Once in the water, with our diving equipment on, completely deflate your BCD. If we have the correct amount of lead, the water should cover us up to eye level while maintaining normal breathing. We must vary the weights until reach this point. In case of doubt, you can ask your guide or PADI instructor for assistance. It is advisable to do this exercise on a regular basis, especially if we dive in different environments, with other equipment, wetsuits or if we are going to dive in fresh water.
2. Use your hands to move underwater
When we dive, we often come across people who depend on their hands to maintain their balance or propel themselves underwater. It would be convenient try and change this habit and the way to do it is to improve our fin movement technique. Otherwise, it will be an impediment when it comes to improving our navigation and buoyancy, not to mention the additional use of energy and air. In addition, by moving your arms and hands, fish and marine animals are often frightened away.
To address this habit, first of all, we must ensure that we carry the correct amount of weight. Additionally, perfecting the fin movements is key to improve our range of movements and achieve greater control of our body in the water. If there is any manoeuvre that you struggle with, talk to your Instructor or Dive Master so they can give you recommendations on how to do it. During the PADI Advanced Open Water course, we work on finning techniques and different manoeuvres are learned. For in-depth learning there is also the Buoyancy specialty (PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy)
3. Deflating your BDC using only the inflator
Using the BCD inflator to deflate the jacket is not an error in itself, but by doing this, we are at risk of acquiring the habit of depending on it as the only element to release the air from our equipment.
Sometimes beginner divers lose control of their buoyancy and begin to ascend quickly. The first reaction in this situation is to kick your fins with your body facing down to try to maintain depth. In this position with your feet higher than your head, the air in your BCD is located in the lower part of your back, so you will not be able to empty it through your BCD inflator. You can end up ascending uncontrollably to the surface or using up the air in your tank very quickly from the effort of finning to stay down. Uncontrolled ascents put our health at risk due to pressure changes, so we must avoid them at all costs.
For this reason it is key to become familiar with the use of the valves of your BCD, normally located on the right shoulder and on the right side of your lower back. This way you can let the air out of your BCD when the inflator does not allow it. Personally, I only touch the inflator to inflate the BCD.
4. Not equalizing your ears and mask properly
When performing a descent, there are 2 factors to control: the rate of descent and equalizing your sinuses and ears. If you are an amateur diver, you should focus on keeping both under control, as they have a direct impact on your well-being underwater. With practice, it becomes a habit and you do it without realizing.
In my case, I usually equalize every 1.5 meters.
To equalize your ears, we perform the Valsalva manoeuvre. It consists in pinching your nose with two fingers, blocking both nostrils, and blowing through your nose, which equalizes the pressure exerted by the water on your ears. To equalize your mask, we simply blow out some air through our nose (most people do this unconsciously).
In case you notice excessive ear pressure, instead of forcing the equalization manoeuvre, it is better to go up a little until the pressure decreases, and then you will be able to compensate. In this way we avoid forcing the eardrums, and we are not at risk of damaging them.
THE GOAL IS TO EQUALIZE BEFORE YOU FEEL DISCOMFORT
Sometimes when we equalize we feel that one of our ears equalizes and the other does not.
To help equalize this ear, we can do several things:
- If you’re wearing a hood, open it up a little and allow some water to get into it and any air that may have been trapped inside get out, and try again.
- Tilt your head to one side, stretching you neck on the side that you are struggling to equalize, so that ear faces the surface. By stretching the muscles the flow of air eases. Then try again.
- Open and close your jaw and swallow saliva. Then we try to equalize again.
If you are unable to equalize correctly despite applying these tips, you should stop your descent. Your ears affect your balance and also allow us to hear so we should take care of them 😊
5. Being totally dependent on your guide or buddy
This is a mental rather than a behavioral habit. In my own experience, when I carried out my first dives, I delegated full control of the dive in all its variations to the Dive Master or instructor.
It is important that you are aware of your surroundings underwater from the very beginning, as well as your actions and your location. To achieve this, I have identified some areas to work on that are key:
a) Navigation control
It is key for your safety to be clear about your location throughout the dive, you must be aware of the starting point of the dive, and the end point.
b) Monitoring and control of your air consumption
Check the air in your tank regularly, not just when your Dive Master or Instructor asks you to. This way you will have a clear idea of your consumption continuously, and you will control the impact of depth changes. As you already know, the greater the depth, the greater the pressure, and the greater the air consumption.
c) Depth control and diving time
A dive computer is an essential tool for diving, since it provides you with real-time information on the duration of the dive, the depth you are at, safety stops, time remaining to enter DECO, water temperature, etc. This data is necessary to have an active and strict control of your dive. If you go diving regularly, you should have one, and if not, rent one for your dive (dive centers normally have them). The sooner you become familiar with its use and start working hand in hand with your computer, the better. Do not delegate control of your depth or your safety stops to third parties.
d) Ask yourself if the dive you are going to do is according to your level and experience
If you are going to dive and you realize that due to depth, external conditions such as the current or the nature of the dive, if it is more difficult than the dives you have carried out in the past, do not hesitate, raise your hand and tell your Dive Master. He/she will be able to advise you and evaluate if the dive is suitable for you. In the event that, despite receiving individual indications from the guide, you do not see it clearly, do not hesitate and cancel the dive. This is not a bravery contest, it is a hobby and the objective is to enjoy it.
Do the training first and then test yourself, don’t do it the other way around.
Javier Ayensa Barabarín 03/06/2021