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what are common beginner sticking points?

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by mstachowsky, Jun 9, 2012.

  1. mstachowsky

    mstachowsky Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    I'm just wondering if there are common things that beginners have trouble with. I did my first OW dive today, and although it went well (in that it was cool :p ) I know I was having trouble with a few things, like equalizing. My buoyancy was OK under water, but I strangely had trouble in shallow water staying upright, and my weight belt kept shifting. I'm curious if these are common beginner things, or if there's something I can be doing differently.

  2. mala

    mala DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives:
    Location: old hampshire
    weight belts are a pain for new divers.
    remember to tighten them underwater as they go slack due to the pressure.
    if you keep diving you will probably ditch the weightbelt and go for a better solution.
    equalizing is just practice.
    staying upright is not a good thing.

    just keep diving and things will get better.
  3. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor Staff Member

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    Buoyancy is the hardest thing for new divers to master, and true mastery of buoyancy can take hundreds of dives. Coupled with buoyancy is trim--the ability to maintain buoyancy while in a good horizontal posture. During a dive you should look like a fish, with your body parallel to the surface and without needing to move your fins to stay in position. Fins are for propulsion, not for keeping you at your current depth. If you stop kicking and immediately start to sink, then your buoyancy is off.

    Let's look at a couple of points in your post.

    The shallower you are, the more difficult it is to maintain buoyancy. You were taught how pressure because of depth affects gas compression, and you should have seen that the biggest changes occur in the shallowest water. That means that going up or down a fwe feet will impact your buoyancy much more than the same depth changes will when you are deeper.

    As far as "staying upright" is concerned, do you mean with your head above your feet? If so, why do you want to do that? As said above, you should look like a fish, with your body horizontal.

    A shifting weight best can be caused by the compression of a wet suit. When you descend, you will need to tighten your weight belt because your wet suit compresses under pressure and makes you thinner.
  4. mstachowsky

    mstachowsky Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Thanks for the replies! I think tomorrow's dive is going to be all about buoyancy and weight belts :p

    By staying upright, I mean when standing before we start the dive. We were doing a shore dive, but it was about 4 feet deep where we had to get in. So we had to stand on the bottom. But for some reason, I kept falling over, whether because of the weights or the BCD or the fins or all of the above haha.
  5. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many.

    # of Dives:
    Location: Woodinville, WA
    It's not easy to keep your balance on your feet in dive gear, particularly if you are in moving water. It helps to keep your side toward the water, rather than your front or back; you present less of a surface for the water to push on that way. I have also found that practicing my balance on land has helped a lot -- just standing on one foot and then the other while brushing my teeth has made a difference.

    Use your buddy for balance while you put your fins on, and don't put your fins on where you are going to have to walk much -- walking in fins, whether in or out of the water, is hard to do.

    As already said, weight belts need to be tight, especially if you are wearing thick exposure protection. You don't state your gender or your location, but if you are a man diving in cold water, it can be difficult to get a weight belt to stay put, because the combination of conformation and thick neoprene means there isn't a real good place to park the belt. A lot of men diving in cold water turn to other solutions, like weight harnesses, or integrated weights in the BC.

    I think, in my experience, the biggest problem new divers have with equalization is that they're so overloaded with all the things they have to remember, that they leave it too late, when it's difficult. It's a very good practice to "pressurize" your ears before you even start down -- and then plan on equalizing every couple of feet. Of course, if you are overweighted, your descent speed may be so fast that it's hard to get your ears cleared in time. If you let the air out of your BC and plummet, you should check your weighting.
  6. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor Staff Member

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    That's a very common problem. I especially have that problem because of my serious lack of flexibility, and I sometimes have a hard time getting my fins on. I once fell while wearing double steel 108 tanks, and getting back up was interesting.:D

    Here's what you do. Get with your buddy. If you are putting on your fins while wearing your gear, put one hand on the buddy and put the leg on that same side in a figure 4 position across the other leg while you pull on the fin. You will be using your buddy as a crutch to replace the leg you are lifting. It is especially helpful if your buddy holds your second fin while you put on the first one.

    If you are just trying to cover ground, again use your buddy. Lock elbows to hold each other up.
    DukeAMO likes this.
  7. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    When putting on the weight belt bend over and with your back parallel to the ground tighten the belt. With practice you should be able to dive without retightening the belt. When you tighten the belt standing upright, gravity moves the belt onto your hips and you cannot tighten it all the way, and when you become horosontal in the water (even on the surface), the belt slips off your hips and is loose.

    Using a rubber belt can solve the problem. I also tend to keep my weights on my hips and foward, with no weight on the back of the belt (when tank diving) it is less likely to shift if it loosens.

    boulderjohn has the answer for donning fins in the water. With time you may be able to do it on your own using your balance and BC instead of a buddy.

    An old but apropo joke.
    Q: How do I get to Carnegie Hall?
    A: ...

    I may be old, but I’m not dead yet.
  8. KD8NPB

    KD8NPB Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Hartford, MI
    You want to be horizontal underwater. If you're having trouble staying vertical at the surface, you might have a back inflate BC, and in which case, put less air in the BC.

    My advise for the weightbelt : Wet it before you put it on. Put it on SNUG...once you get to 15 ft, it's going to loosen a bit due to neoprene compression. I just adjust for that at the surface.

    Also, get heavy weights if you need'em! I think it's ridiculous to see average-size wetsuit divers with half-a-dozen weights on their weightbelt.

    Welcome to the hobby. :)
  9. Aqua-Andy

    Aqua-Andy Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southern NH.
    Well I think the others have covered all the bases. Congrats on your first dive and have fun tomorrow, and don't worry about any small issues it does get easier with time.
  10. DukeAMO

    DukeAMO Barracuda

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: North Carolina, United States
    Our instructor let us integrate our weights into our BCDs once we were done with all of the required skills that involved removing the weight belt. That was after OW dive 1 or 2; I forget which. You might ask if you can do that, so you have one less gear issue to worry about.

    As for equalizing, if you're having trouble, don't be afraid to ascend a few feet until you get it fixed. If your ears are too far out of whack (especially if they already hurt), it's almost impossible to equalize them without ascending a few feet first. No need to add air to your BCD to do that; just kick up until the pressure in your ears goes away.

    Myself and many other divers tend to have trouble equalizing at around 10-15 feet deep. Take your time in that range, and you'll find that it's much easier to equalize when you're deeper. Often I have to spend a good minute around 15 feet down, just equalizing. I have to keep equalizing as I descend after that, but I don't have to stop or ascend again after that.

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