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I was recently on a boat dive when I saw something that shocked me. We had just arrived at the dive site and everyone started gearing up when I looked across to the other side of the boat in time to see an older gentleman donning his scuba unit a la Mike Nelson -- right over the head and onto the back. Although, it wasn't all that graceful. He struggled quite a bit and it scared the crap out of me and the DM, who expressed concern for the guy's safety (though no correction or anything like that). He was older and might have been a long-time diver for all I know, and so I guess I am wondering if this was ever considered an acceptable/appropriate way of getting into your scuba. I always thought that Mike did it more out of theatrics and, in any event, Mike's tanks were made of wood, which probably made it safer than what I witnessed with an aluminum 80. Was I seeing a bit of history or just a misguided Mike Nelson admirer?
I don't think it's really an accepted practice but it's something I do all the time with a singles setup. I find it much easier to get into my kit and end up with all the straps and hoses in the right place.
When I was first cert'd back in the 70s it was part of our training (no BCD then just a horse collar vest). A few months ago, I came ashore in Laguna and managed to loose a fin in the surf. I dropped my tank and ran back in to find it (which I did). When I got back to my buddy he said he did not think he could pick up my tank for me to get it back on so I stuck my hands down through the shoulder straps grabbed the BCD and put it on overhead just fine.
I agree that it might not be safe on a crowded boat though.
I don mine like that all the time and don't see what the big deal is. I do pay attention to make sure nobody is within range of getting a jawful of tank before hand and usually at the edge of the boat so there's nobody behind me.
I have an instructor friend I work with a lot who does that. I make sure the area is clear of potential collision victims. I prefer to have someone lift my gear up for donning, or else put it on the water. If anyone every offers to do that for you, just say "thank you." And as noted, the throw it over your head technique has no place on a dive boat.