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Priority of skills to master for new divers

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by DiveToFeelAlive, Sep 19, 2020.

  1. DiveToFeelAlive

    DiveToFeelAlive Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Toronto, ON, Canada
    Hey everyone,

    After completing my open water this past weekend and trying to educate myself more on diving in general, safety, how to mitigate risk, and learning about all the gear... I've been thinking about what skills are the most important to master.

    I always thought bouyancy was the top one and although maybe very important, I have started to think recently that it's breathing that is no. 1. In theory I know air lasts less time the deeper you go but until you live it, I feel like it isnt as real, and if you dont control your breathing it could mean a dive cut short, or worst if you dont breathe calm and slow, and forget to check your spg, an emergency in the worst case.

    Does a reg help at all with how you breathe? Or is it all in how we control our breaths? Does it change at depth (I.e. just as easy when deeper or more difficult to get air through the reg)?

    Do any sort of breathing techniques help at all? During my open water I think I used the most air of my group of 7 and I cant say I was panicked or anxious or stressed, I think unconciously I was taking deep breaths in quick succession.

    The things I think I need to focus on, and know I need to get better at:
    - initiating my descent from the surface while on breath hold with empty lungs.. feels unnatural not breathing for enough time to start descending, I was told breaking the surface is the toughest part until the air volume starts to shrink, and your gear begins to compress
    - equalizing often, I made a mistake on my open water of not equalizing my ears often enough on 1 of my dives, and then on a later dive not equalizing my mask, I assume this has to be done non stop until you get to the planned depth
    - breathing control, slow and steady to maximize time under water
    - buoyancy control

    Happy to read any tips / comments :)
  2. Graeme Fraser

    Graeme Fraser Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Narnia
    You were right first time; buoyancy control is No1, and is much more important than air consumption, which is way down the list.

    The good news is that improved buoyancy control is a key factor in better air consumption. That and trim, streamlining and finning technique. Apart from that, don't stress, it will improve over time.
  3. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    ^^^^^ +1 ^^^^^

    The ultimate goal of diving is to end the dive on the surface prior to one's air running out. Regardless of how well one breathes, one can't breathe water.

    With that end in mind, there are a lot of things that can be done to extend your stay and enjoyment of your time underwater.
  4. GrafCanuck

    GrafCanuck Barracuda

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: London, Ontario, Canada
    Many things to master and some take a very long time. Here are my top 5 and in no particular order.

    * Trim/Buoyancy > not focused on in the OW but definitely in the AOW; this gets better with experience
    * Breathing control > allows you to control your trim/buoyancy and usage; critical and will improve with experience
    * Equalizing > critical; trick that I learned that works for me is swallowing a few hours before the dive and continuously throughout the dive
    * Donning Equipment ON/ then OFF > for me very important; along with checks along the way; take care of your equipment when taking off - e.g. rinse tank, dry, etc
    * Have Fun and be Safe > most important of all; enjoy the underworld with many eyes on you
  5. rick00001967

    rick00001967 Tech Instructor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: canada
    agree with above. skills 1, 2, and 3 should be buoyancy, buoyancy, and then buoyancy.

    breath control has a major impact on buoyancy control btw, along with proper weighting, trim and finning as mentioned above.

    i try to tell my students to try and slooooowwwwww down everything they do. then when they think they have slowed enough, slow down even more. not all, but most new divers are far too active in the water. this can sometimes be attributed to poor buoyancy control. if you are always sculling with your hands or finning then it increases the heart rate, which in turn increases your respiration rate, which then screws with your buoyancy and increases your gas consumption rate. it all works hand in hand.

    everything you learn has to be built on a solid foundation. buoyancy control is your foundation. every skill you learn will be easier once you have a good grasp on your buoyancy. imagine trying navigate with a compass in low viz conditions or on a night dive if you keep ascending and / or descending out of control ? it makes it very difficult and possibly dangerous. or what about a cave diver trying to lay line using a reel while needing one or more lights to see what he / she is doing. it cannot be done properly / safely without superior buoyancy control.

    so try to relax as much as possible. do not even think about descending until you are completely calm. move slowly and deliberately. take the time to reduce your weight by a pound or two until you find the sweet spot. be conscious of whether you are moving your hands and feet. most new divers will sink as soon as i force them to clasp their hands together for example. work on your trim (your body position in the water) and your finning techniques (practice the frog kick). you will find your consumption will go down.

    good luck and have fun !!
    Cdncoldwater likes this.
  6. EFX

    EFX ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: North Central Florida
    I would say buoyancy and trim is number one. However, the amount of lead weight you carry affects your buoyancy and trim. Most new divers are over weighted and as a result are also in bad trim. I would start working on your weight right now but don't give up practicing your buoyancy. Once you get your weight right your buoyancy will be easier to maintain and your air consumption will come down. If you continue to dive, become more comfortable in the water, and learn to relax your air consumption will come down more. Here's what I would do (have your buddy assist you):

    1. Get proper weight: with 500 psi left in your tank hang vertically head up on a line at 15 ft for your safety stop. Empty your BCD of air and cross your ankles to prevent fining in place. Take normal slow breaths. Let go of the line. If you sink immediately remove 2 lbs (1 kg). Repeat until you slightly sink. You may have to exhale fully to descend on succeeding dives. Make sure you do NOT fin. This is a natural tendency in new divers and you must fight it.

    2. Get proper trim: Once you've got your weight correct check your trim. Most new divers don't know they're not in trim because it's easy to trim out when you are swimming, and new divers generally never hover in one place. Get to a horizontal position without holding on to anything somewhere in the middle of the water column. Cross your ankles to prevent movement and see where you go. If you go head up move maybe 2 lbs higher up on the BC. If you go head down take weight out of the trim pockets (if you have any there) and move them to your waist pockets. If you don't have any weight in the trim pockets you can try shifting your tank lower on your harness, use ankle weights, or buy heavier fins.

    Most rec divers (even experienced ones) think they're horizontal but are not. They are slightly head up. Use this test: while swimming in horizontal trim tuck your chin to your chest and look along the underside of your body. If, directly behind you in the distance you see the surface you are head down. If you see the bottom you are head up. When the surface and bottom are above and below you respectively you will be in proper horizontal trim.

    IMPORTANT: for each step above do NOT move your fins. Moving them in step 1 will cause you to retain more weight and moving them in step 2 may mask any bad trim.
  7. Bowers

    Bowers Public Safety Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ohio
    Control over your trim and buoyancy will make it much easier to manage other problems and keep things from increasingly getting worse until they are out of your control.
    Your air consumption will improve when you move less, work less and need to make less adjustments.
    After that i think familiarization with your gear is under emphasized. You need to be able to manage all your tasks without looking and by muscle memory. Can you find your spg without looking or feeling around? Can you use kidney dump without coming out of trim? Does your hand go instinctively to your octo without having to think about it?
    The list goes on, but that would be my recommendation of priorities.
    Cdncoldwater and Graeme Fraser like this.
  8. scrane

    scrane Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Boise, ID.
    Buoyancy control. All else will follow.
    NothingClever likes this.
  9. TMHeimer

    TMHeimer Divemaster

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Dartmouth,NS,Canada(Eastern Passage-Atlantic)
    Yes, buoyancy of course. It is to my knowledge not one of the "official" 20-24 pool skills, though I guess it falls under "hovering". It apparently is accomplished quite quickly in those courses that are taught "neutrally".
    -- Breathing-- Breathe normally. I can't say I've ever noticed breathing to be any "harder" at 100' vs. 20'. But everything I read says so--perhaps because there would be a real difference if you start to breathe fast at depth due to stress.
    -- Everyone is different regarding which skills are hardest to master. I had no trouble with the mask skills at all, but disliked removing & replacing the scuba unit, especially at depth. Compared to the other skills, lots of steps to follow.
    -- equalising-- again, many variations. Some have problems throughout their diving life and have tried the normal methods. Others can do it internally with no nose/jaw/swallowing, etc. movements. Again, this is not an "official" pool skill, but is covered the first time you descend to the deep end.
  10. CycleCat

    CycleCat Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: near Taos, New Mexico, USA
    Both great advice! And a good way to kill time during safety stops! My wife and I are new divers too. We will definitely try this.

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