The thought of breathing underwater can be intimidating (and it should be — we are land creatures, after all!). Thanks to strict safety training and equipment regulations, scuba diving is a safe sport for people of all sizes, ages, and abilities. One of the best things to put a worried mind at ease is preparation. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, here the best scuba diving tips for beginners that you need to know.
PLAN YOUR SCUBA DIVING TRAINING
1. When choosing your dive school, check to see if you’ll be diving in warm or cold water, what sea life the area is known for, and how much the accreditation costs. Getting your open water certificate takes three full days of training or longer, so you’ll want to be somewhere both comfortable and memorable.
2. Safety should be your number one concern when choosing a dive school. Before you go, check out online reviews to see if other divers write about consistent issues like disorganization, missed safety briefings, or faulty equipment. A safe dive school maintains a low student to instructor ratio, never leaves equipment on the floor, and communicates clearly with its students.
3. To maximize your confidence and comfort underwater, practice swimming and yoga for a few months leading up to your dive course. Yoga helps you learn to focus on your breathing, one of the most important elements of scuba diving. Swimming helps you maintain control of your body underwater.
4. Learn about different scuba diving agencies to find out which one is best for you. The two biggest are PADI and SSI. Here’s a pro and con resource from Scuba World on PADI vs. SSI.
SCUBA DIVING HEALTH & SAFETY
5. Before you go underwater, always check your dive equipment. Warning signs of faulty equipment include broken buckles, strange smelling/tasting air, air leaks, and a jumping needle on your air gauge when you take a breath out of your regulator.
6. One of the most common mishaps while diving is having your regulator, you know, the device that you use to breathe underwater, knocked out of your mouth. Though this is rarely serious, it can cause divers of all levels a lot of stress. Practice reaching towards your lower back and recovering your regulator (just like your instructor taught you) until it becomes second nature.
7. Avoid diving with an underwater camera for your first few dives, even if the school allows it. Beginning divers tend to get distracted with playing with the buttons, often causing them to ascend without realizing!
8. Take seasickness pills ahead of time if you’re prone to getting seasick
9. Never be afraid to ask your guide or instructor questions, no matter how silly they might seem. Remember, everyone started as a beginner once, and it’s better to dive with confidence instead of confusion.
10. Don’t dive with a sinus infection or a cold, as it will be dangerous (if not impossible) to equalize.
11. Planning a dive vacation? Make sure to learn about the risks of flying and diving before you hit the runway.
12. If you have open wounds, avoid diving or make sure that you the wounds covered – especially around coral reefs, where skin is more prone to infection. Wear a wetsuit, or protect the wound with gauze and waterproof tape.
13. Did you know that your body processes liquids more efficiency while at neutral buoyancy? This is why while diving, you’ll have to pee more than usual. Why does this happen? Check out how Diver Magazine answers, why do I need to pee every time I dive?
14. Don’t let #13 scare you. Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after dives to avoid dehydration.
15. Know the signs and symptoms of nitrogen narcosis, especially before attempting any deep dives.
16. Many diving accidents are preventable caused solely by panic. In fact, a report by Scuba Diving Magazine tells us that over 20% of diver deaths are due to panic. With a level head, you can work your way out of any diving issue. Practice self-calming methods like meditation and breathing techniques to help you cope with any diving challenges that may arise. Visualization is a great practice for walking through possible challenges and thinking through how you can overcome them.
17. The most important thing to remember is, always keep breathing. Never, ever hold your breath.
18. Read our guide on what divers can do for their own safety and apply what you learn to prevent scuba accidents.
TIPS TO BECOME A BETTER SCUBA DIVER
19. Always stay close to your guide and follow his or her directions – even if other divers stray from the pack.
20. Beginner scuba divers often don’t realize how much air they consume and tend to breathe more than advanced divers. Always keep an eye on your gauge and let your instructor/guide know when you’re low. Don’t be shy to tell your guide this, it’s totally normal.
21. Constantly communicate with your buddy. Ask them if they are OK and point out any incredible things that you see.
22. Never poke or chase sea life. Not only is this better for the environment, but many sea creatures can be aggressive or poisonous. The look-but-don’t-touch policy is in the best interest of everyone underwater.
23. Diving can be a clumsy sport, especially when navigating around other divers and the reef — that’s just what happens when you strap on fins and a metal tank to your body! Give other divers enough space to move around without banging into you. Likewise, hover a good distance above the reef until you’ve perfected neutral buoyancy.
24. It’s easy to be mesmerized by what exists below you. Look up and out into the blue every once in a while. Many times, it’s where the larger sea creatures or schools of fish will be hanging out.
25. Do you know what to do if you see a shark? For one, don’t panic or bolt to the surface. Keep breathing and follow your guide’s instructions. If you’re diving with a buddy and you are too frightened to continue, end the dive as normal. Sharks are generally harmless and swim past divers every single day without incident.
26. If you need to grab another diver’s attention, make noise by banging lightly against your tank with a tank banger.
TIPS FOR CHOOSING SCUBA DIVING GEAR
27. There’s nothing more comforting than a snug wetsuit that conforms to your body. It’s worth it to invest in a wetsuit for the water temperature that you’ll be diving in the most. Read our guide on how to choose a wetsuit that’s right for you.
28. When choosing a mask, tilt your head down, place the mask against your face, and inhale. Then, let go of the mask with your hands. If the mask stays on your face, then it’s a good fit. Before diving, sweep your hair away from your face (including facial hair) and rub in sunscreen to prevent leaks. To make sure you get the fit just right, check out our gear guide on how to choose a scuba mask.
29. Different scuba diving brands tend to fit different body types better. To see what works for you, rent or borrow equipment before buying.
30. Take care of your equipment by rinsing it with fresh water after a dive, hanging it to dry, and keeping it out of the sun. Salt, sand, and sun are harsh elements that can deform equipment if left unchecked.
31. You might not always wear the same amount of weights depending on your wetsuit thickness and even water temperature. If you’re not sure how many to wear, consult a guide before you go. A good guide will keep an eye on your buoyancy and can add or take weight away.
MORE SCUBA DIVING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
33. Keep your skills fresh! Try to dive at least every few months. Practice, practice, practice. The more often you go, the better diver you will become.
34. There’s so much to see around the world. From macro life to sharks to technicolor coral reefs to caves to wrecks to kelp forests, the visuals that exist underwater are truly unlike anything on earth. Create a scuba diving bucket list of places to dive to keep you motivated to dive more.
35. Did you know there’s a huge scuba diving community out there? Scuba diving is an easy way to make friends all around the globe. Join The Adventure Junkies Diving Community on Facebook to meet up with other underwater addicts.