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New diver mistakes to avoid?
muffingirl - 12/22/2009 6:20 PM
Category: New Diver Q&A
Replies: 17

Hi guys, As you may or may not know, I’m a newly certified open water diver (it’s very exciting). Going on my first dive in Australia (Perth) just after New Year, with a (yet to be assigned) dive buddy, who I guess I’ll get paired up with on the day.

I am wondering if there are any super stupid mistakes I should try to avoid for fear of (a) looking like a fool and (b) annoying my dive buddy and getting that rolling the eyes "this sucks I got paired with this new diver" look [now that I think about it, reason (b) is probably more important than reason (a)].

As an aside, I’m also wondering at what stage you stop that tiny little mental freak out when you descend and take your first breath of air and realise that you can actually breathe underwater. Does that ever go away?
Rich-D-Fish - 12/22/2009 11:23 PM
First of all congratulations and welcome to the underwater world. You’re so lucky to be going to Australia. Definitely on my to do list.

First of all, your list of new diver mistakes to avoid....

1. Don’t forget to unstrap your tank from the rack before putting it on and trying to stand up. But if you do, just know that I know divers with hundreds of dives that still do this from time to time.

2. Both before you jump into the water and before you descend, Regulator in...snorkel out. I’ve done it myself.

3. Take appropriate sea sickness medication if you are prone to motion sickness. The boat won’t go back if you get sick and there is nothing worse. 

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help. VERY IMPORTANT! There is no such thing as a stupid question.

5. Make sure you are weighted properly. This is tough to do with a full tank, but it never fails that as your tank starts to run low on air, a couple pounds underweight will cause an ascent to the surface you can’t stop. If it happens, remember to keep breathing. And then consult the DM on the boat and get more weight for the next dive.

6. If you are wearing a hood, make sure your mask seals your face under the lip of the hood. But if you are in tropical water you probably won’t have a hood to deal with.

That’s all I can think of first off. I’m sure more buddies from this site will chime in. They are very helpful here.

Second I’d like to address your divebuddy anxiety. Relax! You’re on vacation. If you’re a single on a boat just let the Divemaster on the boat know you are looking for a buddy and that you are fairly new. The DM will no doubt ask the group any how. Either an experienced diver will come forward, or the DM will offer to take you down himself. When you get paired up with a buddy it’s a good idea to suggest a buddy equipment check. You should both know how to drop each other’s weights if needed, as well as what type of Alternate Air source he/she has and where to find it. This knowledge will increase both of your confidence and comfort level diving together. Also make sure to mention anything about your abilities or comfort level; perhaps you tend to descend slowly to help your equalization, or you prefer your buddy to lead, or you are not comfortable going beyond a certain depth, or you plan to do a 3 minute safety stop and your hand signal for it, or your desired air pressure to turn around and head back, plus the minimum air pressure you both plan to ascend with. The more you discuss the more you both will be comfortable. Discuss your dive plan!

You will be amazed how many new friends you will make on the boat being a single diver. Have fun and enjoy the adventure. And if you ever end up on a cold water trip to Southern California for diving I’d be happy to buddy with you any time.

divemaiden - 12/23/2009 5:38 AM

Make sure your hoses are attached before turning on your air, check that you can inflate your bcd and breath okay out of both your primary reg and your octo.

Unless you’re going straight into the water after setting up your gear, turn the air off after setting up your gear and making sure you have enough air in your tank for the dive (if you have a long boat trip and somebody’s gear lands on top of your reg, you could lose all your air by the time you get to the dive site)

Make sure you turn your air back on
knightddiver - 12/23/2009 12:45 PM

Well a couple of things I have seen do not forget to wet your straps on your bcd before putting the tank in this is the one I actually did got in the water and had a fun dive then while coming out of the water at the beach the tank started dropping out, kind of a pain in the rear.

I have almost done this next one but I have watched many do it make sure your regulator is in your mouth before descending. I have seen even experienced divers swim out and go to descend and realize opps that not my reg in my mouth.

Other than some basic safety issues remember that you are supposed to be having fun, So as hard as it may be relax and enjoy yourself. It will be much easier on you as stress tends to make everything harder.

One last piece of advice take your time descending equalizing comes easy to some and harder to others not everyone can drop like a rock to the bottom keep your health and safety as the number one priority.

Have fun!!
madlobster - 12/24/2009 1:26 PM
Relax most of all! Your there to dive a wondeful area of the world. As others have said the DM will ask people there diver levels so you’ll be ok, keep diving that funny little thing you feel when you submerge should go away with time. I usually shore dive so diving off a boat is always a blast for me.
oceanfloor - 12/24/2009 3:21 PM

Remember to put your divesuit on right. I have two of them. One zippes in the front and one in the back. I usually wear the one that zippes in the front so when I decided to wear the one that zippes in the back I put it on backwards... geeezzzz I looked and felt pretty silly

Remember to depressurize the hoses before trying to remove the regs from your tank or it makes a loud popping sound... dumb story behind that one too!

Always make sure your air is on before jumping into the water oh.. and remember to put the regs in your mouth.. i started to submerged and realized I had forgotten to put the regs in my mouth.. water didn’t taste very


Loki1366 - 12/25/2009 11:24 AM

Just to echo the other divers, going single (and I’ve had to do it every time since my friends don’t dive) is actually one of the best things I’ve experienced with diving. It’s a great opportunity to meet new friends and pick up additional tips and techniques. So relax and enjoy!

I stress "relax." When you relax, you can think. We once dove with someone who was so nervous with her bouyancy that she kept hitting the wrong button which sent her shooting up to the surface. I rent a lot, so I always do a touch test of my inflator, dump valve, weight release etc so I know where they are and how they feel before I get in the water.

Another thing to remember just because I’ve seen it happen: if you are diving with a weight belt instead of integrated, cinch that weight belt tight before each time you hit the water. Remember, as you descend, the pressure compresses you so the weight belt will seem looser. I’ve watched a diver lose her weight belt while descending. She couldn’t descend because she was too light and other divers had to rescue her weights.

Other than that, everyone else seemed to cover the rest of the highlights. Have a great time! I am envious.
MRfreeze - 12/26/2009 9:58 AM

As a new diver myself I have learned one thing about divers in general. A diver will do anything for another fellow diver. We are one big family when we go diving. The most important thing I can say is if you are not sure about something then just ask. I do not know any divers that are not willing to help out a fellow diver. Lastly relax and enjoy the sites around you while in the water. This is a great sport to be involved in. Best of luck to you.


UWnewbee - 12/26/2009 10:43 AM
 As others have said,,,, Relax!! Dont wear yourself out, Dont think you can swin 1k to the dive site then dive,, rest, Ive seen many divers try to swim on the surface to a spot,, very tiring then try to dive it,, now youre exhausted! And your breathing rate is very high now, next panic! Relax, Think, breathe slowley and enjoy the sites!! Do not dive Deeper than you are comfortable and certified for! Keep close watch on your gauges
DalelynnSims - 12/28/2009 7:43 AM
I can only add to the good suggestions. I assume that this is a dive boat trip and on a dive boat space is limited. Bring only what is needed and understand that you have the space that you sit in and underneath the seat for your dive gear. When you get on the dive boat and are assigned your area, assemble your gear, BC on the tank regs on the tank, weight belt ready and layong over if not through the straps of your fins. Attach your mask, defoged and ready to go, to the BC between the low pressure inflator and the hose that connects to it but the strap. These last two will prevent them feom being lost at sea. I cant tell you how many masks I have seen loat or almost so as the diver just hung the mask on the tank’s first stage. When the boat gets going and the water splashes over the read deck it can knock these things off. Normally of the dive is close suiting up in the wet suit can be accomplished at least half way prior to departing the dock. The divemaster on board and others that may have been down with the boat before can help youin this, watch listen and learn from them. as previously stated, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Lastly have a great time!!
muffingirl - 12/30/2009 8:13 PM

Hi guys, thanks so much for your advice - much appreciated for the slightly anxious new diver that I am. I’ve got a question for you - snorkels: necessary or optional? My dive instructor didn’t have one when I was getting certified, he said he never used it.

I also have a new mask, and I know I have to clean it before first use - does this toothpaste business really work and if not, what should I be using? Also, how do I even know if I have successfully cleaned it?
knightddiver - 1/01/2010 3:52 AM

Snorkels, If I am going to be swimming on top of the water for any distance I use mine, if I just might need it I use a roll up one that I really have not used. A good piece of equipment to have, but if I forgot it at home I would not abort a dive because of it.

As for the mask YES toothpaste works but a product similar to "Soft Scrub" will work great , You just have to clean it with the scrub first then I clean it a couple more times with mild dish soap and water. Clean the mask before you use it the first time.

Found this at leisure pro more than likely the same as soft scrub Pretty cheap so I would imagine any dive shop will have something similar.

Good luck
DiveBuddyChgo - 1/02/2010 6:55 AM
You will do fine diving... Don’t worry so much... You have been taught well... Everything is going to be all-rite... Have Fun !!
Devilfish - 1/07/2010 6:20 PM

I have to second what Rich says about motion sickness meds make sure you take ’em. I just hate to see someone having a miserable time because they miss something so preventable.

If boat diving, invest in a safety sausage. It’s essential if something happens and you surface away from the boat, or need to get attention for any reason. You should of course have a whistle as well.

If you own your own gear, mark everything with your name and phone number. It’ll prevent confusion, and if you ever lose/forget an item you’ll have a chance at getting it back.

Listen carefully to the dive site briefings; these will have info about currents, and specifics regarding entry/exit procedures. Descend on the anchor line and take a good compass heading so you can find your way back.

Review with your buddy the signals to check air and communicate your remaining PSI/BAR to each other. During the dive, update each other on your remaining air supply often. (Look at your buddy often, in case he/she is trying to get your attention.)

More than anything just try to be self-aware and remember the basics. Turn around once in a while and see if you’re kicking up sand, or bumping into things like sea fans. Use clips to secure your octo and console. I don’t mind diving with a newbie who’s making a real effort to control his buoyancy and respect the dive site. I have dived with people who brag about their 20 and even 30 years of experience who crash into the bottom, stir up huge sand clouds when I’m trying to take pictures, and kick sea fans and sea cucumbers in total oblivion, but of course they think they are scuba gods. If you work on good habits early on, you’ll be a much better diver down the road.
CanuckDiver - 1/12/2010 9:15 PM

Just two other quick tricks, in the sort of prevent a rookie mistake area.....

1) If you "think" you can not find your buddy, do not forget s/he could easily be above you. I once did a beautiful barrdl roll underwater and pivoted right around my "lost" dive buddy. {I found out he was under my tank the entire time when I grabbed a roof of a submerged car and he kept going into my field of view from the current about five feet above me.

2) You might want to keep the consule in your left hand just as reminder to check the thing every once in a while... 
muffingirl - 1/13/2010 1:50 AM

Hi guys, I did OK on my dive - I was a bit nervous and had some trouble sinking (any tips there) but I think not wanting to disappoint my dive buddy actually helped me lift my game. Had a great time.

One thing that happened though - my mask fogged underwater. Aside from clearing my mask underwater to get rid of the problem, what could have caused this problem above water do you think?
Devilfish - 1/16/2010 8:49 AM

Trouble sinking...I definitely had that one early on. Instead of helping me with my technique, the instructors and DMs just loaded me up with more lead. Not cool for shore diving.

Tips? Refer to your OW manual and calculate the weight you need for your weight and exposure protection. At most you might need 5 more lbs than that to get started. In the water, when you’re ready to descend hold your BCD LP inflator hose high, straight up, and press the button to release the air, while exhaling completely.

Masks...a few tips. If brand new, you should have "scoured" the inside surface with toothpaste and then rinsed well before the first use. If you haven’t done that, do it now. When actually diving you can use commercially available defog solution: spread it on the inside surface of the lens and then rinse well shortly before donning. I always carry a small bottle of conditioner, or shampoo, or dish soap to squirt on the ankles/wrist of the wetsuit to help me slide in more easily, but I’ll use this as defog in a pinch as well.

In a few cases people still have a problem with fogging, supposedly because the silicone skirt can retain some sort of coating as well; I’ve heard that washing the skirt well with warm water and soap fixes the issue.