Manta Divers January '08--Steps to Better Diving
Well, the lawn decorations are deflated, the lighted wreaths are dark and the snow has gone from glistening white to dirty gray. It must be January in Wisconsin! Hopefully you’ve set some goals for yourself to strive for in the coming year, and hopefully at least a few of those will lead you to more and better diving!
The number one way to improve diving skills is to dive—A LOT! A good way to stay skilled is to commit to at least one dive vacation a year. Start a “dive vacation” account and save year round so it is not such a financial burden. Then, dedicate one week for daily diving. Not only is this a means to escape the winter doldrums, it is a great way to get the whole family involved in the sport you love. Staying at a dive resort makes the whole activity more convenient since they have drying facilities and lockers for your gear. Going on a trip with a group offers many advantages. One thing is that if your group is large enough, you have a little more influence on which site you will visit and what skill level is required for the group. For example, if you and your buddy are very experienced divers and want to go to a site that is deep, or has a moderate current or other challenge, but are diving with a group consisting of newly certified divers, you will likely be taken to a shallow reef instead. Divemasters are not only charged with the supervision of all divers, but they must also consider the safety of the reefs. They would prefer to take the newest divers to the most beat up areas, where their lack of buoyancy control will likely do the least damage and save the pristine areas for the most experienced. Likewise, if you and your buddy are new divers and thrust into an experienced dive club group, you may feel pressure to do a dive that is, well, “over your head”! One other thing to consider in regard to diving with a group is that it offers a chance to learn some new tricks, see some new (or different ) equipment, and most of all, meet others who share your enthusiasm for diving.
Even if a trip to a tropical location for diving is out of the question, you still have many opportunities for diving available to you. The Manta Divers calendar notes all of the dive offerings throughout the year. Last year, we began diving locally in May and continued through October. In fact, we dove almost every weekend during July and August, not to mention the Lake Michigan wreck charters during the week. We always welcome any divers to join us when we are out with students. If you have a suggestion for a place nearby you would like to dive, give us a call and we’ll try to add it to the calendar.
Another way to improve your diving is to (and I know this will come as a shock) practice. I may sound like a broken record, but just because you earned a C-card, does not mean you are an expert diver. You simply have a license to practice. Many resorts now require a kind of “check out dive” before allowing you to jump off the boat. This great practice yields many benefits. First, it is a good way to get rid of those first dive jitters so common in vacationing divers. Start your dive when you are good and ready and take the time to make all necessary adjustments to your gear. (Hopefully you have had your gear serviced and this is not the time you will figure out that your regulator is not functioning.) It is also a chance to check your weighting and make sure that the extra helping of turkey stuffing at Thanksgiving is not impacting your buoyancy. Perform your buoyancy check at the beginning of the dive and at the end. Check at the beginning to get a close estimate. Usually you must add another 5lbs. to compensate for the added buoyancy from your (nearly) empty cylinder. At the end of the dive, your suit (that was likely hanging in the basement for 4 months, drying out) is thoroughly wet. In addition, now that your tank is close to empty, you can really fine tune your weight and make sure you can complete your safety stop at 15 ft. Do you remember the buoyancy check? According to PADI, you should be able to float at eye level with an empty BC and a normal breath of air. When you exhale that breath, you should sink slowly. Remember that you should not be moving around, thrashing or finning while doing this.
Since neutral buoyancy does not come naturally to all of us land animals, it is a skill that requires work to master. In your open water class, you were taught the fin pivot and hovering. These are still great exercises, but you could enhance them to further hone your skills. Try this: Make yourself neutrally buoyant. Maintain this hover for at least one minute without sculling or finning. Note your position in the water. Are you listing to one side? Are you flipped onto your back? This gives you hints as to how your weight is distributed. You may need to configure your weight belt differently or alter your trim weights. When swimming, can you maintain a horizontal position? Most weight systems put the weight around the diver’s waist, while most BC’s tend to exert most of their buoyant force at the shoulders. As air is added to the BC, the diver is pulled into an upright posture. This is especially apparent in an over weighted diver. Assuming you are not over weighted, but you have this problem; try changing your weight distribution. Shift a bit more weight to your trim pockets and make your BC straps a bit shorter. Remember, too that if you are carrying even a small flash light, this can add weight and tend to cause listing. Good buoyancy decreases the amount of effort you expend to move through the water and thereby decreases your air consumption.
Even if you cannot manage to dive as much as you want, make every dive count. Set a goal for yourself, be it buoyancy, decreasing air consumption, learning more about the under water environment, or safety skills. Continue to grow and learn in your diving. Better divers have more fun!
In Other news……
As you are probably aware Mike and I are off to Curacao with a group from the shop, January 12 to the 19th. The shop will be open, however, thanks to Eric and Megan, so feel free to stop in!
Join us in Mexico for a quickie!
We are organizing a quick trip to Mexico April 17, 18, 19 and 20. If you just have to get wet and can't wait for the local waters to warm up, have a quickie in Cancun!This is a great chance for students to certify with the Manta Divers' crew in warm water. Divers of all experience levels are also welcome. You can make your own travel arrangements or have Manta Divers do it for you. Details are being worked out and will be available when we return from Curacao, January 21.