When you worked on your open water certification, you had to demonstrate both knowledge and skills. But like most things in life, practice makes perfect. Take a moment to review our list below, and make sure you are adhering to best practices while underwater.
1. Develop spatial awareness.
Pay attention to what’s around you, including above and below you. Maintain a safe distance from fragile corals, and always know where your body, fins and tank are in relation to the reef, wreck or whatever environment you are in. Don’t be the diver who kicks a coral, stirs up silt or smacks another diver and doesn’t even realize it.
2. Get streamlined.
Arranging your scuba gear so that you are “trim” — perfectly balanced in the water — will enable you to save air and fin smoothly through the water, and permit you to hover in both vertical position and horizontal positions. So before you giant-stride off the boat, make sure all gear and accessories are clipped off and not dangling. After your giant-stride, take a moment to check that everything is still in place. During your dive, periodically check your gauges to make sure they’re not dragging. Also pay attention to where your fins are — keep them off delicate corals and away from sand and sediment that can be stirred up and ruin visibility.
3. Be gentle.
It’s exciting to see a sea turtle, shark or another animal underwater, but avoid the urge to chase it or touch it. Stop moving and see whether the animal will approach you. Or if it’s a stationary animal like a frogfish perched on a sponge, approach carefully and slowly. And never interfere with the animal’s normal behavior or manipulate it in any way.
4. Use your breath rather than your BC to control your buoyancy.
When exhaling, let all of the air out of your lungs — you should sink. Inhale to rise up a bit, such as when you need to swim over a coral head or large barrel sponge. With practice, you should be able to ascend and descend a few feet with your inhalations and exhalations.
5. Take your diving to the next level.
Sign up for a rescue diver course. “It is one of the most challenging courses you can take,” says PADI’s technical development executive Karl Shreeves. “But you’ll dive more confidently knowing that you’ve expanded your emergency prevention and management skills.” The most important skill you’ll learn is to prevent problems before they occur, whether for yourself, your buddy or another diver in your group.
6. Be a model citizen.
As you develop confidence underwater, you’ll start to notice other divers being careless, especially beginners. Try to help them develop awareness as a diver. This can take many forms — for example, if you notice bad behavior underwater, you can mention it to a divemaster and let him or her handle the situation. Underwater, alert your buddy when you spot an issue. If he is crashing into the reef, raise an upturned palm to indicate he needs to rise up a bit.
We are truly privileged to be in the ocean, and we have a responsibility to be as skilled as possible to lessen our impact on the marine life we love.