So I was chatting with one of the guys that carpooled with me to Beneath the Sea (BTS) scuba tradeshow . He had been diving since 1960 when he was 16 and had a lot of good stories and advice. I thought I’d gather some good advice in this post, for the new, beginner scuba divers out there. I am hoping most things are just plain obvious though some will be a matter of opinion/choice. I had a few discussions with my dive buddies and most agreed on these but there was some difference of opinion when it came to the Local Dive Shop (LDS) relationship (‘dump them, they’ve priced themselves out of the running, they’re nothing but glorified travel agents and offer no real added value anymore’). Without further ado:
• Select your Open Water instructor carefully. Talk to accomplished local divers and ask them for a recommendation. Agency doesn’t matter much as long as the instructor is good. Bad habits are formed early and so are good habits.
• If you are going to go to a resort to learn scuba diving, complete the theory & pool classes with your local dive shop first and bring the paperwork to your resort diving center when you go on vacation. Do the open water dives there if you want but don’t waste time in a classroom or a pool while in some beautiful resort. If you can dive locally, by all means do your open water dives there. Local diving can be amazing.
• On that subject, it seems you can dive pretty much everywhere you live (I know, there are exceptions). There is always a mountain lake, a quarry or a local shore to dive at. Yes, local diving can be cheap, easy and rewarding. So dive locally!
• Forge a relationship with your Local Dive Shop (LDS). You might save some money buying gear online and sometimes your LDS will not carry the
items but when the difference isn’t much, support your local brick and mortar shop. They will rent you tanks, fill your own tanks, provide advice, organize outings, service your gear later – they’re important.
• Meet local divers, mingle, learn from them. They know the spots, they know the tricks, they know the etiquette.
• CyberDive a bit but not to excess. There are many great online communities where to exchange ideas, buy and sell used gear, meet local and remote divers. Don’t become a couch diver though, do get in the water.
• Don’t rush your recreational scuba training. Yes, you can get your Advanced Open Water certification (or equivalent) right after your Open Water but why would you • Enjoy your diving, build some experience before opening up to new challenges.
• Many many dives later, after you complete the Rescue diver class (or equivalent), don’t bother with any of the ‘specialties’. Besides Dry Suit training, there isn’t really much to learn in the PADI specialties that you can’t learn by diving.
• Dive Master training can be fascinating but understand what you’re getting into.
• Going past your No Decompression Limit into decompression diving, diving with a ceiling (virtual or physical) such as wreck penetration diving, cave diving, deco diving are tech diving activities that absolutely require the proper training.
• Pick up a copy of the PADI Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving. It’s actually pretty good and contains most of the knowledge you’ll need in your recreational scuba activities.
• Prefer paddle fins to split fins. But that’s just my opinion. Buy a good mask as well. Later on buy a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and then a regulator.
• For BCD, don’t buy a jacket style, buy a back-inflated BC or a Backplate/Harness/Wing (BP/W) combination. The later is my preference and is likely to last you for a very long time. Find a used one, they’re just great.
• Learn the Frog Kick from the get go and forget about Flutter kick. You will not regret it.
• Focus on Buoyancy and Finning. Those are key skills.
• Do not get into the water without dive insurance. DAN comes to mind.
• Learn to plan a dive and dive your plan
The title of this post (thought aimed at female and men scuba divers alike, young or old) is inspired by a poem written by Charles Bukowski:
Friendly Advice to a Lot of Young Men
Go to Tibet.
Ride a camel.
Read the bible.
Dye your shoes blue.
Grow a beard.
Circle the world in a paper canoe.
Subscribe to The Saturday Evening Post.
Chew on the left side of your mouth only.
Marry a woman with one leg and shave with a straight razor.
And carve your name in her arm.
Brush your teeth with gasoline.
Sleep all day and climb trees at night.
Be a monk and drink buckshot and beer.
Hold your head under water and play the violin.
Do a belly dance before pink candles.
Kill your dog.
Run for Mayor.
Live in a barrel.
Break your head with a hatchet.
Plant tulips in the rain.
But don’t write poetry.
Tags: advice, basics, beginner, beginner scuba diver, Buoyancy compensator, Charles Bukowski, DAN, dive insurance, diving, finning, LDS, local dive shop, new, new scubadiver, Open Circuit, open water, PADI, Professional Association of Diving Instructors, recreational diving, scuba, Scuba diving