Going Down?

What To Do and What Not To Do

These suggestions are not meant to be the "Laws of Diving," but these are my opinions, along with what I've learned and was taught.
The Only Person Responsible For You Is You
You should always dive with a buddy, and usually with a dive master nearby. However, you are the only one responsible for you and your life. If you die, you cannot blame your dive buddy or your dive master. Almost always, a dive related injury is the fault of the diver, and a diver cannot place blame on their buddy (which at the beginning you chose to dive with, after supposedly checking all their gear and discussing with them dive protocol) or a dive master (who can only do so much to protect you from yourself, and if you dove the plan a dive master laid out, then it is your fault for agreeing with them).

Along with all that, remember ... YOU are taking your life into your hands. If you have a problem with that, stay out of the pool.

Keep an eye on them. If you forget about your tank pressure gauge you might not realize what it's at until you find it hard to breathe ... and then it's too late. How deep you are also determines how long you can stay there without having to stop midway for decompression. SSI (and I would suspect other schools) teaches that all recreational dives should be performed conservatively with respect to dive tables. That means non-decompression dives. The closest thing you should do to a decompression stop is that "safety stop" at 15 feet for 5 minutes.

Drink Water. Drink A Lot Of Water. Drink Water Often.
Some may think it ironic that one of the biggest health concerns while diving is dehydration. Salt water in particular can just suck the fluids from your body.  There's something about being immersed in water that will eventually give you the urge to pee.  Along with this, dehydration also increases your chances of getting bent.

Dive Buddy
Be a good one, or no one will want to dive with you. Conversely, don't dive with anyone you know you can't trust. Your life may depend on that other person and if they decide to goof off, annoy the barracuda, or go into wrecks or caves when neither of you have been certified to do so, then they are not a good buddy, and could very well get you into trouble (and at, say, 80 feet, it may be the last time you ever get into trouble).

Know what your dive buddy's gear is, and don't go down unless you are comfortable with their gear, especially both of their second stages. Someone close to me did not do a buddy check before a dive, and through several other mistakes almost ended up drowning because of it (the buddy did not have an octopus, or back up second stage--the mouth part for the regulator).

"How Do You Feel?"
Never go down unless you feel well. If there is anything the slightest bit wrong with you, do not go under without at least seeing a doctor first. At the time of this writing, I have blown blood vessels in my left ear, and according to the doctor also have a minor sinus congestion problem (not that I can really tell...my nose isn't clogged, but everything has the tendency to drain down the back of the throat with me ;). Both, without a doctor's attention, can cause problems; the blood vessels being blown tends to fill the ear with fluid, which can cause some pain (especially at depths greater than 6 feet) and also difficulty equalizing. Sinus congestion also makes it difficult to equalize. Difficulties in equalization can cause overexpansion injuries.

My doctor has given me medication and has cleared me for my upcoming dives. Without his okay, and certain instructions regarding diving specifically (including exactly when on dive days I should take my medication, versus regular days), I would not go.

It is also important that you find a doctor who at least dives, if not considered a 'dive doctor.' There are particulars involving diving that a doctor who does not dive may not home in on. Mine does dive. You might want to warn your family doctor that you are considering diving before you even take lessons; that way, even if they do not dive, you've given them the opportunity to find out what they might need to know. I lucked out; when my ear was giving me trouble just before my lessons, I learned that my doctor dives...that comforted me greatly.

Related to this, you should always get a checkup before you even start lessons.

"Stop, Breath, and Think. Don't Panic."
Okay, so it's not quite "stop, drop, and roll," but the best life saving technique anyone who dives can learn is how not to panic. I personally feel panic is the second biggest cause of diving fatalities ("not following training/stupidity" being the biggest). I do not care if you are tangled in a net with your mask full of water at 100 feet...if your second stage is in your mouth, you should be able to breathe. From there you just breathe normally and relax, and start going through the steps that you learned to solve your dive problems. Heck, if your dive buddy is nearby and has his knife (you should always have at least a small one), they should at least have started calmly freeing you from the net. It's often up to yourself to clear your mask (you'll learn that one in class), and once your mask is clear you'll be able to see. If you can breathe and see, there should be very little that can stop you from making a safe ascent (or continuing your dive if it's safe). I recently was passed a very good link about panic.

"Do You Have Oxygen On Board?"
First aid for both OverExpansion Injuries and Decompression Sickness is 100% oxygen. It was suggested to me by my instructor that the first sign of a poor dive boat/location was an answer of "No" to the question "Do you have O2 nearby?" ("nearby" meaning on the boat or onsite). If the answer is "No," don't go...who knows what else might be wrong.

Past 100 Feet, It's Not Really That Interesting
Not having been there I can't tell you this for certain, but most people will tell you that past 100 feet (SSI's suggested recreational dive limit) there is not a whole lot to see. Your bottom time with regular air is about 5 minutes (and technically, that time starts when you start your initial decent) past 100 feet. For me, there's just something about having that much water over me that makes me think maybe I don't want that much more. I even have aspirations (in about two years maybe) of getting my Instructor's Certification, and I tell you I don't think I will ever go beyond 100 feet (and most sites I'll go to have a bottom well above that).

"Do Not Molest The Wildlife"
SSI holds the opinion that most sea life will only attack you out of defense. It may be obvious but anything that's got spines on it shouldn't be picked up unless you'd like a few of those spines in your hand. Jellyfish might look soft, but all it takes is a little contact with skin for the tentacles to inject poison into you. Keeping neutrally buoyant and staying a safe distance from the sea life or site floor will minimize your risk of injury. Be careful if you do touch the seabed; some rays bury themselves in sand and don't like to be stepped on...given enough warning, the ray will reveal themselves and swim away (the alternative is to get stung, which may involve poison, a hospital stay and significant physical damage to the area struck). You can actually kill coral just by touching it. Sticking your hand in a hole in the rocks isn't a good idea; you might find a moray trying to sleep that doesn't like to be rudely awaken by your (even unintentional) home invasion. Barracuda follow you mostly because they are curious, and keep a distance from you, from what I am told...unless you piss them off, or have something nice and shiny on your gear that they might mistake for a meal, they will just look at you. Sharks also tend to be extremely shy, and the two you will most likely see are actually quite gentle. Most of the time you will know something is up if a shark is stalking you...

I would personally suggest that you not touch anything unless instructed exactly how to by someone who has had the appropriate training.

"I Guess We Have To Go Commando"
From personal experience I have learned that it's a good idea to take a change of clothes with you; at least a change of underwear (if you had shorts to start out with). This provides you an alternative to sitting in a damp bathing suit during the trip back to shore (which can be long) or the car ride home (which can also be quite long).
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