In this new series Scubaverse blogger, Isobel Fairbairn, keeps a diary as she learns to dive with her university BSAC club (Salford University Diving Society or SUDS for short). Follow her progress as she heads underwater for the very first time.
Week 2 (8th March 2022)
Never hold your breath.
This is the first line I have written at the top of my notebook for this week’s theory session, as I continue to drill it into my head alongside the intrusive fear that one day I will simply get into the ocean in my scuba gear and just decide to hold my breath (for what reason I’m unsure).
Alongside this came the body checks associated with diving, whether one is fit to dive or not well enough, air checks, effects of nitrogen, decompression procedures and how to plan out a dive safely and correctly.
Once the writing was out of the way (sorry theory lessons you just aren’t quite the same as practical ones)… we went down to start our practical. This time me and my buddy had to put our equipment on out of the water, as last time we were lucky enough to put it on in the shallow end. I say ‘lucky enough’ as it was today that I realised how actually horrifically heavy the whole kit is OUT of water. I thought last week was a little difficult! This week, I thought I was going to topple over; I guess I have even less upper body strength than I first imagined. We did our first equipment checks, buddy checks and some more signals were learnt. We learnt the signals for when you’re out of air (the chopping off of the head imitation) and what to do with your buddy if this situation happens including how to use someone’s extra air when needed.
Now to me, of course, the idea of losing my air supply when underwater is one of the most horrifying thoughts ever but it turns out, there’s something worse you have to learn how to do: clearing your mask. Why? How? Whose idea was this? This took me a few goes, to slowly let water in halfway, hmm okay that’s fine. To fully fill my mask and then clear it out through my nose? Even longer. Worst thing ever. Spluttering everywhere to begin with. Absolutely never want to do that again, although I will have to.
Although after we did manage to get all of those skills ticked off and cleared, we worked on perfecting our buoyancy, which was a lot more fun now we’d sort of figured it out, then we got to swim up and down the pool freely following our diving instructor a couple of times and it was great! Feeling a bit like a fish on my Tuesday evenings is now definitely one of my top five favourite things. It is so freeing and calming at the same time, a complete alien experience but in the most wonderful way.
Tips for… Choosing Equipment
We are divers…we all love the nice new shiny dive toys right?! But, how do we choose what is best to get? The best brand or because it’s orange? In our experience, we suggest that ultimately it comes down to what you are going to use it for.
Each year we have divers come onto our dive boat or for shore diving with their light fins that are perfect for the Red Sea, but end up with their feet in the air in a drysuit; and their regulators which are not cold water rated ultimately ending up in free-flow. So, our first suggestion with equipment is to not only consider the purchase based on what your current diving entails, but consider your future aspirations.
This does not just relate to warm water and cold water diving, but what you may consider in the future in relation to specialities. Will you be looking to progress into Advanced diving and using Nitrox? Then purchase a dive computer with this capability. It is easy to jump into buying dive equipment just because we want it now! But take a moment to consider your future diving journey.
I guess the next question that we get asked all of the time is what to buy? What items as a new diver should we get? Admittedly what we suggest and what others suggest will vary, however our personal suggestion is to get your own mask and dive computer. An ill-fitting mask will make your diving far from enjoyable and so this should (in our opinion) be a first for all divers, and a dive computer – well, we all want to start logging our dives!
Not only that, but these are two items you can take with you anywhere in the world… easy to pack into your suitcase and not specific to a local area. Getting these two items start your equipment purchase journey but also gives you the time to try the other items such as regulators and BCD’s and see what best works for you.
The last tip of ours in relation to equipment is… don’t rush into buying and buy what YOU want. Just because someone else has it, does not mean that it will work for you. If you want a red framed mask yet the store only has yellow, wait for the red to come on order. If you purchase correctly, you can most definitely have these same items for a number of years, especially when looked after correctly. Get it right the first time and save yourself the headache of extra expense in the future.
Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com
Jump into… Starting a charity
As if having two dive centres and Scuba Escape was ‘not enough’, I also decided, last year, to set up a charity for mental health in diving. Why? Because it seemed as though it was not just my personal experience demonstrating a need for this. Some of you may or may not be aware of certain issues that prevailed in the previous year, what you do not know are the stories from the previous four years before that. We can leave that conversation for another time though!
We usually see diving as a way to improve our mental health, at least I hope that is the case for most of you. A minority of others, despite loving the activity, are subject to bullying within our industry. Don’t just take my word for it. From a survey completed by over 250 of you in the UK, 72% of you said that you had either been bullied, or witnessed bullying. 62% said that this still exists. A scary thought for our amazing industry.
So what are the actual issues? Many of you stated that the bullying related to agencies or equipment, a person’s size, gender and age were also focal points within the survey. All things that have no bearing on us undertaking Scuba Diving at all. This presented the need for the charity. People completing this survey had stated that they remain with these individuals or organisations because they have nowhere to go, yet want to dive; others also stating that they stopped diving altogether because of having no other place. That then became the idea for the ‘Just Scuba Charity’, which is, as it says, Just Scuba. No politics, nobody caring what equipment you are using… Or what size your drysuit is… just diving.
The charity will be starting up this year as I have been waiting, and successfully obtaining, charitable status. We will be asking for divers wishing to volunteer as ‘dive buddies’ that others having personal issues with their mental health in diving can come to, and just dive. To find a new network of friendly, non-judgemental people to share their passion of the water. Other aspects of the charity will include mental health support options for divers to access, information on how to respond to bullying, to challenge the behaviour or report it, and for those feeling like they have nowhere to turn, a contact email and chat to access support.
Whether you have been affected by bullying within diving or not, unfortunately it does exist and now is the time for us all to come together and stand up to this, to protect our diving community.
If you have not yet checked out the charity, please visit www.thejustscubacharity.org
Clare began Duttons Divers at just 19 years old and a short while later became one of the world’s youngest PADI Course Directors. Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com
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