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.
My third week of my dive training and so far, I’d argue my hardest.
Our theory this week consisted of all the “what happens if?” questions and answers, all the terrifying dangers that come with diving if proper safety is not ensured.
Of course, some of it feels like common sense, paying attention to your surroundings, always making sure to check on your buddy, but some of it really isn’t common sense, and I came away with a head full of new information (and anxieties) that I wish I’d left in the classroom. But of course wishes don’t often come true and I am well aware of the fact all of this information is to make sure we are all practicing proper procedure and therefore at our safest, so all of this information won’t be leaving my brain anytime in the future.
This week we learnt about DCI; the symptoms, preventions and treatment. We were informed on the importance of anticipating problems, being prepared and how prevention is better than a cure! We were presented with the “incident pit”, the pit of horrors type diagram and how its significance holds great importance as one thing can lead to another and suddenly you can be out of your depth, both literally and metaphorically.
We were also shown the importance of having proper gas canister checks and the issues that can come with contaminated breathing gas, oxygen toxicity and Nitrogen narcosis.
Onto the practical session of the evening:
Backwards rolling into the pool to begin with ended up being quite enjoyable, it was our first time trying it out and as nervous as I was when I stood with my back to the water with my feet on the edge of the pool, it went a lot smoother than I expected. I’ll be brutally honest I think I almost fell in backwards anyway, so I just went with it without giving myself too much time to overthink it. Following a backwards descent into the water me and my buddy then did a swim around the pool, monitored by our instructor where we used the hand signals we had learnt so far in practice on our own i.e. “I’m the leader”, “you’re the leader”, “are you okay?” “gas check?” this was fun, it was exciting to be able to freely swim around and use the information I’d learned (and realised it had stuck and I was getting better each week!)
Next up came the bit I’d like to now tell readers I’m STILL working on, if anyone has any miracles for how to do this easily, someone, please, enlighten me, my mermaid dreams felt like they were slipping from my grasp during this task.
We had to perform a mask removal underwater and reapply the mask after we had removed it. Now I’m sat, on my knees, underwater watching my buddy do this procedure, she completes it, very well might I add, and during every single one of those painstaking minutes watching her, my sense of dread is just slowly increasing, next thing I know my instructor is Infront of me asking me to now perform the mask removal so what do I do? Obviously I take my mask off! And then I panic, I bottle it. I come up to the surface, gasping for air a little bit, even though I’ve had my reg in the whole time, I’m still panicking at this point and I’m very aware that I just don’t think I’ll be getting this done this session.
My instructor, who is a very lovely man tells me to just take time off and we can get it done next time and not to worry, but, of course I spend the next two hours worrying, listening to my already qualified friend Jamie tell me to “just practice in the bath, it’ll be fine” much to my amusement, but I actually may take this as serious advice. So, to my mother, if you’re reading this now, please don’t be surprised if you catch me snorkelling in the bath when I’m home for easter.
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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