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Three simple things you can do FOR FREE before your next Scuba diving course that will change the way you dive, forever!



As a technical and cave diver and recreational instructor that makes a living (of sorts!) from teaching scuba diving courses, my students are sometimes surprised when I suggest that before starting a class with me that they make a few small changes in their technique or equipment that cost nothing, don’t need an instructor looking over their shoulder and can be made before even going on a course. Although Scuba diving courses are always the best way to learn new and important dive skills, these are the three easy things that I suggest that you can do FOR FREE before your next course begins.

1)    Put your running shoes on!

James Sanderson B

My dive buddy and former student Dan really took the advice to heart!

When I am asked “what’s the best piece of dive equipment you have ever bought?” my answer is always the same “A pair of good running shoes!”

No one needs to be a superstar athlete to have more fun diving, but finding a few short periods of time on a regular basis to get a little exercise can only be a good thing.

Good cardiovascular health will promote good circulation and improve gas transport from the tissues to the lungs during ascent. This will mean that you are not only more efficiently transporting the excess nitrogen from the body tissues during ascent but also the waste Carbon Dioxide. This last point in particular is important as it’s the increased levels of Carbon Dioxide dissolved in the blood that triggers the breathing reflex. So if your levels of CO2 continue to rise so your rate of respiration will continue to rise as well and you will find yourself burning through your gas a little (or sometimes a lot) quicker than you would like. In my opinion excess CO2 (or hypercapnia) is overlooked by recreational scuba divers and is responsible for a whole host of common troubles from the high gas consumption to post dive headaches, nausea and also dive stress and narcosis (it’s several times more narcotic than Nitrogen!).

I would of course recommend consulting a health and fitness professional before starting any exercise regime but you can start small right away.  Set yourself some small goals and rewards – for example, aiming to get a really good time on the swim tests that are part of most scuba diving courses can be used as a great incentive to start gentle training. Although not a solution by itself, being a little fitter will make diving a whole lot easier. Just remember that something as simple as a good walk will cost your nothing and is something you can do right after reading this!

2) Sort out your dangles! 

James Sanderson C

A clean and streamlined configuration will pay dividends on your diving

There is phrase that we use here in the UK to describe a diver with all sorts of kit hanging off of them; we call them a ‘Christmas tree’.

As divers we are mindful of impacting delicate coral and damaging the environment but are often unaware of our own loose equipment causing a little train of havoc! A loose SPG can badly impact sensitive environments. However a lose back up regulator or ‘octopus’ is the worst culprit because apart from possible environmental damage it may be gently bubbling, wasting precious gas and limiting your dive time. Worse still it may not be in a convenient location to give to a low on gas buddy. Finally it may have collected debris that an out of gas diver that is just about to use will inhale on their first breath from it. Not a nice prospect. A simple silicon snorkel keeper looped back on itself through a shoulder d-ring is the best and cheapest option I have ever seen for securing an Octopus. With no kit dangles not only will you find that you can get closer to critters without surprising or stunning them with your SPG, but you will use less gas as your drag through the water will be reduced – and you might just be able to respond to a buddy better too if the need arises.

James Sanderson D

My students carefully evaluate equipment streamlining and hose routing during a GUE Fundamentals class

It will cost you nothing to take some time to properly secure your gauges and hoses and to look at all the potentially loose elements of your own dive rig. So right after reading this, go and fetch your rig from the garage and tidy it all up! 

3. Lose some weight (lead that is!)

James Sanderson E

Neutral buoyancy through correct weighting will make your ascents easier and safer!

The simple truth is you probably dive overweighted; most divers I have trained are (well at the start of a course with me anyway).  Diving overweighted is a bad habit that you are taught during your first scuba diving classes and it is almost never broken.  Just think that for every Kg of extra weight you have, it’s more mass to have to swim and is a bigger volume of gas to manage in your BC or suit.

But what is properly weighted?  What you are aiming for is to be neutrally buoyant with almost no gas in your buoyancy compensator, your exposure suit compressed a little and with nearly empty tanks simulating the end of a dive at a safety stop having shared gas.

So what you can do before your next course that will cost your nothing is do a proper weight check and the end of your diving day. If you can still easily descend with only a little gas in your tanks then don’t be afraid to start removing weight in small increments over your coming dives until you are neutral with your minimum amount of tank pressure. Don’t forget to adjust your weight as you move from Salt to fresh or go for a larger or higher pressure tank. Every lump of lead you can remove is less weight to have to swim around on a dive causing you to burn more gas, reduce the length of your dive and reduce your fun.

So there you go and I hope these three simple things find their way into your good diving habits!

Safe diving.

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James has spent nearly 10 years teaching and diving in some of the world’s most enviable and challenging dive locations. He is an active trimix and cave diver and now has nearly 2000 dives in such diverse locations such as Caribbean reefs, Fjords in the Arctic Circle, submerged volcanoes in Coral Sea and the caves of Florida, Mexico and France and wrecks of the UK's south coast. He now teaches exclusively as a GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) instructor for TecLife (

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