There are many skills in scuba to master. One of the most important, and one that often causes divers grief, is a lack of situational awareness. Even though the oceans we delve into are vast, we need to have awareness of what is immediately around us. Here is just a short list of some of the more obvious, but often violated.
- Where is your buddy? You have a responsibility to monitor where your buddy is. Above you? Below You? Behind you? When ascending and descending is even more important that you maintain a visual contact at the very least. Visibility affects this greatly. The less vis, the closer you should be. Heck if vis is nonexistent, holding hands is allowed! Really!
- Where is the bottom? On a shore dive, you often follow the bottom contour out to deeper waters and back. But if you are on a wall, or plan on doing a blue water descent. You really need to watch your depth gauge and be alert. Again following the wall down or a line is preferable. But if you are not, be aware of where you are. In many advance diving situations a charter may drop you on a wall that goes hundreds of feet down. You are responsible that you know where you are at. Assuming you can drop to the bottom can be a fatal mistake. Knowing where the bottom is and not crashing into it, damaging aquatic life is important.
- What is above me? When ascending, you need to monitor your buddy as well as keep an eye as to what is above me. And monitor your ascent rate carefully. Most computers have built in audible warnings, but that should be a back up. You need to be aware!
- How deep am I? Do not blindly follow your buddy to any depth. Maybe they have a 100 Cf tank and you have an 80 cf tank. Monitor your air. Though we dive in buddy teams, each diver is responsible for their own dive profile. Blindly following your buddy and assuming they have your profile in mind is a recipe for disaster. You should not be diving beyond your training.
- Where is out? In case of emergency, which is the fastest way out of the water? Take a compass reading before your drop below the surface. If you are uncomfortable with underwater navigation, take a refresher or sign up for the PADI Underwater Navigation course. You should have a general idea where you are underwater in relation to your exit point at all times. Relying on your buddy has consequences.
- Keep an eye around you. Taking pictures is not an excuse to ignore everything else around you. Be alert. Plan your dives and dive your plans. Plan turn around points. Stick to them. Have good buoyancy management. Monitor your air and keep track of buddy’s air. Review signals before during buddy checks and do those buddy checks.
Common Sense? You would think so. Surprising how many divers we notice not doing these things. Don’t be one of them. Have an awareness of what is around, will make your dives much more enjoyable.
Food for thought!
Dive smart, dive safe!