The first thing they added was emergency weight drop. In this exercise, the student, while at the surface, drops her weight pockets to experience the increase in positive buoyancy. It first, I thought this was a complete “duh.” Who doesn’t know that if they drop their weights, even with no air in their BC, they will rapidly become positively buoyant? Well, there is no teacher like experience. I tried it on a couple of recent students, setting up the scenario: You surface out of air, help is not near, and you are exhausted, feeling panic rise. I instructed, in that situation, that their best course of action would be to drop your weights. I reminded them that we talked about this extensively in the classroom and they of course understood that they would instantly be bobbing much higher in the water after this. To my surprise, after they dropped their weights they commented in surprise, “Boy I had no idea this would make that big of a difference”. I believe that this exercise made an impression that will stay with those divers and will better cement the option of dropping weights in an emergency. They are less likely to be victims because they did not avail themselves of this simple solution for buoyancy.
Another additional skill is responding to a loose cylinder. Again, I thought all divers will undoubtedly have this happen to them or their dive buddy at some point in their diving careers, but this is something a diver can figure out on his own. However, the pointers that an experienced instructor can give students on how to remedy this situation, as well as actually doing it underwater, can go a long way towards instilling confidence in the divers’ own readiness to dive away from the careful eye of the instructor. The only thing I wish they would have thought of, would be adding the sign language used to communicate the problem and solution. I plan to add that to my course, though.
Lastly for this blog, I will share the air supply awareness skill. Students are required to know their air pressure, without looking at their gauges, within 200psi when the instructor asks them. How many divers think they can do that? Have you ever been surprised at the amount of air you have in your tank? The point of this skill, obviously is to ingrain a habit in the diver of looking at their gauges and being constantly aware of where they at with their air. It is often the case that once a diver is certified, he becomes lax, knowing that he will not have to “do tricks” for anyone. This is where it can get dangerous. The diver starts having fun, looking here and there at all the life around them, enjoying the freedom of the underwater environment, until suddenly he remembers his gauges and he may find himself low on air and far from his exit point. Hopefully, this new batch of divers will have developed a healthy habit of monitoring their air closely and they can enjoy all the things the underwater world has to offer without lapsing into carelessness. It is in ever diver’s interest that the sport maintains its exceptional safety record.
Next week I will share a few more additions to the PADI open water program, and hopefully, even if you are an experienced diver I can draw attention to a few skills you have forgotten about, or will find reason to work on.
P.S. Don’t forget to check the web calendar and make plans to join Team Manta this summer!