Diving is something that lots of people want to try at some point in their life. It can be the most amazing experience and at the same time terrifying. My parents hoped my ‘try-dive’ for my 18th birthday treat would cure my obsession with diving. Unfortunately the amazing instructors who took me on that experience dive started a love for the underwater world which is still as strong today. As an instructor I have lots of people say they tried it and it was an awful experience, but this shouldn’t be the case. There are just a few things to remember when you try diving for the first time.
Choose your school carefully
The instructor and school can be the biggest factor in your experience. A good instructor can give you the experience to start a lifelong obsession. A bad instructor can put you off for life and at the very worst cause injury. Research who you are diving with, ask others for recommendations and visit before you start to see if you get on with the instructors and staff. There are a number of options SSI, PADI and BSAC are the main organisations. Look at their training programs and select the one that suits your time frame, learning style and future diving plans
The night before you start diving make sure you sleep well. Concentration is needed and being tired will not help with this. Diving is also very physical and you need to be as awake and fit as you can be.
Stay off the alcohol
Drinking and diving do not go well together. A hangover does not help with the effects of diving. Dehydration is a known precursor to decompression problems so making sure you drink lots of water and avoid alcohol is needed for your own health.
Complete the theory
A lot of time is spent in the classroom with dive training. If you can get the theory completed before you reach your dive destination then this saves a lot of time when you could be off exploring. If you find an organisation that you want to learn with investigate theory options.
Declare any illnesses
The medical declaration that you will be asked to complete is really important. Be truthful even if it means you may not be able to dive straight away. Diving when you are unwell or have certain conditions puts both you and your instructor or buddy at risk. Just be honest! Lots of conditions are not instant disqualifications, they just need to be highlighted to your instructor or buddy and adaptations made to your training or techniques. In addition to this, don’t dive when you are feeling unwell or have a cold. Decongestants may solve the problem in the short term, but if their effects wear off while you are underwater you may find your ears and sinuses become painfully uncomfortable.
Clearing your ears
Lots and lots of people have trouble with their ears. This is easily rectified but many resort dive instructors don’t teach you how to equalize the pressure in your ears. As you go down under the water, the pressure of the water increases. Unfortunately your ears don’t always keep up. Go down as slowly as you can, pinch your nose and swallow, exactly as you would to sort your ears out after a flight. Keep doing this as you go down, and your ears will be fine. If you feel pain, stop and try to equalize. If it won’t happen go up very slightly and try again. New divers ears take time to sort themselves out but eventually they clear very easily. Just do not force them, it is better to abort the dive than force your ears to clear and cause damage.
Lots of new divers find that they feel enclosed. Try to ignore the feeling of the regulator in your mouth and take normal breathes. Look around you and see the huge open space of the ocean (or swimming pool). You are not enclosed in any way. If it is a problem just breathe, take your time and try to calm your mind.
Stay with your instructor or buddy
It is very easy to be in your own world underwater, but you need to stay with your instructor or buddy. This does not however mean you need to sit on their fins or be in their face. You just need to be within easy reach. Can you turn your head and see them? Are you able to reach them within a couple of fin strokes? Also remember that there are others in the group and you need to be aware of where they are and what they are doing. Try not to be the person who is always in the way!
Say if you are not happy
Do not continue diving if you are not happy. It is better to abort a dive and try again another day. Being scared, unwell or generally uncomfortable is not a good place to be during a dive. Incidents can escalate quickly and if you feel uneasy, tell your instructor so they can help you. This is not the time to be brave and pull your big girl knickers up. Say something and get some support and help.
Enjoy every minute
My first ever dive sticks in my mind 25 years and nearly 1000 dives later. This is how it should be. It is such a special experience that hopefully with the right instructor and training you will have bitten the bug well and truly after your first few dives.
Give it a couple of dives
Not everyone finds it easy to dive. Don’t give up too soon. Stick with it for a few dives and see if things fall in to place. As you become more relaxed things become easier and first dive nerves are replaced with excitement.
Don’t be afraid to say it ‘isn’t for you’
If you try diving and you really aren’t happy, say so. If after a few dives you are not enjoying it then say so! No-one is going to think any less of you. Some people love diving, some people really hate it. Only you can make the decision. If you don’t enjoy diving, enjoy the scenery, the beaches, a good book and the cocktails while others go diving.