Start of the season shakedown
A lightly humorous but decidedly useful set of tips for early season preparation. Stuff to check, kit to prepare, advice on pitfalls, kit testing, buddy or boat selection, what to avoid, what to dash headlong into…
## Dive Season Ice Breakers
1. Always have a look over your kit before using it. Taking a deep breath from your regulator and realising you have inhaled a spider is never a great experience.
2. If you’re thinking “what am I doing here”, get out of there! Taking off from where you finished last season is the strategy of a foolish diver. Start with a nice easy warm up dive, you’ll have forgotten how much fun being under the water is so you will enjoy it where ever it is.
3. Every year we get a little older and every year that memory gets a little worse (well it does with me anyway). “Is this weight my fresh water or salt water set up?” Do a weight check! Have a check in your log book, if you have made a note of the weight you used on your last dive, this is an excellent starting point.
4. Have a read of your computer manual it’s amazing how difficult it is to remember what all those buttons do and what those symbols mean.
5. Your first buddy check of the year is the most important one. This is your opportunity to remember what ALL your bits of kit do and actually physically check they all work just before you get in the water. You will have checked it in your living room and / or the pool but now you’re on a boat and ready to jump in!
6. Remember the sun is still low in the sky and the days are short. Make sure your boat cover will be able to see you with the low sun reflection off the water and leave plenty of time to get home before dark.
7. Being “Dive Fit” is as much about mental attitude as it is about physical fitness. Even if you have been to the gym every day for the last month (as if!) your still not “Dive Fit”. Only undertaking dives can really build up “dive fitness”. Be extra conservative with your planning to start with.
8. The first dive of the year is not the best place to try out your new camera, unless it’s the model you didn’t want and you’re hoping to loose it quickly.
9. Keep an eye out for the rest of the group and your buddy. Those behaving unusually (over quiet or over talkative for example) could be suffering from a little too much pre-dive apprehension!
10. Avoid the incident pit. Things often start to go wrong on the first dive, kit not working quite as it should and soon. Step back, take a breather and decide if the problem can be easily resolved or not. If not, sit out this one, the whole dive season is ahead of you.
11. Your dry suit will most likely still work (especially if you have looked after it). Some feel the need to add 5 extra layers for the early dives. This could result in overheating, buoyancy problems and being under weighted at the end of the dive. You might well be better off wearing your usual under suit and cutting the dive a little shorter if you need to.
12. Don’t forget the boat. If the boat doesn’t work everyone’s dive is ruined. Check the radio, the dates on the flares, replace the CO2 cartridges in the life jackets and so on. Don’t forget to run the engine through at home after the service.
13. Those April showers can sneak up on you. The early part of the year is notorious for heavy squally rain showers and thunder storms. Don’t just check the wind, have a look at the weather as well.
14. You can never be too sure of the visibility at the start of the season. Often it’s very good before the plankton blooms start to roll in. However, recent storms, heavy rain fall and similar can quickly put pay to that. Try and get some local and recent knowledge if you can before dumping your divers in!
15. Checking those cylinder test dates can save a lot of embarrassment at the air station with all your fellow divers tutting and groaning at you. If you stored your cylinder as recommended (upright with a low pressure inside) – don’t forget to get it filled!
16. Try and remember what you normally do with things. I did a whole dive last year having had to borrow someone’s gloves only to find mine were neatly tucked into the foot pockets of my fins! I know – my boots were really thick and I didn’t feel them – honest!
## Always obey the rules of the first dive of the season:
1. It is compulsory to ask questions such as “Remind me, why are we doing this?” and “So when exactly does the water warm up?”
2. Every diver must return to trainee status for the purpose of kitting up for the first dive of the season. Instructors are allowed to pretend to know how all their kit fits together, this can be achieved by allowing the students to kit up first and watching carefully.
3. Casually put your fingers in the mask bucket or over the side of the RHIB when no one is looking to see if the water really is as cold as you think it is, simply has to be done.
4. The newly purchased gadget / Christmas present must be completely forgotten about on the first dive thus demonstrating how vital it is.
5. Wet and dry suits do shrink significantly over the winter and huge amounts of effort will be required to get them on.
6. Your buddy will swear blind that they charged their torch after their last dive, whilst apologising for ruining yours due to their lack of illumination.
7. About 15 minutes into the dive you will remember that signal for “Time Out”.
8. The first words to your buddy after the dive have to be “That wasn’t as bad as I though it was going to be”.
9. When it’s wet and cold, the pub is the only place where discussion of “tomorrows diving” is permitted.