In the language of the automobile collector, there’s a term called the “everyday driver.” It’s the nice-ish car that you drive to the grocery store or on your daily commute. Then there’s the “other” car — the expensive classic that sits idle for months at a time and only gets taken out on short excursions when the weather is perfect.
Some divers fall into the category of “other.” They only venture out into the ocean on bright sunny days when the seas are flat and the underwater visibility is exceptional. They probably have a great time. But they might be missing out, because there’s a whole lot of fun to be had as a diver, on a regular basis. No matter what the weather. Here we’ll look at a variety of ways in which we can be everyday divers year-round.
It’s not breaking news that cardiovascular fitness is critical to optimal health. If you don’t already have a regular fitness routine, today is the day to start. An ideal way to make a direct fitness connection to scuba diving is with swimming. Lap swimming can be a great aerobic workout that will help keep your legs toned for swimming on scuba. In addition, most swimming centers offer water exercise classes designed to provide a low-impact total body workout. You might think these are just for senior citizens or the physically challenged but they’re honest-to-goodness hard-core exercise.
Breath control is important for divers and is a fundamental skill taught in many yoga classes. Learning to pay attention to your breathing cycle during yoga can help you improve your air consumption as a diver, and it’s an excellent way to develop a stronger sense of mind-body awareness for daily living. It’s a win-win.
When was the last time you tried a mask flood and clear drill? How about a simulated free ascent? Could you safely remove and replace your buoyancy compensator (BC) underwater if you needed to? These critically important lifesaving skills into the “move it or lose it” category. Find a buddy with whom you can practice a variety of air-sharing techniques, or sign up for a refresher at your local dive center. You’ll enjoy greater peace of mind by keeping your skills sharp.
While you’re practicing basic skills, take a bit of time to review the placement and configuration of your gear. Sometimes the smallest adjustments can improve your comfort and safety in the water and the pool is the place to try them. Try a different mask strap, spring fin straps, or different ways of securing hoses. Would a different regulator mouthpiece be more comfortable?
Professional dive centers often have pools on site, and some stores occasionally sponsor in-pool demo events where you can sample the latest regulators, buoyancy compensators and even dry suits.
Hit the Beach
Good beach divers know the subtle nuances of a dive site because they take the time to learn about it. There are several things you can do to familiarize yourself with the beach location, its features, and any potential hazards that might exist. For starters, take a “no dive” trip to your favorite beach diving site just to watch how the waves come in. This is a great opportunity to visualize how you’ll enter and exit the water the next time you visit the site for a dive. In addition, spend a bit of time researching sites you intend to dive. This includes asking other divers for tips, buying a book of local dive sites, and surfing the Internet for maps or other information.
When beach dive conditions may not be ideal for a scuba dive, they could be fun for just enjoying the beach. One of the best beach divers I ever knew always kept a body-board in his truck with him. If the waves made for a dicey beach entry, he’d “go with the flow” by stashing his gear and riding the waves instead.
Even if you don’t set foot in the water, you’re at the beach, right? There’s nothing wrong with that.
Maybe you’re not in the market for a gear purchase just now, but sometimes a trip to your favorite dive center is just what you need to stay motivated for diving. If you’re like me, you probably like that “new wet suit” smell — which you can’t get from cruising gear sites on the Internet. While you’re there, you might find a new and useful accessory, or maybe you’ll learn about an upcoming trip or dive club gathering. If nothing else, you’ll likely enjoy some good scuba talk with the staff at the dive center.
If you are in the market for some new dive gear, you might find a few bargains on year-end clearance items.
Most dive stores also choose this time to rotate out their rental inventory, too, so it’s possible you could enjoy steep savings on used gear. But use caution when purchasing used rental gear. Buy only from a reputable dive store that has refurbished the gear prior to the sale. And make sure you know the service record and whatever warranties are, or are not, included with the purchase.
We all know to inspect our gear before each use, but get in the habit of having your gear professionally serviced each year. Regulators rarely need a complete rebuild. If the regulator has been treated well during the busy diving season including a thorough and complete freshwater rinse and soak (with the first-stage dust cap in place) a tune-up should be a relatively simple and inexpensive procedure. By scheduling your regulator tune-up well in advance of your next dive outing you’ll be prepared when a wintertime diving opportunity arises.
Try to time you tank VIPs and hydros this time of year, too. And have your BC serviced, too. It is second only to the regulator in terms of moving parts that need regular inspection.
Go On A Date With Your Dive Computer
Probably your least understood piece of dive gear is your dive computer. Go on, admit it. Many of us took it right out of the box and just started using it. My compliments to the manufacturers for making dive computers so easy to use but if you are not reading the owner’s manual you are selling yourself short in so many ways. First and foremost not reading the manual is plain dangerous. You need to fully understand any piece of dive gear before you use it, especially your computer. There is no better time to catch up on know-how than now. Fully explore all the features — nitrox, altitude and more. If you’ve lost the owner’s manual, fear not. Most manufacturers make operator’s manuals available on the Internet. It’s likely that you can download a copy for printing, if you’d like.
Log Your Dives
With nearly all dive computers you can now download your dive data to your PC or Mac. Many of us are simply lazy when it comes to logging our dives. Perhaps on the day you originally made the dive you only scratched out a few notes. This data will help you fill in the blanks.
Dive computer logs hold a wealth of information that you can use to improve your skills. One piece of data is possibly the most valuable of all — ascent rate. By analyzing the ascent rate data you can determine if you are diving as safely as you think you are, or if you need to slow it down a notch or two on ascent.
Improve your Imaging
When was the last time you downloaded all the photos from your last dive trip? It’s time to download, edit, sort, classify and name. Give your images ranking but delete, delete, delete the fish butts and out-of-focus blobs. No amount of tweaking is going to correct these shots. Just delete them. Familiarize yourself with photo editing software that will enable you to salvage shots that have just a tiny bit of backscatter or need minimal enhancements.
Look to your local dive center for scuba courses that will help you increase your diving skills. But don’t stop there. Look for educational resources that can make you safer and happier in or around the water, including basic boating and seamanship courses, birdwatching, marine identification, and more.
Some of the best learning opportunities come from like-minded people — like the friends you’ll meet through a dive club. Dive clubs meet year round and talk about the latest in dive gear and destinations, past experiences (good and bad) and how you can better yourself as a diver. And all have a story to share about their latest diving adventures. (Check the club listings section in the back of this issue.)
Immerse Yourself in an Aquarium
Some of the world’s best aquariums can be found in California. The major aquariums include the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. You can actually be a guest diver in the tropical section of the Aquarium of the Pacific. Smaller but just as excellent aquariums are scattered across the state and include the Birch Aquarium (San Diego), Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (San Pedro) and California Science Center (Los Angeles). There is also the much more touristy SeaWorld in San Diego.
Plan Your Next Dive Trip
Like the Jimmy Buffet song, “It’s Five-o’clock Somewhere,” there’s always someplace with ideal diving conditions — even if it’s not in our own backyard. Ask a dive travel specialist about deals that fit your budget and schedule, and get going.
While you’re off enjoying a tropical trip, don’t forget to start planning your local fun. California dive trips can fill quickly, especially for summer and lobster season. Make your plans now for a wonderful California dive vacation either on multi-day Channel Islands dive trips, a coastal exploratory vacation, or island based fun (Avalon on Catalina Island). So put in your vacation dates request early and plan on diving California for a long weekend, week or more.
There is no reason to let ourselves — and our gear — get dry and dusty during the winter. Or any time at all, for that matter. When we think and act like divers, we let the diving lifestyle we love become a part of everything we do. We are everyday divers.