Are You An Experienced Scuba Diver? 5 Ways to Self-Assess

They say that experience is the toughest teacher because she gives the test first and lesson afterwards. So are you an experienced diver? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Divers Ready!. My name’s James. Thank you so much for joining me. If you new here considered to hit that subscribe button down there because on this channel I use my passion and expertise as a professional diving instructor to help make you a better diver. And if you click that little bell icon you can be sure to never miss any of our content. So today I want to bring the channel back on track. I feel like one of the last videos I made was kind of a bummer video. It’s kind of a downer, about from face snorkel masks and the trouble with them. And I really want this channel to be about positivity and inspiration and really help you be a better diver. With that in mind what I want to talk about today is experience. What qualifies as experience? How do you get experience? And what does it mean to be an experienced diver? And I want to preface this by saying it’s not about being better than somebody else or a ranking system or a point scoring system because we don’t have that in scuba diving. That’s not a thing. It’s not about chest beating and “I’ve got more experience than you”. It’s about getting to a level where you can self assess. And know what good diving is and get confidence from your growth. Not over confidence, but at least confidence in your own abilities to handle situations that may arise. Experience is a relative thing and in diving experiences relative to the group that you dive with. Personally for me, I enjoy being the least experienced diver in the group. It doesn’t happen very often because I’ve been doing this for a long time. But whenever I’m in the position of being surrounded by people who have been doing it longer and have more dives and more experience than I do. That’s when I can learn. And I’m still trying to be a better diver. I’m still trying to make my next dive better than my last dive. And the reason I’m making this video today is because I get to dive with two people who I consider to be legends in the sport. One is a very well renowned underwater photographer and the other guy is deep diving expedition diver, who’s been there and done that, when it comes to the world’s deepest recognized. So I’m heading out of here now my truck is already loaded. I’ve got to drive about an hour north of here to meet these guys. We’re out to do a 60 meter wreck dive. It’s the low rounds out of Pompano Beach, Florida We’ll see what the conditions are like when we get there. The surface is supposed to be beautiful according to the weather. I’m really looking forward to a great dive from these two guys. So follow me. So we’re off to dive the Lowrance this morning, she is about 60 meters deep and about 300 feet long. She’s one of the bigger wrecks in South Florida. And she’s just here at a Pompano. We were on Scuba Time Charters. I’ve always wanted that, is it the Lawrance? Lowrence? Lowrance? Larry? Today, I’m filming a lot about experience and I said the reason I’m doing this video today is because it’s unusual because, I’m the baby on the boat. I’m probably the least experienced out of all three of us. I mean, I don’t consider myself a baby. But with 90% of the other boats that Im on. But I’m certainly not as experienced as you are in photography, and Mikahal with all of his adventures. I just worry about bringing everybody home with most of their equipment. Each diver is different. Right? I mean, I have had students that I knew the first day, when they were in the pool that hey were going to be divers for life. I had a husband-and-wife team after their first in water session, they just bought a complete line of gear because they were on top of it. They knew, they were so comfortable, they were so calm, they just so… Yeah, for sure. And I’ve known ex-military tough guys, that had the worst bicycle kicks and fell to panic. I cant even, each person is different. And its imperative actually. In my view, youre never comfortable. As soon as you start being comfortable thats the beginning of the end. And you have to pass one or two bad days. When everything goes south. Yeah. If you pass this day, then yeah, you may be ok. Until you’ve had that bad day you should never be comfortable. I think your general conditions are hugely important when it comes to gaining experience. If you do your first 20 dives in bad viz, in cold water, in a dry suit. You’re going to find it a lot easier to transition to tropical warm water diving than the other way around. If you start with 20 tropical water dives and then decide you want to go and dive in the Great Lakes there’s going to be a much bigger learning curve. So let me give you this as an example, if you take two divers and one’s got 100 dives, all of which are in the same place and a second diver who’s only got 50 dives but each one of those times was different. Who’s the most experienced? I would argue diver two. It is absolutely gorgeous out here! Great, and we’re back! Gear has been rinsed and put away. The James has been rinsed. Not put away yet though. A couple of more things I want to say. So as if proving my point experience gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards. Something just happened on that dive that hasn’t happened to me for a long time. And it was a good refresher, reminder, whatever you want to call it. And that was at the end of the dive when Mikhail and I went to shoot our DSMBs. My primary reel jammed. And it was an avoidable thing because I leant that reel to a student and he’d give me back. It looked fine, but I should have checked it because it was actually entangled underneath the top layer of rack. So that was something I should have, should have prepped and checked. Definitely something that is going to stick in my mind as a lesson I can take away from today’s dive. Of course, I deployed my DSMB with my backup reel, of course, everything was fine. But it’s just a nice little lesson to be reminded of. Let me give you an idea of how strong this current was. Have you ever been talking to somebody who then got hit by a train mid conversation? Like a speeding train just….? Like one minute they are there and the next minute they’re not there anymore? That’s what happened to me when I launched my DSMB… I was next to Mikhail, and said I’m gonna shoot my bag. He said, Okay. I shot my bag and he said I just disappeared in front of his very eyes. I was just gone. Out of there. We were shooting one bag each that was always the plan. And I didn’t see him again until we surfaced. It’s hard to track your performance in scuba diving because only one of the five pillars of scuba diving is truly mathematically measurable. It’s not about scoring points. It’s not about who’s the fastest. It’s not about the strongest. Measuring performance can be kind of subjective. With that said though, I want to go through each of the five pillars of scuba diving and give you indicators that you can track to measure your own performance. And get yourself to a place where you’re happy with your own diving. Skill number one is buoyancy control. Without a doubt the key fundamental of scuba diving, is being able to maintain positive buoyancy on the surface and neutral buoyancy throughout the dive. So what are the indicators of great neutral buoyancy? I think for beginner divers to measure your buoyancy performance, if you’re using your lungs as your primary buoyancy adjusters over your BCD that’s already a step in the right direction. Another indicator that your buoyancy is on point is if you have got down to using the exact minimum amount of weight that you need and you’re not over waiting yourself. This is a very common problem with new divers that they think they need more weight than they actually do. I’m gonna make a whole separate video on weighting, so watch out for that one. The second pillar of scuba diving is your breathing. Breathing is the only one of the five pillars of scuba diving that is measurable because you have a gauge on your regulator and you can measure your consumption. So with some basic maths from your dive computer, of the profile of the dive that you just did, you can easily calculate your RMV, which is your respiratory minute volume. The amount of gas that you’re passing in and out of your lungs. And work on bringing that number down so you’re breathing in the most efficient manner. And if you have an air integrated computer, normally as part of your dive log it will give you your RMV. So what you’ve got to do is make a note of the conditions that you had on that dive, because conditions affect how you breathe. Obviously, if you’re swimming in a strong current you’re gonna breathe more. And look to track your progress. And if you see the trend that your RMV is steadily coming down, down, down over time then that’s a good sign. Core skill of scuba diving number three is your trim. What do we mean by trim? We mean be the most hydrodynamic shape in the water possible. So as you move through the water column, you’re in the most efficient position. Trim starts with minimizing drag. We’ve all seen those one-man band divers out there that have ornaments hanging off of them like a Christmas tree. Any beginner diver can take that piece of advice right now. Go and look at your equipment configuration and tidy yourself up. That’s an instant improvement anyone can make. Take your SMB, put it in the pocket. Take your torch strap it onto one of the straps so you don’t have stuff all flailing around down there and hanging off of you. Make sure your gauge is tucked in. Make sure your octopus isn’t hanging out. Just being nice and tight and compact. That’s already gonna be an improvement in your trim. Its going to create less drag which in turn is going to improve your breathing because you’re not going to have to breathe as much to overcome that drag. and then Once you’ve got your gear configured, the next thing is to get you configured. When we talk about trim as well we’re talking about your in water posture if you will. Just like I try to be conscious of when I’m making these videos I have to remind myself all the time chin up shoulders back don’t slouch. You should be doing that in the water too. Head in a nice neutral position slightly up. Shoulders, chest torso , hips and knees all in a nice flat alignment. Arms either tucked in, folded it in front of you or out in front. However you like. But definitely not flailing around like a drunk orangutan. And your legs in the most efficient position for kicking. The best way to measure trim or to track your performance and trim if you like, is to have your body take a video of you. It’s kind of hard when you’re a beginner diver to know what you look like when you dive. So absolutely the best tool for that is an underwater camera. Get your buddy to shoot just a few minutes of video of you swimming along and you can see where you need to make improvements. Fundamental skill number four is propulsion. By propulsion, we mean thin kicking. When we talk about good propulsion, we’re talking about efficiency of movement. Getting just the right amount of kick you need from every fin cycle and no more. That doesn’t mean being the fastest swimmer. That means that, if you know you’ve only got to go a short distance you’re only going to expel a small amount of energy to get there. And it’s about making each kick count. So propulsion ties in with trim because if your body’s in a nice efficient position each kick is going to have less resistance and you’re gonna get the most out of it. And as a beginner diver, don’t try to run before you can walk or sprint swim before you can swim? Just focus on the basics, avoid bicycle kicking, get a nice strong flutter kick going on. If you want to experiment with bringing your knees together and your fins out to the side and getting a frog kick going. Bully for you! And maybe I’ve tricked you a little bit there because in most training agencies handbooks, they’ll tell you that there are only four pillars of scuba diving. Four core fundamental skills. The four I just listed. But I’m adding number five. You’ve got your buoyancy, you’ve got to trim down, your breathing under control and you’ve got your propulsion as efficient as possible. Now what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna wrap that all up and we’re gonna tie a big pretty bow around it. And you know what we’re gonna call that bow? Organization! Yeah, thats right folks. When I teach scuba diving, I teach the five pillars of scuba diving. Buoyancy, breathing, trim, propulsion and organization. What do I mean by organization. Well organization starts at home with gear configuration. With making sure you never forget anything. By using checklists when you pack. And then it carries on when you get to the dive site or the boat. Making sure when you set your gear up, you do your checks, that you protect all of your equipment. Good organization means, you can’t remember the last dive where you’ve got something. I’ve seen certified divers, hell I’ve seen it instructors get in the water without their fins on. I’ve seen the instructors get in the water without a mask. I’ve seen that with my own eyes. Incredible. We’re all human but there’s no real excuse of that. So the fifth skill that I add to that, which has nothing to do with buoyancy, breathing trim or propulsion is organization. And being an organized diver is a good sign that you’re gaining experience. Another good sign of an organized beginner diver is that they know all the functions of their computer. I was on a boat about a month ago and a beginner diver was setting up their gear next to me and they must have sensed that the force was strong with me because they turned to me with a shiny brand-new computer and handed to me and said, “can you help me? I need to know how to program it for 32 percent nitrox”. I’ve never owned an Oceanic computer before I don’t know how to do that. It’s your computer. I don’t have the manuals for every dive computer, that’s ever been made stored in my head. So if you’re a beginner diver, a great indication that your organization is on point is knowing all the settings on your computer. Simple little things like that. And the best thing about these skills are, they are never-ending I am still trying to perfect all five of those skills. You should be too. And remember guys diving is supposed to be fun. Spend five minutes in any scuba chat room or forum online and you’re gonna see there’s a lot of negativity in our so-called community. Haters be hating, but as long as you’re out there having fun, diving safely and not hurting yourself, others or the environment go for it! The only way to gain experience is to go diving! So I’m urging you all, get a dive in, join your local dive clubs, see what diving you are next to you. Don’t wait until next year when you go to Cozumel to do one dive a year. There’s plenty of local diving out there, that you can work on your skills, practice your skills and make yourself a better diver. So that’s it guys. I just wanted to make more of a positive video after I did that death mask video a couple weeks back. I didn’t want this to be like it a downer channel. I love you you guys, I want you to be the best diver you can be. I want you to make your next dive that one percent better than your last dive. Ladies and gentlemen, don’t forget to subscribe to this channel, click that little bell icon so you never miss any of our content. We’ve got so much good stuff coming. I want to tell y’all, I want to tell you what we’re about to do with this channel, and places we’re going to take it. But I can’t yet. I can’t. But I promise it’s gonna be worth it. There are big things brewing and it’s more than just the coffee. I’m James. This was your Divers Ready! mouthpiece Monday for this week. Dive safe. Dive often.

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16 thoughts on “Are You An Experienced Scuba Diver? 5 Ways to Self-Assess

  1. Hello James, I just found your channel. Great stuff, full of valuable information. I guess your just getting started on these videos, so let me wish you luck in your journey. Just keep up the good work. As a diver I am always seeking updated or new information and any thing that will make my diving enjoyable and safe, so Thank you for your time and work.

  2. Thank you for the video, this is very helpful!
    I got certified in May and went on four dives since. Brand new to all this :-). Luckily we have a neighbor who let's me tag along and I am so thankful. I do my best possible before during and after the dive concerning preparation, organization and being the best diving buddy that I can be. But I also see that I still got a long ways to go to get to where I want to be.
    I hope that as I start buying my own stuff and not using slightly different rental items every time it will help make everything a little more consistent. 🙂

  3. So the classic experienced local diver vs the experience traveling diver. Let's take that out a little bit. Let's say diver 1 is a DM in Cozumel, that DM has 2,000 dives all in Cozumel, other than an instructor rating has no special certifications. Diver 2 is an experienced technical diver, full cave, cave ccr, stage cave, and all the way to hypoxic trimix on CCR and OC, along with the ability to teach all the certifications. Diver 2 has 2,000 dives also all around the world. Caves in Florida, Caves in Mexico, sump diving in the UK, the Great Lakes, Palau, Coz, etc etc.

    Diver 2 arguably is the more well rounded and experienced diver. But if I was going to Coz I would want diver 1 as my DM and not diver 2 because diver 1 knows their area the weather, the currents, where to find stuff, etc. But if I were looking for instruction I would probably want diver 2, as his wide amount of experience can give me perspective on what works not just in my area, but in other conditions found throughout the world.

  4. Just started watching the videos. Great tips well balanced on both sides of an opinion. Always very positive and humorous. Keep up the great work. Hope to see some videos on CCR(the dark side)

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