what scuba equipment to buy first

What SCUBA Equipment to Buy First

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A little while back I trained a student who instantly fell in love with SCUBA. After their first few dives, they were already wanting to buy their own gear. At this point, they asked me what was most important, and where to start. When you decide to buy your gear piece by piece it can be tricky figuring out which purchases will be the more vital. Hence I have decided to write this gear guide on what SCUBA equipment to buy first, which I would like to develop into a series of posts helping divers choose the equipment best suited to them.

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This article is based on my personal opinions and feelings and experiences. I hope that you all find it useful!

Numero Uno

The big cojones on my order to buy scuba gear list is the mask. Every person has a different kind of face making the mask one of the more important buys. I say this because the mask is typically one of your primary sources of comfort while diving. Imagine have a leaky rental mask that just doesn’t quite fit even when you tighten it own so hard you feel like you’ve put your head in a vice grip. Not fun. Many people find ill-fitting masks very deterring and even cause some people to panic while diving.

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Finding a mask that properly fits your face, doesn’t fog up on you, and fits comfortably is a great first choice scuba purchase. The mask is also one of the less expensive pieces of gear typically sold in the $50-$120 range. It’s lightweight, easy to travel with, and you can use it for snorkeling too!

Safety is Important

Especially in SCUBA diving, safety is extremely important. It is for this reason that I highly recommend that a dive computer be at the top of your ‘what SCUBA equipment to buy first’ list. A dive computer can not only help you log your dives, but also save you from decompression illness. Computers can also extend your bottom times in comparison to using dive tables. This is because dive computers calculate your no stop limits as you dive.

There are many great models out there that are quite affordable and great quality. After you buy your computer make sure that you read the manual and get familiar with it. Knowing how your computer works and being able to understand the displayed information is key when it comes to avoiding decompression illness.

They say to follow your feet

After buying a mask and computer the next vital gear pieces are a bit of a toss-up. That being said I would recommend your next purchase to be fins. It’s a hard decision between fins and wetsuit but in the end, I choose handy dandy flippers. The reason for this being that many shops cheap out on rental fins.

A fair few dive shops will provide snorkel fins instead of dive fins because of their lesser cost. The problem is that they are really crappy underwater. If faced with any kind of current, or even if you are simply a weak swimmer, having good-for-nothing fins can be dangerous. Having a proper SCUBA fin that fits properly can save you a whole lot of trouble in the water.

Exposure protection!

As I mentioned earlier it was a hard decision between wetsuit and fins for 3rd place. If you are wondering why, well it has to do with something you may find disturbing. I wasn’t to place wetsuit third for the simple reason that rental wetsuits are often peed in… Yeah, totally gross. I know. It is for this reason that many divers choose wetsuit when deciding what SCUBA equipment to buy first. However, the trouble with wetsuits is that depending on where you are diving you may require different thicknesses of suits. Where ever you decide to dive, proper exposure protection should be available to rent. Whether you need no wetsuit, a 3mm all the way up to a dry suit. 

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Why buy a wetsuit? You mean apart from not having to dive in a smelly, old, peed in rental? Well rentals, being old, tend to get thinner meaning they don’t offer the same warmth as a newer personal wetsuit. You can also buy one that is exactly your size, meaning no too short limbs for the tall and slender, and extra room in junk trunk spaces for women buying ladies wetsuits. In addition, there are many different wetsuit technologies out there such as infrared and polar fleece that will keep you warmer than generic neoprene.

The Life Line

That’s right, coming in second to last on my list is your regulator set. My reasoning for having it so low on the list is that a proper dive shop will maintain their regulators well. Meaning that you shouldn’t need to worry about it malfunctioning. Unlike the previous pieces of gear, your regulator will need servicing and maintenance at regular intervals, especially if you aren’t using it for an extended period of time. With proper maintenance and care your personal regulator will become one of your scuba treasures. Not to mention, having a regulator that you trust and are comfortable with can help you feel relaxed, improving your breathing technique.

The Big Piece

Last but not least is your BCD. though this too is an important part of your SCUBA set up I recommend it as the last purchase for a few reasons. The first being that it requires just as much maintenance if not more than your regulator. With a BCD it is very important you always wash, dry and store it properly, as a failure to do so can end up in a malfunction at depth. The other reason I believe you should get your BCD last is that it is the most difficult piece of equipment to pack in a suitcase.

That being said, once you do fall so deeply in love with the underwater world that you are ready to buy and drag a BCD around the world with you, that purchase is going to be one of your little babies. When I finally bought my first BCD I was in love with it and 7 years later, I’m still loving it and taking all the steps to make sure it lasts another 7 years. Having your own BCD can also help with your buoyancy control. Diving with the same equipment on a regular basis allows you to get to know how it works, instead of switching it up all the time wiith different rentals.

What SCUBA Equipment to Buy First

When trying to decide what SCUBA equipment to buy first you will need to take a few things into consideration. Things like comfort, safety, peace of mind, cost, etc. Each of these is important but you need to prioritize what is most important to you. I hope you found this guide insightful and has made your ‘what SCUBA equipment to buy first’ conundrum a little easier to solve!

 

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Ranelle Ivens

SITE AUTHOR

Ranelle’s addiction to SCUBA started in 2004. From a young age she has been fascinated by the ocean and the creatures living within it. Her Ultimate dive dream is to swim with Orcas and to dive the world. Ranelle is a certified PADI Specialty Instructor and spent 3 years in university studying Science and Biology. [supsystic-social-sharing id=’2′]

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Being a SCUBA diver means that you need to know how to adapt and go with the flow. You never know what nature or your dive shop has in store for you. Sometimes it’s a calm peaceful sea and nice big boat that can facilitate your preferred entry style. Other times you’re wading into big waves, battling current, or dealing with small boats. So how do you still pull it all  off like a seasoned diver? Knowing and using the right dive entry method.

First things First

Before you go jumping into the water make sure you’re ready. Just because you’ve put your kit on and you want to get in the water doesn’t mean that you’re set to go. To avoid looking like newbie diver, and be perceived as that diver that ‘has definitely done this a lot’ then don’t forget to go through this checklist.

The List

  • Check, check ,check: Remember that horrendous acronym from you open water course for the buddy check (BWRAF)? Use it! Whether you use it by yourself or with a buddy make sure you go through the steps. Here’s a quick reminder in case you forgot; BCD, Weights, Releases, Air, Final okay.
  • Check your hoses: Ensure all of your hoses and gauges are tucked away and secured. Your extra regulator needs to be secured with the hose under your right arm with a clip or D-ring, but still easily accessible in an emergency. Your pressure gauge or computer on the other hand needs to be tucked into your waist buckle or secured with a clip under your left arm. Dragging hoses reduce streamlining and get get caught on fragile reefs or damaged banging against rocks.
  • Accessories: If you have an goodies like cameras, lights, safety buoys, or anything else make sure they are attached to you using clips, re-tractors, magnets, shoelaces or I don’t care what, but make sure that they aren’t going anywhere. In my career as guide and instructor I’ve seen people lose knives, cameras, compasses, dive computers! You name it. Dive gear is expensive and if you lose it, it becomes ocean pollution so make sure its secure.
  • Don’t Forget your Fins: This may be more of a personal reminder, but even as a dive professional you forget things sometimes. I’m particularly bad for leaving my fins on the boat. As much as I wish my legs would transform into a tail it never works. In other words, don’t feel bad if you forget something its usually not that big a deal, no one’s perfect all the time.

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Time to Jump

The most important part of choosing a proper dive entry as assessing the conditions. Each entry has different benefits and draw backs so you need to make sure that the dive entry makes sense. Not only that, but some boats can’t facilitate all kinds of entries which is why it’s good to know more than one or two.

Always remember before you jump to make sure of two very important thing. First, that there is air in you BCD (unless your guide tells you to do a negative entry). Second, don’t land on your dive buddy! always make sure the landing strip is clear.

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The Giant Stride

This dive entry style is one of the more popular styles and one you may have seen before. The giant stride can be used in any kind of conditions as long as the water is deep (10ft/3m +) and can be done from any kind of ledge that you can stand on (edge of a boat, dock, pool etc.). When done correctly your head will stay mostly out of the water and you will end in a vertical position.

To preform the giant stride put your toes right on the edge of the platform. Next, place one hand over your weight belt buckle, this will ensure that it does come undone when you hit the water. Take your other hand and use it to secure your regulator and mask. You can do this by using your fingers to hold the mask and the palm or your hand to push the reg in your mouth.

Once everything is held in place look straight ahead and take a leisurely stroll of the side of the boat. Of course make the sure that first step is a giant stride (ha ha). You should hit the water mid stride as your legs are nice and far apart, at this point bring your feet together. the force of the kick, along with the air in your BCD, will keep your head at the surface. Though be aware your head may dip under for just a second or two.

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The Back Roll

Much like the giant stride, the back roll can be used an any conditions suitable to recreational diving. What makes it different is that this technique is suitable for deep and shallow water. You will find that in some places you will enter the water over shallow coral reefs. Where a giant stride would likely cause damage to the reefs and yourself, the back roll is a better alternative. To do this dive entry you will need a ledge that you can sit on, such as the side of a boat. In many small boats the back roll entry is the only geared entry available.

Have you ever heard that dive joke why do divers roll backwards out of the boat? Well the back roll entry is where that joke came from. With this entry method you sit on the side of the boat fully geared, with one hand securing that weight belt buckle and the other keeping your regulator  and mask in place. You then simple fall backwards into the water and into your tank. When you hit the water, sit up. This way you avoid doing an underwater back flip. Have you figured out the answer to the joke yet? Well, if you rolled forwards you’d still be in the boat.

The In Water Dive Entry

You can’t enter the water if you’re already it. Which is why the name in water isn’t talk about how you get in the water, rather, it’s referring to donning your gear. With this dive entry method how you get in the water is up to you. Whether you want to do the toe dip and slide in, the cannon ball, or a triple standing back flip that’s up to you. Just don’t hurt yourself. Grab hold and put on your gear after getting in. Don’t forget to double check that your hoses and accessories are still secured. You can either have someone hand you the equipment or put it in the water yourself before you jump. Especially if you use and integrated weight system, Make sure that the gear is fully inflated before putting it in the water.

There are a lot of variations in this dive entry method. People who have difficulty putting gear on in the boat for health reasons are the primary users of this method. These variations have to do with when you put on your fins, mask, and belt. I always recommend entering the water with fins and mask, this way you can see and swim more effectively. As for the weight belt, You can have someone hand it to you in the water when you are ready for it, or put it on before you get in. If you decide on the later, make sure that you maintain contact with your BCD so as not to sink.

This entry method should not be used in rough waters or strong currents as this could make it dangerous.

The Trust Fall

This is by far is my favorite entry method of all. The first time you use this entry method it may be a little bit scary but I swear you will love it. You can use this method in deep or shallow water, in any kind of conditions. All it requires is a ledge that you can stand on. As with the giant stride,  secure your belt/gauge, mask and regulator but this time stand on the edge with your back to the water. When the way is clear and you are ready, fall backwards onto your tank. The ocean will catch you I promise! Oh and by the way, you will look like a total badass when you do this one.

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The Controlled Seated Entry

Controlled seated entry is a dive entry used primarily by people who cannot stand up in SCUBA gear for health related reasons, and where back roll is not an option. This entry method is suitable for most conditions but can be hazardous in high swell or waves. I do not recommend this entry to people who do not need to use it, or have poor upper body strength or limitations. The reason for this being that you may hurt yourself and/or potentially damage the boat. I also highly suggest practicing this entry off a dock or pool side before attempting it off a boat.

To begin, sit on the edge of the boat with your legs hanging over the edge and get into your gear. Next, turn and place both hands on the platform next to you. You will then push up off the platform and twist and the same time. You should land in the water in a vertical position facing the boat.

Relax Just Do It

When you want to go to it, and you aren’t sure which method entry to use just ask! If you have questions about anything always ask. A good guide will always do their best to get you in the water nice and easy. Trust me, even if you feel like a nuisance for needing someone to hand you this or that, don’t! It really isn’t a problem.

Do you have a favorite entry method that isn’t listed? Thoughts or comments? Tell me about them in the comments!

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How to be a buoyancy master using 4 simple methods

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Ranelle Ivens

SITE AUTHOR

Ranelle’s addiction to SCUBA started in 2004. From a young age she has been fascinated by the ocean and the creatures living within it. Her Ultimate dive dream is to swim with Orcas and to dive the world. Ranelle is a certified PADI Specialty Instructor and spent 3 years in university studying Science and Biology. [supsystic-social-sharing id=’2′] [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”2_3″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text (main post content)” module_class=”dd-post-content” _builder_version=”3.0.92″ text_font=”Lato||||” text_font_size=”15″ text_text_color=”#04493e” text_line_height=”1.4em” border_style=”solid”]

One of the most important and most useful skills in SCUBA diving is neutral buoyancy. It can also be the most difficult to overcome, and often takes dives and dives of practice. However, once you get the hang of it, diving becomes so much more enjoyable.

Mastering neutral buoyancy also comes with a few extra bonuses!

  • Air consumpotion goes down
  • You can get closer to wildlife
  • Focus on what you love about scuba diving
  • You can minimize your impact on the marine environment

Oh, the struggle

When becoming neutrally buoyant is a fight the whole dive becomes a challenge. Not only that, but it can become stressful and even cause anxiety. You start to worry about what other divers think of you, you can’t enjoy the little stuff because you’re rolling all over the bottom. People are giving you exasperated looks because you are harming the environment they are trying to enjoy. Nobody wants to feel like this. That’s why it’s important to practice, because no matter how horrible your buoyancy is, you can get better!

The mind is powerful

Very powerful. Studies show that in many sports, visualization techniques aid in improving skills. Whether you want to watch videos of people practicing buoyancy or visualize yourself being a neutral buoyancy master, both can help you achieve your goals.

As you visualize pay attention to things like breathing techniques (watch those bubbles!), body position, and swimming techniques. Each of these will help guide you to improvement and eventually mastery.

Take a minute for yourself

Having patience with yourself and staying calm are the most important steps while tackling neutral buoyancy. So take a long, slow, deep breath and try to relax, especially if you are starting to get frustrated. If you take your time and think critically to figure out what’s going on you can typically sort yourself out. This is especially important as you begin the dive and are setting up your buoyancy.

 

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Just breathe

One if the biggest mistakes I see in scuba is breathing techniques. People just forget to breathe out, or try to take in less air to reduce air consumption. When you took your open water or scuba diver course your instructor should have taught you to just breathe normally. This is true, however there is a breathing method that can help your buoyancy, air consumption, and how relaxed you are in the water.

I like to refer to this method as the zen method (check out the link for other methods to practice breath control). It is quite simple, just breath in slowly and count as you do; I like to count to five. Once you have a nice comfortable breath start to exhale. The key to this technique is in the release if breath, try to let the air out nice and slow. You can count as do so, try to aim for twice as long as your breath in (i.e. breath in for 5 and out for 10). If you can breath out longer that you breathed in that’s even better. These long slow easy breaths should help so stay calm and in control, which will aid you buoyancy tremendously.

Where are your weights?

Have you ever had a dive where you kept rolling to one side, or you just couldn’t get into a horizontal position? Then before you know it you are fighting and you loose control of your buoyancy or are simply just uncomfortable the while dive? Well luckily there’s an easy answer for the problem. Lead distribution. When you are checking over your gear take a look at your weight belt/pockets. Try to make sure that your weights are symmetrical in both amount and positioning. This should stop any tilting or leaning to one side. If you still lean try adding one or two pounds the opposite side. This leaning can be caused by many things including dive accessories or even increased muscle mass on one side of the body.

Next take a look at your trim weights. If you find it difficult to hold a horizontal position try moving about 1/4 of your total weight into the trim pockets on your tank. If you find you are top heavy, and your fins are always to high and you get stuck in a head down position reduce tank trim or add ankle weights. By evening yourself out like this you will find it easier to swim and maintain a steady depth while diving.

Once you have the positioning and balancing of your lead under control try to do buoyancy checks before and after the dive. Diving over weighted can be beneficial until you get better at buoyancy, however being too overweighted can be problematic, tiring, and makes you more prone to floating up and away.

Don’t forget to check

To do a buoyancy check hold a normal breath at the surface with an empty BCD. Remember no cheating! This means no kicking or sculling. You should float just below the surface and sink slowly as you let out air. Staying above the surface means you need more weight and sinking like a rock means you have way too much.

 

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Position, position, position

While in the water you should try your best to stay in a horizontal swimming position. This makes swimming and observing easier and more relaxed. Its also a good idea to keep your arms tucked in. People often don’t realize how much their arms weigh. They can actually throw you off balance just as much as lead will. Try playing with it a bit next time you dive. If for any reason you want or need to be in a vertical position remember to stop kicking! Otherwise you will find yourself swimming for the surface, or if overweighted, kicking up sand and damaging the bottom. In terms of position in the water these are the most important when it comes to buoyancy.

It may seem like a lot…

but it is really just 4 things:

  • Weights
  • Visualize
  • Breathing
  • Body position

It may seem like lots at first but try focusing on one or two things at a time. Once you master one portion add in another. Eventually all of these things will come easily and naturally, you just need to practice!

If you feel as though you would like to improve but want a personal training session ask your local shop about the Peak Performance Buoyancy Course. This course is two dives and generally costs around 160$, not much more than a typical day of diving depending on where you are. As an instructor it is one of my favourite courses to teach as it includes lots of fun and interesting underwater exercises!

 

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