Become a self-sufficient diver – 8 tips to start with

What is the biggest step you can take to improve as a diver? Basically,  the biggest change occurs the day you stop depending on your instructor or you buddy and you dare to walk by yourself. That moment when you decide to become a Self Sufficient diver. It is not so much an improvement of your skills but a change of attitude.

Since the beginning  we are teach to perform what we call a “trust me dive” . What is a trust me dive? It is simply a dive in which you depend on another to reach the objective and to perform it safely. But at some point, one has to take control of oneself. We can not wait forever for the change to happen on its own. In turn, we can not continue asking our guide or instructor whenever we need to make decisions. At some point you have to take the step. We have to start making decisions on our own, assuming the consequences and learning from our mistakes. Only then, we will  achieve that self-sufficiency that will slowly drive us to mastery.

If right now your feeling like: “No way, I can’t dive safely without a divemaster, it seems too difficult to me”. Do not worry. If you commit yourself, to start making your own decisions. When you  compromise to don’t do it lightly and that with each experience, with every good or bad decision you will learn and improve. If you do so,  you have already taken the most important step. Today we bring you some tips so you can start taking responsibility for yourself as a diver. They are very simple steps to start with,  but they will boost your commitment and will help you a lot on your way to becoming a Self-sufficient diver.

WHY DO YOU NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY OF YOURSELF?

  • Nobody will ever know you in the way that you can get to know yourself
  • Decisions of your gear configuration, suit, weights etc. are very important decisions that can affect your safety
  • It’s not smart to leave these decisions in the hands of someone who doesn’t know you
  • It is even less clever to leave these kind of decisions to someone you don’t know
  • You will plan your immersion mentally and very quickly.
  • You will learn to foresee possible problems and how to avoid them
  • It will help you to save money for equipment that perhaps you do not need
  • Makes you a better and safer diver
  • You’ll be a much better buddy
  • You will enjoy diving in a higher level
  • A self sufficient diver is permanently aware of what is going on around him, therefore you will take the best decisions underwater

Decisions of your gear, configuration, suit, weights…They are very important decisions, and can affect your safety. It’s not smart to leave these decisions in the hands of someone who does not know you. It is even less smart to leave these kind of decisions to someone you don’t know.

First steps to become a self-sufficient diver

1 – Decide by yourself how much weight you will need

Do it for each configuration, for each situation.  Deciding the amount of weight  you are going to dive with is an important decision that you can not leave always on others’ hands. It does not mean that you do not listen to the advice that others give you. But, at the end of the day, the decision of how much weight to dive with must be yours, because it is also your responsibility.It can affect your safety . And it can affect the enjoyment of dive. (Read The bad Habit of Over-weighting)

So, you must use your logbook or notebook, whatever it is, to record the amount of weight you use for each dive. Make sure to also record which suit you were using, since you know that is not required the same weight to dive in shorty than to dive with a 7mm suit. Also note if you were diving with aluminium or steel tank. If you absolutely do not know how much lead you need, we recommend that you read how to perform a Buoyancy Check.

What you are trying to do is to know yourself as diver. So, register your feelings in your logbook. Accurate your experience by adding little words beside the amount of weight. Did you feel very heavy in the bottom? Was it hard for you to stay at the safety stop?  Leave it written down!

2 – Surface Air Consume

Knowing your SAC (Surface Air Consume) mandatory if you want to be a self-sufficient diver. In turn, seeing how the different decisions you make affect your SAC is very instructive too. For example, if you see that by over-weighting yourself, your SAC increased drastically. You will learn things like  your SAC change when diving with current, etc.  You will understand what affects your air consumption, and therefore, you can plan much more exactly your future dives.

Knowing your SAC will also help you to achieve tranquility underwater. Well, imagine that you plan an immersion in which you know that you only need half the air you carry. Isn’t it  more relaxing to know this fact than to throw yourself into the water without knowing how long your air will last?

How do we calculate the SAC? It’s not complicated. On your next dive, write down:

  • The pressure of your tank at the beginning and end of the dive. Subtract the initial pressure minus the final pressure. That is the pressure used for the dive.
  • Also note the size of your tank.
  • From your dive computer, write down the total dive time and the average depth.


Example:
Dive at 20m
15l tank filled with 200bar
you finish the dive with 150bar after 20min
VT = 15 liters || VC = 50 bar || T = 20 min || P = 3 (pressure at 20m)

SAC = 15l x 50bar / 20min / 3bar = 12.5 liters per minute

  3 -Discover your natural trim and buoyancy

As we saw in our Buoyancy Sessions, one has to distribute the weight in order to compensate his/her natural trim. In this way we get that horizontal position that brings us so many benefits. In our Buoyancy Sessions we already explained the importance of the trim and how to make the adjustments according to your natural trim. As a quick review: Your options are 2:  Either your legs tend to float or they tend to sink. So, do the test for yourself. Go to a pool, or jump into the water between dives, relax on the surface and investigate the behaviour that your body has in the water. (to get a perfect trim check our article: Improve your trim )

4 – Learn about your body temerpature

Have you ever heard a diver say that he or she, when water temperature is less than 20ºC needs a dry suit? Other divers don’t mind diving with shorty with 24ºC water. Each person is different, and although we generally follow a basic guideline to know which suit we have to wear for each temperature, it is your job to learn how the cold affects you and make your decisions accordingly.

Here the logbook comes into play again. Record well what suit you wear and at what temperature was the water. Also write down your impressions, like for example:  “1st dive was OK l but 2nd I was too cold”. So, with some  dives, you will be able to properly assess your needs and make the best decisions.

5 – Try different gear

Gear. The never ending topic. Online you can find endless discussions about diving gear . In the market there are so many different options for a single piece of gear that it is almost impossible to know them all. Your only option is to try equipment, stay with the one that makes you feel more comfortable and discard the one that does not go well with you.
Vest? Wing? Donut? Backmount or Sidemount? Black or transparent Mask? Console or not? Jet fins or not? Din or Yoke?

We do not want this article to become never ending. It is good to read the opinions of others, but remember that everyone is different and likes different things. If you want to become self-sufficient diver, the only way is to test and decide for yourself what works for you.  Keep an open mind. If you have the chance to try something new, don’t make yourself comfortable using what you already know it works. Try it, who knows? Maybe you love it.

If you want to become self-sufficient diver, the only way is to test and decide for yourself what works for you.  Keep an open mind. If you have the chance to try something new, don’t make yourself comfortable using what you already know it works.

6 – Ask others and learn from them

Believing others blindly is not an option when you want to be a self sufficient diver. But, listening and paying attention can be very instructive. If someone tells you that he or she has tasted 20 different fins and that the ones that he or she uses are the best,  why not give it a chance?

Why waste your time “reinventing the wheel” if you can learn from the experience of others? Take advantage of every moment you spend with an expert diver. Ask, listen, observe, treasure what works for you, discard what does not work for you. Do not be afraid to ask in forums and facebook pages and  groups. You can contact us if you have questions, we will answer you happily. In diving, if something shines above other things, it is the willingness of many expert divers to help the less experienced ones. Ask, ask and ask again!

7 – Read and re-read

Some years ago, we could only evolve through experience or through the few books that were published. Today, all the knowledge is out there waiting for you to read it. There are thousands, maybe even millions of pages and articles online with diving tips. For example, you can learn from home, relaxed on your couch, how to improve your buoyancy. And put it into practice the next weekend when you go diving. If one is a scuba diving addict, eventually has to end up reading a lot about diving. You can start by subscribing to Diving Magazines and Facebook pages and groups.

8 – Never stop evolving

There’s something I always say: “The day I think I know everything about diving, I’ll quit it”
No one in the world can say that he/she knows everything about diving. In fact, anyone who dares to think that, demonstrates that he/she knows nothing about diving. Nowadays,  scuba diving is evolving very fast. It has too many different modalities. And it is  impossible  to become experienced in them all in a lifetime.

So, never stop improving. There is always more to learn. Each dive is a new experience and you do not know what will happen. From seeing creatures that you have never seen in your life before to situations that you had never had to solve. In the world of diving there are always new challenges and adventures. Do you think you have mastered diving and feel comfortable at any depth and in any condition and configuration? Check the technical diving! It will change the way you see yourself as a recreational diver. Do you think you are an experienced technical diver? Try diving in caves, deep caves, explore wrecks, deep wrecks, ice diving, ice cave diving, rebreathers, scooters, FFM etc. There are always things to learn. Never Stop Evolving!

So we hope you got into the mood of being a Self-Sufficient Diver. By following our easy tips you will be able soon to show up in a Dive Centre and say: “I want 4 pieces of 1kg each, 2 on my belt and 2 on my trim pockets, and a 5mm suit please. How deep do we go? Ok, a 12l tank will be fine.” Doesn’t it sound better than to put a poker face every time they ask you how much weight you need?

More tips will be coming soon. Stay up to date!

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