Every diver started on the surface one day. We all had a steep learning curve and probably have all made these mistakes in the beginning.
What’s important is that you make those mistakes and then leave them behind to become a better diver. You’ll learn all about five very common rookie mistakes new divers make and how to fix them. They’re stupid mistakes and easy to fix. Most importantly, they will improve the fun you’re having when diving significantly and make you a better buddy.
Never be afraid to admit to the rookie mistakes new divers make. I have been guilty of all of those and so has pretty much any other diver.
Rookie Mistake No.1: Constantly using the Inflate/Deflate Buttons
Okay, a moment of truth. There is no perfect neutral buoyancy! Yes, your instructor or dive master effortlessly hovers there while you’re swishing around like a deflating balloon. Yes, we make it look easy and hardly ever touch our inflator hose. And that is the point, exactly.
Constantly adjusting the amount of air in your BCD with your inflate/deflate buttons is the number one rookie mistake new divers make. Instead, do what the pros do and try to finetune your buoyancy with your breathing. A deep breath will make you slightly more buoyant while exhaling all the way will make you sink a little.
It’s a constant series of minuscule adjustments, so practise, practise, practise. Keep your hands off the inflator hose while diving and try instead to control your position with your breath.
Why should you work on this? Your air will last considerately longer if you don’t waste half of it on your BCD.
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Rookie Mistake No. 2: Following the bottom instead of your depth gauge
This is a really stupid rookie mistake new divers make and I have to admit that I’ve fallen into the trap once or twice. It usually happens when the bottom gently slopes off at a shallow wall dive. You’ll reach your desired depth and start diving along the wall. You may want to use the bottom as a visual depth reference. Don’t!
A gentle downward slope is almost impossible to notice visually underwater but will easily lead you five or ten meters deeper than planned. Always keep an eye on your depth gauge or computer while diving. You may think you’re diving at one depth but it’s always better to check.
Why should you work on this? Quite obviously this is a safety concern. But your divemaster and everyone else in the group will also appreciate it when they don’t constantly have to tell you to come back up.
Rookie Mistake No. 3: Relying on the Divemaster for everything
This might make me extremely unpopular but the divemaster is not there to micro-manage your diving. Divemasters are there to give a dive briefing and make sure that the whole trip runs smoothly. If you’re lucky the DM will dive with you as a dive guide. That means nothing more than him or her pointing out cool shit and finding the boat by the end of the dive.
A divemaster is not an instructor and has, therefore, no obligation whatsoever to hold your hand during a dive. Unless that’s what you pay them for specifically. It is not their task to make sure that your mask fits properly, that you’re wearing the right size fins or that you don’t get lost. It isn’t even their responsibility to remind you to check your air.
As a certified diver, these are your responsibilities. You have been given the skills and knowledge to deal with those problems during your Open Water course. No-one expects you to be an expert on your first dive but you need to develop a sense of awareness for your surroundings and equipment early on because sooner or later you’ll either dive a place without a DM or he/she won’t baby you.
Why you should work on this: It will make you a better safer diver and more popular with the DMs who in turn will show you more cool stuff.
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Rookie Mistake No. 4: Not being aware of your Surroundings
This is a huge problem not just with newly certified divers. Whether you have a handful or a hundred dives under your weight belt, bumping into things and other divers while dragging your octopus over the bottom will make you look like a rookie.
Yes, in the beginning, we all struggled with going where we wanted to go. Staying in one spot and keeping all those hoses and instruments neat and streamlined. Truth be told, as a recreational diver you only have to dangly things on you. Your SPG and you octopus, so there really is no excuse to have them dragging anywhere.
Not only are we talking about several hundred dollars worth of equipment designed to keep you alive and safe that your bashing against the rocks. You’re also dealing considerable damage to the environment. The same goes for casually demolishing a patch of coral with your fins or breaking of a piece of reed with your tank. PAY ATTENTION!
Why you should work on this: Besides being less of a negative impact on the environment your buddy will also vastly appreciate not being kicked in the face constantly.
Rookie Mistake No. 5: Stressing too Much
Now that you’re sufficiently nervous and stressed out about not looking like a total beginner on your dives I’ll tell you to stop stressing so much.
Why? Because diving is supposed to be fun and all those things that make experienced divers look so comfortable and smooth take time and experience and a relaxed attitude. Nobody is perfect least of all when diving. As “Step into Liquid” puts it: “We panic easy and we’re always convinced that we’re just about to drown”. As a new diver, I certainly was. Add to that the attempt to not look like a rookie and total kook and you’ll find yourself sucking air faster than a goldfish out of its pond.
Relax, take it easy and enjoy the underwater world. You’ll learn in time!
Why you should work on this: Once you get your mind on track and relax everything will fall into place. Your air will last longer, your buoyancy will be better and you’ll have infinitely more fun.
Are those the rookie mistakes new divers make that you’ve made yourself or observed?
If not, then we’d love to hear about what your big giveaways were. Let us know in the comments and always remember that becoming a great diver takes some time. Relax and enjoy the time underwater. Everything else will come with time. If you’re interested in learning more about how to become confident diver this post about fear management for new divers or this one by Girls That SCUBA may be for you.
Oh, and here are three more things that will give you away for a rookie diver:
- using too much weight
- bringing your go pro with a selfie stick
- wanting to be the first to see everything the DM points out