How to start diving regularly once you are qualified
Charlotte Elliott is a She Went Wild Ambassador and a diving addict! Charlie shares her tips on how to turn what could just stay as a one-off experience into a lifestyle.
So you got your qualification.
If you learn to dive on a weekend course or on holiday, it can be difficult to know where to begin with diving regularly.
Here are some tips to turn what could just stay as a one-off experience into a lifestyle:
1. Get diving with local shops
Once you have your Open Water signed off, you are qualified to dive any site shallower than 18m.
But it may take some time for you to feel 100% comfortable planning your own dive.
The first step is just to get more dives under your belt. The best way to do this is join your local dive shop's led shore dives - which are usually free, with the only cost being equipment hire.
The second step is to build your knowledge so that eventually, you are comfortable to plan your own dive. Therefore, make sure you ask plenty of questions such as why one site was picked over another on the day and pay attention to gain understanding of local conditions.
2. Join your local dive club
Some shops have dive clubs attached to them which can be a great way to get involved with social diving, so definitely consider joining.
There are also special interest clubs, I'm a member of the Gordon's Bay Scuba Diving Club (who maintain the underwater nature trail in Gordon's Bay in the Eastern Beaches) and the Underwater Research Group of NSW (URG) here in Sydney. Both of these have a specific purpose beyond just social diving so this sort of club may require a slightly higher level of skill and could be something you need to build up to.
3. Join Facebook groups and make diving friends!
Attend your local dive shop's club nights and socials. Remember that everyone you meet will have some thing amazing in common with you - a love of the water - so it's always easy to strike up conversation. Just ask for advice, or where their best / worst / most recent dive was and you are sure to spark a discussion.
Have a browse of Facebook and see if there are any local interest groups you can join. In Sydney, there is the 'Sydney Dive Buddy Network'. And if there isn't one in your area, consider setting one up!
4. Consider further qualifications
I would say that getting your advanced is a no brainer - it's a great course, you do 5 interesting dives and can tailor it to your local conditions and sites.
Over time if you wish to dive independently of a shop, I'd also say doing a rescue or dive leading course is invaluable. Having practiced the skills to assist in any situations that come up will give you, and your buddy, confidence.
On this topic I'd also suggest reading up on dive incidents. The British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) collects information on dive incidents and publishes an annual report; all years found here. The Divers Alert Network (DAN) also shares incidents with comments here and check out the Lessons for Life section of scubadiving.com.
This isn't to put you off or scare you but to give you a chance to learn from others' mistakes.
Often, having thought through how to react to situations will mean that if you are unlucky enough to actually come across an issue, you will be prepared and be able to respond safer and faster.
5. Consider your budget to make diving sustainable
Diving is definitely an expensive hobby. Unfortunately, things like buying a bundle of tank fills or boat dives from shops or getting your own gear are a big upfront investment. Be realistic, save up, discuss payment plans with your local dive shop and make the most of birthdays - a boat dive will be something you remember far longer than any material gift!
A final note - The most important thing, especially when diving with new people, is to be honest about your skills, qualifications and level of comfort. Don't do something that is well beyond your experience and don’t feel pressured to move up too fast. You have a responsibility to yourself, as well as your buddy so it will always be better to take an easier option for the dive where you know you have capacity to help them. All good divers will be supportive of this so never feel bad about voicing concerns.
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