It’s 16 minutes into the dive… do you know where your fins are?

The fragile reef!

The fragile reef! Photo by Mika Hiltunen. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Diving changes the way that we interact with our environment. Understanding how that interaction changes is vital to getting the most out of our dives; being a good dive buddy and protecting our fragile reefs.

If you’re a new diver you have probably looked back or down to find your fins bumping something or someone you didn’t realize was there. If you’re an experienced diver I would bet that you’ve have more than one fin bop you in the head when you’re diving with a group.

Situational awareness changes when we dive from pretty much two dimensional to an immersive 3-D experience!

Situational Awareness and Me

When I first began diving I remember the awkward feeling I got inside when I felt the vibration coursing through my foot that said “Nice move… very graceful!”. Invariably I would look down and see something that I could have sworn wasn’t there just seconds before. When it happened I felt like I was headed to the principal’s office.

Fast forward a few years…

I was on a fantastic trip to Bonaire and every time we went on a boat dive there was a specific diver who seemed to gravitate to the space two feet shallower and two feet in front of me. It didn’t seem to matter what I did or where I went… there he was.

Just when I would start to believe the shadow above me was narcosis induced… ‘Whack!’ his fin would slap the top of my head. He was oblivious – never knew that I was there or where he was in relationship to the rest of the dive group.

Between that and hitting my head on the bottom of the boat in Australia… now you know why SKuba Steve always wears something on his head!

It’s going to happen… when you start diving there’s a lot to keep track of and you’ll occasionally lose track of your fins, hands or hoses.

Tips & Tricks

  • Get neutral – the better control you have of your buoyancy the less likely you are to drift down onto the reef (or your buddies head).
  • Stay neutral – keep track of your buoyancy. Minor adjustments to your buoyancy can be made with your lungs as you know (or will know when you finish your SCUBA class); however, if your dive depth changes sufficiently you may need to adjust the air in your BC to ensure you maintain your neutral state.
  • Look around – okay this might sound like it should be obvious but it’s not. Diving is SO cool that it is very easy to get distracted by the squid, sponge, moray, dolphin, garden eel, parrot fish… and find yourself well… not where you thought you were. Make a habit of making an up, down, left, right, front and back check regularly throughout your dive.

Tip: instead of looking over your shoulder to look behind you, just tilt your head toward your chest and look between your fins – much easier.

  • Apologize – by all means if you konk a diver on the head take a moment to apologize. The diving community is small and we’re all friends here so keeping diving a considerate sport is important to maintaining a fun environment for all of us. For the ones who get ‘konked’ remember you were a new diver once too.

Take some time on your next dive to understand your position in the water relative to your buddy, the boat the reef etc. Periodically checking your position will prevent damage to our reefs; maintain a positive buddy relationship and by looking around you may see that giant see turtle you didn’t even know was swimming behind you!

SKuba Steve

The surface interval’s over… get out there and dive!

© 2014 Stephen Krausse.