Posted by seahunt on May 07, 2001 at 08:30:47:
Though the circumstances did seem a bit odd, I was pleased that you
would even be interested in what tips I might have for divers. Well
since you just love telling everyone how they should dive, I figured
that you would appreciate me telling you anything I might have picked
up in my 30 years of diving in CA.
Read these over and think about them. I'm sure that learning something
listed here would make you a better diver. Still, since you are a tech diver,
not all of this sport diver stuff will be useful to you.
No. Don't bother to even thank me. It's just the Dive Tips page from my
website. Just enjoy the reading and learn from it. That's enough thanks. It's
the least I could do for your show of interest and show that we
don't have to argue on this board.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt
In this page, I will try to primarily include tips that I have
not commonly heard or that might serve in unusual conditions. Realize,
diving has its inherent hazards, but if you know what you are doing,
stay in good physical condition and if you always think, it is a
pretty safe sport that is incredibly rewarding.
It is often cold water in California, especially above the
Channel Islands. It takes a lot of gear and some determination to
dive the cold water. Taking a boat to Anacapa or Catalina will
provide warmer water and diving of incredible beauty. For the diver
that wants the exotic or good hunting though, a trip to the outer
islands is the way to go. Trips to the outer islands are long and
often rough. It can be tough diving, but it is well worth it for the
beauty and excitement. Any diver that can dive with their California
gear and conditions, can go to almost any sea in the world and be
For new divers... you will be told about mask fit, but the
instructor may not practice what they preach. Make sure they do.
Your mask must fit well and seal well. If it doesn't, get together
with the instructor and get the problem fixed up. A leaky mask can
make beginner class tasks near impossible.
Also for new divers... most people starting out diving have a
hard time clearing their ears. It will come with time and practice,
but you must learn it well or you will just not be able to dive
comfortably. Snorkeling is a good way to practice ear clearing.
Conditions Conditions Conditions. Observe and think about the
conditions. Winds, currents and waves. Where are the rocks and the
land? Which way can you bail out? Who might be able to help you?
Know when to get out. Know when to not go in at all. No matter how
far you have driven or how long you've waited for the spring diving,
if you get to the shore and it is rough, unless you are sure you
know what you are doing, you probably should try another day
Want Lobster? Swim far, swim fast, grab hard.
Only take the game that you are going to eat and then treat it
Try to follow the "Tidepool Rule". If you flip a rock, turn it
Orient yourself with your compass. There are a variety of ways
to do this. Learn a method that works for you and always do it. If
there is land in sight, as there almost always is in California,
what direction is it? You should be able to picture in you minds
eye, your compass and where it is pointing, in relation to the land
or the boat or both.
Get sleep. On a nice sunny day, when sight seeing on some
colorful reef, it is not quite as important. If you plan to do any
dives that are more physically challenging, a bit of extra sleep
can make a big difference. It can also make seasickness less of a
Drink lots of fluids before diving, especially if you are
planning some grueling diving. It reduces the risk of a
decompression problem and combats hypothermia. On boats, I bring a
large bottle of water that I guzzle just before starting the day of
diving. Slightly warmed water is not a bad idea either. Just don't
forget and put it somewhere to chill like I once did. Suddenly, you
will find that your core temperature is missing. Of course, all of
this applies primarily if you are not in a dry suit.
On two occasions, when I have had to rescue people that got too
far out and could not get back, I spotted the person because of their
orange vest. I probably could not have seen them at that distance
otherwise. In both cases, the afternoon wind contributed to the
The best piece of safety equipment is one of the cheapest. The
"Scuba Tuba" or "Scuba Sausage" is a long, brightly colored plastic
bag, that can be blown up and used for floatation or to hold up so
you can be seen. This is a fantastic safety device.
While panic is the best way to get killed while diving, I do
consider it permissable, perhaps even appropriate.... after you're
done drowning. There is no way to look stupider than getting pulled
out of the water, dead, with your weight belt on. Weight belts are
cheap. When in minor trouble on the surface, it is the easiest and
most effective way to make things managable. When you are in
serious trouble, it is the best and pretty much only, last resort
you have. When you are in risk of losing conciousness, worry about
getting to the surface first, other issues later. Also, if you are
having trouble on the surface, but it is not too serious, you can
consider dropping the weights off of your belt to save the cost of
the belt itself. Weights are cheaper than the belts. To do this,
your belt must be setup properly, a buddy can be helpful here and
you will need some presence of mind.
In a kelp bed or rocky reef area, small guns and pole spears
are excellent for taking some tasty fish. But these spears don't
pack that much punch and may not even stun a fish. Pin your fish to
the rocks or get ahold of it immediatly. Some of the nicest fish
have been unnecessarily lost due to the fish getting off of the
spear. And then it is probably wasted.
When doing rock entries, you should usually start swimming as soon as
possible. You can hold onto the bottom kelp to pull out with and to
stop waves from pushing you back in.
When in a place like Begg Rock, with rough conditions on a reef
with vertical faces, watch out for the vertical surge. When you get
next to a steep reef face when there are waves, there will be violent
local currents and a vertical surge. The problem is that when the
surge pushes you up, it will feel as though you have lost buoyancy
control and you are heading for the surface uncontrollably. If you
fight this, you will get nervous and tired and you might even get a
helicopter trip, as I have seen before. If you recognize what is
happening, you can deal with it like it was a normal surge and not
fight it. Backing off the reef just a few feet will dramatically
lessen the effect.
So you are a bit deep to do a free ascent if you can avoid it
and your regulator is rapidly drowning you with water. This is
uncommon, but it happened to me and someone told me a cure. So it
must have happened to someone else. Push the purge to get air, do
not just suck. The water is being passed by the diaphragm as you
suck. The purge button will not do this... Go to the surface.
Another time that a buddy is nice is if a shark shows up.
They say that in the U.S. you are more likely to be struck by
lightening than bitten by a shark. I figure that the odds must
change if you go in the ocean. If you dive the north or central
coast of California, the odds change considerably. Sharks don't
like getting hurt. A wounded seal is dangerous to anyone and
anything. A shark's method of attack is generally to bite their prey
and then let it bleed to death. This is true for divers as well. So
if a diver is attacked by a shark, they are likely to be injured and
bleeding, but not dead. If someone is there to get them out of the
water, they have a much better chance of survival. Get a real sexy
scar that way...
If the visibility is so low that you hit the bottom unexpectedly
(this is usually only a problem when free diving), put something in
your hand, like an abalone iron or pole spear, that will slide
through your hand when you reach the bottom... See Santa Cruz diving.
Research shows some simple facts about reef ecology. It's all
about MTV. Worse than Music Television, in biology it stands for
Micro-Topographical Variation. It is what is pretty much the single
most important factor controlling the density and diversity of any
reef community. All this means is that if there are lots of holes and
shelves in a reef, then lots of fish and other critters can make a
living there. In the Santa Barbara area where the kelp grows without
rock, there is about 2 pounds of fish per acre. In a rocky reef area,
even without kelp, there is more like 35 pounds of fish per acre. Even
a large rock reef may have few holes useful to fish in it though.
When just tooling along, sight seeing, a good thing to think
about is making fish houses. You may occasionally notice a hole
between two rocks, that is just big enough to set a small flat rock
across. There are lots of other times when you will just notice a hole
that looks like it could easily have a top. Put something on it. This
can significantly increase habitat for the reef fish and other wee
beasties. It is also a fun activity during a casual dive.
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