Flat, clear summer seas on the Atlantic seaboard (and the Blue Flash boat)

Diving in poor conditions

There is a constant debate on whether learning to dive in ideal conditions as opposed to atrocious conditions creates a solid diver or turns people away from diving forever.

There are two schools of thought:

  1. Those that say if you successfully complete your Open Water dives in poor visibility, rough conditions and lousy weather it makes you a stronger more capable diver able to enjoy future dives in great conditions safe in the knowledge that you know you are capable in poor conditions. This group believe that in poor conditions you will learn more, and have a sense of how current, surge and poor visibility affect your diving. This is then meant to make you a stronger and more experienced diver.
  2. Those who claim that it is better to teach in ideal conditions with great visibility and build confidence before being subjected to some harsh sea conditions . This group believe that building confidence in idea conditions creates a diver comfortable with all aspects of the skills and gear you require in a safe environment before having to deal with the harsh sea conditions sometimes experienced.

Personally I am a strong supporter of the second school of thought. I firmly believe that becoming comfortable with the skills, equipment and general dive protocol is more easily achieved in idea conditions.

Flat, clear summer seas on the Atlantic seaboard (and the Blue Flash boat)
Flat, clear summer seas on the Atlantic seaboard (and the Blue Flash boat)

The urge to carry on diving is largely motivated by the level of enjoyment of the last dive you did and what you saw that intrigued you. The learning curve for new divers is very steep and students go from feeling clumsy and out of control to comfortable within a few dives.

If your training has been good then you have control of your buoyancy, your breathing and a good grasp of the concept of diving. What you lack is experience and this comes in leaps and bounds with every dive you do. Your buoyancy takes a while to fine tune, as does your breathing and weighting, but the more you dive the quicker this happens. Diving once a month for example does not give you as much confidence and experience as quickly as you would get if you did three dives on one day every three months.

Once you have done several dives in good conditions you are comfortable in your gear and have control of your breathing and buoyancy. If then faced with poor conditions your main concern then is only the environment and if you can’t see your hand in front of you it is less intimidating knowing you can lay a hand on your pressure gauge instantly, your hand finds your inflator the instant you look for it and so on.

As an inexperienced diver groping around in poor conditions for your gauge or inflator because you are not yet comfortable in your gear increases you stress levels which in turn increase your breathing rate. A stressed diver groping around trying to find a pressure gauge will be a candidate for a panic attack. Many an ex-diver will tell you that the reason they no longer dive is due to a “bad experience”.

So I believe that you should learn to dive in great conditions, build your confidence slowly and avoid diving when conditions are sketchy. This way even a bad day of diving will beat a good day in the office.

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Scuba diver, teacher, gadget man, racing driver, boat skipper, photographer, and collector of stray animals

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