For most divers, diving is a leisure activity that provides relaxation and fun. This time we will not talk about feelings and experience and sightseeing during snorkeling, when feelings can be even stronger than during extreme adventures, but we will consider diving with SCUBA equipment from the standpoint of comfort.
Comfort during diving activities depends on many factors:
• experience and confidence
• conditions for diving (weather, temperature, flow, visibility, and so on).
Comfort is very important for safe and undisrupted stay under water. Unpleasant experience, caused by any of the factors mentioned above, can rapidly lead to stress or panic, which in combination with depth of water can pose a serious hazard for you and your diving companion.
Equipment is connected to two aspects of comfort – convenience during immersion and effort when carrying equipment on dry land. Under the water surface, all parts of the equipment must fit perfectly. Suit, buoyancy compensator, and diving fins must be neither too small, nor too large. Under the water, you must not suffer any squeezing, pinching, or hampering of your free movement. If you decide to purchase equipment, go to a specialized store and take enough time to do it properly. Choose and try things on for as long as it takes to select each piece of equipment that fits perfectly, and never think like this: “I’ll put up with this for a while, and I’ll eventually get used to this equipment”. You won’t get used to it, so it is important not only that you fancy the equipment, but also that it fits you like a glove. The appropriate size is directly related to flexibility. If the diving suit is too tight, you may not be able to reach a diving torch, pocket or the valve on the cylinder. If we add the limited flexibility of your legs and head due to tight clothing, it is clearly better to give up the whole idea of diving immediately, before it comes to a problem. Unobstructed breathing is of utmost importance, so the regulator must be duly serviced and properly adjusted. If the second degree of the regulator is difficult, or the mouthpiece is too big, your jaw will soon begin to hurt.
Apart from being appropriate in terms of size, the equipment should also be suitable for the type of diving activity and for each diver’s experience and needs. For the vast majority of recreational divers, the ideal choice is a single-piece or two-piece suit of 5 or 7 mm thick neoprene, a medium price range compensator, open-heeled fins, and a high-quality mask. Better equipment is recommended only if the number of dives is significantly increased or if weather conditions change- if you expand your diving activities to more than one season. Diving in a dry suit with buoyancy compensator, which is used for technical dives, has both advantages and disadvantages. Each additional piece of equipment, which is “needed” for diving, requires extra work, attention and sometimes means more possibilities for problems. All parts of the equipment must be reliable and user-friendly and should not hinder you during a dive.
Convenience of diving equipment also includes its transportation on dry land. If you have a lot of equipment, buy a special wheeled bag for diving cylinders, a divers’ suitcase with wheels, or bag with a handle and wheels- it will surely enable easy transportation of heavy parts of equipment.
Knowledge, experience and confidence
What do knowledge, experience and confidence have to do with comfort? A lot, but one should keep in mind that knowledge, experience – no matter how extensive, and confidence should remain relatively moderate. The point is that one should have a lot of knowledge and experience, while confidence should remain within normal limits, keeping your head clear. It will be much easier for divers with extensive knowledge and experience to cope with unpredicted circumstances, they will enjoy diving even when visibility or other conditions are not so favorable. Also, they will not lose self-control when they are faced with a mistake or problem, because they will be able to react appropriately. This kind of attitude enables good response even when things go wrong during a dive, creating a new and useful experience rather than negative experience of a dive where things went wrong or even ended tragically.
Knowing the routine on the mainland also provides comfort, for instance- how to assemble the equipment easily. Apart from that, experienced divers always carry tools and equipment for quick repairs, thus being ready for any possible scenario.
Environment and conditions for diving
Bright, colorful and sunlit coral reefs even at first glance beneath the surface cause a real wave of enthusiasm and positive feelings. On the other hand, looking at dark depths, where after merely several meters below the surface you can see contours of a wreck, causes many divers to feel a bit uneasy. Important external factors are also the weather and conditions for the dive. Rain does not directly interfere with diving, but it brings many problems in preparation for diving and poor visibility due to clouds. Below the water surface, key factors are the cold, poor visibility and currents. If a diver becomes exposed to such conditions after a long and tiring process of putting on clothes and equipment, and if the equipment is inappropriate (too tight or too rough), the experience will surely be much worse than it would have otherwise been. In spring, it can get quite hot outside, while water temperatures are still low, so the difference in temperature can be rather unpleasant for any diver. Such experience of diving in cold water is far from comfortable or pleasant, regardless of the fact that it is the beginning of summer above the surface.
How to achieve comfortable and relaxed diving experience?
Comfortable diving begins long before the actual dive, because it is a mixture of feelings, mood, equipment condition, as well as type, place and time of the dive, and finally the atmosphere that prevails within a group or pair of divers.
• Equipment, first – size and purpose. As we have already mentioned, equipment must be appropriate in size and for each type of dive. Do not buy any technical equipment if you go diving only a couple of times per season and only during summer. Loading yourself with heavy boxes or suitcases with a dry suit, undersuit, large or even double diving cylinders makes sense only for technical dives, where you really need all these items. For recreational divers it is better to choose a neoprene suit, sports / recreation compensator, and a good regulator, with the help of instructors or professionals in a store.
• Equipment, second – operation and maintenance. In preparation for diving and during the dive everything must work perfectly. Regular checks and servicing will confirm that all the parts are fit for purpose, thus giving every diver safety and peace of mind.
• Choose a location and diving excursions that inspire you and that you look forward to, rather than those destinations suggested by someone else. If you dislike wreck diving, leave the wrecks alone and choose another location.
• Plan each dive, and always stick to the plan. This way you will always have everything under control, and you will not be taken by surprise by potential problems. This includes a reliable diving companion, who also contributes to the comfort of each dive.
• Provide physical fitness before diving, warm up, exercise and do some stretching. If you are unable to reach a fin that slipped off your foot during a dive or a knife tied to your leg- then it’s time to think about regular exercise and changing daily routine.
• Revise theoretical knowledge and regularly repeat exercises that you did while attending the diving school. The exercises may be: remove, empty and attach your mask; locate the regulator; remove and replace the weights. Such repetition will lead to greater confidence and greater comfort during each dive.
Thinking about the atmosphere during a dive does not mean you are spoiled; it is an important factor in ensuring safety. Comfortable dives are much more pleasant than those when you suffer the whole time from inadequate equipment or suit. Therefore, the first step is to ensure your well-being, and then dive into the depths of the sea or ocean.
Text: Matej Ogorevc