Scuba diving is one of the most amazing activities on the planet! Diving takes you to an underwater world seeing places and animals that you could only have dreamed about in your imagination. For those days or months that you can’t dive, I’ve put together some top scuba diving tips for beginners that you can brush up on before your next dive.
All scuba divers especially those that are new to the diving world need a refresher from time to time.
The majority of divers might only dive a few times a year when on vacation so it is easy to forget some simple and vital info.
I remember as a beginner diver I was so nervous and felt overwhelmed with what I needed to know.
As you get more dives under your belt you will have more confidence, feel more comfortable underwater and enjoy it more.
Until then, it is good practice to review what you learned in your certification class and go over these tips before a dive. And that is especially true if you haven’t dived in a long time too.
If you are not yet certified, I recommend taking a class and getting your PADI Open Water Certification before a big trip.
I personally don’t like the resort day courses (I did this) as I felt rushed and scared most of the time that I had no idea what I was doing. And you are limited to the depth and types of dives you can do.
In hindsight, I would have taken a course before the trip. Having said that, I do recommend waiting to do your last 2 open water dives for somewhere tropical as it makes it easier in clear and warm waters.
Now if you live in a warm and tropical climate then it doesn’t matter so much. I did my last two dives to complete my certification in Hawaii and it was awesome!
Best Scuba Diving Tips
1. Have A Dry Bag
Bringing a Dry Bag with you is really nice and essential in protecting any of your items from getting wet. On my first dives I put my phone in a Ziploc and everything else in my bag which got soaked. It is inevitable, especially if on a boat, things get knocked over, etc…
Dry Bags come in various sizes depending on how much gear you have with you. I have a small one that fits my camera, wallet, and phone primarily and a larger one that holds a change of clothes, towel and any other items. The last thing you want is to ruin anything electronic or be done and have wet clothes to put on after.
2. Picking A Dive Shop
After a few diving experiences, I realized how important it is to find a good and reputable dive shop. Why? Well at any time and not just as a new diver, I want to have fun but ensure the utmost safety is in place.
When I am planning a trip that involves diving, I research the best dive shops in that area.
Personally, I only look to dive shops that are PADI certified so that I will have the peace of mind that the standards are top-notch. I use a combination of ways to find the best dive shops.
I use Google, TripAdvisor and reach out to other divers in Facebook groups or on Twitter. On top of being a PADI dive shop, I look for excellent reviews about divemasters, instructors, and equipment.
For a new diver, you want to hear good things about the divemasters. I had one bad experience in a certain country where the head divemaster yelled at me (newbie diver at the time) and at other divers too.
For me, that just raised my anxiety and took the fun out of that dive. So do your homework and research great dive shops and it will pay off!
Bonus Tip: If it is busy season/holidays at a particular destination, I recommend booking your dives in advance as there is limited spots on a dive.
3. Know Your Divemaster
Once you have booked your dive and you are at the beach or on the boat, get to know the divemaster that will be with you on the dive.
Get to know their name, let them know you are a new diver, and convey any concerns you might have. For example, when I first started diving I had the hardest time clearing my ears.
It meant that it took me longer to get down. But it wasn’t an issue as the divemasters were great to help me and didn’t make me feel bad for lagging a bit.
If a divemaster knows you a are new diver, they might buddy up with you too. I personally loved this as it made me feel more secure whether or not I came with someone.
Bonus Tip: Check out the color or markings of the divemaster’s wetsuit, fins or mask so you know who it is when underwater. If you don’t everyone can look the same down there! The same goes with your dive buddy.
4. Listen To Dive Briefing
Before each dive, a divemaster will give a briefing or overview of the dive conditions, what marine life you will see and the route you will take.
At the end of the brief, ask questions if you have them, there are no lame questions! It’s better to get the answers to your questions so you are more prepared prior to the dive.
Each dive spot has completely different conditions so listen for important updates. Every location in the world has various marine life, coral, and things to see.
It’s helpful to find out what kinds of fish and animals you might see so that you keep your eyes out for them.
Make sure that you are aware of the basic hand signals so that you can appropriately signal to the divemaster, your buddy and others. Also, know what the plan is in case an emergency arises such as getting separated from the group.
5. Battle Seasickness
If you are doing a shore dive then this isn’t an issue but on a boat dive, it can be a problem.
Some dive sites are just a few minutes away by boat and others can be an hour. For some reason, I’ve noticed some people are more susceptible to seasickness than others.
If you know you are one of those people then these tips can help! I would try what works best for you and do so before or once on the boat. Once you are seasick, it can be tough to get rid of it until back on land.
- Have a little something to eat before getting on the boat.
- Keep your eyes on the horizon.
- Go outside and get some fresh air in cases where there is both an indoor and outdoor section to the boat.
- Ginger and peppermint work great at easing nausea so try eating or drinking anything that has these in them. You can buy ginger chews that I like to carry in those situations. I carry a bottle of Peppermint essential oil that I can inhale or rub on my temples.
- Wear an acupressure wristband that can prevent or lessen the symptoms. Two options that are great are a pressure point band and the Relief Band.
- If there is space, lay down on a bench and close your eyes for a bit.
- The good news is that once you get into the water the feelings associated with seasickness should dissipate!
6. Dive Entry Type
When researching for a dive trip find out whether dives sites at that particular location are a shore or boat dive.
There are positives and negatives to both and you might find you prefer one over the other. I like the variety of both.
On a shore dive you will take off from a beach entry and most of the time these are easier. Plus, you don’t need to take time on a boat to get to your destination.
On a boat dive, you get to enjoy a usually gorgeous scenery out at sea which for me is wonderful! It also makes it feel like a tour or excursion of a place. Usually, the gear and tanks will be onboard so you don’t have to carry them out like on a shore dive.
7. Learn To Clear Your Ears
Learning to clear your ears is one of the most important scuba diving tips for beginners. At first, I struggled with being able to clear my ears and get down to the desired depth.
Clearing your ears or equalizing is when the pressure is released from the ears and sinuses as you move deeper.
The good news is that I have no issues with equalizing now, partly due to practice and learning some helpful tips.
If you have a cold, congestion or sinus infection then hold off on diving as your eustachian tubes will likely not open properly. You will only encounter pain and potential damage if you attempt diving under those conditions.
To check if the eustachian tubes in your ears are open prior to diving, swallow and listen for a “click” sound. That means they are open and you are ready to dive. If there is a descent line from the boat, hold onto it and slowly move down as you equalize feet first.
When you start to feel pressure in the ears, pinch your nose closed and slowly blow. You should feel a release or pop in the ears. Then move down the line a bit more.
If at any time the pressure gets intense, go back up the line a little bit and you will feel some relief. Never force it just to keep up with the group and signal to the divemaster if you have a problem.
A few other tips that help is to swallow when pinching the nose, move the jaw side to side/ forward, look up and try to stay calm.
Stay ahead of the pressure and potential discomfort by equalizing often as you descent. After a handful of dives, this will become second nature!
8. Eliminate Mask Fog
If you have gone snorkeling or diving, you likely had a mask that completely fogged up. It pretty much kills your field of vision and is no fun…
Some divers will swear that all you need is some spit on your mask but that has never worked well for me.
With a new mask or in between trips wash it with toothpaste (not gel) or dish soap using a soft toothbrush. Don’t use your finger as the oils from your finger will kind of defeat the purpose.
My body temperature runs hot and causes my mask to fog up a bunch. I dip my face in the ocean to help cool down my body temp as I’m usually sweating wearing a wetsuit!
What I have found effective to eliminate fog is to use a commercial defogger that you can get at any dive shop.
You can also use diluted baby shampoo (with water) or liquid soap but don’t count on it being available on a boat and carry your own. After using any defogger, dip your mask into a bucket of water or in the ocean once before putting it on.
If you plan to do multiple dives in a day, repeat the step above before each dive. If none of these tips work with a new mask, then you can get it burned.
Take it to your local dive shop and they will properly burn off the film from the manufacturer. This is one of those I wouldn’t do at home for obvious reasons… Lol
Bonus Tip: Having a good mask fit also helps and another reason I like using my own. If you wear glasses, get your mask with a prescription lens added. It was a serious game changer for me and I’m bummed I waited so long. I could finally see all the small and cool sea life!
9. Be Aware Of Depth
I love using a dive computer but in case a battery goes dead it’s always good practice to have a physical gauge.
A dive computer can do a lot of cool stuff like logging all your dive info and alert you when to come, etc… But having a backup gauge you are guaranteed to know your depth and amount of air.
It is a good habit to check the amount of air remaining in your tank and depth regularly. It is easy to get distracted on all the cool things you are seeing and not realize your depth. In most countries, the divemaster won’t let you go deeper than you are certified to do.
I was on a dive where I glanced at my dive computer and saw that we were at 85 feet which is much deeper than I should have been as I didn’t have my Advanced Certification.
With an Open Water Certification, you should only go down 60 feet (18 meters). Some countries are definitely more relaxed than others…
10. Maintain Buoyancy Control
Maintaining and mastering buoyancy control is something I am continuously working on. I think it might be one of those things I will always strive to perfect. I’ve been told that I have great control over my buoyancy which surprises me. I don’t usually feel like it!
Why is buoyancy so important? Well, it keeps you somewhat in place so that you aren’t bobbing up and down. You want to be able to get down to the desired depth and then move without drastic changes.
If you have too much air in your BCD then you will tend to rise and if you don’t have enough air or too much weight then you will tend to sink.
Before you dive, a divemaster will help you figure out the correct weight. They usually carry extra on them in case you need a bit more. Knowing the correct amount of weight will make a huge difference.
Once you get to the bottom or desired depth and feel you are too close to the ground then slowly add a small amount of air into your BCD.
For the most part, try to control your breathing and breathe evenly. After some practice, you can make small changes in your buoyancy with your breathing alone.
For example, if you come upon coral and are too close, take a deep breath (you will rise) and then slowly let out air as you go over a section of it.
Note: At first you will move your arms about to get more comfortable in your buoyancy. Ideally, you want to keep your arms still, out in front of you or down by your sides. It will keep you away from potentially hitting another diver, marine life or coral.
11. Reduce Air Consumption
At first beginner divers will tend to consume and go through their air a lot faster than experienced divers. There a lot of factors like being nervous, moving about more than necessary, and struggling with buoyancy.
Safe practice says that a group or buddies ascend back to the top when the person with the least amount of air needs to go up.
That means if I have plenty of air but it is time for my buddy to go up, I need to go with him. The less air you consume means that you will likely get to stay down longer.
I have noticed that men tend to go through their air a lot faster than women in general. When diving with my ex, I was always a little bummed to come up so early (I had a ton of air left) but he was an awesome dive buddy so I didn’t mind.
Stay calm and breathe slowly and deeply. Keeping your breathing even and slow will reduce the amount of air you use.
It kind of reminds me of doing breathing exercises when meditating. Try to stay streamlined and learn to kick efficiently.
If you swim slowly and without a lot of movement then you will take in less air. It’s why knowing the amount of weight to carry and mastering buoyancy is key.
Unless there is something in your way or a current that might require you to swim hard, take it easy…
12. Be A Good Dive Buddy
Even if you have 100s of dives logged, it is smart to always dive with a buddy just in case you encounter any issues.
Plus, it’s more fun having a buddy! If you have booked a dive through a dive shop, then you will be matched up with someone if you are diving solo.
How can you be a good buddy? You should review the basic hand signals together, have a plan if you get separated and make eye contact often on a dive. That includes not swimming too far from your buddy so that you can effectively communicate.
Basically, be considerate, helpful and don’t be a jerk as this is about having a good time! Before heading into the water, do a check of your partner’s equipment and vice versa.
13. Stay Calm
When you first start out diving, staying calm seems the least likely thing as you might be freaking out to remember everything.
I was the same way but once I started to relax and take a calmer approach, the easier I found diving to be. By nature, this will become innate the more you dive. Before you get in the water, do some breathing exercises.
This will help you relax and once in the water, don’t rush or fixate in only one direction. For example, if you are focused looking at a wall or coral, you might miss out on seeing big fish, sharks or rays in the deep blue in the opposite direction.
I can’t tell you how many times I missed a shark that the group saw because I was looking the other way!
Bonus Tip: For those that suffer from anxiety and PTSD, diving actually helps you relax! And yes, there are studies that prove this. I suffer from both and for a long time, the only time I didn’t experience the effects of anxiety and PTSD was when I was diving. Listening to my breathing and being in the water is a lot like meditation for me.
14. Leave No Trace
Just as when you go for a hike, camp or travel anywhere outside your home, make sure you leave no trace!
The same goes for being underwater where you shouldn’t carry with you anything that could be considered trash but if you do, don’t let it get swept away by a current.
You will encounter and see the most incredible sea life and coral when diving. It might be super tempting to touch or pick up things you see but it is best not to!
Some of the cutest and prettiest marine life can be quite deadly. For example, on a dive in the Maldives I thought I saw a vibrant and adorable smaller version of a lobster.
I loved watching it wiggle as it moved. The divemaster signaled to stay away which was confusing. Up on the boat, he let me know it was a Mantis Shrimp. They literally pack a punch that will feel like you got shot with a gun!
I have been in cases where fish have latched onto my leg (thinking I was a shark), seals will attempt to play with me, dolphins will swim around me, and even sharks bumping my shoulder testing me.
In these cases, you can’t help if marine life comes to you. Just limit contact and try not to provoke them as they are still wild animals!
Did you know that coral is a living organism too? For that reason, don’t hold onto or knock into coral.
The oils from our skin can have a negative effect. I am totally guilty of knocking into coral when I was first trying to get my buoyancy under control, so it can happen accidentally.
15. Stay Hydrated
Wondering why it is so important to stay hydrated when you are in the ocean?
Well, you might not realize it but you sweat in the water just like you do on land. You don’t see it because you are already wet but it is just as important to hydrate for scuba diving as it is for going on a hike.
Drink plenty of water the day before and the morning of a dive so that you won’t go into the dive dehydrated. Although it should be obvious, don’t dive while under the influence of alcohol.
As much as this might be a buzzkill, don’t drink more than a glass or two the night before. You don’t want to go into a dive hungover. For many reasons, it can be dangerous and cause issues if you are sick and not as alert as you need to be.
16. Keep A Dive Log
Not all divers keep a dive log especially past 100 dives but I think it is really helpful when starting out for a few reasons.
I personally think it is fun to look back at the dives you have done as over time some of them will tend to blend. I also like collecting the cool stamps divemasters have, some are pretty cool!
When you are first starting out it is helpful to keep track of the amount of air you consume, what type of wetsuit you wore and how much weight you used on a dive.
That way on the next dive when they ask you how much weight you need, etc… you will have a good estimate.
Every dive is so unique with varying conditions, marine life, corals, and more that you will encounter.
It is a good habit to write in your logbook all the different things you saw that made it stand out. That way it will make it easier to remember dives and reminisce!
17. Get Your Own Gear
I wouldn’t run out and buy everything at once as diving gear is pretty pricey. If after a few dives you realize that you plan to dive a lot more in the future, then invest in some key pieces of gear.
Start out only buying one or two items and then watch for sales. Most of my dive equipment I bought at a bi-annual sale at my local dive shop.
You can get great deals, so find out and get familiar with the nearest local shops. Get on their mailing list so you get sale notifications.
The first piece that I recommend is getting a good mask and if you wear glasses get a prescription added to the mask. I also like using a mask that has a purge valve in the nose. It makes purging any water that gets in super easy.
Eventually, you might collect a bunch of gear but having your own regulator and BCD is extremely nice. I love my regulator as it is smaller and fits better in my mouth. I always struggled with rentals as I think there are designed for males.
No matter what gear you get, take care of it by properly rinsing and storing it properly so that it lasts a long time!
18. Wait At Least 24 Hours To Fly
If you are a certified diver, you likely already know that you shouldn’t fly within 24 hours of diving. But if you aren’t aware, it can be very dangerous to fly within 24 hours of a dive.
Personally, I like to wait 36 hours as my ears seem to be sensitive for a day or two. But that is my own preference and you have to find out what works best for you as long as it is a minimum of 24 hour wait time.
If you do fly within 24 hours, then you are at risk of getting decompression sickness (DCS) or the “bends”.
It results because your body doesn’t have time to get rid of the excess nitrogen buildup in the body. If you don’t then small bubbles can form in your bloodstream.
Your body will have adequate time to flush out the excess nitrogen in 24 hours and then you will be fine to fly after that.
That is one reason I like to book my dives in advance in the busy season so I can make sure I get dives in well before I need to fly.
19. Dive Boat Etiquette
I find that divers and people who travel a lot to be some of the coolest people I have ever met. They tend to be more chill and friendly but there is always the exception like everywhere.
As with the etiquette on being a good dive buddy, there are a few things to think about when on a boat.
First, don’t bring everything including the kitchen sink! That means bring just the essentials as space on boats really varies. Sometimes it is very spacious and other times it can be challenging to move around.
No matter how much you bring; keep your stuff all together and not scattered all over. That is one reason that I like to bring a dry bag to stuff my things into one place!
When the captain, crew or divemaster is speaking, pay attention and make sure you aren’t being a distraction so others can hear. With various types and sizes of boats, be prepared on how to get in and out of the boat.
Sometimes you will fall back from a seating position and other times you will walk off the back deck. I have been on a little panga boat to a boat that carried 100 divers and every size in between.
On a shark dive in the Bahamas, I injured myself by fracturing my ribs on the ladder attempting to get back into the boat. It was very stormy that day and previous boats I had been on, the ladder never moved. Well in turbulent water the ladder swung straight into my ribs!
Not once but 3 times before I could actually make my way up! In hindsight, I would have been more prepared and blocked with my arms. Easier said than done when you have tons of gear on and a boat crashing into you! Lol. Learn from my mistakes…
20. Bring An Underwater Camera
When you are a beginner diver, you might not want to worry about carrying or using an additional item.
But once you feel more at ease with a few dives completed, having a camera with you is awesome. Just like when you travel anywhere else, you want to capture your travels and memories. Underwater is no different!
One day I would like to get into underwater photography but for now, I love taking my GoPro with me on every dive. I have both a GoPro wrist attachment and a floating handle that I use. I like the wrist attachment a little better as it leaves my hands free.
You have the option to use in video or photo mode. I usually keep it on video mode and take photos from the video later on in editing. It is useful to have a second battery that is also charged. I have had it die on me during an epic dive and was crushed.
21. Awesome Diving Gear Essentials
These are some great basic items to have with you on your dives:
I hope these scuba diving tips for beginners have been helpful. Have fun diving!
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