1. Not performing gear checks.

Forgetting something may be embarrassing for you, but it can make others wonder about your competence. And dive operators are completely justified in refusing to let you dive without your smallest piece of gear - your C-card. Instead: Use a checklist to inventory your gear before leaving for the dive; buddy-check your gear before entering the water; and check it again yourself on the surface before descending.

 

2. Not defogging your mask or thinking spit will do.

While spit is cheap and usually plentiful, it is not effective enough for today's masks. A good defog solution cleans the faceplate so that moisture can't adhere to microscopic debris and fills in imperfections so that your breath's moisture sheets down instead of beading. Instead: Use a good commercial defogger or good ol' baby shampoo.

 

3. Using too much air.

Nothing brands you as a newbie faster than having to surface before everyone else because you ran low on air. The key culprits: using your arms, trying to move too fast or too much in a liquid environment, not being properly weighted (and fighting to stay down or finning to stay up), and not breathing properly. Instead: Slow down. Float and glide. Swim as little as possible. Weight yourself for neutral buoyancy. And most importantly, alter your breathing pattern to: inhale - pause - exhale - inhale - pause - exhale. Make the exhale long and deliberate.

 

4. Using the BC excessively.

Constantly over-compensating with your BC - putting too much air in and taking too much out - can turn diving into an underwater thrill ride, with your ears buy

ing the ticket. Instead: Weight yourself for neutral buoyancy, use your inflate/deflate to make small adjustments and give them time to take effect. The delayed action of changes to your BC means you must anticipate the need to add or release air in order to stay ahead of the buoyancy curve.

 

5. Not using your BC properly for a safe ascent.

Too much air in your BC and you can rocket to the surface out of control. Too little and you have to swim up against negative buoyancy. Instead: Stay neutral throughout the ascent with small ad

Text Box: Six things to remember when you go diving

justments to your BC and lung volume. Hold your inflate/deflate in your field of view to assure air is being released. Ascend slowly, 30 feet per

minute or less, using a dive computer to monitor your rate. Kick only to maintain vertical stability, letting expanding air in your BC gently aid your ascent.

 

6. Not staying with your buddy.

If you've made the choice to buddy dive, you've incurred an important obligation. Ignoring it puts you and your buddy at risk. Instead: Before the dive, agree on an appropriate plan and review hand signals. During the dive, maintain contact and awareness, and do not pressure your buddy into doing something unless you're both comfortable with it and prepared for it