So said Sophocles. I have had the pleasure of learning much from the experience of others. However, as much as I’ve benefited from this advice, and in turn passed advice onto others, I have increasingly realised how important it is to have reliable sources for learning.
The Internet almost deserves several blogs on its own. The difficulties arise in several areas. One is that context is key. A person can ask a seemingly innocent question but without knowing what sort of diving they are doing, and where, as well as those of the advice-giver, responses can be at best useless, and at worst dangerous. There was one post on Reddit where someone had advised certain medications when diving and on questioning, the advice-giver turned out to have heard it from his uncle, and had only dived five times. Another diver (who was “very experienced and had been diving years”) gave advice on adding on weight to help a person descend. He had dived about thirty times over a ten year period. Hardly experienced. And he missed a whole range of other possible solutions that could have been offered to support the diver before going straight to adding weight. Another example is that you should change your dive computer battery once a year. Why? Isn’t the objective that you should check your dive computer battery – not just change it once a year. You change it when you need to, and you need to know how to tell when you need to.
Perception is an interesting thing. There can be an incident that someone experiences and asks advice on. In their reporting they can describe the incident (“the dive master left me on my own”, “he was rude to me”, “he was patronising”….). I’m not saying any of these things didn’t happen. The difficulty is that what we are hearing is the person’s perception of the incident which may differ from fact. Therefore the advice that is give may be wrong as it is based on a false premise. The responses I’ve read include “your instructor isn’t good, he/she should have kept teaching you until you got it”. Which leads to…
You should change instructor/school/guide. Yup, perhaps you should. We know there’s a range of quality out there and also there are just some people who get on better with different learning styles than others. However, just because a person has an issue with an instructor doesn’t automatically make it the instructor’s fault. One aspect that could perhaps be addressed is communication; course fees may not include private one to one sessions ad infinitum, nor do they pay for the certification. In most cases the course fees cover the amount of time a person usually needs to achieve the standards needed for certification. If you fail your driving test, you don’t automatically assume you can then continue having lessons for free until you pass it. Same goes for diving.
I did this… also sometimes leads to misleading advice. Great that it worked, and also that you are sharing, but it is always applicable to the person who is seeking advice? A recent example is that of ankle weights. If you have an issue with trim then maybe look at how your kit is set up, rather than just adding weights around your angles. Going for an easy fix isn’t always the best thing in the long run. It also misses a great opportunity to look at WHY a person is having an issue and then coming up with a solution that fits that person, and understanding the physics that underpins diving.
To make your air last longer do this, and this, and this, and this…. well, if you’re going to focus on that many things all at once then you’re going to gulp through your air. Just focus on one thing at a time, get comfortable, and move forward. If you only dive 4 times a year in a 2 day period while you’re on holiday then it’s going to be hard to get your air consumption sorted. I’m not saying it isn’t possible, but it’s going to take longer and we should manage expectations.
Your BCD should be like this… yep – all divers have the same centre of gravity, and all kit is the same, right? Nope. Of course not. You play with how you will set up your kit to get it how you need it to be. It’s a bit of a cheap cheat to provide a one size fits all.
Don’t do “XXX” course. Another topic that deserves its own post. Why shouldn’t someone do a particular course? If they want to develop a skill then why not book in on a course? Sure, you have to pay for it, but then you don’t turn up at Tesco and assume you can pay for the bread, but get the butter for free. If you have a decent instructor then their time is just as valuable as yours, and if they are able to teach a skill that fills a gap then go for it. One that annoys me particular is the Boat Specialty. If someone has trained inland, or by shore diving, and they want to pay for a one-to-one with a person that can support and help them into an offshore dive, then paying for a Boat Specialty may be worth it. It provides the instructor with guidelines that meet their insurance requirements, and gives the diver what they need. It may be a bit pricy as the student is covering the boat fees for themselves, and two professionals. Another is the DSMB Specialty. Sure, you did it on your OW course, but how long ago was that? You can just jump into a lake, or the pool and practise but you may prefer to go through all the skills with someone to perfect them/revise them before hitting the more demanding sea (and we don’t all dive in perfectly calm blue water with 30m viz). Telling someone you don’t know, whose experience you don’t know, not to do a course isn’t really great advice in my humble opinion. All you can do is give the potential value of the course and if it fits that person’s needs then so be it.
So I guess the point I am making is, to misquote Baz Luhrmann, be careful whose advice you take. Don’t fall into the trap of asking advice to merely substantiate what you want to hear, and thus have phrased your question accordingly. Check the sources. Don’t assume that because someone says that they are experienced, that they really are. And get diving!