It has been said that the most dangerous thing in the water is… the water. I thoroughly believe that. As I mentioned, I’ve been increasingly obsessed with diver safety lately. Partly that’s due to a couple tragedies that have hit very close to home in recent weeks. But this started before that.
Diving feels so easy, especially in warm water, that it is not hard to forget we’re literally on life support every time we jump in. As an instructor, I spend so much time repeating skills that in my own diving, dealing with mask flood or a regulator being kicked out of my mouth is just a matter of reflex.
On top of that, I am deeply entrenched in further developing my own deep/technical diving skills where safety takes on a much deeper (pun intended) meaning. As tech divers we perform certain safety drills on every dive, which really changes your mindset on the recreational diving end too.
All that said, the single most common factor leading to diver deaths is being out of air. (Incidentally, 90% of diving casualties died wearing their weight belts.) I can’t think of a single legitimate reason a diver should run out of air. Sure, gauges can malfunction, but there are indicators for that. If your SPG shows 4000psi at the beginning of a dive, suspect that it might read a 1000psi when empty. Don’t just jump in. Check it!
Most commonly, divers simply forget to look at the gauge. That amazes me, considering that we’re carrying every breath on our backs, but it happens way too often.
I guess my point is that every diver needs to practice out of air skills like air sharing and alternate air source breathing. In addition to being better prepared in case of an out of air situation, practice fosters heightened situational awareness that will help ensure that such an emergency never takes place.
For that matter, practice all your skills. If it’s been a while, call your local dive shop and arrange a refresher. If you’re in Reno, call me. I teach at Sierra Diving Center, 825-2147, and am happy to practice diving skills any time. The more comfortable you are, the more fun diving becomes, and much safer in the water.