As the globe moves into a new phase of pandemic life and the world still struggles with COVID-19 it is only natural to be craving immersion into the peaceful world below the surface. Second waves might be on the horizon, medical masks are already wasted and washing up on beaches and the dive industry is on its knees but changes to restrictions that allow for a bit more freedom are giving us aquanauts a glimmer of hope. You may have already visited the water depending on your location, you may be preparing to lube up those gills once again, but whatever stage you are at it is never too late to check out these top tips to get you on your way to a safer return to the water.
Check Your Local Regulations and Advice
Our first bit of advice is to check your local authorities on what is, and is not, allowed before you go diving. The situation is still very changeable in most countries so check before each diving trip to make sure you don’t end up risking your own, or others, health. There are some tools around to help you navigate this safely including the PADI’s Scuba Diving Status Map and SSI’s Travel Restriction Map. Remember also to check in on the latest advice from DAN around COVID-19 and Diving.
What’s Up Doc?
Check-in with your doctor before you return to the water, whether you need a medical to dive normally if you have had COVID-19 or think you may have had it, getting the all-clear to dive from the dive Doc is going to give you peace of mind. In these unprecedented times, it is good practice to make sure you are healthy. Contact your local diving Doctor for advice. Check-in with yourself too. It’s been a time of great stress, uncertainty, and anxiety for the whole world so explore relaxation and meditation techniques, and don’t forget to visualize your dive.
Don’t Be Breathless
It’s taken a fair amount of time to devour all the awesome content that has been produced during lockdown to keep us entertained while the gym has been shut. Time to get back in the saddle and get active once again. Basic fitness has a ton of advantages as well as improving your day to day health, when it comes to diving you are protecting the safety of your dive team with your good choices. Does getting fit helps you enhance diving experience all that much? Imagine not shuddering under the stress of getting dressed into, and lugging your kit over to the entry point. Added benefits such as generally improving your gas consumption, and freeing yourself from the ‘gas guzzler’ slur might just lead you to find more willing buddies. Conquer any lengthy surface swims, whether expected or unexpected, with the ease of a seasoned pro and be ready to respond effectively to an emergency situation while maintaining the energy, strength, and fitness to help another diver to safety. After all that it helps reduce the risks of DCI. Don’t forget, it is not recommended to conduct vigorous exercising before, during, or after a dive though as this may affect the rate that your tissues absorb and release nitrogen, you know- DCI stuff!
Drop The Extra Pounds
In the golden days gone by there was some research that indicated that body fat released nitrogen at a slower rate that, in turn, would affect your decompression schedules (excess body fat is not accounted for in dive tables) but the evidence was a bit flimsy. The bigger problem is that nitrogen loves dissolving in fat and if there is loads of it then it may overwhelm normal lung function and could force bubbles into circulation which is going to increase the risk of all forms of Decompression Illness (DCI). Excess body fat and being overweight are also associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac disease, and strokes which have shown to be major contributors to accidents and deaths in diving.
Top tip: don’t lose too much fat, you don’t want to forgo that delicious insulating layer that wraps up your internal organs and helps you maximize time spent discovering new local dive sites and beyond, by keeping you warmer. If in doubt, contact your local dive Dr for any advice on balanced diets and maintaining health.
We are all here because we love our watery world so why does it seem so tricky to gulp down the Recommended Daily Allowance of H2O?! It takes a couple of days loading up on water to hydrate the body properly so make sure to start in time. Not too keen on downing liters of plain water? Then try adding a slice of lemon or orange to add a healthy twist to your H2O loading. Two liters per day is a good start, you might want to increase in hotter climates. Avoid alcohol as it dehydrates you increasing the risk of DCI. The effects of alcohol both during and after hinder your decision-making ability and increase panic. Having a hangover is not cool or safe. And if it isn’t safe, then it’s not fun.
Top tip: there are two types of divers those that pee in their wetsuits and those that lie about it so don’t worry about needing the wee while underwater. There are reef safe ways to cleanse your suits after diving, and for those in drysuits then wow- what a market you have at your fingertips, from adult nappies to all sorts of inventive pee systems for male and female requirements…
Refresh To Get Fresh
Who doesn’t love being a student? Get your dive skills locked and loaded with a refresher course after any amount of time out the water (recommend 6-12 months+) and be ready to dive. If you have spent your time indoors absorbing knowledge online then it’s time to contact your local dive school and investigate when you are able to complete a refresher in the water.
Top tip: it will save you from being the diver who sticks their BCD on back to front as your buddy watches on in horror!
Service Your Dive Equipment
Dive kit needs to be maintained regularly in order for it to work, check out the manufacturer’s guidelines for advice on exactly when. Bear in mind that your regulators are a piece of life-saving equipment so looking after them is key for happy diving. This is an excellent way for you to support your local dive business and get your servicing done there. Test your kit before you dive and change the battery or charge up your dive computer.
Bring a Bubble Buddy
With protocols of distancing still in place and people still passing around the virus a lot of countries are implementing a “support bubble” system where you can form a group of people who you have close physical contact. This can be extended to diving as well. If your buddy already lives with you then social distancing measures are not a factor you need to consider. If you don’t live with your buddy, make sure you create a coherent plan that keeps you both safe, and 2m apart. Don’t forget, you have a clean gas source on your back, use it!
The new normal: First Aid and Emergency Assistance Plan
Things have changed as the dive industry stood still; we have seen a demise in all services. It is vital that you check your EAP (Emergency Assistant Plan) is still valid and all the safety measures in place are still operating at the capacity you require. Is your First Aid kit replenished, in date, and ready to go? Is your oxygen kit in test, full, and working with enough gas to supply your divers in distress to get them to the point of contact with the emergency service? Worth looking into…
Everybody be cool, this is a dive. Spend time getting ready for your return to diving. There is no point in rushing if it means you are going to make mistakes. Be prepared, check, check again, and plan with your buddies.
Top tip: plan the dive, dive the plan.
Don’t Forget To Relax
After your dive make an effort to relax. Build up slowly to repetitive dives, perhaps hold tight on recreating the five dips a day liveaboard type exploration of your local surroundings for a while. There is no solid medical fact indicating how this virus has affected us so a heightened awareness should be used. If you feel any symptoms after the dive, call your local hyperbaric chamber immediately for advice. DCI is unfair so even with all this caution be aware that if you feel anything that wasn’t there before the dive then seek medical advice.
Plan Your Next Dive
Being cautious and responsible shouldn’t put you off exploring. Plan dives with your friends, get dates in the calendar, pick new local spots to explore, and get down to your local dive shop and fire up your passion with some new it to give you the urge to go diving.