Some of you will have learned to dive but maybe only paid lip-service to some of the skills you were taught. If you want those techniques to become second-nature, you'll need to practise them. Practise basic drills like mask-clearing and regulator mouthpiece-clearing whenever you can. A pool is the ideal place to do it. If you are the member of a diving club, there are usually pool sessions once every week.
Removing and replacing a mask successfully while underwater is one of the most difficult tasks that a new diver has to learn. There seems to a psychological barrier that must be overcome. It’s probably because of the mammalian reflex that tells us to hold our breath when we feel the water on our face.
Do it in easy stages. First try lifting the skirt of your mask to let a little water in and then blow that out with air from your nose. When you are fully competent, half fill your mask and clear it.
Do not fully remove your mask underwater until you know you can clear it easily and even then, for the first attempts, try submerging from the surface with your mask in your hand rather than taking it off when fully immersed.
Eventually you will be able to try taking your mask right off and swim around the pool, breathing off your regulator and without it. You will be amazed how competent you can become.
The swimming pool is an ideal environment to practise swimming with neutral buoyancy because it is more difficult to do precisely in shallow water. You will have been taught during your first wet-lessons how to do fin pivots.
Time underwater in the pool allows you to get totally familiar with your equipment. Experiment with different ways of rigging it. Practise taking it off and getting all back in place while you are still submerged. This may not have any practical application when you are diving but it helps build confidence with those who are about to venture underwater in the sea.
Try breathing from a free-flowing regulator. You do this by tilting your head to one side to allow excess air to escape, pushing the purge button fully to simulate an uncontrolled flow of air.
Rehearse emergency-swimming-ascents by swimming horizontally arm outstretched while you exhale from your mouth all the way. Your regulator is in your mouth in case you get it wrong! A simulated swimming-ascent is best done horizontally because it removes the hazard of the pressure changes as you go up. Remember never to hold your breath while breathing compressed gases.
Wear a thin wetsuit when you practise even though you might be tempted to go without one. It will help to give you a complete idea of what it will be like on a dive. If you practise using a new drysuit in the warm pool, be aware of the problems of overheating your body.
Be cautious how you handle your equipment in a swimming pool. Be especially careful how you get into the water and climb out again. Always use the ladder and never walk about pool-side with your fins on. Be sure that there is a responsible person with rescue skills supervising pool sessions.
Happy Diving - John Bantin