Basic Ability Required to Start Diving
Basic Ability Required to Start Diving
Whatever the reason they decide to start diving, many will come to the sport with an initial sense of apprehension for water presents a strange and, to some, hostile environment that is not fully understood. In any event, it is certain that most newcomers ask either of themselves or of their instructor, ‘Do I have the ability to become a successful diver?’
What might then form an answer to this question? The recent very rapid expansion of professional diving has made necessary research into criteria which might be used to select diving personnel, but so far no positive guide-lines have been published. Nevertheless it is obvious that for the sports diver, for whom the training can be less hurried and the ultimate task less dangerous than that of professional diving, the initial demands on his abilities will be less rigorous. It follows therefore that selection for sport diving begins with the individual himself, for the fact that he has presented himself for training proves that an initial interest exists. However, success depends on more than just an initial interest, no matter how strong; there must also be a sense of motivation, an ability to stick at the task once begun, and to see it through to the end.
Although fins have been designed to increase swimming efficiency, a diver should be capable of swimming confidently and without excessive effort over distances of 2~OO m and should be able to support himself by floating or treading water, without their aid. To determine the trainee’s ease and composure in the water therefore, tests of minimum swimming ability without the aid of equipment are taken early in the training programme, and although speed is not important, the trainee diver should have mastered the rudiments of swimming. Unfortunately it is rare that a diving club, engrossed in the detail of its diver training programme, has sufficient instructors to spare for teaching swimming, but those who wish to take up diving and are of moderate swimming ability may improve their personal standards through practice. If truly motivated, with regular attendance at the swimming pool and practice in swimming with a light - then gradually heavier -weightbelt, the swimming standard necessary for diving can be attained.
Although the basic techniques of diving may soon be mastered, safe diving in open waters depends on a period of organised and progressive training. Such a training programme necessitates regular attendance at both the pool and lecture sessions so that the trainee’s skills and knowledge can develop together. The trainee diver who lacks enthusiasm and attends the courses irregularly will inevitably find that instruction is disjointed and the resultant erratic progress is unsatisfying.
As with all sports, diving makes physical demands upon the body’s resources, and it is therefore essential that the diver be sufficiently fit to meet these demands. It should be remembered that whilst he is underwater the diver is subjected to pressure and that movement under pressure calls for greater exertion than he may at first realise.
He must therefore choose his diving activities to match his physical capability; an inability to recognise one’s physical limitations is potentially dangerous and may well culminate in an accident.
Diving equipment can be very heavy, and difficult access to some diving sites may necessitate carrying this for some distance, but fitness is a relative term and it is certainly not necessary to be a superman in order to become a good diver, in fact many disabled are able to enjoy the sport. Careful selection of equipment to suit the diver’s requirements and physique can keep the weight to an acceptable level, and diving covers a wide range of activities-from the less physically demanding diving in shallow, sheltered waters, to long expeditions and deep dives in tidal waters that can tax the strength of the fittest-so it is possible to find exciting and interesting diving that is within the scope of all ages and physiques.
Basic ability to undertake a particular physical activity can be readily tested, and a person’s physical condition can be ascertained by medical examination. Less easy to define and recognise are those basic mental attributes that contribute to the making of a successful diver, yet these are extremely important. Many of the difficulties that arise as a diver adjusts to the new environment in which he finds himself are frequently a result of temperament. Inevitably it will be necessary to overcome the apprehension that is present when any new activity is undertaken, and this may be even more pronounced in the trainee diver who is also entering a completely strange environment. Frequently enthusiasm and a natural curiosity will overcome this, but far more important in allaying doubts is sound basic training. Under good instruction the learner takes progressive steps, and initial nervousness disappears as success follows success. However, even with the help and careful guidance of an instructor an ability to relax and to adapt to new sensations and changed perceptions is essential: the face mask, whilst permitting underwater vision~ which is one of the most exciting experiences in diving-also restricts the total field of vision to a much narrower field; first the snorkel and then the demand valve requires the technique of mouth breathing (which does not always come naturally); correctly weighted, the diver neither floats towards the surface nor sinks to the bottom, but remains in mid-water apparently suspended, and gone are the clues for personal orientation that are available when on dry land. In such conditions the diver must be able to learn to interpret new signals: the way in which pressure builds up in his ears, or the changed feel of his equipment, in order to orientate himself in his environment. Such adaptation does not always come quickly or easily, and a diver needs patience coupled with a placid and imperturbable temperament, for he is not undertaking a sport in which the training can be rushed with safety.
Whilst the ability to remain calm in the face of a crisis is a very necessary part of a diver’s make-up, he must also have a developed sense of adventure. Without this there would be no urge to explore a new environment. Diving is not for the unsure or the timid, but rather for those whose sense of adventure expresses itself through a confidence in their ability to face and overcome problems when they arise. Personal confidence grows with experience but must always allow a place for reason, for the diver who is over-confident, who tends to make rash decisions and who takes reckless action out of sheer bravado, will soon place himself and his diving companions at risk.
It must be accepted that in all diving there is an element of risk, and it is often this which, consciously or unconsciously, brings a touch of spice to the activity. However, there is a level of risk acceptance that is permissible in a particular situation and this will depend upon many factors: the skill and experience of the divers, the equipment available and the purpose of the dive. A diver’s temperament must be such that he has the ability to exercise a reasoned judgement that is not easily swayed by external pressures, for overconfidence could result in making dives with an unacceptable risk.
In many people a feeling for adventure and excitement is often matched with an independence of spirit and a strong desire to go one’s own way. Such a singleness of purpose is a valuable trait, but in diving this must be balanced by a willingness to accept the disciplines that the sport demands. For instance, sport divers should always dive in pairs, each having a conscious awareness of the partner’s position and actions, and ready to provide support at all times. This demands an ability to behave unselfishly and to be completely reliable. The individualist who continually wanders off is a danger both to himself and his partner.
Although it may not appear so at first sight, diving is very much a team sport in that it relies upon groups of people working together for the good of the group. A diving expedition is supported by a considerable back-up organisation which involves such activities as site planning. transport, equipment checking, and marshalling and organizing at the dive site. Each and every person should be willing to play his part and to make his contribution to the total effort. The ultimate -; responsibility for safety on an expedition lies with the Expedition Leader, and each member of the diving group must accept his authority and decisions unselfishly. Although initially the diver in training will rely heavily upon the more experienced members of his club, the time will come when he in turn will be ready to step into a position of responsibility. In the first instance this may be as an assistant Marshal or as a Dive Leader-as part of the progressive training programme. Eventually he may find that he has risen to the position of Diving Officer. Any prospective diver should be willing to accept the responsibility of leadership as his experience grows.
Finally, those who wish to take up diving must realise that it is an activity that relies upon more than just a sound physique and an ability to undertake certain skills. To be efficient and safe, diving must be supported by a body of knowledge that forms the basis for many important decisions. A diver must be able to understand sufficient physiology to realise the limitations of his own physique; enough physics to appreciate the effects of a hyperbaric environment, and be sufficiently practical to understand the workings of his equipment.