Essential, A Good Idea or a Waste of Time?
Recently on one of the UK Scuba Diving bulletin boards, a member asked for input on the question of whether a check dive was necessary after a 6-month gap in diving. I responded with my opinion on this and there was also a healthy discussion on the topic. The consensus was overwhelmingly positive towards ‘Check Dives’. The discussion got me thinking that a broader consideration of ‘Skill Refresher Dives’ and ‘Check Dives’ would be a good topic for consideration on the Hidden Depths Blog.
Simply said, you’ll find all the team at Hidden Depths recommending a skills refresher after six months of non-diving. Indeed, a skills refresher and/or check dive is a prudent step, not only after perhaps a period of (SCUBA) inactivity but also for new environments, new or different kit or perhaps to practice and hone specific skills; buoyancy, DSMB deployment and finning technique for example.
For many, SCUBA may be an activity solely engaged in on warm water holidays. For those diving in the UK, the winter months may be a period of little SCUBA activity (especially those without dry suit training). Family, health, work and other commitments may mean that months pass between diving opportunities, so what should you do to make sure you’re ready to go diving?
Here is my personal story: My own daughter is by now quite an experienced and competent diver; Advanced Open Water, Deep and Nitrox certified with approaching 100 dives logged. However, she does not dive in the UK which means up to a year between holidays where we will be diving. Before each holiday involving diving, a skills refresher is a non-negotiable activity. Our last trip, on a liveaboard was less than a year after our prior liveaboard trip, but a skills refresher session in the pool was still carried out before travelling. A check dive was required and appreciated on embarking on our holiday. Checking out skills and kit before travelling also highlighted that although the regulators were well within service interval, they were not functioning properly and required a service before travel. Much better to find this out before setting off!
Prudent dive operators will wish to be assured that you are current in your diving skills before committing themselves and you to a dive. This also ensures that you will be comfortable, safe and competent for the dive sites they will subsequently take you to. Many if not all liveaboard operators will require the first dive to be a ‘check dive’ in relatively shallow and benign conditions where the dive team on board can observe divers, and check that essential skills are evident. This will ensure that not only they do not commit divers to sites and dives beyond their level of comfort and experience, but also perhaps to evaluate the need to provide in-water guiding or support. They will also ensure that divers are familiar and competent with procedures and equipment which may be required on the dives to come, such as DSMB deployment.
Many resorts operators will also require a check dive, often in pool or shallow beach/lagoon before allowing divers to venture further. These are often not charged for and should be viewed as a positive aspect of risk management, for the dive centre and for the divers themselves.
guided dives and local orientation dives
For some who have not dived in the UK for some time, even though they have dived recently overseas, a guided or orientation dive is a very good idea. The same can be said of overseas sites. It will help improve both confidence and comfort in the water, as well as updates on a local boat and shore diving environment, procedures and skills.
Skills Practice Dives
You’ll find that the Hidden Depths teaching team are regularly practising and honing skills. There are monthly skills practice days organised which are open for all to join in. These peer-led sessions give the opportunity to focus on specific skills; buoyancy, DSMB deployment & finning techniques for example, as well as testing new equipment, configurations or accessory mounting. Many of us will also buddy up for a day’s skills practice, whether we may be preparing for further training or simply to sharpen and keep current our less often used skills. None of the staff team will use any new equipment configuration in a teaching setting without first having gained familiarity and comfort with it in on non-teaching open water dives.
Skills review, padi re-activate, guided diving and skills practice opportunities at Hidden Depths
Skill Review dives and PADI Re-Activate sessions can be booked at almost any time by contacting the Hidden Depths team. One on one or group coaching sessions in the pool or open water can also be organised for those who wish for more specific skills practice.
‘Guided Diving’ days are scheduled throughout the year, especially during school holidays, to allow Junior Club Members and families to experience UK sea diving together. However, if you would like to book guided diving, either at a local inland facility or at the coast, Hidden Depths would be happy to work with you to agree on suitable date and venue. Skills Practice Days are also regularly held and are posted on the Hidden Depth Dive Club Facebook page, which is open to all members of the Hidden Depths Dive Club.
Contact me for more information or speak to any of the HDSS team anytime you wish, we’re always happy to answer your dive related questions!
Thank you for taking the time to read through my latest blog, and please do leave any comments in the space below.
Written by Robin, PADI & SSI Dive Instructor
Founder and Professional Scuba Diving Instructor
I’m Greg, the founder and professional Scuba Diving Instructor at Hidden Depths Scuba School. The school was established in 2012, and along with my fantastic team of staff, we offer high-quality training courses to everyone from total beginner through to your first steps as a dive professional. As well as a busy training centre we also run an active dive club, allowing students and fellow divers to continue diving and explore the amazing dive sites we have in the UK and abroad! I look forward to hearing from you, and sharing a dive together soon!”