Boost Your Confidence
Keeping up your skills will make you a better, more confident diver
A return to the water after a break, or a move into unfamiliar, challenging conditions, will push most of us out of our ‘comfort zone’. Often, such pre-dive apprehension will be dispelled by a well-planned, well-executed dive. But if you are not prepared for conditions such as low visibility or cold, deep water, stress can rear its head, and put you in real trouble.
Keeping fit is an excellent way to improve confidence because it helps you to deal with any psychological or physical stress you may have to face. A regular cardiovascular exercise programme, such as running, cycling or swimming is ideal. Yoga is also highly recommended as a way to get fit and deal with stress.
The winter months keep most divers on dry land, and this time out offers a great opportunity to brush up on skills, test your problem management and get ready for the season ahead.
Practising skills you have learned – such as rescue and emergency scenarios – is well worth doing before the start of the season or an upcoming dive trip. Being prepared for the worst-case scenario is a great stress-reducer.
There are several confidence-boosting skills that are ideal for practising during the long winter months in sheltered inland sites and swimming pools. Here are some basic, intermediate and advanced pool and inland site skills regularly used by clubs in the colder months to boost diver confidence and keep you dive-fit.
Line laying - A step-by-step guide
1 Allocate yourself an area where you are unlikely to interfere with other pool users. It might be worth reserving a swimming lane for this purpose.
2 For belay points, place at least two weight belts on the bottom of the pool, some distance apart.
3 Underwater, keeping the line taut and with the reel held out to the side, lay a line between the two points. The trick is to keep the line well away from fin clips, and to dampen the spool with a finger to guard against the reel running free and any chance of line spill.
4 Link up with a buddy and practise reeling out to the far end together and back again. On the return journey, the ‘reeler’ should be at the back, setting a swimming pace that maintains tension on the line, thus minimising the potential for diver entrapment and reel jams, while the buddy swims on ahead, keeping a loose hold on the line.
5 The exercise can be repeated while wearing thick gloves to build confidence. You can also include exercises such as unclipping and replacing the reel on a D-ring, or extracting it from a BC pocket.
6 Another confidence-boosting skill is to follow the line without a mask, with the line fixed from one end of the pool to the other.
Back to basics
Practice makes for confidence
It is important to brush up on all those basic skills learned in early training, such as out-of-air procedures, mask removal and buoyancy skills.
This is a basic skill, but one that is worth practising while in controlled, comfortable conditions. Swim from one side of the pool to the other without the mask in place. This helps to build the confidence required to deal with any mask problem, such as a leak, that might occur during a dive in open water.
If you are not used to diving in cold water, it can be a real shock to get a rush of icy liquid hitting your face should your mask leak or come off. Practise mask removal in shallow, cold-water conditions to be fully prepared for the sensation.
Having confidence in your ability to find your way back to the boat, shot-line or shore exit point, particularly in low visibility, is a major ingredient for enjoying your dive and sticking to the dive plan.
Good compass skills can easily be forgotten by those who normally dive with a guide. Set yourself a number of tasks, such as finning from one inland lake feature to the other and returning to the entry point.
Out of air
This is another basic skill but one that is worth practising so that you are able to deal with the scenario instinctively and minimise the stress involved. Try to do this emergency drill without wearing your mask.
The most important skill for divers to master is buoyancy. Practise your skills both in the pool and in inland water by hovering midwater for at least 30 seconds. Try to complete this in the crossed-leg ‘Buddha’ pose.
Kit removal in the water
This is a great exercise for intermediate divers : not only does it encourage good buoyancy, it also builds confidence in performing self-rescue in a controlled and logical manner. De-kit at the bottom of the pool, swim about 10m underwater and up to the surface, then dive back down and put your equipment back on before resurfacing. If you wish to advance further with this skill, try completing it with a blacked-out mask. Make sure such skills are well supervised by suitably qualified divers.
Kit exchange while buddy breathing
Buddy breathing is a useful confidence-building skill in a controlled environment. Buddy breathing while exchanging kitis a task-loading exercise to help you think logically through a problem in a stressful situation.
Delayed surface marker buoy (SMB) deployment
Problems with delayed SMBs come up time and again. Follow a sequence of delayed SMB deployment, first from the bottom in shallow water, then from a structure, and finally practise this skill in midwater. Repeat these exercises until you feel confident.
Fins off and on midwater
A good test of buoyancy skills, this task helps divers prepare for fins becoming detached inadvertently.
Always brush up on rescue skills before the start of the new season, including controlled buoyant lifts, tows and evacuation procedures.
Want to learn more?
• Practise skills you are unsure of in shallow conditions – say, less than 5m
• When learning a new skill, break it down into small, bite-sized pieces, gradually adding one more element at a time
• For complex skills, spread the complete set of tasks over several dives
• Don’t be frightened to ask to be shown how other divers do things
• Ask different instructors for their opinion or their method of doing things
• In low visibility, ask your buddy to physically hold onto you – it’s amazing how much knowing that someone is on hand to help will build your confidence
• Make sure you practise the skill frequently
• When you are being taught a new skill, make sure you watch the demonstration and then have a go yourself. Remember the phrase: ‘I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand’
• Break the new skill down so that it is not such a huge hurdle
• Build your confidence by trying new kit in the pool, before moving to sheltered open water and eventually the sea
• Don’t be coerced into doing something you are unsure of
• You should never become over-confident – this will only lead to errors
• Build up your physical fitness. If you are fit, you will have better self-survival skills – and if faced with an emergency, you will be better equipped to deal with it successfully
• Visualise the dive. Consider what could go wrong and how you would deal with each eventuality
• Check and assemble dive kit methodically in an unrushed environment.