While diving is a year round sport in many locations, the number of divers and dives greatly increases in the summer months. As we head towards that time of the year, there are a number of items we should do to get the most out of our dive season.
1. Annual Services
Certain items of your kit, such as your regulators, needs to be services annually by certified technicians. Some manufacturers of regulators will provide lifetime service parts, however, to stay under the terms of the warranty you must have the piece of equipment services annually. Missing a service can mean no more free service parts. While not an annual requirement when you have your regulator serviced, ask to have your Submersible Pressure Gauge (SPG) checked. Most dive centers have a calibrated pressure gauge. They can compare what your gauge reads to their calibrated gauge at different pressures. Few SPG can be adjusted, however, a gauge giving different reading might not need to be replaced. As an example, if your gauge reads 10 bar higher than the calibrated reading at different pressures, you just need to remember that and adjust your dive plan accordingly. A dive plan that calls for an accent at 70 bar, would be 80 bar on your SPG. However, if the test show a variation that differs at different pressures (ie shows 290 at 300 bar ten low, but 60 at 50 bar ten high) the gauge must be replaced.
One item of your kit that is often overlooked is your dive computer. Many manufacturer's of dive computers have a requirement for an annual inspection. During the inspection a series of test are done under pressure to verify that the computer is operating properly. These test require specialized equipment, so most dive centers will have to send your dive computer to a service center.
If you have your own scuba cylinders, take it in for a visible inspection and a new fill. Insure it will be in hydro testing compliance the full year, if not get it hydro tested.
Take your equipment that needs servicing as early as you can to beat the rush and to allow time for its return before diving season starts. There might be a perfect day for diving earlier than you expect. While dropping off your kit items, pick up any maintenance supplies you may need. A good start would be: wet suit shampoo, BCD conditioner and dry suit zipper lubricant.
As an experience diver, you are well aware of the proper care of you equipment. There are a few articles on this site that provides some tips as well. Start with your pre-dive equipment checks looking for anything out of the ordinary. Try on your wet suit and take a shower in it. Do a few stretching exercises. Does it still feel comfortable? When finish, wash it in a wet suit shampoo and when dry lubricate the zippers with the wet suit zipper lubricant. Inspect your BCD and use the valves. Inflate your BCD until it seems full. If you have a scuba cylinder, fill the BCD until the over pressure valve releases. Let it stand for a few hours, then check if it shows signs of leakage. Use a BCD conditioner on it after it passes the test. Before you go back to the dive store to get the gear you left for service, inventory and make a list of items you need for your save a dive kit.
For a few decades, I lived in areas that wintertime meant skiing. During ski season, most weekend saw me on the slopes or going cross country. A few months before the ski season would start, the skiing magazines would all present fitness programs to get you in ski-shape. Being fit applies to diving as well, not only does being fit makes diving more fun but more economical and safer as well. The February 2014 forum has an article on dive fitness that you might want to review.
4. Plan & Research
Keep up to date on new equipment and recommendations in the dive industry. Work out even just in your mind some goals for the year. It might be to dive a certain number of time, a trip to a special location, take an additional certification or even go pro.
5. Check out dive
Your certification card has no expiration date, so even if you have not dived in ten years, you can rent some tanks and go diving in your local lake. It might not be the smartest thing you ever did and it might be the last thing you do, but it is possible. Most dive centers will ask, however, when your last dive was and if it been a while they may require a refresher course. One training agency recommends that divers who have not dived in six months take a refresher course. Making arbitrary cutoffs like that might not be the safest method and may irritate some experienced divers. A dive with a thousand logged dives who has not dived in a year may not need a refresher course while an open water diver who has no dives after certification five months before may need the refresher. You and your dive buddy are the best judges if you need a refresher course or just need a dive to run thought your basic skills. Start by reviewing the basic skills in the open water manual.
A number of resorts and many live aboard's require a checkout dive before starting the normal dive schedule. Those that do generally explain in the dive briefing that they will start the dive with a basic skills review and continue wit the dive. The dives are done with only a few divers and the instructor can judge if the diver is safe or if they should require a refresher course. For most experience divers, the check out dive is enough to bring the basic skills back.
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