The Check-Dive: What It Is and Why You Need It
We all know it can be hard keep up the diving regularly once you’ve certified – travel, time, money, and other commitments often get in the way, just like they do with anything else. If you got certified on holiday and then returned home where the diving is less accessible – or appealing – then it might not be until your next holiday that you’ll have the chance to get underwater again.
This is par for the course – not everyone can live on a sunny island with immediate access to boats, dive charters, and warm crystal waters, after all. If you don’t get to dive as regularly as you’d like to, but still have some bucket-list dive spots in mind, here’s a couple of suggestions to make sure you get the most out of your dream dives.
A ‘check dive’ is exactly what it sounds like – a dive to check your diving skills before throwing you off a boat into a ripping current, or 30m down a wall. Your holiday goal might be to dive inside the lorry deck of the infamous MS Zenobia – however, if you haven’t dived for a while, or feel like you might be a bit rusty, a good dive shop will recommend an easier, less taxing dive first to get you back into the swing of things.
This isn’t meant as a slight to your diving skills, but more as a way for both you and your diving instructor to assess your readiness for a more complicated dive. Your instructor is responsible not only for your safety but also your enjoyment, after all, so it’s in their best interests to make sure you’re ready. Sometimes it can take a dive (or two) to remember what neutral buoyancy is all about! Or perhaps you’ve bought some new dive gear and want to try it out somewhere quiet and relaxed. If you’ve bought a new wetsuit, or haven’t dived in the area before, you may not be sure of how much weight you need, so it’s always nice to have an opportunity to experiment a bit somewhere safe. Or it may just be a case of wanting to get to grips with your new camera rig, before you take it to that world-class wreck site.
Refresh Your Skills
Many divers worry that over time they’ll have ‘forgotten’ all the skills they learned while they were training, and this means that they’ve forgotten how to dive. With a little time to practice, however, you’ll find that much of diving is muscle memory, and that all you might need is a quick half-hour refresher to recall how to clear your mask or put your gear together. A reputable dive shop should be quizzing you on your previous experience before they let you in the water, and assessing whether they think you’re ready for the dive you have in mind. If they offer you the chance for some one-on-one time with an instructor to go through a few basic skills and emergency procedures, take it! Doing so will put your mind at ease and prepare you for diving with a bigger group, a situation which can often be stressful if you haven’t dived for a while. Big groups can unconsciously pressurise divers into trying to ‘keep up’ and not slow the group down, and individuals often feel as though they can’t or ‘shouldn’t’ ask for help, for fear of slowing the group down, or appearing inexperienced. Having some time with an instructor first gives you a chance to ask any questions or voice any issues that might have been worrying you about the next dive.
Diving should always be an enjoyable and safe experience – but it is exciting and can be a little nerve-wracking, too. Making time for a check-dive first can help to calm any nerves, properly prepare yourself and your gear, and make sure you’re looking and feeling good before heading off into the blue.