When it comes to trouble-free diving, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

1 DRESS WARMLY. Experienced divers know that hypothermia slows their reflexes, dulls their thinking and increases their risk of decompression sickness, chilling accumulates from dive to dive, even in tropical water. So pros tend to wear more exposure protection than novices. They take add-ons like vests and hoods so they can layer to match the conditions. And they keep warm during the surface interval and ashore.

2 CHECK THEIR BUDDY EARLY. Especially if their buddy is a stranger, pros start communication early. They look for signs of stress like nervousness or boasting and watch body language too. The better acquainted they are before they plan the dive, the better chance there is of diving the plan.

3 CHECK THEIR INSTRUMENTS. Experienced divers check all their gear carefully, but pay special attention to instruments. They remember to start computers early and make sure they are working properly. They watch their gauge while breathing through their reg; a fluctuating needle indicates a problem.

4 LISTEN TO THE BRIEFING. Experienced divers pay more attention, not less, to the dive briefing. They know that no one knows everything, and they are quicker to ask for local advice about a dive site. The “know-it-all,” by contrast, is demonstrating his inexperience.

5 CHECK THE CURRENT. Pros know that the human diver, no matter how fit, is one of the weakest swimmers in the ocean and can easily be overwhelmed by even a moderate current. After listening to the briefing, they verify for themselves the direction of the current and prefer to start the dive by swimming into it.

6 ORIENT SITE TO COMPASS. After hearing the site described, pros use their compass to “get their bearings” so they know what the compass heading will be to return to the boat. They make a mental map of the site and orient it to cardinal points of the compass.

7 EQUALIZE EARLY. The most common dive-related injury is middle-ear barotrauma, caused by failure to equalize ears properly. Experienced divers start equalizing before they leave the surface, and are careful to equalize frequently, especially during the first 30 feet of descent.

8 MAKE A TO-DO LIST. A frayed strap? A cracked hose? A quick-disconnect that isn’t quick? Pros know to make a to-do list of equipment problems that will need attention soon, so they don’t forget. And they make the repairs as soon as they get home–before they put their gear away.


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