Ack! My Gear : (
Recently, I found myself without my dive gear at the start of my dive trip; It was misplaced by the airlines.
First there was denial.
“NO! It must be here, find my bag, it’s orange and black – it’s easy to spot!” – I yelled to my sisters from the immigration queue that I was stuck in.
Then a flash of anger – I wanted to throw an immature hissyfit at the airport, kicking and screaming, “WAAA! I don’t care how you get my bag, use magic, Accio Dive Bag, I want my dive bag NOW!”
This was my break, some time for me to get some relaxing diving in, with the focus being the marvelous critters of Lembeh, and not the usual land-dwelling, water-exploring primates I face daily.
When you have been diving with a particular set up for a long time, habits form, and diving in anything else is annoyingly uncomfortable.
Quickly though, the rational side of me kicked in, along with the positive glass-half-full-rainbows-and-sunshine me. “Oh well, I should get out of my comfort zone anyway, and use the rental gear. I can’t remember what it feels like to have ill-fitting or unfamiliar gear. Feel what my students feel,” I internalized.
At the start of one of my dives, I forgot my weight belt! I felt like such a dunderhead – if only my students could see me now. But it is understandable because my usual backplate setup does not include a weight belt, it is not my habit, which got me thinking:
How Long Does a Habit Take to form?
It takes – 21 days or 3 weeks, for something simple, but can take up to 9 months for something more complex! Of course there is variation for different people but simply put, it takes constant repetition for a prolonged amount of time to form a new habit, let alone eliminate bad ones.
What this reinforced to me as an educator, is that giving divers constant reminders of good diving practices, will be beneficial to many, even for divers with over 100 dives. (Assume 2 dives/day and 90 days to make a good habit – divers with 180 dives may still be in the formation stage of good habits.)
You don’t have to be the constant nag, it can be done in a light way – but in the long run, good divers you will make.
Get Equipped As Soon As Possible
Being familiar with your equipment, means that handling, locating and using any of your equipment is effortless, automatic even. Checking air, locating your inflator hose or a dump valve – all should be effortless. It takes time to get familiar, so the sooner divers get their own gear, the sooner they can build familiarity.
I personally have configured my set so that I can just peek at my SPG to check my air, no hands involved. But of course with the rental gear I was using, I had a more cumbersome console gauge with a long hose and had tucked into my bcd’s waist clip.
As I was feeling around for it, I was thinking how many divers do not own their gear, and how every time they use a different set, they have to “re-adapt” underwater, maybe spend an extra few seconds or thoughts on it. We are probably talking about only a few seconds of each time, but it is still inefficient. Does it matter – I say definitely.
Accidents are rarely caused by just one thing, they are usually a build up of small things, a chain of multiple events. That automatic response to deflate/inflate or press the right button to begin with for example, could really matter. By removing one small “stressor”, one small link in a chain of events, you could prevent an accident.
So as an instructor, we can prevent big problems by paying attention to the small details. One of which is students familiarity with equipment. Make constant reminders of good habits, always correct small issues like streamlining, and encourage ownership of equipment.
The earlier divers start getting familiar with their gear, the sooner they will form good habits. Often, they will not want to invest in gear until they are comfortable, but we need to tell them that sometimes, you need to invest in gear to get comfortable.