Do’s and Don’ts of Diving: Training Edition

Wether you are a brand new diver or a seasoned diver learning a new specialty there are somethings you might do that secretly drive your instructor up the wall. Some of these things may occur before instruction begins, during or after, but at some point these will all happen eventually. Here are some things you might do as a student getting certified that your instructor hates, and how you can avoid or fix these problems.

Don’t show up to class with the generic Costco mask, snorkel & fins set.

Costco Special

Diving isn’t the cheapest sport to get into, but like many other sports there are very very cheap alternatives that just don’t cut the mustard. The mask in those sets are made with cheap materials that will not hold up over time, the silicone is actually silicone & some sort of PVC which will harden relatively quickly. These are also very generic so its very common for them not to fit well or be very uncomfortable. The fins are the worst of the package, they are meant for snorkeling, so they are way to small to efficiently push a diver with gear through the water, and they are made for bare feet so if you are planning on diving with boots in cold water they won’t fit. The straps and clips are also cheap and very prone to breaking. I want to bang my head into a wall ever time I see one of these sets show up to a class, it tells me that this person is either to cheap to commit to diving or they just don’t care about getting certified. I see this a lot with parents getting kids certified or significant others getting their partner certified, they don’t know if they will like it so they don’t want to invest in good gear, but if you don’t have gear that is comfortable and appropriate its more likely they won’t enjoy diving. Obviously this is more of an issue with Open water students than continuing education.

Do get your gear from a dive shop.

Appropriate diving equipment

Firstly preferably get your gear from the shop you are getting your instruction at its just a show of good faith and support, but secondly they will ensure that you have equipment that is appropriate for the type of diving that you are training for. Proper fit and suitability of personal equipment will greatly improve the quality of the experience and make diving way more enjoyable. If you compare diving to something like snow skiing or snowboarding if you show up to a lesson and you don’t have appropriate attire genes and a sweatshirt and its storming out you are going to be miserable and not enjoy the experience despite paying for a lift ticket, lesson and rentals unless you purchased a plastic version of the snowboard or skis at Costco and that won’t work very well either. So make sure that you have the appropriate equipment for diving and that it fits you properly, your dive shop will be happy to help you with this.

Don’t be Late.

This is one of my personal pet peeves, as a very punctual person I hate it when people are excessively late. Classroom, pool and ocean dives are usually set in advance so if you sign up for a class make sure that you can make it to all of the meetings on time. Most of the time there will be other students also waiting for you to arrive so the class can get started. Scuba training is often open ended in terms of time so your being late could drag the class on much longer than people want. Its a sign of respect and commitment to show up on time, and being late affects everyone in the class.

Do call in advance if you are going to be late.

Its a simple courtesy to everyone in the class and instructor if you can let them know you are running late. Depending on how late you might be they may wait or start the class without you so you can make it up later (likely for an additional fee). Sometimes the meeting time might not be during shop hours so it is a good idea if you are starting a class to ask if you can get the instructors contact just in case this will also help if you are having trouble finding a meeting location. Your instructor should have your contact from when you signed up and will likely call you to find out if you are running late or not coming to class. The most important aspect is to make sure that being late to class is not a common occurrence.

Don’t be unprepared for class.

This is something that often contributes to being late to class, maybe you show up on time or a little early but you still need to get all of your equipment for class, this can take anywhere from 30min to an hour and now the class is waiting for you. Some students might also show up and not have read any of the material, or gotten important forms like the medical questionnaire signed by a doctor (if necessary). These are all things that delay the class, and some instructors may ask that you sign up for a different class so you can complete the required material or have time to see your doctor and get medically cleared. This is all information that you are given when signing up on how to be prepared for the first day and it is up to the student to take responsibility.

Do prepare for class in advance.

It sounds simple but many neglect this opportunity, often times scuba classes are signed up for well in advance and the student has plenty of time to get their personal equipment, read the materials and get medically cleared (if necessary). So take the process seriously and your instructor will greatly appreciate it, it will make the class much easier for everyone involved. There is nothing more disappointing than having to reschedule a student because they didn’t take the time to prepare so avoid the situation all together and make sure you are ready for the class well in advance.

Don’t be afraid to ask for additional attention or help.

The purpose of the instructor is to train and assist you in learning to scuba dive, so don’t be afraid to ask for additional help. If there is a skill that you are struggling with and everyone else in the group is getting it the instructor or their assistant will either take you aside to work with you one on one or have you move on to circle back to the skill at the end to keep the flow of the class moving. Its ok to have trouble with the skill especially in the pool it is all new and very unnatural, so if you are having some difficulty let the instructor know and they might have an alternate way to perform the skill that might be easier for you. If you are completing a skill but not feeling comfortable with it, it could cause problems when performing them in the ocean which can be dangerous, so make sure that you are 100% comfortable with all the skills. If you need to arrange additional pool time for practice or a private session with the instructor to make sure you are ready.

Do consider tipping.

This is of course subjective, but if you had a really great instructor that went above and beyond in your training a little something extra is always appreciated. It doesn’t have to be cash it might be a 6 pack of beer, or bottle of wine, a thank you card or even signing up for another class like advanced or a specialty . These things mean a lot to instructors to know that their work is appreciated, surprisingly instructors don’t make that much off the classes, after the shop taking their cut, pool fees, paying assistants your instructor is teaching primarily for for joy of teaching and sharing scuba diving with you. So let them know that you enjoyed the experience leave a positive review, call the shop and let the owner know what a good job they did. Of course if they didn’t don’t but if they did do an amazing job make the effort.

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Do’s and Don’t of Diving: Shop Edition

The dive shop is often the first interaction most people have on their journey to becoming divers. For new divers and old diver there are somethings that can drive the staff up the wall weather its a small shop or large shop you are likely to encounter one or multiple of these issues. The goal is to help guide any diver in what to avoid and how to properly act when in a dive shop.

Don’t try to haggle everything.

One of my biggest gripes from working in dive shops is the customer that tries to haggle the price. While I understand that some equipment can get expensive it is not the shop that sets the price a majority of the time. The manufactures of the products set the price and usually have whats known as MAP (minimum advertised price) for their products. This is the lowest we can advertise the price breaking MAP could result in the loss of that brand to the shop. The other thing to keep in mind is that MAP price often doesn’t leave that much room for profit for the shops this is especially true in small shops that can’t buy in volume to reduce their cost on items. Think of it this way when you go clothes shopping or grocery shopping do you ask for additional discounts when you check out.

Do ask if there are similar items that may be in your price range.

A good dive shop will do everything in their power to ensure that you get the best gear for your buck. Many shops and employees are aware of deals and packages that may save you money and allow you to get equipment that fits your budget. That is what the dive shop is for to help support divers, who support dive shops.

Don’t use shops to try on gear to purchase it online.

As sneaky as you think you may be trying on any piece of equipment employees are pretty good at figuring out when your just testing it out before you buy it online, if your taking notes its completely obvious. There is nothing more infuriating than assisting a customer with manny different types and sizes of equipment to have them just walk away never to be seen again. Sometimes this process can take over an hour just for basic gear, mask, booties, fins etc… that employee may have missed out on sales that where missed because they were helping you. While online is a great convenience and some of the larger retailers (Leisure pro, scuba.com, etc…) have great deals, some that your local shop can’t compete with your are just running your local shop out of business. One thing to keep in mind is that these online retailers aren’t going to help when you need your tanks filled or equipment serviced. Your local shop provides an expertise that they should be compensated for when assisting you find your equipment.

Do be upfront about your intentions, or ask if they price match.

While part of this response may come off as a little cold, I think that if you come into a shop and try on equipment to buy it online then the sales staff shouldn’t have to put any effort into helping you more than they have to. Some shops if the price online is reasonable will match the price. This may be more common in larger shops where they can make up for the discount in volume but small shops it may not be as common. If the difference in price is too great they may not be able to accommodate you. But once again this goes back to weather or not you want to support your local dive shop. If you buy equipment that needs to fit properly online you should have to deal with the repercussions of gambling on weather it is going to fit or not instead of wasting a dive shops time.

Don’t try to sell us your (your friends/family members) crusty old equipment.

A majority of the time equipment that has been sitting for many years in a garage or closet has very little value in general, and nearly no value to dive shops. It takes up space and most likely needs to be serviced especially tanks, bcd’s and regulators. While you may think that the new ones are expensive so yours should be worth a lot, it isn’t especially in the condition its in. One of my least favorite interactions is when someone brings in something they are trying to sell, I tell them we are not interested and they tell me they want to sell in on craigslit/ebay and want to know what a new one is worth so they can price theirs the same. You wouldn’t try to sell a old car for the same price as a brand new one would you, why would it work with dive equipment.

Do ask what options you have with your old equipment.

I understand that as divers we accumulate stuff and sometimes we need to clean house, this is were a shop may be able to help. Depending on what you want you usually have options depending on the condition of the equipment. If you just want to get rid of it the shop can take it as a donation and repurpose it or refurbish it. If you want money for it and its in good condition they may offer to sell it on consignment (not very common unless its in really good condtion). If you want money and its not in great condition take the shops advice on what it is worth and try craigslist or eBay. If you are looking to replace it with new gear ask if they have any trade in programs, some brands like Oceanic will take old and non functioning equipment and provide a discount on new equipment in their case it can only be for the same type of equipment BCD for BCD, computer for computer etc…

Don’t buy used gear online.

Despite offering this as a solution for getting rid of gear I am a strong advocate for not purchasing used equipment online especially for new divers. There are some exception for people that may be looking for a very specific piece of equipment that is no longer manufactured and they are very familiar with that piece of equipment. But as appealing as some prices on used gear is online its going to cost you way more in the long run. The people selling these items are trying to get rid of them most likely because they are old and outdated or not working properly. The service fees may cost you more than if you were to just purchase an new one. It is also worth knowing that some regulators are no longer serviceable (Dacor), so this great purchase you just found might as well be a paper weight. The other thing to consider is fit and durability for things like wetsuits and other neoprene items neoprene wares out and new suits use a much better quality neoprene than the old suits had access to.

Consult your Dive shop about used equipment.

Some dive shops sell their used rental gear that has most likely been maintained better than anything found on criagslist/ebay. So if you really need to save money on equipment ask if they have any used gear for sale, of if they sell their rentals (usually at the end of the season). If they don’t sell used gear or rentals, tell them about what you found ask their opinion on it they may help you avoid waiting money on something that seems too good to be true because it usually is.

In the end support your local dive shop, and they will always be there for you when you need them. As online retailers grow and take business from more and more small shops there will always be things that they can’t offer that your local shop can that is the expertise and knowledge that they share with you.