Slow and steady wins the race.

Anyone who has ever scuba dived should know that there are some basic safety guidelines to follow to ensure every dive is fun rather than frightening.  Scuba diving is not about who gets from A to B first.  The whole scuba experience is intended to be enjoyed safely, and at a relaxed pace.  And that starts and finishes with a suitably slow, controlled descent and ascent.

“Scuba diving is not considered a good exercise for aerobic conditioning. If scuba divers do everything ‘right’, by maintaining neutral buoyancy, drifting with currents, and breathing slowly and deeply while underwater, they should expend less energy than when resting on land.”

(Michael Strauss, Diving Science).

On the way down, a slow descent gives time to address any buoyancy issues and trim niggles with kit, make sure you and your dive buddy are comfortable in the water, and ensure sufficient time for ears to equalise to the increasing pressure of the water.

On the way up a slow, controlled ascent, with appropriate safety stops for the depth and duration of dive, is even more essential.  It allows our body the time to off-gas the nitrogen accumulated during the dive, which if not eliminated from the body, can lead to decompression sickness or nitrogen narcosis.  And it prevents divers from getting lung injuries and potentially very serious complications, caused by ascending with too much air expanding too rapidly inside our bodies.

Diving is a hugely enjoyable sport and a lifelong passion for thousands of people around the world.  But I think sometimes people overlook that it is also known as an extreme sport for a reason.  The safety rules and guidelines come from years of testing and proven experience. You ignore them at your own peril.

Yet so many people seem disinclined to bother with safety stops at the end of a dive.  Have they become blasé about the risks they are taking, like drivers who drink and then drive? Do they think they look cooler by skipping the safety stop? Do they feel pressurised by others they dive with, to adopt their bad habits? Have they not dived with enough consideration of their air supply to enable them to take the extra time?

If you are a recreational scuba diver because you like diving (and if you don’t like it – well, really, why do it?!) then safety stops should be part of every dive.  The final cherry on the cake.  An extra added bonus.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

A good friend, counting off the minutes…

Safety stops are done at shallow depths.  That is usually where the water is warmest, there’s often lots of life to look at, and coral reefs, kelp forests, even the vast deep blue look at their sparkling sunlight best.  Air consumption is slower here than at greater depths, so you can take your time to look around you.  Just enjoy the sensation of floating, weightless in the water, before you have to get back on dry land or the boat, and start the de-kitting process. What’s the rush?

That’s not to say that every safety stop is a gently relaxing end to a dive.  I have spent more than one, swept into a horizontal position, clinging with white knuckles to a descent line dropped by the boat.  Divers above and below me, all of us looking like flags fluttering in the wind as the ripping currents surged past us, trying to pull the regulators out of our mouths. Exhilarating and wild.  Certainly memorable!

I have never skipped a safety stop.  Ever.  Even after hundreds of dives I’d rather take the slow road.  If I’m up on deck five minutes after everyone else, so what?!  Plus, I have seen some incredible things on safety stops that feel like a pay-off for playing it safe.  Some of the most memorable ones?  Eagle rays skimming past in the blue and then hanging around to give us a five minute acrobatics display, turtles swimming right up to check me out, being mobbed by a swirling silvery mass of curious trout.

A handful of minutes, some potentially unforgettable moments to experience, that final chance in a dive to connect with the ocean.  And that safety stop just might save your life.  Slow  and steady really does win the race when it comes to scuba diving.

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15 thoughts on “Slow and steady wins the race.

  1. Indah Susanti

    Totally agree with you Jenny. Safety stop is certainly important and actually sometimes there are surprises happened during the safety stops that make the safety stops enjoyable. Like once, during the safety stop, we saw two turtles swam together..

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    1. jenny Post author

      Thanks Indah – I knew you’d be one of the good ones! 😉 Moments like the turtles swimming together definitely seem like rewards for good behaviour!

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  2. Amy

    I agree, Safety stop need to be considered. It’s wise to prepare ahead of time for any adventure. Diving is such a cool adventure, but I have never tried… Thank you for the post, Jenny!

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. jenny Post author

      Amy you are absolutely right, diving is one of the greatest adventures, but safety and planning are essential. If you ever get the chance I can highly recommend it!

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    1. jenny Post author

      Haha – thanks trablog!! Yes, I do! The one on this post is mine. There are a few others on this blog too. I love being underwater with my camera although I don’t get much chance these days. Underwater photography is technically quite a bit harder, so if I get a decent shot I’m always very happy!

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        1. jenny Post author

          Thank you. I’ve not gone super hi-tech yet, and I can’t really justify the outlay right now as being a mum stops me getting in the water enough to justify it. So far a decent camera and underwater housing is giving me good enough results most of the time. I’m sure more kit would be a plus, but I feel that the biggest strength is being a good diver, in control under water, before picking up a camera. You’d be surprised how many truly awful divers have the biggest shiniest cameras. I don’t know what their photos look like, but they aren’t much fun to dive with, and they are pretty clumsy about where they put their cameras and fins whilst clicking away!

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          1. trablog

            Haha.. I can imagine rich guys with big cameras and don’t take pics and clumsy divers with shiny cameras 😀 It happens 😀
            Anyway good to know that you are a good diver as well as a good photographer 🙂

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            1. jenny Post author

              Thank you! Do you dive? Or fancy diving? I’m guessing from what you’ve said that you would be one of the good guys underwater too! 🙂

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              1. trablog

                Hahaah 😀 I dived once and I know that I am not born for this. I am not even good at swimming, but I wanted to experience this. So I tried once. That is all I have! But I want to do it again. If possible do the underwater photography dive too!

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                1. jenny Post author

                  Sometimes the first dive has you hooked, other times people dive a handful of times before falling in love with diving. I hope you get the chance to try again. It is such a great experience. And as such a great photographer, I’m sure you would take to underwater photography with ease. 🙂

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                2. trablog

                  haha.. I have a problem with water!! 😀 I am not a good swimmer and just for the experience I did it. As my swimming wasn’t good they didn’t give me the OW diving certificate! I would love to do it again and again if it wasn’t that expensive affair 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. jenny Post author

      I am always baffled by those who don’t – I knew you’d be one of the good ones, Cathy! Thanks for the kind comment. 🙂

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