Safety and Development Manager Jim Watson considers the importance of training and continual training for safety when diving and snorkelling.
The summer months are traditionally considered prime time to dedicate to diving and snorkelling. It makes sense to make effective use of the (generally) good weather, warmer and more settled water conditions, longer daylight hours, and available holiday time.
The desire to catch up on some ‘fun’ diving has been enhanced by the restraints imposed over the last 18 months by the Covid-19 outbreak and it is evident that many are making good use of the opportunity. It is also encouraging that many have clearly been making use of the preparation for a return to diving guidance.
Training at all levels has also been affected by the restrictions imposed in an effort to control the virus. Most heavily impacted have been those new to diving, particularly due to lack of access to swimming pools.
Training is essential to provide a sound foundation of skills and knowledge to allow students to safely go diving and expand their experience of the underwater world. The value is well understood and should be supported, encouraged, and promoted by instructors and experienced divers alike.
Diving and training are not mutually exclusive
The fact that the summer months are prime diving time should not imply that training cannot be integrated into a dive, just that a little forethought and application may be necessary. Even training dives should include a planned opportunity to ‘enjoy the dive’ and this is reflected in the lesson plans for Ocean Diver, Sports Diver etc.
Branches, instructors and students should all be looking to review training needs and consider how training can be progressed during this period of opportunity. Any clearing up of a backlog now will provide long term benefits, not just by allowing students to complete qualifications and ‘go diving’, but also reducing the demands on instructors in preparation for any new intakes in the autumn. This will be increasingly important given the likely backlog of those wanting to start training who have been unable to do during the pandemic.
How to integrate training with a 'fun' dive and vice versa
Initial open water training for Ocean Diver and Sports Divers are limited to 20m and many divers consider this may restrict their ‘fun’ diving activity. There are, however, ways in which a diving trip—or a day’s diving—can be planned to incorporate some suitable dive sites that would allow for appropriate training opportunities.
Planning initial dives that may be deeper for the more experienced and highly qualified divers should meet their needs. The deeper dives don’t necessarily have to exclude any element of training as carefully planned, they can provide new skills and experiences for qualified divers to progress further.
However, then planning subsequent dives to shallower depths would allow the inclusion of those whose qualifications and/or training limit their depth. The objective should be to provide a dive that also incorporates a training opportunity rather than exclusively training.
Planning scuba diving progression
There are many ways to approach planning training to aid student progression. From a branch perspective, many branches have already conducted some form of audit to see where students are in their training progression and have been planning to plug gaps.
Instructors can work with any buddy they are allocated to establish if they have any outstanding training needs that can be incorporated into any planned dive. Alternatively, when planning diving it may be appropriate to consider if the location provides an interesting dive site within the relevant depth range and then target students who may both enjoy the dive but also have the opportunity to progress their training.
It is also worthwhile bearing in mind the opportunities provided by the longer days to plan for more midweek dives as well as weekend diving days.