When I was 12 years old, a bunch of kids from my school went on a ski trip and I was invited to go along. I was a middle-class city kid, and hadn’t done much to any skiing. After the second day of doing the bunny hills, my friends talked me into doing a blue run, an intermediate course. I quickly lost control, went airborne and wiped out – HARD. It stung, but with the malleable nature of youth, I got up and continued down hill where I skied into the bushes and had to be filched out by some passersby. I bore the humiliation well and laughed off my classmates amusement (even as I appeared in a short story writing assignment a month later),  but I never went skiing again.

In hindsight, I know that going to a more advanced course was a bad decision, and I should have stayed within the greens at the most. While maybe not as challenging, it would have been better for me to build up confidence and maybe take more classes.

SCUBA is my life. I grew up going to Jones Beach, navigating riptides,  playing in rough waves. By the time I got certified, spending time underwater was as natural as walking. As fun as SCUBA diving is for me, I understand that the ocean, like the mountain, can be an unforgiving place. When things go bad, you can usually trace it back to a string of poor decisions. While Cardiovascular Disease and poor fitness statistically rank high among diving incidents, diver behavior is something that you can directly control for yourself to make sure you don’t put yourself in an unfortunate position.

A violation is not a mistake, but rather a choice to ignore established safety guidelines.

The objective of this post is to be a resource for our divers to come back and look over between dives to keep your safety in mind, so that SCUBA is not ruined for you the way skiing was for me. Avoiding these common pitfalls will ensure that you have a safe and fun time! So here are 8 common violations that are found to have occurred in many dive accidents that you can avoid…

1. Buddy System Violations

If you’re separated from your dive buddy, look around for the agreed upon amount of time (you decide this with your buddy before the dive), and then start making your way to the surface. If you both follow the same plan, you should reunite underwater or on the surface and can continue the dive. Many dive incidents occur when a buddy team separated and made no effort to reunite.

2. Not Enough Air, Not Paying Attention to Air, Staying Beyond Minimum Ascent Pressure

Always start your dive with a full tank, and make sure you dive your plan. If the dive plan states that the dive is over at 1000 PSI, start ascending to your safety stop at 1000 PSI. Many dive incident reports show that divers overstayed their dive, even though they were knowingly low on air.

3. Weighting and Buoyancy Issues

Diving improperly weighted is a common way to have buoyancy problems, which can lead to either a rapid ascent, or bouncing off the bottom and provoking a defense mechanism from a creature who lives there. Remember your training, and always try to be neutrally  buoyant in your Zen position, using your breath rather than your BCD to control your place in the water column.

4. Reckless Judgment

Always make the prudent choice in underwater decisions. Nitrogen Narcosis is a condition about which we still know very little. While it generally kicks in around 99 feet, Nitrogen can still affect your decision making process. Always remind yourself to make the cautious choice while diving.  Also, starting a dive with malfunctioning equipment such as a nonworking SPG, or a dry suit dive without a low-pressure inflator hose can have disastrous results.

5. Omitted Pre-Dive Checks

Surgeons use checklists, pilots use checklists, and divers should also use checklists because they work.  Conduct your pre-dive check, and if paired with a random person, politely insist on one for your own peace of mind. Whether you use ABCDE or BWRAF is up to you, but a lot of things that can go wrong on a dive can be fixed by simply doing a pre-dive check and catching it before it becomes a problem.

6. Exceeding Limits

A lot of divers are peer pressured into doing dives that are beyond their training because all their friends or doing it. A phrase that sends shivers up my spine is, “Ah, we’ll take care of you.” Doing a training dive that is a pinnacle dive (more challenging than anything you’ve done) with a certified professional is a highly recommended experience, and we are happy to teach you. Do not put your personal safety in the hands of another recreational diver. Stay within the limits of your training and experience.

7. Inactivity

Scuba Skills are perishable. It’s not like riding a bike. You will forget things if you’re not doing it all the time. We have the highest respect for divers that come back for a refresher, especially if they hold advanced certifications. It might be nice to just breathe underwater again and iron out the kinks in a controlled environment, or be underwater with new gear.

8.  Rushing Equalization

If you need more time to equalize, take it! You should never feel any pain or discomfort. Make sure you communicate with your dive leader that you are having an issue. One thing that helps with that is an underwater noise maker like a brass snap clip or a tank banger, or an underwater quacker that connects to your BCD. Getting your dive leader’s attention that you are having trouble with your ears is a necessary step to making sure the group doesn’t get separated from you.

to sum up…

This list is not all-inclusive, but it should give you a healthy idea of what to avoid while diving. Remember that that key to diving safety is having personal awareness and self-sufficiency. You need to make the call for yourself for what is acceptable risk while SCUBA diving. Don’t rely on anyone else to value your health and safety as much as you do!