Many of us have been out of the water for longer than we would have liked. Divers Alert Network (DAN, an Insurance provider for divers) produced a Quick Start Guide: Return to Diving and created a Return to Diving Safely section on its website to assist all of us to have a safe return to diving.
A bit of introspection and some outside assistance may be needed. This depends on the length of time and the reason you haven’t been diving (lockdowns aside!), your health and fitness, diving skills, when your equipment was last serviced, and where you intend to dive next.
The DAN Plan is based around Review, Refresh, Renew.
Review – Inactivity, health and fitness
If you have been out of the water for over a year, it is better to see a medical professional for a thorough assessment before starting any health / fitness program and diving.
Many dive centres (ours included) are now using an updated Medical Form designed by DAN, the Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society and the various scuba training organisations. It specifically covers COVID-19.
As a bonus, it is a lot faster to fill out than the previous PADI one. The form indicates other instances where you would need to see a doctor as they will then need to complete a section of this form indicating that you are fine to dive.
Everyone that has had Covid-19 falls into this category.
Guidelines for Lifelong Medical Fitness to Dive lists other instances when you should seek sign-off from your health professional and also includes a flow chart to make it a bit easier to follow.
Diving is considered a moderate activity sport though in some instances, it can be quite vigorous! Consider where you are going to be diving and the conditions you will be diving in. Better to allow for those to be slightly worse since you never know what might happen with the weather!
Does your fitness match what is likely to be needed? If not, it’s time to start planning your fitness program.
DAN’s Return To Diving Tips for Specific Periods of Inactivity
* If your physical fitness is not optimal, you should devise a plan and begin exercising to achieve adequate fitness for diving.
Renew – Equipment
If you dive with your own equipment and it’s been awhile since it was last used, servicing it is a great idea to make sure that it’s working well. Remember to allow enough time before your dive trip so you can test it out in a pool or bath before you go.
If you’ve used your extended surface interval to go shopping for some new dive gear, read the manual (yes, I know that’s unlikely but I hope!) and become as familiar as possible with it before you go diving.
Let your Dive Leader know when you are diving with a new piece of equipment. They may be able to fast track your learning curve since they are experienced with numerous brands and all sorts of different diving gear. It also lets them know why you may be having some challenges underwater and they’ll either let you work it out yourself or assist you (depending on safety aspects and what you have decided with them before the dive). they’ll also make sure you have enough time to test your equipment properly and become comfortable with it.
Also tell your Dive Buddy you’re diving with new gear too. They can also assist you and will wait with you while you test something if needed.
Refresh – Diving skills
Many dive centres will require you to do some sort of refresh course depending on how long you have been out of the water.
Diving skills, like most skills, degrade over time if they are not used. Not only that, some skills are forgotten! Safety first.
A led dive in fairly calm conditions and shallow water is ideal as a first dive back. Practice some of the basic skills and refamiliarise yourself with your equipment and the underwater world. Ahhh bliss!
Review – Travel plans
Check the travel restrictions of the country / location you are traveling to so you can prepare and be ready with whatever paperwork, health tests etc that may need to have been completed prior to your arrival.
Contact various dive centres to see they meet your own health and safety requirements, what the diving conditions are like (so you can check your fitness will be fine as well as making sure it’s the kind of diving you would like to do), and see if there is anything else you may need to consider from a health and safety perspective.
Once you have narrowed it down to a few dive centres, choose the one you feel the most comfortable with and will give you the experience you are looking for.
Finally, check your diving and travel insurance. Hopefully you won’t need though it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Safe and happy bubbles!
***For more information, see the DAN site. It’s very comprehensive and there are articles on diving after Covid too.