Rules of Scuba

The Rules of Scuba

As in many things, scuba has a very distinct and impossible to ignore set of rules.  Yet, everyday I find people who break these rules through simple misunderstanding or inexperience.  Unfortunately, breaking these rules has real and sometimes severe consequences.  I think it is time for a definitive list of the rules of scuba and why they shouldn’t be broken.  So here we go:


Remember this one?  It is kind of a biggy and should have been beaten into you during your open water course.  But you may not remember why.When we descend underwater, the weight of the water above us exerts pressure on us.  This pressure will compress any air space in or on our body.  An easy way to think of this is by imagining a balloon that is filled with air and tied shut on the surface.  Take this balloon underwater and it will shrink.  The air will still be in there, but the overall size of the balloon will be dramatically smaller.  The same thing happens in our bodies, this is why we must equalize our ears and mask since your head doesn’t expand and contract like a balloon.  Now, as we go down the air space gets smaller, but as we come up the air expands back to its normal size.  We don’t lose any air, it just occupies a smaller space.  When we breathe underwater our lungs are usually filled about to capacity every time we inhale.  If one were to hold his breath with full lungs and ascend even a few feet, the air in his lungs would expand.  Let it expand enough and it will literally pop your lungs like a balloon.

  Popping your lungs is bad.  Therefore: NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH!!!!

2. Diving Is All About Looking Good

I know what you are thinking, and no; this rule does not apply to how you look in a wet suit or how much money you spend on gear.  This rule is far more about behaving, and the girl in the picture is not following the rule with that mask on her forehead.  Make sure you have all of your gear in good working order, make sure you know how to use your gear, and please secure your hoses.  Also, use the conventional methods of arranging your gear.  In an emergency, I don’t want to have to figure out how you tied yourself into your weight belt because you were too cool to just use the buckle properly.

 More than your gear, it is also important to comport yourself well in the water.  Don’t use your hands to swim, don’t walk with fins on, don’t bicycle kick in the water; move as little and as efficiently as possible and your air will last much longer.


This is a great way to loose your mask.  When you are in the water a small wave or boat wake will take it off and down into the briny deep it goes.  Then you don’t have a mask on to go get it.  Also, your hair is wet and the lenses are facing the sun causing the space inside to warm up and the moisture to condense on the lenses: fog.  No amount of defog can keep your forehead oven clear forever especially if you are diving in cold water.  A forehead mask is also a mark of an improperly trained diver.  Divemasters and instructors use many clues to assess their divers and you want them to know you are well trained and experienced enough to give you a long leash underwater.

3. Slow Down, Relax, and Have Fun

 Sometimes people forget that it is supposed to be fun. There is lots to think about, how are the conditions? is my gear in good shape? who is that cutie on the boat? do I have enough air?  It is important to stop and look around to enjoy the beauty of diving.  Your air will last longer and you will see much more wildlife if you swim slowly and take the time to note the details.

4. Always Tip Your Divemaster

Do I need to say more?  These guys are very hard workers, lifting 40 pound tanks all day long.  Putting themselves at risk of DCS, AGE, etc. everyday.  And they don’t get paid nearly enough for what they have to go through.  Make sure you take care of them. 15-25% of the price of your trip is usually customary, but leave more if they made you laugh or showed you something cool and unusual.