As a new diver, I didn’t really understand the importance of my gear before I went on my first dive liveaboard trip to the Bahamas. A new guitar player doesn’t need a Gibson to enjoy learning, and new bicyclist doesn’t need a carbon fiber Trek to have a pleasant ride across town. But a new diver needs good quality, properly-fitting equipment to be able to learn and enjoy the sport.
Being comfortable with your gear is absolutely integral to having a good dive!
My First Mistake – Scuba Fins That Don’t Fit
For my first dive trip, I packed up my mask, fins, and snorkel, and planned to rent the rest on the dive boat. I had done my research on buying the right mask, so it was exactly what I needed…but fins aren’t as flashy and cool, so I didn’t pay much mind when I got some.
I had originally bought a pair at a dive shop for my certification, but they were a little tight and uncomfortable after wearing them for an extended time. My solution was to buy a random used pair of a larger size that I had never even tried on, and then bring them along for two weeks of diving multiple times per day on Blackbeard’s and Aqua Cat.
Guess what happened next. Yep, they were too big. They felt good enough topside, but they were just barely staying on my feet when I was doing a giant stride into the water or even just trying to swim on a dive.
My Solution – Dive Gear Adjustments
I developed a cutting-edge signature look.
I wore thick wool socks under my full-foot fins. If my terrible buoyancy and flailing arms weren’t screaming “new diver,” my socks certainly were. At least I had the buoyancy and crossed arms down a few days in – I was stuck with the socks.
Then disaster struck…Mistake #2!
Toward the end of the first week, I had taken my fins off to climb the ladder onto the boat. I immediately kicked off my right sock, and, thanks to the current, there was no way I was going to retrieve it. Now I was but a one-socked man with poorly-fitting fins.
My Solution, Part II – More Dive Gear Adjustments
I developed yet another cutting-edge signature look (a real trend-setter, I know).
For the last two days of the week on Blackbeard’s, I wore two swim socks on one foot and my remaining wool sock on the other. Since I’m an improvisational mastermind, this worked well enough to enjoy the last few dives, but it certainly would’ve been nice to have fins that fit all along.
Fortunately for me, I was able to rent properly-fitting fins on my next week of diving on Aqua Cat. But if I had just been a little more careful when I bought my fins in the first place, I wouldn’t have needed to go through all that trouble!
The moral of the story is that picking out dive gear that works for you is incredibly important. Having a mask that doesn’t leak, fins that fit, and a computer that you know how to read is completely necessary to get all that you can out of a dive, and to do it safely.
A Note to New Divers…
New diver gear doesn’t need to be the most expensive and fancy equipment out there, just make sure it works for you early on so you can start developing opinions. Knowing whether you prefer a weight-belt versus a weight-integrated BCD, or realizing that your computer doesn’t have a certain feature that you want is all part of the learning process.
Doing some research online and talking to your local dive shop employees will definitely help you get what you need!