Monkey See, Monkey Do

You might be wondering why I am posting about an psychological experiment involving monkeys on a blog that is about the extreme sports that I do diving, the reason is that to me this experiment is important. In life we do many things that without truly understanding the reasons as to why we do them.

Scuba diving is one of these. There are many things that we do in training that are throw backs to the beginning, and may or may not have a place in modern scuba diving. I think it is important to ask your instructor why you are performing the skills that you are being asked. They should have a good reason for all of them.

Many of the main scuba organisations are trying to streamline their training so that only the “necessary” skills are taught and practised. This is a double edged sword. By not being thorough it makes for a speedier course and divers are more able to get out and enjoy the diving.  Some important skills, like buoyancy control, are not taught well enough by instructors or dive shops that are looking to make as much profit as possible. Here is a video that I found from on the NASE  (National Academy of Scuba Educators) youtube page.

I have heard calls for budda hovering and fin pivots to be removed from courses. I think that they should stay (though fin pivots are no longer called by that name in the PADIverse). They allow students to become more familiar with the skill of hovering. When I am teaching students how to hover, I make sure that they have plenty of time in the pool and try to get them to do the longest hover that they possibly can. Most of my students manage at least a one minute hover in a confined situation before they go out into the big blue. Most organisations only ask that students are able to hover for 30 seconds with minimum sculling or finning. Budda hovering is a fun skill to be able to do. It helps build confidence in hovering and allows students a but of fun time as they watch their friends try and succeed/fail at floating like a cross-legged budda.

Five-point descents are another bone of contention. It seems littered with too many steps that can be seen as redundant. If we go back to the halcyon days of scuba diving the buoyancy devices that they used made it difficult for divers to keep their faces out of the water. This means that it was impossible to speak so all communication was done with hand signals, however modern BCDs keep the divers face out of the water and allow for verbal communication at the surface. The only time I would consider going back to the full five point descent is if conditions were rough, whereby not having something in my mouth would make it too difficult to breathe.

  1. Signal to descend
    Give a big thumbs down to your buddies that you are about to initiate a descent.
    I don’t think that I signal that often to descend unless I am in the water waiting on my buddy to descend. Normally we just say “ready? yes? let’s go” and we descend.
  2. Orientate
    Not perhaps that useful these days unless you have just done a surface swim and are about to do a complete free descent.
    I don’t think I have really had to do this on many dives.
  3. Regulator
    It’s probably already in. If the weather conditions warrant it then I probably would have done a negative entry so I wouldn’t be sitting at the surface running through the steps of a 5 point descent. Snorkel? What snorkel? I dive sidemount no snorkel here.
  4. Time
    This is a throw back to the days of table diving when you had to note your start and end times of dives. I haven’t made a non-computer dive since 2010.
  5. Elevated, Exhale, Equalise, and Descend
    Finally the most useful part. Remembering to lift that inflater hose or pull that dump valve, and as you descend exhale, and equalise frequently.

My descent goes more along the lines of this

  1. Enter water
    Usually from a boat so a giant stride entry so my reg will be in.
  2. Wait for buddy
    He’s usually right behind me so not much more of a wait than 15 seconds, unless we’ve decided to do a negative entry and we’ll skip steps 3 and 4.
  3. Signal/speak to buddy
    I am ready to descend are you?
  4. Descend

I am aware that newcomers to diving need more time and may not be as speedy as me and my buddy, and my entry procedure doesn’t form a nice mnemonic.

Snorkels are something that I find most annoying. Though they do have their place, even if they do get in the way when you are diving and looking for that LPI hose. Luckily because I dive sidemount, I do not have to dive with a snorkel. In fact as a certified diver, you do not have to dive with a snorkel. They are just useful for long surface swims (though you can always swim on your back) or when the sea state is a little rough and you want to conserve air while waiting for your buddies to enter.

Buddy breathing (though this has been removed from most diving organisations’ syllabi but is still in PADI’s divemaster course) is now completely redundant due to the invention of the octopus (additional first stage) that we carry. However, it is a great skill for students to practice in a safe setting. It helps them become more comfortable in the water and to trust their buddy.

Regardless, my own personal feelings don’t come into it when I am teaching. I make sure that I cover everything that is meant to be covered and then I go further. If time allows I add in extra skills and developmental skill practice. In my mind the standards are the minimum requirement, as an instructor one should be aiming higher than the minimum. When I certify a student I am proud and confident to have my name on their certification card, and I am sure my students feel the same.

So if you feel that you are doing things that have no reason as to why you are doing them do a little research, ask the guys who were there in the beginning and find out the reasons as to why. But don’t dismiss them lightly, it is important to have a thorough knowledge of all the skills that you may have to perform and there was a reason why some of these skills are included even if you don’t agree with that reason now.


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