Updated: Nov 7, 2022
In these Covid-19 times, many people who would usually dive regularly, either at their local dive association or on several dive holidays per year, have been unable to engage in their favourite activity. But things are slowly changing and the whole world is hoping for borders to reopen and rules to slowly be relaxed in the very near future. So what happens when you haven't been diving for a year, or several years for that matter? How do you ease back into it and what are the essential steps to take to ensure a happy, comfortable and safe return to the water?
Here are a few things you might want to do before you go:
Check you are still medically fit
Clearly with a very serious virus having done the rounds and many people having had little or none physical activity in the last 18 months, it is wise to check that you are still completely medically fit to dive. Getting the all clear from your local GP or better still from a certified dive doctor is paramount. If you have had Covid-19, it's even more important (more info in our other blogpost here).
Also keep in mind, your body might not be used to doing all the movements you used to do on a regular basis so be careful when putting or taking off gear, lifting tanks and equipment, climbing into boats etc. that you don't pull a muscle or somehow injure yourself. You might also be bit a little (or a lot) less fit and a little (or a lot) heavier so take these factors into account. Take it easy.
Check you remember how to dive!
Especially if you were a relatively novice diver before your break, you might have forgotten a lot of the basics. It's pretty normal and happens to most people if they don't dive quite a bit and regularly soon after their Open Water Diver course.
PADI has put together two programs to help get you back into the swing of the things. The first is the Scuba Tune-up, which goes over the theory in 8 different sections covering everything from safe diving practices to the diving skills. It is an online e-learning course but most dive centres will offer a refresher course of practical skills to go over as well.
If you feel fairly confident about your theory but just want a quick brush up, remember you can also always access your Open Water Diver course manual on your PADI account and have a good read before your refresher. The refresher usually comprises of a revision of the essential skills such as mask clearing, regulator recovery, air sharing and buoyancy. It can usually be tailored to your needs , if there is a skill you feel you need to practice again.
PADI also offers the Re-Activate program which is a more in depth program for those who have not dived since they passed the course several years before and feel everything is pretty hazy and actually re-certifies you (you even get a new cert card!).
This might also be a good time to think about doing a course you've been thinking about for while, it's a nice way to ease yourself back into things, get your brain thinking about diving again and have an instructor to hand to ask as many questions as you'd like to. Whether it's a nitrox or deep spec or advanced open water or rescue diver, a course will get you strait back into the swing of things.
In any case, make sure you tell your instructor or guide if there is anything you feel a bit worried or uncomfortable about before the dive. It will make them more vigilant and they will be happy to help!
Check your gear
Your gear has been stored away for over a year and we all know dive gear likes to be used. Have everything throughly checked and if needed serviced. Wet your wetsuit, let it dry a little then try it on. It may not fit you quite so well anymore (ahh, lockdown kilos...) or more annoyingly, the neoprene might be unhappy with the long break and might crack, especially if it wasn't perfectly washed before storage and was in a very dry place. Make sure everything is in good working order and fix or replace anything that isn't.
Get your camera/ go-pro ready!
One thing that often doesn't get checked is the camera set up and then you arrive on your first dive back, full of beans, see awesome sea-life and the camera fails or, worst still, floods.
Make sure you check your set up is good to go, chargers still work, o-rings are still tight and in good working order. Check your SD cards or the like have space and have not been damaged or lost. Maybe even treat yourself to some new gadget, you deserve it after this long out of the water!
Get back in touch with operators you know and/or find new dive destinations and operators
Once you're feeling ready to go medically, equipment wise and training wise and your camera set-up is tickety boo, it's time to decide where to go and get back in touch with operators you've enjoyed diving with. Sadly, the last year and a half has meant many dive centres have had to close so make sure you email first. Rules might be quite strict for diving outings now too so make sure you check with both your local dive groups or with foreign dive centres what the pandemic protocol is and be prepared.
If you are thinking of a new destination, remember the dive world is pretty small so your favourite dive operator in Amed, Bali might have a great address for you in Nusa Penida, Komodo or even Madagascar...
You might want to check if the borders are open or certainly what type of visa is available. Some countries like Indonesia are not offering tourism visas at the moment but for longer term visitors, business visas can be obtained at a some additional cost. (at time of writing!)
In most countries, information is available on the board of tourism page or contact the dive centre of your choice to find out what the options are, they will often be able to help you make a decision and point you in the right direction regarding administrative and travel enquiries, they may even have contacts to help make it easy.
It's time to get wet again! Get in there! The fish are waiting!