Open water diver course : Why am I learning these scuba diving skills ?
During your open water diver course , you practice many skills. Each skill has a reason to be taught, its value, it teaches you and makes you practice good reactions and good habits. Some skills like mask clearance are relatively self explanatory, you learn to clear water out of a mask in case some water gets in. The reasons behind certain other skills are not as evident so we thought we'd go through a few of the more obscure ones.
"We love to question and we love questions, the only bad question is the one you did not ask." Purple Dive Team
The Buddy check is of course to check that all your buddy's gear is well adjusted and in good working order but you could really just check that on yourself. The reason you will do a thorough buddy check on the first time you dive with a buddy is to understand how their gear works and get familiar with it . In the event of an emergency, you can then help them rapidly without loosing precious time fumbling with a weight system you don't understand or releases you struggle to undo. Your first buddy check should therefore go through all the potentially tricky bits of your buddy's gear and if you are not sure how any piece of their equipment works , ask them ( in fact they should just demonstrate strait away.) Consecutive buddy checks can be quicker and, depending on boat configuration, you may each take turns checking your own gear whilst observing one another if logistics make it complicated to be face to face. During your open water diver course though, of course, you will do a thorough check each time face to face with your buddy to make sure you learn it well.
Snorkel to regulator exchange
This skill tends to floor most people, especially as they often notice that many certified divers/ dive pros do not seem to use snorkels (they may have one in their pocket though, mind). Apart from saving air on long surface swims, the snorkel in scuba diving is mainly a tool for teaching airway control to novice divers. In the unlikely even that your regulator second stage starts to leak, you'll have to keep expelling the water out of the second stage by purging it again and again with the air from your lungs (or press the purge button but that's not super practical) until you can end the dive. Practicing with a snorkel gives a very realistic example of what it is like to repeatedly have a little water in your second stage and helps you practice expelling the water and breathing air back in whilst protecting your airways by using your tongue as a splash guard, in case a little water is still in there (which it would be in the case of a leaky second stage).
Disconnecting the LPI hose (Low Pressure Inflator)
In the unlikely event that your BCD malfunctions and the inflator button get jammed your first reaction needs to be disconnecting your LPI. You should actually be doing two simultaneous actions : you should be dumping air from your BCD to avoid a runaway ascent at the same time as you are disconnecting the BCD from your tank to prevent further inflation. Grabbing the string of the right shoulder dump valve (to maintain it open) and blocking it between your fingers means you can still use both hands for disconnection. A useful trick is to know that you need to push the LPI hose nozzle close up against the BCD connector so the tiny gap between the two is closed, allowing it to be (more) easily removed. This skill can also be combined with a surface oral inflation skill since this is what you would have to do upon surfacing in a real life situation.
Remove and replace equipment on the surface
Depending on where you learned to dive, the value of this skill will be more or less evident. If you learn to dive in Amed, Bali, most boat dives are done from the tiny fishing boats called jukung that barely fit 4 people. For most boat diving in Amed, you will don and remove your gear in the water. There simply isn't enough space on the boat to get kitted up on board. If you've learned to dive in Nusa Penida, Bali, however, it may not seem quite so obvious why you are practicing putting on the gear in the water but you'll get lots of practice taking it off, if you don't have strong enough legs to climb back on the boat with it on ! This skill will also make you more comfortable with locating straps and clips on the equipment and used to remembering to tuck away all your dangly bits (no pun intended) to stay nice and streamlined.
Removing and replacing weights on the surface have a similar value with the added bonus of teaching you to rapidly and efficiently remove your weights , useful when you need to to hand them over to boat crew when you are about to get back on the boat and also good practcice to be rapid and efficient when executing the emergency weight drop skill.
Remove and replace weights underwater
This one is fairly obscure because really you should refrain from messing with your weights or removing them when you are underwater. What is more it is often taught kneeling down, stuck to the bottom which is not how you should dive. However, it does teach you balance and stability as well as buckling your belt proficiently. If you are wearing a thick exposure suit, you may have to tighten you belt underwater. This skill makes you familiar with the gesture, giving you the confidence to do it easily. You might also want to undo the belt to free a trapped hose, not noticed during the buddy check. It is of course also an essential skill because you need to be readjust your belt easily, in the unlikely event that it came undone.
In a real life situation, if you needed to remove a weight from your belt you would probably not move the belt away from your body and you would definitely not kneel on the sand. You would probably ask for your buddy's assistance however, and pass them the weight you just removed whilst you rebuckle your belt..
Remove and replace scuba unit underwater
This skill teaches you to be familiar with your scuba unit, know where everything is and how to undo all the clasps and redo them up again without even looking. It does occasionally happen that you swap scuba units with a buddy or that you have to remove your scuba unit if you are entangled for instance. This gives you practice for such a possibility. Though often taught kneeling on the ground for the first time, it is a good skill to practice in neutral buoyancy since that is how you would have to perform it in a real life situation. This skill will give you ease, will remind you to always remove the scuba unit on the right so as not to loose your second stage out of your mouth and how to buckle everything up again almost with your eyes closed. If you go on to Divemaster level , you'll have a chance to practice this skill a lot more during the equipment exchange skill of the dive master course( in neutral buoyancy of course).