I don’t know about you, but I always seem to stress over the little things.
Call me anal (that’s all right, I’d heard it before), but it seems like I can hit the home run, but sometimes I have trouble getting to the plate, metaphorically speaking.
I can snowboard all day and never fall – and then I’ll take a spill off the chairlift.
I play hockey, and I can score from anywhere. But I can’t, for the life of me, score on a breakaway.
Get me to the golf course, and I can put up a decent score. But I NEVER hit it well of the first tee.
I chalk all of it up to thinking too much. Or, perhaps more accurately, having too much time to think.
Up until recently in my scuba diving development, my biggest problem was the descent. Get me past the first 15 feet, and I’m a fish – good buoyancy control, good trim, good air usage, etc.
The problem was that I had a heck of a time descending. And when I would be on a dive boat with a handful of other divers, I would become nervous that I couldn’t descend, and that I would slow down the entire group. That was my dirty little secret that I would keep quiet about during the pre-dive chatter. So the problem would perpetuate upon itself.
I remember the dive leader once pulling me by my foot to get beyond that first 15 feet, or deciding to “duck dive” to force myself to descend. That’s a stupid method that can be dangerous.
I tried all sorts of other solutions – not eating too much before diving, eating before diving, trying to calm my nerves, and ultimately, overweighting myself.
For a time, I was convinced it was my equipment. I was venting the air from my BC (buoyancy compensator) correctly, but something in the BC was malfunctioning and wasn’t venting. That was the cause of my problems, I thought. I remember feeling puzzled and embarassed when an overweight man would be using less weight than me to decend.
“I’m in good shape,” I thought to myself. “How is that fat guy using 10 pounds less weight than me to descend?”
When I would dive in the Great Lakes with a 7-millimeter wetsuit, I would don so much weight; I’d feel like I was pulling a Mack truck back onto the dive boat after a dive.
Not good for the knees or the back, and certainly not good for my scuba diving development.
Finally, I just started forcing myself to relax, and I starting thinking about the anatomy of the descent.
Was I being completely still when I began my descent?
As it turns out, no, I wasn’t. I noticed I still would be finning, or sculling, as I was purging air from the BC. Probably a nervous tick developed early during the problem. Just a little kicking, which creates upward momentum can prevent the descent.
Was I venting my lungs while I was venting the BC?
No. Again, the anxiety was building as the group was preparing to descend or was already descending. A full set of lungs can easily prevent a diver from descending. I was probably taking one last breath above the water level at the same time I was purging the BC. It is a natural instinct to either hold one’s breath when water contacts the face and/or take a deep breath from the regulator. So that part of the decent goes against what actually feels natural.
Soon, I was descending much easier. And with success in the descent, the anxiety level started to fall and my confidence in overcoming the problem began to grow. And success began to perpetuate onto itself.
The end result is that I have been able to drop 10-12 pounds of weight from my cold water dives and about 5-8 pounds from my warm water dives.
It is still a work in progress, and I am still probably a little overweighted. But I am fine with that, since I am overcoming my problem and making it easier to maintain my position during the safety stop at the conclusion of my dive.
Look for the accompanying piece about stress-free descents in this blog, courtesy of Dive Training magazine.