Is a Dive Debriefing Relevant after Your Dive?

Don’t underestimate the value!

When is your dive over? Does the dive end on the surface? After removing your scuba gear? Back on the shore or boat? Actually, it is not over until you listen to the dive debriefing and talk the dive through. A good dive debriefing allows us to discuss what went well on the dive and what didn’t? Are all the participants happy, was there problems underwater or on the ascent or descent? Only by conducting a dive briefing does it offer each participant to voice their feelings and problems among their group. Not only do we learn from a thorough dive debriefing, but we can also learn about our mistakes and try to avoid repeating them again and again.

What should we talk about in a dive debriefing?

On Gozo, most dives end well, just like other scuba dives around the world. After completing a successful dive to Cathedral Cave, divers return to the surface having enjoyed their time below the waves. All went well, they talk about the photos they have taken and the marine life we encountered. They take notes, compare air consumption and talk about the beauty of Cathedral Cave. That’s what scuba diving is about, camaraderie!

But what we don’t talk about is the two minutes we waited for someone to enter the cave. Or, perhaps about the few minutes it took to grab the attention of a buddy team heading in the wrong direction. What about the hand signals being used that others don’t understand or have never seen before?

These situations can and must be cleared up through a thorough debriefing. Although I must stress, a debriefing is never about pointing the finger of blame! It serves as a learning curve and making the next upcoming dive better than the last. Scuba diving on Gozo is fun, so strive to improve and make the next dive even better. Recreational diving is about having fun, debriefings help to improve the group’s motivation, safety and awareness of each other. Let’s take a look what a debriefing is about.

What’s included in the debriefing?

Begin the debrief with the equipment set-up and buddy checks. Scuba diving for fun tends to get a bit sloppy as the excitement rises, which inevitably leads to mistakes. Go through the equipment set-up and talk through any equipment problems. Buddy checks are something we must do and do well. During a debrief we discuss the dive from beginning to end, allowing divers to have their say as well. A good debrief includes positive reinforcement for novice divers as well as tips to help them improve. Let divers say what they think, and why, remember we all learn from our mistakes.

What are the common debrief problems that arise?

Looking at it from a recreational point of view, communication signals often come up. Remember, divers come to Gozo from different parts of the globe. They may have learned different hand signals, or come from a different training agency than ourselves. Often hand signals vary slightly, for example; the gas content signals 100 bar, 50 bar or ‘how much air have you left’ signal. Common signals must be covered in the dive briefing and understood by all. Underwater, it’s much more complicated to clarify signals to scuba divers who don’t understand. Scuba signals must be reviewed if there are misunderstandings, they are vital for a safe dive. Review them in the dive debriefing, on the surface post-dive or on the shore or boat. We need to make sure we all speak the same language underwater for the next dive.

Debriefing on position is another common problem to consider. Most dive guides and instructors agree that the worst place for a diver to be is right above their guide. This position is like the blind spot on a car wing mirror. Whichever way the guide turns, the diver is not there making it difficult to keep track of her/his movements.

Experienced buddies have a routine that has been tried and perfected over time, but for novice divers this is a little different. If you are a novice and not sure where you should be, speak with your buddy about your role. Some buddies have preferences to be on the left or right side of their buddy. Occasionally, some don’t like to be on the outside when we dive along the steep walls of Inlandsea or Blue hole. Speak about these things and it makes the dive much more comfortable.

Debriefing during a PADI Course;

This is essential for all students and is a course standard. All course participants need to understand what was good and what is not quite there yet, regardless of the teaching agency. Make sure all students understand which skill they are required to perform and how it goes. Don’t expect a student to perform a skill when it has never been demonstrated.

Students thrive on debriefings; it clears doubts and misunderstandings out of the way and make their pathway clearer for the next dive. If debriefings don’t happen during a course, the student will not know if he/she has performed good or bad. Debriefings provide a good structure to all PADI courses, allowing student divers to understand any problems should they arise.

What purpose does a debriefing serve?

A debrief provides scuba divers with the information they require to improve for the second dive. Immediately after the dive, things are fresh in diver memories, and this time frame is the best feedback time to learn. A debriefing picks up on mistakes, both small and large. It offers encouragement and reward, and helps to turn divers negative habits into good ones. Discussing bad habits openly and searching for alternatives to improve will go a long way to producing happy and confident divers.

Ignoring bad traits and habits will not improve a diver, nor does it help towards avoiding the problem next time around. Learn to share experiences and learn from others mistakes. Sadly, it is common to see we often learn the hard way!

Give a good debriefing and encourage others to speak up about problems and misunderstandings. This way, through discussion and on the spot positive debriefs, we create better, safer and environmentally friendly divers.

Safe diving to you all

DiveSMART Gozo Team