Rarely taught, but very important!
What does Self-Awareness mean?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary Awareness is defined as “knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.” Awareness is used almost every minute of the day throughout your life. Throughout the Open Water course, you learn about buoyancy skills, self-awareness is not taught to the same extent. Scuba divers descend below the waves and for some reason, your self-awareness disappears. We are easily distracted by marine life and a beautiful reef. Divers focus on their camera, hoping to get that special shot, their surrounding awareness disappears without them noticing.
Awareness in scuba diving can be split into three distinct categories which are really interlinked. Let’s take a look at each of the three separate categories.
Self-Awareness is about you! It is about the diving equipment that you are wearing at the time. Learn to understand your mindset before entering the water and throughout the dive. Self-awareness means understanding and being aware of your feelings, this often leads to a positive outcome. Ask yourself, did I relax and feel calm on the dive? Are you feeling clear-headed about the upcoming dive? The dive site conditions, current, water temperature and visibility should leave you comfortable with no anxieties. How do you feel if there is current or bad visibility? Do these thoughts make you feel uncomfortable?
Self-awareness includes the equipment you wear during your dive. Are you aware of it? Are you feeling or hearing bubbles escaping from your equipment somewhere? What about your drysuit, is it still warm and dry? Is there a slight leak? Be aware of your buoyancy control, are you constantly inflating and deflating your BCD?
If you are wet inside the drysuit, this is inconvenient and can cause problems. In a very bad situation where the water is cold, this can lead to hypothermia. Bubbles escaping from your regulator often mean O-rings need replacing or a service is due? Constant inflating and deflating of the BCD indicate to buoyancy problems or too much weight. Problems must be investigated and fixed before the next dive. Be aware of your body, are you cold or feeling uncomfortable before the dive? What about the equipment you are about to use, does your state of mind leave you with a positive feeling? If something is worrying you, make sure you change it before you enter the water again. A small problem is the potential to become a big problem under the waves.
Awareness of the Situation;
This is something that all scuba divers must be aware of. Situational awareness might mean you are aware you are approaching the turning point of your dive. You might anticipate that the slack tide period is coming to an end, and you should head back to shore or boat. Being self-aware keeps you alert and reminds you of your planned time and depths.
Very important is awareness of your gas consumption and your gas management throughout your dive. Be aware of changing weather conditions throughout your dive. Depth monitoring and air gauge checks are vital throughout a dive. If you do not practice these skills an out of air situation can arise. Situation awareness can mean a lot of things, even about your Buddy or group. Non-the-less, situational awareness is very import for a safe outcome on each and every dive.
Global awareness or space awareness is a vital sense that you should be aware of. Pay attention to what is around you, who and what is above and below you? This is crucial on a crowded dive site like the Blue Hole or Reqqa Point. Be aware of the relationship of space between your equipment and cylinder, and the reef or marine environment. Reef damage is often caused by a lack of spatial awareness and poor buoyancy. Are you aware of where you are on the dive site, which group you are with and which direction you are actually going? Not to find you join the wrong group and others are frantically searching for you and you are searching for your guide.
As you prepare to descend, take a pause and look for boat traffic, swimmers and other surface objects. Take a quick glance below the waves and make sure no one is coming up underneath you, it is embarrassing kicking someone in the head below you! Inattention and lack of global awareness cause damage to the marine environment and leads to poor descents and ascents. Often with a loss of direction and buddy contact. Be aware of where you are and where your Buddy is throughout the dive.
Awareness is part of our Daily Life;
Awareness is instinctive to our well being and daily life. We must practice the feeling of awareness underwater and try to hone this skill. Diver awareness provides more safety and improves your dive experience. Through better awareness, you become a better diver with good, diving practices. Be aware of yourself, be a good Buddy and a safe and confident diver. Watch out for your surroundings and try to form a sense of direction. Tagging along behind others can lead you into difficulty. Use your awareness skills like you use buoyancy control. As diving instructors, we must teach awareness skills to our students in the Open Water Course. Teach them ways to manage their gas consumption, depths and turning points. They must learn to be aware of others and their surroundings. It can only be a good thing for everyone!
Happy Diving to You All