Scuba Diving Skills and Techniques

Basics Scuba Skills for Open Water Divers

What are some of the basic scuba diving skills and techniques that dive students learn during their open water certification? Here is a list of dive skills for new divers or for experienced divers who wish to review and keep their skills current.
the pre-dive safety check for scuba diving
5 steps to a proper pre-dive safety check. © Natalie L Gibb, 2010
The pre-dive safety check is an essential scuba skill that should be completed before every dive. Divers perform a pre-dive check after they have donned their fully-assembled scuba gear and before they enter the water. The pre-dive safety check runs through all of the diver's life support equipment to ensure that everything is working and in place, much like a pilot would run through a pre-flight check before taking to the air. Completing a proper pre-dive safety check before every dive greatly increases a scuba diver's safety and confidence before entering the water, and only takes a matter of seconds! More »
PADI's 5-point decents for scuba diving.
A diver signals to descend during the first step of the 5-Point descent. © Natalie L Gibb, 2010
Much like the pre-dive safety check, the 5-point descent is pre-dive safety procedure. It enables diver to confirm that all members of the dive team are prepared to descend safely. The 5-point descent is performed once the divers are in the water, and can be done using only hand signals in case of rough conditions. The procedure helps divers to maintain buddy awareness, track their dive parameters, and maintain orientation during descent. More »
wall diver
A diver descend slowly along a coral wall. © istockphoto.com
The descent is a crucial part of every dive. Divers who learn to control their descents drift gently downwards, without landing on the reef or stirring up the sand ocean floor. Properly controlled descents make diving more comfortable and less stressful, but they are also important for dive safety. A diver who plummets towards the bottom in an uncontrolled fashion may have trouble stopping in the event of an ear equalization difficulty, may exceed his maximum depth, or may exert himself unnecessarily. More »
clearing a scuba mask of water
A scuba diver wearing a diving mask. © istockphoto.com
At some point in every diver's career, water will enter his scuba mask during a dive. Thankfully, clearing a scuba mask is easy once you learn how. During the open water course, divers learn to clear a fully flooded scuba mask without needing to surface. Dive students will practice this skill in the pool or confined water first, and later in the open water during their check-out dives. With practice, a dive can learn to clear his mask in seconds without altering his swimming position. More »
regualtor recovery
A scuba diver recovers a lost regulator underwater. © Henry Watkins
It is uncommon that a diver loses his regulator underwater, but every once in a while, a regulator gets kicked out or dropped. In the unlikely event that a diver finds himself without his regulator underwater, he has two options: switch to his back-up or recover the lost regulator. Recovering a lost regulator is a simple process that requires only a few moments, less than one breath of air, when done properly, and it works in nearly every position. More »
ascent line
Divers ascend along an ascent line. © Natalie L Gibb
PADI teaches four emergency ascent options during the open water course: the "normal" ascent, the alternate air source ascent, the controlled emergency swimming ascent, and the buoyant emergency ascent. Learn about the different emergency ascent options, as well as in which scenarios to use each one. Of course, emergency ascents are extremely rare in scuba diving, and can almost always be avoided by carefully monitoring the pressure gauge. More »
free flow regulator breathing
A diver breathes from a free flowing regulator. © Nicholas McLaren
Do scuba diving regulators ever break? Almost never! But, if they do, they break in a manner which allows them to free flow, or provide a diver with a constant stream of air. Breathing from a free-flowing regulator takes a bit of practice, and divers must become comfortable with free flow regulator breathing before completing the open water certification course. This skill takes a relatively short period of time to learn, but is essential for emergency management. More »
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Disconnecting the Low Pressure Inflator Underwater

Low pressure inflator disconnection
Low pressure inflator disconnection. © Nicholas McLaren
Buoyancy compensators are very reliable, but if dirt or salt are allowed to accumulate on the inflation mechanism, or if the inflator simply wears out, the buoyancy compensator may begin to self-inflate. While there is almost no way to un-jam an inflator underwater, it is possible to disconnect the low pressure inflator hose while scuba diving. This cuts off air flow to the buoyancy compensator. the diver may then orally inflate the buoyancy compensator to control his buoyancy until he is able to ascend.
hand signals for scuba communication
hand signals for scuba communication. Natalie L Gibb
Learning to communicate clearly underwater with your dive buddy is definitely a skill that needs practice. Divers use universal hand signals to communicate everything from ascent to and ear problem. Taking a few moments to review underwater diving signals and reviewing them with your dive buddy makes communication easier during a scuba dive. More »
Frog kicking
Frog kicking. © Anders Knudsen
Flutter kicking works well for most open water dives, but divers can improve their efficiency by learning to frog kick. Frog kicking is superior to flutter kicking in many ways: it avoids stirring up bottom sediment, give divers better control, and propels water directly behind the diver for maximum movement with minimum effort. Frog kicking takes practice to learn, but most divers never return to the flutter kick once they learn the frog kick. More »