6 Things Divers Need to Stop Doing !
By Stephan Borloz Pelletier 11th January 2020
Here are 6 things divers need to stop doing. These practices should be stopped for your safety, to keep your dive equipment in optimal working condition or because they simply do not work.
After 16 years of working as a full-time instructor, underwater photographer and cavern guide I often see stuff divers do which can affect their safety and enjoyment when diving paradise. Most divers are clueless as to why their actions can be so detrimental and are just repeating what they were falsely taught. I’ve rounded the 6 most common practices divers must stop doing…
1. The Quarter Turn Back of Death
Most of us have been told to turn the valve a 1/4 turn back to prevent the valve from sticking open. This procedure took root in the 1950s at the dawn of recreational scuba diving and if you ask anybody why we need to do this, you will get a different answer every time.
- From back in the day, valve mechanism was made with a mix of brass and questionable alloys and under certain conditions, valve components would fuse together if the valve was left fully open.
- From people who worked with steam pipes, different gas tanks, welding tanks. They used styles of valves that needed to be back seated to prevent stem leakage or valves would seize if opened for a long period of time.
- From using oxygen tanks, you do a 1/4 back to prevent friction if the valve is forced open which could cause an explosion.
- From older technology, cheaper quality or poorly maintained valves.
Some even say it’s for your buddy – divemaster – boat crew to quickly check if your tank is open which is BS since all divers are responsible for their own safety and making sure the gear that will keep them alive is in perfect working order. Before you suit up in your BCD, make sure the tank valve is fully open. When doing the buddy-self check you should be breathing through your regulator while looking at your pressure gauge, it will tell you instantly if your tank is open or closed.
The reason you want to stop doing the 1/4 turn back of death is very simple. In reality, most people do 1/2 turns back. The problem with that procedure is that today’s newer valves only take 2 turns to fully open, do a half turn on those valves and at greater depth or with a third of the starting pressure left and you will find yourself running out of air since the valve is partially closed thus preventing optimal airflow. There have also been many reported instances where people have by mistake, shut a fully open valve off and re-opened a 1/4 turn giving plenty of air for the diver to self-check at the surface but failed at depth or lower tank pressures.
When I became a technical diver, I had a full course on compressed air valves and the very first thing I was told was to forget the very dangerous and obsolete practice of turning the valve 1/4 back. Technical divers are taught to be self-sufficient and nobody touches their gear but themselves and most of them have a superstitious routine when setting-up doing pre-dive checks and the valve check ( closing and opening of valves during an air emergency ) will confirm both your tanks are fully open. Some say having fully open tanks will help divers who are narced or in distress to know without a doubt the direction needed to close a faulty valve.
Any respectable gear tech will tell you today’s valve components have much better quality and valves do not stay stuck unless they are very poorly maintained and it is better to teach people to be gentle and to not force the handle when opening and closing valves to extend the life of valve components, not the 1/4 turn back.
2. The O-Ring Pop of Deaf
Every time I see people put their ear where the tank valve meets the 1st stage, I cringe. Sometimes I will see people twist and turn the 1st stage on the valve while their ear is kissing the valve to make sure there are no leaks.
Have you ever seen or heard an o-ring pop when the 1st stage is not tight enough or the o-ring is worn out and literally explodes? It will get everybody’s attention and destroy your inner ear if you had it smack on the valve when said explosion happened, I’ll let you imagine how your vacation will end and hope you have good dive insurance.
The best way to check for air leaks is to fully open the valve and listen from a safe distance for any hissing then fully close it while checking your pressure gauge for 10 seconds. If the needle goes down fast, you have a major leak that needs to be fixed. If the needle goes down slightly or not at all, you’re fine and not need to worry if you are using a yoke valve, a small stream of bubbles is very common and accepted. However, if you have a DIN valve, the smallest of leaks should be fixed.
3. There She Blows
The dust cap, very misleading since it’s meant to protect the 1st stage valve mostly from water and other contaminants. I always wondered why you took something that needed to be dry underwater. The obvious way would be to keep it stored in your gear bag so you would never have to dry it right?
Still, we have on every boat trip this diver that loves to blast full power the inside of the dust cap by putting it close to the tank valve to clear it of water. As a gear tech, it makes me happy because this drying method sends water droplets/mist into the 1st stage valve eventually causing blockage and damage from salt crystals and then I get to make good revenue from poorly maintained gear more often. As a diver, it annoys the hell out of me and everybody else on the boat with that loud obnoxious unnecessary hissing piercing through your head. Surely the culprits must see the many dirty looks thrown at them once we recover our hearing. Most probably not since many of them will do it twice, blowing the dust cap when changing tanks for the next dive!
I’ve also seen divers who were told or who misunderstood the dust cap blasting method, blasting the 1st stage itself, blowing all the water in the filter ( tech in me happy, tech in me make more money!)
Blasting a dust cap on the tank valve can also make the tank valve o-ring pop out and fly far far away. Make sure you carry spares (you do have a save-a-dive kit right?) Divers also orally blow the dust caps but like the blasting method, there are risks water ends in the valve of your 1st stage.
So how to dry a dust cap beside the obvious of leaving it in your gear bag? A towel or any piece of dry clothing will work perfectly.
Oh, and if you have an Aqualung regulator with ACD, you don’t need a dust cap. If you have a pre-2016 ACD and want to use the dust cap, you need to change your dust cap for the newer model, the one you have might actually cause contaminants to enter the 1st stage.
4. The Greener the Clearer
So your mask keeps fogging after layers upon layers of toothpaste or expensive mask defogger, frustrating isn’t it? I’ll tell you right now, a new or chronically fogging mask needs to be “burned” with a lighter. You need to get rid of the protective chemical coating left on the tempered glass after it was manufactured.
It might sound very scary to take a lighter to your 150$ mask but there are many Youtube tutorials that will show how to do it safely. You can also ask your instructor or local dive shop tech to burn it for you. Stop using toothpaste, the toothpaste trick stopped working 30 years ago when the stop putting “grit” in it. I also had success with polycarbonate coarse buffer liquid and mild scouring powder like Comet, Ajax or Vim.
Obviously, you will still need to treat your mask seconds before every dive by spitting and rinsing or with baby shampoo. Anything else is a waste of money in my opinion.
5. Burn Baby Burn
Nothing is more controversial right now than sunscreen and with reason. Simply put, there are No reef-friendly sunscreens, period. Sunscreen attacks coral polyps causes tumors on marine life, feeds harmful bacteria and viruses, smothers algae and coral with a greasy film and many other effects not yet known. Imagine popular areas with divers and snorkelers and try to imagine how many millions of liters of sunscreen end up on our planet’s reefs every year.
The solution is to apply only where it’s needed and hours before entering the water ( hands, face, feet ) and wear a long sleeve rashguard and a hat which are much better protection from the sun. NO sunscreen is reef-safe, please help us protect our oceans, don’t use it when diving.
6. The Great Flood
You’re on the 3rd day of your diving trip. Your first dive of the day was magical with 3 turtles, 2 manta rays and a tiger shark, a glimpse of what you saw on the previous days of this already memorable trip.
Your mid way into your second dive when you realize with sheer terror that your housing is flooded, your camera destroyed and the memory card shot ( did you backup religiously like mamma told y’all? ).
How can it be? You treat handle your gear like it was a helpless puppy, clean the grooves and the o-ring every time you open the housing, apply a very thin coat of approved silicone on the o-ring before replacing it making sur it sits well without any dust, hair or sand stuck to it.
Most of the time the true culprit is the infamous camera bucket. The intention is good: Soaking to prevent salt water from drying around the housing buttons and mechanism and also to prevent salt water from drying on the optics leaving nasty white ghost stains. However, most divers today carry point & shoot or GoPro cameras and a few have bigger DSLR rigs. The pool is much too small for all them swimmers so during the boat ride, they bump, smack and crash into each other, every blow a potential heart-breaker. Surely you now realize the worst place for a camera to be is the evil watery pit we call the camera bucket.
So what should you do if want to keep your cherished gear in top shape? You can thoroughly rinse the housing, dry it off with a towel and put it back in it’s bag ( you carry it in a protective bag or case right? ) until you gear up for the next dive.
Do not enter the water with your camera as the shock of the water entry might damage the housing or make the camera shift in the housing have a buddy or deck hand hand it to you once you’re in the water. If not possible, you can leave the camera on the boat and retrieve it after your entry. For small to medium rigs you can stride in with a full bcd holding the camera with one hand stretched all the way up or do the dead Mexican entry with the camera held against your chest.