I’ll start this off by saying… I have no idea. Ask 10 people and you will probably get 10 answers. This is probably something we’ll continue to revisit in the future. For now, I just want to share a few things we’ve noticed in our short time diving.
There are lots of specific skills involved in diving. Good trim, gas management, good fin technique, awareness, etc. Just being comfortable in the water. Comfort is key to successful diving. Comfort comes from regular experience. One of the things Ben and I have observed over the past few months is that how many dives someone has is kind of relative. A diver with 50 dives in 6 months versus a diver with 50 in five years. Time out of the water does make a difference. I can tell when I’ve been out of the water too long. My air use is slightly higher and it takes a dive or sometimes two to really get settled in and relaxed. This is noticeable even if it’s been a few weeks. It has been getting better and better over time though. I think the more dive time you have and the more sites you have visited, the more relaxed and even keeled you’ll be. It's less about the quantity of the dives and more about the quality of the time invested in becoming a great diver. Ben takes far more pride in the (as of this writing) 2 and a quarter days worth of time spent underwater than he does the number of dives in the log book.
We see divers out at the quarry diving small bottles because they are relaxed and use very little air. It’s indescribably cool to see people at the top of their game and staying so relaxed doing the unnatural breathing underwater thing. I’d say that is a mark of greatness.
What else? Buoyancy control for sure. Confidence in the water. Not hugging the walls or bottom too close when viz is low. Proficiency with the compass and navigation. Staying safe while having fun. Being able to find sunken or buried objects. All things we need to work on.
The common theme here is practice. Diving is a set of skills, like playing a musical instrument, that requires regular repeated practice to master and maintain. The learning and perfecting is what makes diving so much fun for us. Diving is an investment of time to develop skills. At the same time, it is fun! Not every dive is overtly skills practice, that should just be a regular part of diving. It becomes natural as you enjoy the beauties of the underwater world.
We love to dive with more experienced divers. We can look around and see where we are improving when we dive with other people. It’s also glaringly obvious where we need to focus our efforts and get better. Just watching them in the water is educational. More thoughts will come as we continue this journey and we’ll be sure to share them with you. Leave some of what you have learned below in the comments. See you next time!