CHECKLIST OF ESSENTIAL DIVING EQUIPMENT

BASIC SCUBA DIVING EQUIPMENT

First of all is the really essential equipment. Without these things, there's no point sticking your head under the water…

DIVING MASK

DIVING MASK 

The main thing that I envy about fish is that they can see under water. For our part, landlubbers that we are, we have to wear a mask. Whether the single window masks of 20 years ago or today's double window silicone masks, and even full-face masks, the principle is the same: Choosing your mask correctly is crucial. A mask that leaks, that isn't adjusted properly or that hurts will be sure to ruin your dive. I therefore suggest that before heading out, you should make sure that your mask (or the rental mask) is right for your face and is comfortable. To check, without the strap, place the mask against your face and breathe in deeply through your nose. If the mask stays in place with no air leaks, then water won't get in. A mask that you can then use with a traditional snorkel in order to breathe on the surface.

DIVING FINS subea

DIVING FINS

With all that equipment on your back, you can weigh up to 25 kg more than usual. No problem on dry land, you put it on and you walk. But how to move about underwater? Just kicking your feet won't be enough to go anywhere or to resist a strong current. That's why fins are so important! The fin's wide blade will increase the amount of water displaced and allow for movement with less effort. There are two types of fins: full-foot and adjustable. The former are classical fins in the usual sizes, that can be worn with neoprene socks or barefoot. Adjustable fins are, well… adjustable, and are worn with rigid booties. I suggest that you try both systems before choosing one, especially if your feet get cold easily.

THERMAL PROTECTION

THERMAL PROTECTION

Something else that I envy about fish: they don't get cold in the water. Indeed, the deeper you go, the more the water temperature drops. Also, our efforts cause us to burn energy and have an influence on our body temperature. As such, to dive under the best possible conditions, and also for safety, it's essential to have thermal insulation. Nothing will ruin your dive faster than being cold. Depending on the water temperature and your own resistance, all kinds of solutions are available to you. For the body, this will include a thermal top, a shorty wetsuit or a full-length wetsuit. The wetsuit's thickness will depend on you and your thermal comfort (thickness of 2 to 3 mm for warm water, dry suit for extreme conditions, etc.). Similarly, if your hands and feet tend to get cold, don't hesitate to cover them up. Neoprene gloves will protect your hands from injuries in addition to protecting them from the cold. Also, booties of some type will insulate your feet, and also keep you from having to walk barefoot on the boat. Lastly, you can wear a hood, if one isn't integrated directly into the wetsuit itself. If a full-length wetsuit just isn't enough, you can always add layers of neoprene thanks to tops or sleeveless T-shirts that are worn under the wetsuit.

NECESSARY EQUIPMENT IN THE WATER

Regulator and buoyancy control device
NECESSARY EQUIPMENT IN THE WATER

When I was a child, I tried breathing underwater. It's completely idiotic, I know, but I was really convinced that I was a dolphin. I was quickly disabused of that notion. And I coughed up all of the swallowed water. Hence the need for a breathing system while driving. As I'm sure you've understood by now, this is going to mean a tank and regulator. To which we can add the buoyancy control device (or BCD) that helps to carry the weight of the tank and provides buoyancy, as well as measurement devices for monitoring our remaining air (analogue or digital pressure gauge). It's hard to forget this part of the equipment, but I still suggest that you always check – repeatedly – that everything is correctly connected. It's always easier to handle a connector on the surface than it is underwater. As such, be sure to check that your regulator's first stage is correctly threaded in to the tank valve, and that your BCD is connected to the circuit via its hose, and also that there are no leaks. Using your pressure gauge, also check that your tank has been filled to the right pressure.

SAFETY FIRST!

There's no way to get around it, diving can be a very dangerous sport. Whether due to physical phenomena (decompression, etc.), dangers on the surface or natural hazards, we're exposed to many possible accidents. As such, it's important to carry certain items that can literally save your life.

A computer and dive tables
A computer and dive tables

The first item has to do with the physiological risks with which we have to contend, given the high pressure at depth. Breathing air at a constant pressure thanks to our regulator, it mustn't be forgotten that decompression stops are essential. Without these stops, no deep diving. Without these stops, we face the risk of embolisms that can be fatal. Hence the need to have something with you to help you calculate your stops: dive tables and/or a computer. The tables tell us which stops to make based on the duration and depth of the dive, whereas the computer calculates everything on its own.

Visibility aids

Next, whether on the surface or under water, we aren't very visible. Even though you can find equipment in all kinds of bright colours these days, it really isn't enough. There are therefore accessories that will help us to inform everyone of our location. The first and most important is the surface marker buoy. Because decompression stops are performed at modest depths, we aren't visible from the surface. As such, the brightly coloured and inflatable SMB indicates, on the surface, that a group of divers is doing deco stops below. Also, it may be necessary to make contact or to signal on the surface in case of problems. The basic signal by striking the surface of the water can work, but the best thing is to have a little mirror. Reflections from the sun can be seen from very far away. Provided that the sun is out, of course. At night, using a lamp for signalling is also recommended. Which of us has never lost sight of the dive group, even if only for a few seconds? It has happened to me, and I can tell you that I got the fright of my life. It's therefore useful to be visible under water. In my view, something that works really well are flashing lights. Very small but emitting flashes of intense light as soon as they touch water, they can also be seen from a considerable distance.

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              ARTICLE CO-WRITTEN WITH

              romain retail assistant decathlon la défense
              Romain, retail assistant at Decathlon-La Défense

              I'm a retail assistant in the water sports department of the Decathlon at La Défense. I first discovered the underwater world through snorkeling and it was at the age of 15 that scuba diving became truly a passion. Since that time, I've regularly gone scuba diving as part of clubs and on trips. I have my FFESSM (French Federation of Undersea Studies and Sports) Level 1 certification.

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