Getting Started in Vintage Equipment Diving
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Please read carefully…..Over the years VDH associates have been guiding divers in this area and by following this outline it will save you a lot of grief and speed up your evolution into Mike Nelson.
First things first…..DO NOT GO OUT AND BUY A BUNCH OF OLD GEAR! Biggest mistake you can make. There is nothing on the internet or an auction site that you would actually dive with that cannot be found year round and in several places.
Ok, now that you have put your wallet away you need to set down and think long and hard about yourself as a diver. Ignore your ego and look deep.
When was the last time you went diving? Has it been years or weeks? If it has been a very long time I would suggest taking a refresher course or at the very least taking the gear you have and doing some pool work and some re-reading of SCUBA BASICS. If you are not proficient and comfortable with the gear you originally learned to dive with, then Vintage Equipment will not solve that!
More than once I have witnessed a diver, new to the group, joining us for an event decked out head to toe with amazing vintage gear. But from the moment they start assembling and putting on this equipment, they are struggling. Once they get in the water they struggle even more and after a brief uncomfortable and non-enjoyable dive they end up thinking...What the hell did I get myself into this for?... It’s because they did not take the time to insure that their basic diving skills were up to par.
.If you can’t be honest with yourself at this point and do what is necessary to get yourself to Basic Competent and Safe Diver level, don’t go diving! (Take up golf!!) You could harm yourself or worse, another diver.
With that said and moving on…..The skill that many divers going vintage struggle with most is diving without a BCD. Some were never taught basic weighting skills to begin with. Take your gear to the pool, and some extra weights as well.
Once you are in the water get all the air out of your BCD….ALL OF IT.. Get comfortable in your gear and relax. You are going to work on obtaining NeutralBuoyancy.
With your lungs full of air you should be able to float on the surface comfortably with your head out of the water. As you exhale slowly you should notice you start to sink slightly. Not like a rock but your body will start to slowly sink under. You will need to add or remove weight till you get this part right. FORGET YOU HAVE A BCD ON.
Once you have accomplished this at the surface you will find that you will have to swim down the first 10 or 15 feet but then you are close to neutral for the remainder of your dive.
Next obtain Neutral Buoyancy with only your snorkeling gear and wetsuit on. When comfortable practice doing Kelp / Pike dive or Head-first surface dive. You may need to use your arms to pull yourself lower until your fins get under but it’s practice that makes it perfect here. You are getting used to descending without being pulled down by excess weight for which you compensate with a BCD. In the future you will ditch your BCD all together and dive like a Manfish. Neutral buoyancy with your wetsuit and snorkeling gear will be very close to neutral when you put on minimal vintage gear and only minor adjustments to perfect your weight should be needed.
Another good exercise is Ditch and Don...You may ask yourself why in the world would I take off my gear underwater?…...You may never need to do it but it is a great confidence builder and for decades was a requirement for passing all scuba courses. Give it a try; it’s more difficult than you might think especially wearing a wetsuit.
A pool or other shallow confined water spots are good places to task load and challenge your skills. Look at some of the diving manuals of the past and concentrate on the basics, mask removal and clearing, or swimming without a mask. There are dozens of skills you can and should practice that will elevate your comfort and confidence level and get you ready to move on. Spend time getting to the core diver in you. Practice what you are not comfortable with until you are. Doing this will make your transition into the Vintage Equipment Diver world much easier, more comfortable, and safer.
Photos courtesy of 1976 Jeppesen Sport Diver Manual. Great resource material for double hose divers. I have a few copies available on VDH CLICK HERE
Next up...........What Double Hose should I buy?