By Sophia Read
For The Bali Times
SEMINYAK ~ Diving is certainly not the most sartorial of sports. Itâ€™s difficult to look good, and elegant when encased in neoprene, weighted with lead, wearing a bulky nylon jacket, and lugging a metal tank on your back. However, all these pieces of equipment are vital to the diver â€“ here is a quick breakdown of everything that they need:
1. A mask
This allows the diver to see underwater, and could therefore be regarded as the most vital piece of kit. It is also, perhaps the most prone to failure. Very few snorkellers or divers have not experienced a leaky mask â€“ and a badly leaking one can completely ruin what would otherwise have been an enjoyable dive! The drive for a good fitting mask has led the manufactures to develop any number of ways to ensure no water can penetrate â€“ perhaps the latest is the Mares â€œLiquidskinâ€ mask, which features two different types of silicone, one of which is 45 percent softer, and 245 percent more elastic than normal silicone. This allows it to mould completely to the face, creating a great seal. Masks come in hundreds of designs, shapes, and colors, to fulfill the needs of all the different kinds of diving.
These are what the diver uses for propulsion â€“ a good pair of fins can greatly increase the amount of ground you can cover on a dive, and loosing a fin mid dive has to be one of the most common irritations. As with masks, they come in all shapes and sizes. Fins make the kick more efficient, so that divers work less hard, and use less air. There are two foot types â€“ full foot and open heel. The full foot fin is exactly what it sounds like. The adjustable heel fin is worn with booties. Recently we have seen the introduction of the â€œsplit finâ€ which can increase efficiency by up to 40 percent, but reducing water resistance. But split fins make it harder to fin, if thereâ€™s considerable current. As with masks, they come in a complete range of colors and shapes.
This is used to protect the diver from the elements, most notably cold. There are various types now, from the dive skin, through to the drysuit. A diveskin is normally made from Spandex, and is not intended to really protect the diver from cold, but more from sunburn, or jellyfish stings. They are used normally when the temperature of the water is above 25 degrees Celsius. The wetsuit is normally made from neoprene and will vary in thickness between 3â€“7mm; the ticker the suit, the more thermal protection offered to the diver. Semi-dry suites are essentially very thick wetsuits with very good seals at the neck, wrists and ankles â€“ this means that the water that enters the suit is warmed by the body, and not easily exchanged with the surrounding cold water. A drysuit keeps the diver dry â€“ water cannot penetrate, and cool the human inside. They are normally supplemented with a thermal undersuit, hood and thick gloves.
The regulator is what you use to breathe. It supplies air (or another breathing gas) from the tanks, to the diver. As the air in the tank is under pressure, the regulator converts this to ambient pressure so that it can be breathed by the diver. It consists of several hoses, a first stage and a second stage, and instruments. Recreational divers use mainly open-circuit regulators. The first stage connects to the tank â€“ the most common fitting is a Yoke Valve, which places an open hole on the regulator directly against the tank opening. The seal is made tight with an O Ring (a ring of rubber that seals the connection). The regulator will have a high-pressure hose (coming directly from the tank) leading to an instrument panel. This may contain extras such as a compass or depth gauge, but will certainly have a pressure gauge â€“ this measures the amount of air in the cylinder, and tells the diver how much air they have available. The first stage reduces the pressure of the gas from approx 200bar (in the tank) to 10 bar above that of the ambient pressure. This is then supplied along two medium pressure hoses to the second stages. These are the mouthpiece, and normally a spare mouthpiece, and an inflator hose. The second stage mouthpiece is normally a demand valve that supplies air to the diver. Most setups will include a spare demand valve mouthpiece â€“ to be used by another diver in an emergency. For some reason, this is called an octopus.
5. Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)
This device makes the diver neutrally buoyant, and allows them to float in mid water, or to ascend or descend at will. There are three main types: the Stab Jacket (worn by the majority of recreational divers), the Wing (favored by technical divers) and the horsecollar. They all have certain things in common. They will all have a direct connection to the tank with a button that allows the diver to inflate the BCD and a varying number of dump, or vent valves. These vent valves allow the diver to remove air from the BCD. There is also an over-inflation valve that will automatically vent air if the diver puts too much in. They will all have a system for securing the tank to the rear of the jacket â€“ most frequently a nylon band. And, of course, pockets to put things in.
With these five pieces of equipment â€“ you are good to go.
The writer is sales manager of AquaMarine Diving â€“ Bali.