How Can I Improve My Scuba Diving Skills?

How Can I Improve My Scuba Diving Skills?

You can improve your scuba diving skills by practising them, especially important skills such as buoyancy. Whether it be diving more frequently, jumping into the pool to brush up on those scuba skills, or even visualising diving scenarios from your sofa (I know…awesome right!). 

Scuba diving is an exciting sport that is not difficult to learn. It requires mastering skills to make you a better and safer diver. Whether you are a diver pro or just starting your scuba diving journey, it is important to improve your scuba diving skills along the way. 

This article will cover ways to improve your scuba diving skills by getting wet and staying dry, also known as “dry training”. 

10 Ways You Can Improve Your Scuba Diving Skills

In no particular order, here are 10 ways that can improve your scuba diving skills, making diving more enjoyable and stress-free!

  1. Engage Your Brain & Take Responsibility for Yourself as a Diver
  2. Know Your Air Consumption
  3. Remember S.A.F.E (Slowly Ascend From Every Dive)
  4. Master Your Buoyancy
  5. Learn How to Deploy an SMB
  6. Know How to Dive in Marine Environments 
  7. Further Your Education
  8. Know Your Limits & Avoid Peer Pressure
  9. Dive With A Dive Buddy
  10. Dive More

Engage Your Brain & Take Responsibility for Yourself as a Diver

It can be easy to become a sheep underwater…following the dive guide wherever he/she goes. I’m not saying go off on your own, but remember they are just a guide, your safety and responsibility as a good diver is up to you. 

This means, before the dive, talk to your dive guide and know where the boat will be, or if you are doing a shore dive, what reference point will be used for the exit. Be responsible for your air consumption, your NDL (no-decompression limit), and keeping an eye on that computer for deco creeping up during deeper dives.

This is why getting a dive computer is super important. There is nothing worse than having to wave to your dive buddy or guide to find out your depth and when the safety stop time is over. 

Continuing your education, like completing the Rescue Diver Course, is a great way to provide you with invaluable scuba diving skills, plus it is a good idea to know what to do in diving related incidents. 

Know Your Air Consumption

Improving your air consumption is something that comes with time, so do not feel disheartened if you are less experienced than the others, and you are first to be low on air.

However, you should be very familiar with how to read an SPG (submersible pressure gauge) and record your air consumption in your logbook for future reference. The more logging you do of air consumption, the better understanding you will have for future dives.

For example, if you know you will be diving to a maximum depth of 20 m, you will have a rough idea of how long the dive should last. 

Another improvement of air consumption is regularly checking your SPG. Get into the habit of checking it every 5-10 minutes, depending on the conditions. If the ocean is raging, you are likely to use more air, so checking more frequently is a must! 

Remember S.A.F.E (Slowly Ascend From Every Dive)

Scuba divers cannot ascend too quickly, otherwise, a whole list of issues can occur. Safe ascents are something you would have learnt in your open water training. 

Most scuba diving accidents can be avoided by slowly ascending from every dive. Remind yourself and your dive buddy of the acronym “SAFE” before diving, so it is in the back of your mind for the end of the dive. 

Don’t forget your dive insurance! Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Master Your Buoyancy

Buoyancy is the most important skill to master when scuba diving. Many divers are seen sinking when they stop kicking. This is usually down to instructors rushing teaching buoyancy or students having an irregular breathing pattern. 

You can improve your buoyancy by looking at your position in the water.

For example, find a patch where there is no coral below and stop kicking…what happens? Do you sink? Do you rise? Or do you stay perfectly neutrally buoyant, rising up and down as you breathe? 

If you sink, you need to add air into your BCD, if you rise, let some out. Start kicking again. Do you maintain your position? If not, the issue may be with your kicking or breathing style. Remember that you should be following this kicking pattern: kick-pause-kick-pause unless you need to swim rapidly to someone in need of an emergency. 

Improving your buoyancy skills makes diving more comfortable and will improve your air consumption. If buoyancy is something that has always been challenging, PADI’s Peak Performance Buoyancy course is there to refine basic buoyancy skills and improve your position underwater. 

Perfect your buoyancy!

Learn How to Deploy an SMB

Commonly called the “safety sausage”, surface marker buoys (SMBs) are a key piece of scuba diving safety equipment, which are required to have by law in some diving locations. 

SMBs are used to mark your position underwater and are used at the surface to grab the attention of dive boats, so you can be safely be picked up at the end of the dive. 

Deploying an SMB is easy with practice. Below are some tips for SMB inflation:

  • Detach the SMB and reel from you before use.
  • When inflating the SMB, place your alternate air source (octopus) just below the opening. Never place the mouthpiece inside the SMB, if it gets caught, you will go shooting up to the surface with it, increasing the chances of decompression illness and boat strikes. 
  • Avoid entanglement on the next deployment by carefully winding the reel after use.  
  • If in the event of becoming attached to an SMB, let it go. Never let it drag you to the surface. In most cases, the reel will start sinking then you can grab back onto it after the tube has reached the surface. 

Know How to Dive in Marine Environments 

You do not want to be that diver that kicks the coral, stirs up the sediment, or touches marine life. As a scuba diver, you are now an ocean ambassador, protecting marine life every time you go diving. 

To improve your interaction with marine life:

  • Keep your hands close to your body. 
  • Streamline all equipment; do not let anything dangle down that can damage marine life (or other divers). 
  • If you are in a large group, wait your turn to observe something.
  • Always approach marine life slowly.
  • Never touch or chase marine life. 

Remember, only take photos (& marine debris), and leave only bubbles!

Further Your Education

Furthering your education gives you more confidence underwater, making you a better scuba diver and dive buddy. There are so many speciality courses you can take to make transitions between the main diving levels easier. 

Know Your Limits & Avoid Peer Pressure

You are not invincible, even as a scuba diver. If your dive buddy invites you on a dive that is beyond your abilities or the dive centre has an epic dive that you know you are not trained to do, never feel pressured to join.

Be truthful to yourself, if you are not skilled enough for that dive, simply do not take part. 

For example, if you are not trained to use a rebreather system, then you would not partake in a dive that involves using one…

Many dive incidents occur to scuba divers that dive beyond their limits. No dive is worth risking the life of you or others. You can improve your skills by taking extra training, so you can join them next time. 

Dive With a Dive Buddy

Scuba diving is a very safe sport if you follow the rules. Most dive fatalities come from buddy separation, so always stay close enough to your dive buddy!

Solo diving is discouraged by most training agencies. Despite this, some people still choose to solo dive, but know the risks when doing so.

Think about this scenario: You are solo diving. You become entangled in some ghost netting, unable to get free. Did you come prepared with a scuba knife? If you answered no, then you are not cut out (pun intended) for solo diving!

Plus, diving with a buddy is so much more fun! Who are you going to show off those fish ID skills to?!

Dive More

The best way to improve your scuba diving skills is obviously to dive more! You can read great magazines like DIVE Magazine or subscribe to DAN (divers alert network), but scuba diving is a skill learned in the water.

The more you dive, the better your buoyancy, spatial awareness, air consumption, and general scuba skills will become.

The more you dive, the more personal experiences you can share with others to also improve their scuba diving skills!

Improving Your Scuba Diving Skills From Home

Maybe it has been a while since you have been diving, especially with the current global pandemic. So now you are thinking, “I cannot improve my scuba skills right now”. But what if I told you, you could improve your scuba diving skills from the sofa or even from your bed? 

Mental Rehearsal

Mental rehearsal is a great way to visualise yourself scuba diving and improve your skills without getting wet or having to gear up!

I know you are probably thinking, “why have I never heard this before” – that was exactly my reaction when I heard about this awesome alternative to improving my scuba diving skills!

Although “mental practice” is common and widely known in many sports, it is less heard of in scuba diving. 

Mental practice is a form of “dry training” that can improve your scuba diving skills by visualising or talking yourself through diving scenarios. Let’s have practice!

Firstly, close your eyes, imagine you are cruising over the reef, and suddenly you feel a trickle of water entering your mask. Visualise yourself clearing your mask exactly how you learned in your training. By visualising such skills, you are likely to get better at the skill and be more comfortable if you have to use it in a real-life scenario. 

Practising in your head is also helpful to deal with those pre-dive nerves, trust me, we have all been there. Research shows that when divers use psychological skills, anxiety levels are much lower. 

Mental practice is best combined with refreshing your skills in the pool if it has been a while since your last dive, like the PADI ReActivate course. 

If mental rehearsal does not sound like your cup of tea, then why not brush up on your scuba diving skills with these other dry training options!

  • Navigation Skills
  • Fish & Coral ID
  • Breathing Techniques
  • Assembly & Disassembly of Scuba Equipment
  • Studying Scuba Materials

Navigation Skills

Navigation is an important skill that you may have to use at least once during a dive.

Some people take navigation like a duck to water, while others it can prove to be difficult (guilty!). It is not uncommon to become easily disorientated underwater, especially when some dive sites do not have a reference like a wall. 

Navigation is a diving skill that can be easily forgotten, so why not if you are stuck at home, grab a compass (or your smartphone) and improve your skill. Practice different search patterns such as an expanding square and U-pattern until you can do it with your eyes closed!

Fish & Coral ID

Over the years, fish and coral ID is something that comes with more experience. Every dive is different, we encounter different marine life, making it difficult to remember all of them. 

The best way to improve your ID skills is to familiarise yourself with fish using a fish ID book or sign up for the PADI Fish Identification speciality course. 

In no time you will be a fish and coral expert, impressing fellow divers wherever you choose to dive in the world!

Breathing Techniques

Breathing is the number one rule in scuba diving. While breathing may sound simple because we breathe all the time, air consumption is a common issue with scuba divers from all levels. 

Practising proper breathing techniques at home will make it easier to master the skill, and make your dive more relaxing when you finally hit the water again. In times like a pandemic, meditation is also beneficial to your overall well-being. 

Assembly & Disassembly of Scuba Equipment

This is the perfect opportunity if you have your own scuba equipment, or have a lovely friend or family member that doesn’t mind you using theirs to get some extra practice in. 

Playing around with different equipment setups will improve your diving skills, as different dive centres may use different scuba diving kits than you are used to. This is also important in the unlikely event of an emergency, where your dive buddy needs help, as it is likely they will not have the same equipment set up as you. 

Keep practising, until setting up your equipment becomes second nature. That way, you will always be the first person on the boat ready to dive!

Studying Scuba Materials

Every certified diver has either a PADI book or access to e-learning materials such as the SSI app. Most of us complete the course and never touch the book again, but these resources are teeming with information to improve our scuba diving skills!

Use the time stuck at home to freshen up on your diving knowledge, you will be surprised how much you have forgotten! 

Dry days are also a great opportunity to brush up on scuba hand signals

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Summing Up!

Scuba diving is a sport that lets you explore the ocean and see amazing marine life. With both these wet and dry ways to improve your scuba diving skills, you will become a much better and safer diver in no time!

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Darby Bonner

Darby is a marine biologist and PADI scuba diving instructor from the UK. With over ten years of diving experience, she has visited some of the best dive destinations in the world. Currently, Darby is living in Bali, Indonesia and regularly dives at some of the most beautiful dive sites in the Indian Ocean. Her passion for the ocean led her to study seals, publish a paper, and become a marine mammal medic. In the future, she hopes to complete her master’s in marine science, and of course, continue her love for teaching and diving!

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