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Ever leave a cylinder standing unattended at a dive site? Surface from a dive and prop your mask atop your head like a pair of sunglasses? Leave your snorkel in your dive bag instead of wearing it?
If PADI® Pros do these things – things that are outside the practices we use to train divers – it sends a message that it’s okay and appropriate. The message is audibly silent, yet visually loud. You’ve heard the adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” If your actions ignore the training principles you teach, why would your student divers and others around you think they are important?
Let’s take the snorkel as an example. If snorkels weren’t an important piece of equipment for scuba kits, they wouldn’t be required for PADI courses (except where they clearly have no purpose or are contrary to good practices as noted in some course standards, such as for ice diving). When a PADI Pro’s mask isn’t equipped with a snorkel, in essence this action says, “I require you to have a snorkel when you are taking a course. I teach you how to reduce your risk while diving by following course standards when I train you. The training I provide you helps prepare you to dive independently. But, when you’re not in a course, you can follow my lead and pick and choose which safety practices you wish to follow.”
There are relevant values for all safe diving practices. The PADI Open Water Diver Manual outlines at least six reasons for having a snorkel when scuba diving. Realistically, though, snorkels just don’t compare with other equipment (like alternate air sources and dive computers) in terms of managing risk.
So, why should you bother wearing one?
The answer is simple: Because having and maintaining good diving habits directly correlates with what you do under stress. The ability to think clearly declines in an emergency, and people default to what has become habit. If you’ve always worn a snorkel on your mask, and suddenly you find yourself on the surface with no air supply and you need to get yourself out of an entanglement, you can look underwater without the added stress of having to hold your breath because your snorkel is available when you need it.
Realize that when some accepted diving practices begin to erode, others begin to lose value, too. Outside of training, divers make their own choices. However, they are influenced by those they perceive as experts. Be a role model during your everyday dives, and choose diving photos for your communications and social media that depict good diving practices; and you will speak loudly (in a good way).