Over many years of diving around the world, I am always meeting people who seem to be excited and eager to learn how to scuba dive. They are usually filled with questions about my adventures under the waves, if I am afraid of sharks, how many dives I have under my belt, the best dive sites around the world etc. I smile and answer all those questions for the hundredth time and encourage them to follow their passion and get PADI certified. Then, almost without fail they ask me about the dreaded “bends”. Decompression sickness is without a doubt many divers biggest concerns and something everyone would like to avoid entirely. With a few handy tips from some more experienced pros, You can set your mind at ease and really enjoy scuba diving!
The best way to avoid decompression sickness (DCS) is to use a dive computer. In the old days, scuba divers used to use dive tables to calculate the nitrogen buildup that occurs during a dive and figure out how much time they could spend, and at what depth. Nowadays with modern technology, dive computers allow you have the calculations run in real-time with constantly updated feedback at the push of a button. The best dive computers calculate the remaining dive time, record the depths you reach, water temperature and will accurately be able to tell you all the technical information about your dives. Many wrist computers nowadays can even act as a digital dive log, storing the information from many previous dives to be played back at a later date, great for those who like to keep a detailed dive log. You can find a great list of the best dive computer options over at Scuba Diving Dreams, a great scuba gear focused site run by professional divers from around the globe.
Another easy option to decrease your risk of decompression sickness by sticking to shallow dive sites. Due to the decreased pressure of a shallow dive, there is far less nitrogen buildup in your bloodstream, so even if you need to make an emergency ascent, the risk of DCS is far less, even on an extended dive. Another nice side benefit is the waters are usually warmer, there is more sea life on the surface level in reefs, and you will use your air far slower than if you descend to a deeper level. Some divers carry a big ego when it comes to going deep, but in truth, shallower dives tend to be far more enjoyable, longer and there is more to see! So if you are new to scuba diving, or just graduated from snorkeling, then be sure to ask your local dive shop for their next outing to the local reef.