SCUBA EQUIPMENT 101

by Capt. Eric Billips

SCUBA EQUIPMENT 101

You finally did it!  You crossed off one of your life bucket list items and got scuba certified.  And, of course you got bit by the bug and now want to go diving anywhere you see the slightest amount of water.  It is an addicting sport.  Since you’re now an avid diver, it’s time to invest in your own equipment.  Many people will ask the question, “Why buy such expensive gear when I can just rent it wherever I travel?”  Many, many reasons indeed.  Let’s have a look at some of them.

  • Hygiene--you won’t have to use gear previously used by other divers.
  • You will have more confidence and feel safer in any diving situation.
  • It is cost effective to own your equipment, as you will not have to continually spend on renting gear.
  • You can get a more comfortable set of equipment if you are professionally fitted out, which will be more suited to your personal needs.
  • You know the history of the gear, which reduces the risk of the gear failing during a dive.
  • Owning the proper equipment offers versatility--you can dive with it anywhere.

Ok, so there are some great reasons why to invest in your own gear.  And, you agree and decide that it’s time.  So, what’s the first thing we all do when shopping for something new?  Yup, hit the internet.  So, you type in scuba diving gear for sale; and what lies in front of you is a vast spiderweb of sites and links and consumer reports all preaching their gear is the best, and this style is better, and on, and on, and on!  It will leave you dizzy and annoyed.  So, forget the internet.  Wait. Did I really just say that?  Yes, that’s right. Forget the internet and forget the big warehouses that sell nothing but product without training, fitting, warranties, or customer service. What you do is go to your local dive shop.  The “mom-and-pops” who live in your community, and are friendly and helpful, and literally survive by selling gear.  I happen to be one of these “pops” and I’m going to give you a run down on gear, what to spend your money on, and what not to.  Exactly the kind of info you need and want that the internet stores can’t provide.

Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.

Fins!  Fins come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and science, believe it or not.  My recommendation is to try them.  Most reputable dive shops will allow you to try a set before you purchase.  Fins are about comfort.  I love long, stiff fins because I have big ole legs and kick like a mule.  But, my grandma likes very soft fins that don’t wear out her calves.  So, give a set a try before you buy.

Moving up we have the BCD or buoyancy compensation device.  These come in a couple different styles; most common are the jacket style and the back inflate style.  The jacket style allows the air you put in to keep you afloat to wrap around the entire jacket.  This will keep nice and erect when on the surface, which is nice, but also floats your torso up a little while diving in that scuba-prone position.  My recommendation is to find a decent one that is comfortable, but don’t break your bank on this piece.

Next is the regulator.  Break the bank on this.  This is your life support.  If you have some extra bucks, spend them here.  There are too many configurations to get into for this article, but let me say that a regulator’s ease of breathing at depth is the most important feature.  Some regs actually give you more air the deeper you go when the air gets dense.  This is a very, very good thing.  No internet store would give you this type of info; utilize your local pros.

Finally is a mask. It’s pretty important you get a good fitting mask.  Put it on your face, without the strap on your head, and inhale through your nose.  It should seal up without hitting your nose, and the skirt shouldn’t be below your lip.  Again, comfort is key.  Then, pick your color--black skirt or clear.  Black skirts are good for photography and spearfishing because they work like a ball cap deflecting the sun and making it easier to focus on stuff to shoot, either with a camera or a spear gun.

The rest of the gear is just bonus stuff:  gloves, knives, flashlights etc., etc.  All of which your local pro can help with. So, the morale of this story--get your own gear, get it from your local shop, start a relationship with them, and use their knowledge.  Then, get out there and dive!  You’ll be amazed how much nicer it is in your set up.




Capt. Eric Billips
Capt. Eric Billips

Author

As a Captain and  PADI Master Instructor Capt. Eric is an advocate for safe spearfishing and protecting our oceans resources, Eric has authored books, conducted seminars, and continually teaches this lifestyle at his dive shop. “The Islamorada Dive Center” a full service PADI dive resort located at the Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina 305-664-DIVE (3483)



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