A diver is only as good as her tools… After a brief (long) chat with Captain Bob, the owner of Oceans Unlimited, I realised how important it was for Divemasters/Instructors to have a full ‘tool box’ ready to tackle any given situation. Be it in the office when dealing with customers or out on the ocean, we all need to ensure that any problem that may occur, and for everyday business, we need to have something within that tool box that can handle it.
Diving isn’t just about having a jolly, earning dives and checking out the fish, we are responsible for peoples’ lives, as well as entertaining them, we also need to be conservation aware, and we certainly need to be prepared. It also means we should have all the relevant equipment in order to be taken seriously, and to be the best diver we can be. As a divemaster in training and in my 4th week I realised that if you don’t have your own equipment how can you be that prepared. You can’t know your equipment that well. Searching for job availability worldwide it’s pretty clear that you need to have your own equipment. Becoming a divemaster means you are a professional and so you want to make sure you have the right kit for you. I asked Georgia for her list of items all divemaster’s must have. And here they are…
- Dive Computer
- Fins, mask, snorkel
- SPG gage
- Dive knife
- SMB – surface marker buoy
Beginning my search I realised how varied in cost and style equipment is, with no real explanation or help as to what would be right for you. With a budget set I started on my search for the very best equipment for me.
The first thing a diver should purchase, or probably has is probably fins, mask and snorkel set. I actually have all of this sat in a lock up in Cornwall, so not much use. I took the decision that I would not buy another mask/snorkel as mine fits perfectly and ordering online can be tricky. So what’s next? For me, it was crucial to obtain a dive computer… Google searching, and reading lots of forums did not make for an easy choice. There are so many options available, I was pretty stumped with what to buy. At first the Suunto Zoop caught my attention. Suunto are renowned for being conservative computers, and the zoop was a very good price well within my budget, and the Zoop seemed to have everything that I would want: described as the ‘All Time Favourite’, it has air and nitrox modes, an LCD display, is robust and durable and perfect for your first dive computer. SOLD to the lady in Costa Rica! Or not. Unfortunately for me we can’t get Suunto computers down to Costa Rica, the nearest dealer is in Panama, a bicycle shop I believe?!! So the search was on again.
Perhaps if I had limitless funds my decision would have been easy, but I didn’t. And I needed to ensure that what I did purchase would actually make it to me in Quepos and that it came with a warranty. I was told that depending on where you buy some may not come with a warrantee, but you definitely want one in case anything goes wrong. What I finally went for was the Sherwood Amphos. On the recommendation of Georgia, Owner of Go Pro Costa Rica: her advice priceless. As an experienced diver with years of experience she summed this computer up as “a great computer not just for experienced divers, and has all the functions you would want including different gas mixes, free dive setting and very user friendly” Brilliant! Ordered! At $400 it was also within my price range.
Having used the shops BCD and regulator for weeks I found looking for a BCD and regulator even tougher than the computer search. The Aqua Lung ‘Wave’ BCD was a great fit for me, at only 5ft the XS fit perfectly and was very comfortable, had integrated weight pockets and a fair few D-Rings to attach things like your SMB, torch, slates etc… a great entry level BCD. However, I didn’t go for this one because after some research I decided that I could get even more streamlined with an Aqua Lung ‘Libra’ model. When diving with inexperienced divers you want to be able to move through the water more rapidly, in case you need to reach someone quickly. This BCD would give me that option. It also has metal D-Rings. A lot more sturdy than the plastic ones on the wave… and to sound vain, it was a lot more stylish, and specifically for women offered potentially and even better fit than the ‘Wave’. I also have to look at travelling with my equipment; the ‘libra’ is pretty lightweight and packages down quite small. At around $200 more than the ‘Wave’ I had to do a lot of thinking, but decided to go with this.
When it came to my regulator it’s great to have had someone so experienced helping me with my choices, when it came to this I really didn’t know what I was looking for. I was told a balanced 2nd stage is crucial and the ‘Titan” gave me this as well as being compact and lighter-weighted (when travelling every little helps). But if I didn’t have someone like Georgia helping me with my purchase I would have needed to do a lot more research.
If you aren’t as lucky as me, I would definitely say go to a scuba shop and get the help of the employees and of course try everything on when you’re there. I am confident that the kit I bought will be perfect for my wants and me but I still have a lot more to buy.
With all regulators you have to have an SPG (that are usually sold separately), then you need to ask yourself if you need one with a depth gage and also some come with a compass. Remembering I want a more streamlined kit I opted to buy the solo SPG that they actually sell at Oceans Unlimited, and I would borrow the shops compass on my dives. I took the decision due to limited funds that the compass could wait because the shop does have spare, however I would highly recommend purchasing one because you will need one when guiding, mapping and for search and recovery. Even if you know a dive site, depending on visibility, surge and your students you could need a compass at any point.
From previous dives, wearing the shops fins I decided that I would treat myself to a new set, having struggled with my ‘tow’ I wanted a pair that would actually do the job they are made for. The ‘Hotshot’ delivers great power and also comes in white. Being able to be seen by your divers is important when guiding, so this is why I opted for this colour. The fins are also lightweight and will pack in to carry on luggage. I may need to resort back to my old fins when in the cold waters of England, but these slip on fins are perfect for warm water divers. And I have to say, they are truly wonderful to dive in. And they do pack a punch in water!
With the majority of Georgia’s list purchased I still needed an SMB. When guiding and finishing a dive these are must haves, getting the boat captains attention. They are also useful when drift diving. To my shock, they are not that cheap, at around $90 for a reel and a marker buoy I bought the shops last one, yes I could have bought online, but again making sure it actually arrives is something you have to think about when purchasing gear. And I was raring to get in all my gear and become the professional diver that I am.
With an empty bank account but a smile on my face, I am pretty much complete on my purchases. I had my first dive with them this week and I think you’ll see from the smile on my face, I’m pretty chuffed with my purchases.