Scuba Safety Tips for First-Timers

One of the best places in the world to experience marine life up close and personal is the shores of Hawaii. While snorkeling can be fun, there’s nothing quite like descending to more extreme, yet manageable depths via scuba diving. But, before you do so, there are a few considerations to take into account.

Receiving the appropriate certification is crucial in your first steps as a scuba diver. Many inexperienced divers may think that simply snorkeling has equipped them with the skills necessary to safely scuba. However, without proper training and a basic understanding of common mistakes made, you are putting yourself, and possibly others in danger. Be sure that you are officially recognized by your local scuba training agency before entering the waters.

Another important consideration is receiving verification from your doctor that you are physically able to take part in scuba diving. The conditions in certain depths of water can be extremely hazardous to individuals who may suffer from hypertension, breathing disorders, or certain muscular inabilities. This activity can be surprisingly demanding in terms of physicality, and the pressure that comes with extreme depths heightens those conditions.

A hazard that all divers should be aware of is what is commonly referred to as “the bends,” or decompression sickness. This occurs most often when divers swim toward the surface of the water from extreme depths without stopping every 10-15 feet to counterbalance decompression. Nitrogen bubbles can form in the bloodstream causing extreme pain, paralysis, and even death in dire situations. Divers who may experience the bends are placed in recompression chambers to counter the effects.

Maintaining a relaxed mindset throughout your scuba diving experience is imperative. Beginners will be surrounded by professional divers should a situation arise, but being able to stay calm, breathe, and manage yourself is important for divers of all levels of experience. Panicking will only worsen the situation.

Always prepare yourself beforehand. Scuba diving when you’re tired, hungry, or sick can directly affect the quality of your dive, and your ability to effectively navigate the waters. Avoid alcohol before a dive as well. Aside from the obvious inebriation, alcohol can dehydrate the body, which can dramatically worsen the effects of underwater pressure.
Scuba diving anywhere around the world can be a fun, and rewarding activity as long as the proper safety procedures are followed. Work closely with professional diver beforehand to ensure you are taking every precautionary step necessary, and have a proper understanding of the common dangers that come with it.

Beach Safety in Hawaii

Like all travel destinations, practicing proper safety and maintaining your health when visiting another state or country is extremely important. In Hawaii, the same precautions should be followed. For those planning to visit the Aloha State in the near future looking to indulge in the beautiful beaches, here are a few tips and guidelines that will allow you to have a fun, safe stay.

With the high temperatures of the South Pacific comes an increased risk of dehydration. Always be sure to drink plenty of water, and have a bottle or two on you at all times, especially when hiking, or performing other recreational activities. When enjoying some time on the beach, the sun’s rays can be deceptively dangerous; a place you’ll want to ensure hydration, as well as protect your skin with a proper SPF level sunscreen.

People unfamiliar with the beaches of Hawaii should not assume that they are just like every other. First, pay attention to any aggressive currents or undertows. Swimming in these conditions is extremely dangerous. When in the ocean, stay within a reasonable distance of the beach to remain visible to those you are with, as well as lessening your chances of losing your footing in deep waters.

A safe rule of thumb for dealing with the waves along Hawaii shorelines is “Never turn your back on the ocean.”  What this means is that when you are exiting the water along the shoreline, always walk sideways towards the beach, looking over your shoulder at the incoming waves. It is not uncommon for people to get knocked down by unexpected waves and then have to struggle to get out of the water.

Pay attention to the surf warning flags along all of Hawaii’s beaches.Here’s a quick guide to beaches and conditions for all Hawaii island beaches, published by the Hawaii State government: http://www.hawaiibeachsafety.com/

A common misconception about Hawaiian beaches is that sharks pose a serious threat to beachgoers. Surprisingly, sightings are so infrequent that many locals look forward to spotting them offshore. However, swimming with the mindset that a sighting is impossible would be unwise. Avoid swimming at sunrise or sunset, as this is when sharks are most active. Also, stay away from murky bodies of water with little vision, as a shark’s eyesight is negatively affected in these areas as well.

The most common stings among swimmers in Hawaii are those of jellyfish. Two of the most common are box jellyfish and Portuguese man-of-war, both of which have different types of poison and should be treated respectively. Be on the lookout for floating bubble with a bluish hue and a long trail of tentacles. These are Portuguese men-of-war, and can cause painful, yet rarely serious stings. Box jellyfish on the other hand, are nearly invisible in the water, and tend to have much more painful stings. To avoid both, avoid swimming during morning hours, and when water temperatures are unusually high. If stung, do not scratch or rub the affected area. Apply an ice pack, and see a medical professional if symptoms worsen.  The box jellyfish arrive on Waikiki beaches on a rather predictable schedule, so you can check this calendar published by the Waikiki Acquarium:  http://www.waikikiaquarium.org/box-jellyfish-calendar/

An important consideration when walking into the water is to watch where you step. Many puncture wounds come from people not seeing sea urchins upon entering the ocean. Avoid areas where you can’t clearly see the bottom, and be mindful of where the current pushes you should be in a deeper area, as sea urchins tend to gather in colonies.
Open wounds or cuts should be taken very seriously. Prevention is important, and wearing wet suits, water shoes, or gloves can help. Should you experience an injury that causes bleeding, exit the water and seek the nearest medical area for help. Depending on what caused the wound, treatment may vary.