Common Mistakes New Scuba Divers Make & How to Avoid Them

We have all been there, being a beginner scuba diver making mistakes, this is normal! However, the sooner you learn to avoid mistakes, the better, as scuba diving incidents and accidents are usually down to “diver error”.

Scuba diving is an extremely exciting sport, so making rookie errors can happen. To ensure scuba diving is always fun, always try to avoid the following mistakes from happening.


10 Mistakes Divers Make

  1. Skipping the pre-dive safety check

  2. Diving beyond your limits/experience level

  3. Taking a camera too soon

  4. Lack of underwater awareness

  5. Not keeping an eye on air consumption

  6. Wearing too many or too little weights

  7. Ascending too fast

  8. Not equalizing properly

  9. Diving when you feel sick

  10. Not logging dives


Skipping the Pre-dive Safety Check

Also known as “the buddy check”, a pre-dive safety check should be carried out whether you are a first-time diver or an instructor. This is also the perfect time to familiarize yourself with your dive buddies equipment in the unlikely event of a dive incident or accident.

The acronym BWRAF is used. I like to remember it as “breakfast with rice and fish” or “begin with review and friend”. You can even create your own to remember!


W = Weights

R = Releases

A = Air

F = Final OK


  • Check that your BCD can hold air by inflating both orally and via the inflator hose.

  • Check that air in the BCD can be released by lifting the inflator hose and that the dump valves are all working.


  • Identify what weight system you both have; integrated or a weight belt.

  • Ensure all weights are secure.


  • Check all releases and understand how to release the weight system if needed - remember to have a right-hand release if wearing a weight belt.

  • Check the tank strap at the back, and that the safety strap is around the tank.

  • Check that no hoses or any diving accessories are obstructing the releases.


  • While looking at the SPG or air-integrated dive computer, take multiple breaths to check both regulators.

  • Check that the air tastes and smells OK.

  • Let your buddy know where your alternate air source is, in the event, they need to grab it.

  • Check how much air you each have.

Final OK

  • Gather the last pieces of dive gear (mask, fins, camera, torch, and whatever you need) and check that all the hoses are in place.

  • Do a final head to toe check, then get ready for entry!

The buddy check is so important and takes 2 minutes. Skipping the buddy check can leave you with all sorts of issues during the dive.

If you are over-weighted, or under-weighted it is probably because you didn’t do the buddy check or if something is wrong with your BCD or regulator, then you could have identified and fixed the issue before finding out underwater...


Diving Beyond Your Limits/Experience Level

Diving limits are there to keep you safe. If you can only dive to 18 m, then 18 m is the maximum depth until you continue your diving education. Diving beyond your training limit usually means your diving insurance will not cover you, should you get into an accident.

It is easy to get super excited when visiting a new dive site and feel overconfident when diving with someone more experienced than you. This is a big mistake to make! Diving accidents usually occur when scuba divers are not prepared for the conditions that they may face.

Never think that taking additional training is a waste of money or time, as it is often divers without proper training that die during dives they are not trained for - such as wreck or cave/cavern diving.

Always get proper training before attempting any dive above your skill level!


Taking a Camera Too Soon

We all LOVE taking photos of the epic marine life, but taking that camera too soon is a common mistake with beginners.

This is why many instructors will have a strict “no camera” policy when diving. This is not because they do not want you to take awesome photos, but it can actually become a hazard to yourself and others if you are an inexperienced diver.

Taking photos and videos underwater requires you to have good buoyancy - one of the most important skills to master when scuba diving, which usually takes some time to get to grips with. If you have not mastered your buoyancy yet, then you are not ready to take your camera when diving.

Not only can taking a camera too soon increase the chances of damaging coral and marine life, but new divers can also easily get distracted using a camera, sometimes floating too far from the reef or up to the surface without realizing.


Lack of Underwater Awareness

When we first take the plunge underwater, we usually spend time focusing on our equipment and the marine life, forgetting about the bigger picture - which is understandable but can be dangerous...

While you are watching that turtle cruising along, a current may be pushing you up or down, easily losing your dive buddy or group. This is because new divers are usually unaware of their depth. This is common when following a wall during the dive.

Newbie scuba divers stare deeply at the marine life on the wall, often unaware of themselves descending, which can push you past your recreational limits if not careful.

Awareness can also be an issue to other divers, always give enough space between other divers. There is nothing worse than being smacked in the face with someone’s scuba fins!


Not Keeping an Eye on Air Consumption

Your air support system underwater is essentially your lifeline when scuba diving. Not checking your SPG or air-integrated dive computer can cause serious accidents underwater.

It is recommended to check your air gauge every 5-7 minutes. With time, checking your air consumption while scuba diving will become second nature.

Frequently checking your air consumption as a beginner diver is vital as your air consumption will generally not be you become more experienced your air consumption will improve - but you still need to keep an eye on that gauge or dive computer even if you are a diver pro!


Wearing Too Many or Too Little Weights

Many inexperienced divers wear too many weights or not enough, making the dive very uncomfortable. Being overweighted can cause exhaustion and issues with your buoyancy.

Not having enough weight is also never fun (I’ve personally been there). You will be continuously kicking to stay down, and can even be dangerous should you surface too quickly because you do not have enough weight to stay under the surface.

When wearing a new exposure suit, it is recommended to do a pre-dive weight check in the pool before heading out to ensure you have the correct weights. It is also important to log your weights in your logbook, so you can look back as a reference.


Ascending Too Fast

78% of the air we breathe when diving consists of nitrogen. The first 12 ft (4 m) of a dive has the greatest pressure difference and therefore puts more strain on our bodies.

As we ascend, the pressure increases and nitrogen is absorbed in the bodies tissues. Ascending quickly doesn’t allow enough time for the nitrogen to be expelled from the body, causing serious implications for scuba divers such as decompression sickness, also known as “the bends”, ear or pulmonary barotrauma, and arterial gas embolism (AGE).

To ascend safely:

  • Ensure you have enough air for safety and decompression stops.

  • Keep a close eye on your SPG.

  • Be prepared to release some air from your BCD, as your BCD air pressure will increase the closer you get to the surface.

  • Try not to become disorientated - focus on your dive buddy or DSMB/SMB line.

  • Breathe normally and relax!


Not Equalizing Properly

Diving is exciting, and we cannot wait to explore as soon as our head sinks below the surface. But remember that you will need to equalize your ears on the way down.

Forgetting to equalize can cause issues such as barotrauma, rupturing the eardrum, or a reverse squeeze - all of which are SUPER painful!

When we equalize, we open the Eustachian tubes that are normally closed. This allows higher-pressure air from your throat to enter your middle ears, preventing them from rupturing.

To equalize, you can use any (or all) of these techniques:

  • Pinch your nose while gently blowing - never blow too hard as this can rupture your eardrum.

  • Move your jaw from side to side.

  • Some divers can equalize by swallowing.

If after all these techniques your ears are still not clearing, slowly ascend a couple of meters and try again - just remember to tell your buddy that’s what you are doing by signalling you are having issues with your ears.


Diving When You Feel Sick

There is nothing worse than having to cancel a dive because you have woken up sick.

Apart from it being an unpleasant experience, diving when sick or unhealthy can actually be unsafe.

One of DAN’s (Divers Alert Network) representatives stated: “A cold causes congestion of upper respiratory pathways, which may block Eustachian tubes and sinus openings. This prevents the equalization of pressure in the middle ears and sinuses.”

So if you feel unwell, skip the dive, you will thank me for it - trust me!


Not Logging Dives

Whether you are a recreational diver, tech diver, or a diver pro, logging dives should be done by every scuba diver.

A dive log can either be digital or physical as long as all the important information is recorded, and you can log any dive that is 5 m (15 ft) or more and that lasts at least 20 minutes.

So why you should log your dives?

  • Documentation & proof of experience

  • Equipment reference

  • For memories - good or bad!

  • To collect cool stamps from around the world

  • To remember dive site information such as topography

  • For fish ID purposes

  • To remember the awesome dive buddies you have met on your travels

When logging dives, you need to include the 4 following sections:

  1. Basic Information

  2. Dive Statistics

  3. Equipment Used

  4. Comments & Signing Off


Hopefully, now you are more aware of common mistakes and what to do to prevent them. The fewer mistakes you make, the better and much safer a diver you will become.

Thanks for reading, & happy bubbles!


Written by Darby Bonner

Marine Biologist & PADI OWSI

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