“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

There’s an old joke that goes something like, “The absent-minded maestro was racing up New York’s Seventh Avenue to a rehearsal when a stranger stopped him. “Pardon me,” he said, “can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Yes,” answered the maestro breathlessly. “Practice!”

For technical divers, practice is no joke. It may be cliche to say that sharp skills can save your life, but it’s true nonetheless. More importantly, sharp skills may defuse potentially life threatening situations before they escalate.

During training, technical divers are drilled in basic drills like manifold shutdowns, gas sharing, SMB deployment, regulator malfunctions and many others. When you are a student, it’s easy to view these skills as hoops to be jumped through in order to pass the course. The true value of the exercises can be lost. The importance of these drills doesn’t end when you get the certification card. It’s important to maintain competency.  The goal is to practice each skill until it can be performed comfortably and easily.  When something unexpected pops up during a dive, say a free flowing deco regulator, you should react calmly and automatically.  You should react as if you’ve done this a hundred times before because you have done it a hundred times before!

Skills are perishable.  Just because you could deploy an SMB perfectly 2 years ago doesn’t mean you can do it today.  You have to practice regularly to maintain proficiency and build muscle memory.  Now is the perfect time to review your skill set.  As the dive season begins, many divers are getting back in the water at local lakes and quarries.  Dedicate time on each dive to review and practice.  That way, by the time the dive season gets into high gear, you’ll be ready for more challenging open water dives.

The basic tech diving skill set is not only meant to avert life-threatening situations, but also to build confidence.  Divers who practice on a regular basis can perform better in the event of an “unplanned event” during a dive.  Knowing you can handle most any contingency results in a calmer, more relaxed dive.  So as you get back in the water after the winter break, practice your skills, dive safely, and have fun!