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Scuba Diving Refresher Tips


Ah, Scuba Diving Refresher Tips: You see Other Divers by the Waterside, or you Watch an Incredible Diving Video Online, or your Memories of Subsurface Wonders simply Beg to be Refreshed.

Whatever the reason, you’re Motivated to Get Back into Scuba Diving – but you then remember you’ve forgotten most of what you learned during your open water courses.

Don’t Worry! We Completely Understand how Daunting it can be to Dive – or Back Roll – into to the World of Scuba after an Extended Break.

It’s for exactly that reason that Diving Squad has compiled this Scuba Refresher Tips Checklist briefing to get you back up to speed and ready to join scuba missions in no time!

Let’s Jump Straight In to the Scuba Diving Refresher Tips.

In this Whale of an Article we cover your Pre Dive Safety Check, the Scuba Diving Hand Signals, Breathing Excercises for Diving…. 

…all before slowly working our way towards how to Calculate your optimum Scuba Buoyancy Weights, Descent Acronyms and a run through of all the Gear and what the hell it does!  

Ok Squad – Let’s Dive In!

scuba diving refresher checklist

"Ok Diving Squad - Let's do this"!

Marine Fact of Awesome

Are Female Octopuses Good Mum's? Hover over this box to find out...
Yes - to tragic proportions! A female octopus will stay and protect her eggs throughout their three month incubation period, never once leaving to eat. When the babies hatch, their mother finally dies of starvation.

Dive Check Procedures

Dive Check Procedure

You don't have to be actual Buddies to do a Buddy Check - In real life these two hate eachother so, so much...

The next item to cover on our Scuba Refresher Tips Checklist is the pre-dive check that you should perform for both yourself and your dive buddy.

This dive check PADI provides us unfortunately doesn’t condense into an easy acronym, but there’s hope! Diving squad folks tend to think that Breathing Water Really Ain’t Fun, and there you have your 5-step check procedure and an integral part of our scuba diving refresher tips!

Let’s here that acronym one more time:

Breathing     (BCD/ Buoyancy)

Water           (Weights)

Really          (Releases)

Ain’t             (Air)

Fun              (Final Check)

5 Step Dive Check Procedure:

  1. BCD / Buoyancy


Check to make sure the BCD is properly connected to the air supply, and practice inflating the vest to ensure adequate airflow.

Also, test deflating the vest to ensure the purge valves are in good working order.

2. Weights


Make sure your additional weight is fastened securely inside your weight pouches.

If you’re using a weight belt, make sure it’s secured and cinched properly to keep the weight from inadvertently detaching.

3. Releases


Check to make sure that you and your buddy can easily access and operate all the release catches for your vest, tank, and weights.

This will allow you to easily slip out of your BCD in case of entanglement or an emergency, and assist your partner if need be.

4. Air


Check that your air valve is completely open, and all tubes and valves are secured in their respective places.

Take a few deep breaths from your regulator to verify proper airflow and taste. Repeat this process for your octopus, and make sure your buddy knows where it is in case the need arises to share air.

5. Final Check


Strap on all your additional gear and complete a head to toe check to make sure absolutely everything is secured in place and not posing an entanglement risk.

Now we’ve covered all the pre-dive aspects of our scuba refresher checklist, it’s just about time to test the waters!

But before you go charging off into the ocean, reign in your seahorses and consider these next few points regarding in-water procedures.

Basic Scuba Diving Hand Signals

Scuba Diving hand signals

Don't know what the hell this means? Best Keep Reading

Communication with your fellow diving squad members is key! Whether you see something interesting, need to slow your descent, or are running low on air, you must be able to make yourself understood to the rest of the squad – and not by madly flailing your arms around in an excellent impression of a shark attack victim!

We use hand signals! You were undoubtedly taught a few of these signals during your open water training, so let’s take a couple of minutes to add a few of the most important signals to our scuba diving refresher tips.

O.K.: Touch your thumb and index finger together to form an O while keeping your other three fingers extended. Remember, the traditional thumbs up sign DOES NOT mean O.K. in diving.

scuba diving hand signals ok
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

O.K. (Surface): Touch the top of your head with your hand, either open or closed and form an O shape with your arm.

scuba diving hand signals
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

Ascend: Thumb up. 

scuba diving hand signals go up
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

Descend: Thumb down. 

scuba diving hand signals go down
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

Stop: Extend hand straight out in front of you (like a traffic cop stopping traffic).

scuba diving hand signals stop
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

Turn the Dive: Make a circular motion with your index finger.

scuba diving hand signals turn around
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

Problem: Wiggle your hand in front of you. Similar to a so-so sign in standard conversation.

scuba diving hand signal for equalise
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

Equalizing Trouble: Point at your ear

scuba diving hand signals problem
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

Low on Air: Place a clenched fist across your chest

Image Credit:

Out of Air: Make a slashing motion across your neck. 

scuba diving basic hand signals out of air
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

I’m cold: Cross arms as in the traditional ‘shivering’ motion.

scuba diving hand signals cold
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

How Much Air Left? – This signal means someone is asking you how much oxygen you have left. (Which you can find out by looking at the pressure gauge!)

scuba diving hand signals how much
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

100 Bar’s of Oxygen Left – Make a T with your two hands if you have at least 100 oxygen.

For every additional 10 bars of air hold up one finger after this signal. So if you had 130 bars  in total, you’d make this signal and then hold up 3 fingers.

When you have only 100 bars left it is time to prepare to finish the dive.

scuba diving hand signals one hundred
Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

Look at Me – This is when someone, usually your instructor, wants you to pay attention to them so they can show you something. 

Photo Credit: Peter Southwood. No changes made.

As all of us at diving squad have learned – and you will too – the trick to utilizing these hand signals is actually getting your buddy’s attention so they see what you’re doing!

It’s so easy to leisurely drift along while singing Mr. Limpet’s ‘I wish I were a fish’ song in your head, and be completely oblivious to your partner’s attempts to communicate.

It’s for this reason that one of our minor but game changer scuba diving refresher tips is to use a tank banger noise device to get your buddy’s attention.

These devices consist of a hard object being secured to either your hand or tank; all you have to do is bang it against the tank to make a very noticeable sound and attract attention, easy as that!

Scuba Diving Equalising

One of the most memorable sensations of diving is feeling the pressure start to build on your ears and the satisfaction in being able to equalize the pressure and bring them back to normal.

It’s therefore only fair to revisit this concept as we continue to work our way through the squad’s scuba refresher tips checklist.

One of the most memorable sensations of diving is feeling the pressure start to build on your ears and the satisfaction in being able to equalize the pressure and bring them back to normal.

scuba diving refresher tips equalising dude

It’s therefore only fair to revisit this concept as we continue to work our way through the squad’s scuba refresher checklist.

Let’s first recall why your ears start to hurt underwater in the first place. You ear canal, or outer ear, is connected directly to the environment, but the space behind your eardrum – known as the middle ear – is not.

Therefore, a pressure difference is created as the pressure in your outer ear increases with depth but the pressure in your middle ear remains unchanged, creating an uncomfortable feeling that can easily lead to pain and ear damage if the pressure is not equalized.

We are given several tricks to help equalize this pressure as we descend and head off any discomfort before it materializes. So, let’s now review a few of those tricks.

Nose Pinch Method

scuba diving equalising nose pinch method

"Dude! Lay off the Tinned Sardines"!!

This is one of the most common equalizing methods, and likely what you were taught during your open water training.

Simply pinch your nose and try to blow. This will cause a pressure buildup in your mouth and nose that will force open the Eustachian tubes that run from the back of your throat to the middle ear, allowing the pressure to equalize.

The nose pinch method, however, isn’t infallible and doesn’t utilize the muscles that are already present in that area to open up the eustachian tubes. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with these two additional methods so you have backups!

Swallowing Method

scuba diving refresher checklist swallowing method

Best Done without Consumption of actual Sea Water

This is one of the most common equalizing methods, and likely what you were taught during your open water training. Simply pinch your nose and try to blow.

This will cause a pressure buildup in your mouth and nose that will force open the Eustachian tubes that run from the back of your throat to the middle ear, allowing the pressure to equalize.

The nose pinch method, however, isn’t infallible and doesn’t utilize the muscles that are already present in that area to open up the eustachian tubes. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with these two additional methods so you have backups!

Jaw Movement Method

scuba refresher checklist jaw movement equalising

We couldn't capture a decent picture of a diver moving their jaws. So instead, here's a picture of Jaws Moving.

Working your jaw also engages the muscles in the back of your throat to aid in equalization.

One of the most effective methods we’ve found is to tense the muscles in the back of your throat while at the same time pushing your jaw forward. Like swallowing, this will open up your eustachian tubes and allow the pressure to equalize.

The squad’s top advice for scuba diving equalizing? Equalize early and often. Begin trying to clear/equalize your ears before you even start putting on your gear, and equalize continually while descending.

Most importantly – and one of our most import scuba diving refresher tips – If you start to feel pain or discomfort, don’t try to simply power through it! Ascend slightly, equalize, and then continue your descent.

Equalizing problems didn’t get its own hand signal earlier for nothing! Let your partners know if you need to descend more slowly or take an equalization break!  

Diving Breathing Excercises

Perhaps one of the more frustrating aspects of diving with more experienced squad mates is their ability to control their air consumption and make their supply last much longer than yours.

This inevitably leads to you being the one to turn the dives every time, which can be a little awkward, right?

scuba refresher checklist

Your fellow Divers will look THIS impressed...

So, let’s finish our scuba refresher tips checklist with a few breathing exercises for diving to put you on the fast track to improved air efficiency!

The key to getting the most out of your air supply is improving your diaphragm muscle. This muscle stretches across the lower portion of your rib cage and separates your heart and lungs from the abdomen; it is absolutely pivotal to proper air exchange in the lungs.

Most of us are guilty of lazy breathing by only using our chest muscles to expand and contract our chest cavity, and thus breath.

However, deploying your diaphragm will allow you to draw air deeper into your lungs, improve oxygen exchange, and ultimately improve your air consumption.

To get to this point, we need to strengthen the diaphragm and actually start using it effectively when breathing.

One of the best breathing exercises for diving to begin with is to lay down on your back with your legs bent.

Place one hand on your chest, and the other on your abdomen, allowing you to feel all your muscles engaging while breathing.

Now, practice breathing deeply and slowly from your nose, while focusing on engaging your diaphragm as much as possible.

You should feel your stomach rising and falling, while your chest should barely be moving. This takes practice, but keep at it and you should start to feel a difference.

scuba diving refresher checklist

This guy feels it...

A second favourite of our breathing exercises for diving to improve your air consumption is simply working on your rate of breathing.

You’ll notice in the previous exercise that we stressed breathing deeply and slowly. This too requires a great deal of practice and concentration at first!

Focus on inhaling very slowly, while staying very calm and not elevating your heart rate. When it’s time to exhale, don’t simply breathe out all at once, but rather focus on very slowly exhaling a little at a time.

Altogether, these breathing exercises for diving will improve your breathing control, decrease your respirations per minute, and ultimately make your air supply while diving last longer.

All those possible benefits make this chore sound like a pretty good item to include with our scuba diving refresher tips, doesn’t it?

scuba diving refresher tips bubbles

"YESSSSS"! (Muffled by Bubbles)

Scuba Diving Buoyancy Calculator and Weights

Although also a piece of standard equipment, we’ve decided to give the scuba diving buoyancy calculator – and its accompanying weights – its own section amongst our scuba diving refresher tips, as any diving squad member knows that this can be a finicky operation!

First things first: remember from your early diving days where the instructor eyed you up and down, twiddled their thumbs, and magically produced a weight value that would work for your buoyancy needs?

They were sizing you up, estimating your weight, and approximating how much additional weight you need to carry to remain neutrally buoyant.

Well, that ability to guesstimate weights and actually be close comes from years of experience in the water.

However, now is as good a time as any for you to start honing that scuba diving buoyancy calculator skill! 

scuba diving buoyancy caluclaotor chick

"Much to Learn about Buoyancy, You Have".

So, let’s cover what’s involved:

There are several components that affect your overall buoyancy; these include your tank, BCD, wetsuit, and – of course – you!

The most accurate method, is to iteratively determine the weight needed to make your entire setup neutrally buoyant.

This means you will hang motionless in the water with half a breath, ascend when breathing in, and descend when breathing out.

scuba diving buoyancy calculator and weights

Still not sure? Let's make things even clearer...

To Find This Weight:

  1. Start with your body in just a swimming suit. Wade into the water and determine the weight needed for neutral buoyancy.

  2. After you have this number, put on your wetsuit and repeat the process. The increase in weight needed from swimsuit to wetsuit indicates the buoyancy weight of your wetsuit.

  3. Now, as we continue along the scuba diving buoyancy calculator list, you should submerge your BCD, purge ALL the air, and determine if it is inherently neutrally buoyant or if it needs some additional weight of its own.

  4. Finally, take a close look at the specs for your air tank, as the weights when full or partially empty can vary greatly across brand and material types.

  5. In essence, you must determine if your tank will be positively or negatively buoyant, and compensate with additional weight.

  6. Given a choice, we recommend getting a steel tank as they tend to remain negatively buoyant whether full or empty.

  7. Add all these weights together and you have the ideal additional weight you need to wear for optimal buoyancy!

Remember, the goal is to slowly sink with an empty BCD and full tank at the beginning of your dive (at the surface).

At the end, when you’ve lost some weight from using the compressed air, you should be perfectly neutrally buoyant.

"Wait, what"!?

scuba weights calculator

We realise that this scuba diving buoyancy calculator process is a bit of a handful!

As well as this, you will undoubtedly tweak your weights as you continue diving.

If you don’t have the time to iteratively determine your required weight…fear not!

There is a ballpark estimate you can use to get close, and then adjust from there.

How To Get a Rough Buoyancy Calculator Estimate:

That estimate is to simply carry 10% of your body weight in additional weights. This number will certainly not work for everyone, but it is at least a starting point.

Regardless of which scuba diving buoyancy calculator method you’re using, you’ll need to complete a buoyancy test once you have your weight picked out.

Don’t worry, it’s very easy! Simply strap on all your gear as if you’re embarking on your dive, deflate your BCD completely, and get into the water. 

At the surface, you should be slightly negatively buoyant and sink slowly even when inhaling. 

Plunging into the depths like a boulder is not the goal! You want to begin your descent nice and slowly; remember that as you go deeper and your gear is compressed, you’ll pick up some speed!

Scuba Descent Acronym

Scuba Descent Acronym of AWESOME

Confused? Never Fear! Diving Squad have you Sorted!

Speaking of descents, our affinity for acronyms has yielded yet another handy item in this department for our scuba refresher tips checklist. Its long-winded name is the PADI 5-point scuba descent acronym, but all you need to remember is SORTED.



Signal your fellow squad member(s) that you’re ready to descend.



Take a look at your surroundings and get your bearings in relation to the shore, boat, or any other landmarks in the area.  Ideally, glance at your compass at the same time to help cement your area awareness.



Unless you’re in the mood to swallow some seawater, put your regulator in your mouth and take a couple of breaths.



Take note of the time that you’re beginning your dive. Most dive computers do this anyway, but it is still beneficial for you to think about turnaround times and your total bottom time.



Be sure to equalize the pressure in your ears even before you start descending. Also remember the point that we discussed earlier: equalize early and often during your descent!



Now you’re ready to begin descending, slowly deflate your BCD and let the adventure begin. And there you have the last item on our scuba descent acronym!

This particular scuba descent acronym is thankfully short and very easy to remember. Simply run it through your mind a few times, put it to good practice in the field, and you’ll never forget!

Now that you have the scuba descent acronym cemented amongst your other scuba diving refresher tips, we’ve almost covered all of the essential elements of our entire scuba refresher checklist!

You’re just about ready to jump back in the saddle – or BCD, in this instance – and get back into the water! But there is one more item our squad members want to cover beforehand.

Scuba Gear

The first step in rinsing off that scuba knowledge is to review and completely understand all the gear involved, and put together your dive equipment checklist.

In addition to simply operating the gear properly, this will allow you to complete the standard dive check PADI recommends for all divers.

Being part of diving squad also means you take your squad-mates’ safety just as seriously as your own.

Comprehensive knowledge of scuba gear will allow you to run down the dive equipment checklist with your buddy’s gear to ensure optimal safety.

The following pieces of gear are essential items for you to review and include on your dive equipment checklist.

Regulator / Octopus – The regulator reduces pressurised breathing oxygen to ambient pressure and delivers it to the diver through a mouth piece. Remember, you need two – one for you and a spare for a buddy in case of emergencies!

Diving Torch – Absolutely essential for Deep Dives and Night Dives. So you can…you know – see. Bioluminescent plankton anyone? 

Diving Mask – Full Face Snorkel Masks are taking the world by storm but they can’t withstand pressure beyond several meters depth.  For diving you need an old school dive mask.

BCD – A BCD is the jacket divers wear to maintain optimum buoyancy, which they can adjust by operating the inflate and deflate buttons. This makes sure they neither sink to the bottom nor rise to the top of the water! As well as this, the BCD holds the divers regulator(s), dive gauge and air tank.

Scuba Tank – This contains the pressurised breathing gas – i.e. oxygen, that you will be breathing underwater (after it’s been reduced to ambient pressure by the regulator). Pretty essential right? 

Scuba Weight Belt – A diving weight belt assists with maintaining optimum buoyancy, by stopping divers from floating to the top of the water. How much weight you take will depend on your build, weight and diving ability.

Dive Computer – The Dive Computer is used to measure the time and depth of a dive. In doing so, it calculates a safe ascent profile, vital for avoiding decompression sickness. 

Dive Gauge – Essential for keeping track of your air consumption and the depth at which you are diving. The best ones also feature compasses and can read the water temperature (useful for bragging rights when you go on extremely cold dives!).

Scuba Fins – Fins greatly reduce water resistance when swimming and thus help to conserve energy and swim faster / against currents. They also allow you to unleash your inner mermaid/man. 

Dive Boots Designed to be worn under your fins, dive boots prevent rubbing and skin irritation from said fins – whilst also keeping your feet toasty and warm. 

Wetsuit – Crucial for keeping you warm. Even in hot countries, when you dive deep, it gets cold. Which one you pick will depend on the climate of where you’re diving. 

Ultimate Combo Package Whew! That’s a lot of gear we’ve covered. If you don’t yet have any scuba gear and want to bulk buy at great quality and value, this is the number one scuba starter pack out there.  

Diving Squad Debriefing

There you go squad members! We’ve covered our scuba refresher checklist from top to bottom and reintroduced all the points you should review when dipping a toe back into the diving waters.

From your scuba diving buoyancy calculator to your dive equipment checklist, all your pre-diving bases should be covered – and then double checked with the standard dive check PADI recommends.

Once in the water, we covered your scuba descent acronym, equalising during the descent, and a few of the best breathing exercises for diving.

Of course, we also reminded you of the key hand signals for communicating with your fellow squadmates!

Now all you need is the perfect location to rinse off those diving skills with a refreshing plunge into some crystal-clear tropical waters!


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Help Diving Squad with Marine Conservation


  • Over 18 billion pounds of plastic enters the World’s Oceans every year. That’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic (Every. Year).


  • As well as containing it’s own toxic chemicals, like BPA, plastic absorbs even more potent toxins from other pollutants in the Ocean such as oil, untreated sewage and radioactive waste.


  • Plastic is indestructible and never degrades. Instead it simply breaks down into smaller pieces which accumulate together, en masse.


  • Today, each square mile of ocean has over 45,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.


  • Plastic is mistaken for food and eaten by marine animals. Because it can’t be digested, it fills their stomachs and causes them to starve to death.


  • For those “lucky” individuals that don’t eat plastic, the toxic chemicals present in every part of sea water from plastic, wreck havoc throughout the ecosystem causing changes in animals behaviour, immune systems and reproduction.


  • There are 200 known ‘dead zones’, or areas deprived of oxygen and devoid of life, (area between 1 and 70,000 km²),  in the world ocean, due to plastic: this number has doubled every decade since 1960.


  • Chemicals in heavily polluted waters can make their way back to us and cause serious health issues like reproductive problems, hormonal problems, kidney damage, and nervous system damage.


  • It’s estimated that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight). AND IT’S GETTING WORSE

The Time to Act is NOW

To Diving Squad, the grizzly stats above are appalling, tragic and completely UNACCEPTABLE. That’s why we are working hard towards combating plastic pollution in the ocean.

How do we do this? Through spreading awareness, providing informative guides on eco friendly diving and donating 10% of all profits that we make towards combating plastic pollution in the Ocean.

So, how does Diving Squad make money? Through You! Every time you click on one of our painstakingly, yet lovingly researched liveaboard, gear or insurance links and spend money – we earn a % commission thanks to affiliate partnerships.

We then donate 10% of this towards Marine Conservation Schemes that target plastic pollution.

What does this mean? It means that if you book a Liveaboard through a Diving Squad link – some of that money goes directly towards Marine Conservation.

Buy a piece of Gear through a Diving Squad link? Nice! You’ve just contributed money towards Marine Conservation. Booked yourself Diving Insurance through Diving Squad? Go, go Marine Conservation!

So help us…help you…help the Ocean. Together, we can do this.

To which Marine Conservation charity do we donate, you might ask?
Our squad is already hard at work selecting the ideal candidate. The winner will be announced at the end of 2019. Have a suggestion? We’d love to hear… If we pick your suggestion, there just might be something in it for you…

Contact us at: Alex Hatton:
[email protected] (Grand Admiral at Diving Squad).