My number one priority for new divers is to own a good, big Surface Marker Buoy (SMB), and know how to use it. Practice deploying on every dive so you are familiar and comfortable with using it. Buy one that is at least five-feet tall so you are visible to boaters. The biggest mistake people make with SMB’s is not keeping tension on the line. If there is not tension on the line the SMB will not stand up. It will just lie on the surface and cannot be seen.
Another priority is a cutting tool, but not a great big knife strapped to the leg. A small cutting tool, like a line cutter or a small knife on the hose or waist belt, is preferable. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) sheers are ideal.
To keep things together, have some form of pocket on your wet suit or waist where you can keep a few essentials. A wet note, spool, EMS sheers and a backup light are good things to have in a pocket.
Invest in a set of wet notes or a little slate to be able to communicate to a buddy more effectively if needed.
Have a check list for your gear and carry it with you when you go diving. As you get your gear ready, go through your checklist to make sure everything is in good order and set up properly for every dive.
For the surface, make yourself a small save-a-dive kit with some essentials. O-rings, mask strap, fin strap, zipper wax, aqua seal and picks can be carried in the kit. There is no need to lose a dive over an O-ring.
The most important gear aspect from my perspective is to not overload yourself. I have seen divers that get into diving and immediately want to run out and buy all sorts of fancy trinkets to strap on to their gear. Only carry the essentials and know how to use them. I always use the example of a big knife strapped to the leg, you don’t need it. It has little use except in very specific situations that no new diver should be in, and therefore it only acts as a snag point or item that can hurt you or someone else.
Keep things as streamlined as possible.
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