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Every day around the world certified divers do stupid things while underwater, good chance you saw one on your last dive trip. When you first started diving, you learned a number of items that you should never do while scuba diving. These are to be strictly followed and are drilled into us at each class.

For the sake of labels lets call them the “Golden Rules.” When you are a certified diver and are reading these rules and there is something new to you, you need a reactivate or other refresher course before your next dive.


Here is a fast review of the 5 most important rules we all learned as open water divers.

1. Never dive without a plan.

The commonly used phrase, “Plan your dive, dive your plan” is a key element to staying alive. Dive planning in BC (before computers) took time to calculate projected maximum depth and the amount of bottom time it gave you. Residual nitrogen time needed to be calculated from previous dives if any.

If you were diving with a dive guide from a dive center, you might have been given the max depth and time for the dive by the dive master based on previous experience.

Dive tables have been replaced by dive computers for the majority of users which makes planning easier and allows us better controls over our dives. However, the ease in determining bottom time should not lure use into minimizing other portions of the dive plan. Fully plan each dive and follow the plan.

Also read: Here is Why You Should Plan Your Dive and Dive Your Plan

2. Never exceed your comfort level.

If you are nervous that a dive is beyond your abilities and your dive buddy is saying “don't worry I will take care of you” makes you feel better, cancel the dive.

You need to stay within your comfort zone as well as within the scope of your training. You will only get better by expanding your limits. However, it needs to be done in a manner that are small steps or accidents will happen.

Currents are a good example, if you were not introduced to diving in a current during your training, start with diving in a mild current before drift diving in a strong current.

3. Never Hold Your Breath.

The more accurate statement would be [never hold your breath while ascending. However, it is much easier to imprint in your mind NEVER do it.

Going back to the basics, as we ascend the air in our lungs, and other air-spaces expands. If we do not allow the air to escape and you can can suffer a pulmonary embolism. This can also happen while we are breathing when our rate of ascent is too fast.

Sometimes you will hear experienced divers say they hold their breath while taking videos. While there is nothing wrong with that if your depth is stationary, there is possibly a better alternative. Take a breath and don't exhale.

If you hold your breath, you shut off the airways. If you simply stop breathing, the airway remains open. If you float up a few meters while absorbed in your filming, no damage is done. Give both alternatives a try as you read this, and you will be able to feel the difference.


Planning a scuba trip? Then you should download the ultimate scuba dive checklist just like 5000+ other divers already so you will not forget to bring anything.

4. Never dive while if you feel sick.

Diving if you feel sick, and that includes a hangover, can place you in a difficult situation underwater. Being ill can cause you to becoming dehydrated a major factor in cases of unexplained DCS. The physical factors of illness might become fatal in a diving situation.

Last year, a British diver on holiday died as a result of heartburn also known as acid reflux. The diver had complained of heartburn while, on the way to the dive site, he had been experiencing it for a couple of days.

Heartburn happens when the stomach acids escape the stomach and enters the esophagus. Heartburn can become worse as you lay down, as the acid has an easier route to the throat.

Imagine the extra help it will get diving head first. There was evidence of vomit in his regulator, and the medical examiner concluded that vomiting and a gag reflex caused the diver to drown. Additionally, over the counter medications can also cause problems.

5. Never dive without using the buddy system.

Most likely the most debated “truism” in diving. The training agencies have had it as one of the bedrocks of their training since they started. In reality, every time an instructor takes an Open Water Student on their first dive the instructor is solo diving. While the training agencies hold fast to the rules, they also have certifications for solo divers. Unless you are trained and equipped to dive alone, follow this rule.

Other never do's

There are many other “Never Do's” that we learn as we become more experienced divers. Here are a few others to consider.

  • Never forget the cancelation rule. While never hold your breath is important, I see that as more a procedure than a rule. The most important rule should be “Any diver can cancel any dive for any reason.” I will extend that to include without explaining why.

  • Never harass marine life. While I will admit, it is interesting seeing a puffer fish expanding to a much larger size, in reality it is a reaction because the fish is under stress. An diver might decide to pick up that rock looking fish and be rewarded with excruciating pain. Divers should not touch, interact or provoke Marine life.

  • Never forget your life is worth more than your weight belt. Each year divers drown after reaching the surface and then sinking again. Many of those may have survived if they simply dropped their weights at the surface.

  • Never forget the "flying after diving rules". Always plan your last dive with ample time to allow off gassing before flying or going to a higher elevation. That time will vary depending on the depth of your dives and how many over the last few days. Nevertheless, 12 hours is the general guideline for single day shallow dives and 24 hours for deep or repetitive day dives. Want to see a shocked look across your instructors face? While returning to the dock after a full day of diving ask him how long to get back as your plane leaves in 3 hours.

    • Never be “that” diver. You know who I mean, every dive boat seems to have one. He is the diver that shows up just as the boat is ready to leave causing a delay for departure, or the one that scatters his gear everywhere taking the space of three or four divers. Learn and practice proper dive boat etiquette.
  • Never forget you were once a novice diver. Many new divers are nervous and excited at the same time. If you have a diver with less experience in your group, then you have create a dive plan together you are both comfortable with. Know the difference between encouragement and pressuring.

Bottom line: Scuba diving is a safe sport if you are properly training and remember that training. Keep the never do's in the back of your mind on recall and enjoy your diving.

Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.

What are your golden rules of scuba diving? Let us know in the comments below

Planning a scuba trip? Then you should download the ultimate scuba dive checklist just like 5000+ other divers already so you will not forget to bring anything.

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