While I infrequently dive recreationally, from time to time I do find myself in the water with new divers. More than general discomfort, anxiety, or nervousness, what jumps out as me as a sign of inexperience is composure. Walking down the street we, humans, are generally well composed. We can carry ourselves upright, propel ourselves with bipedal locomotion, and can multitask while pursuing some direction. Composure in the underwater environment is entirely different, with the physics of the environment causing us to carry ourselves quite differently. Gaining composure comes only with time in the water.
Aptitude is by definition an innate or acquired ability to achieve work at a certain level. When conducting a specific underwater task, in addition to being composed in the alien environment, the diver needs the aptitude to carry out the task – something as simply as turning a wrench on a shackle can become incredibly challenging in absolute zero visibility, with thick gloves on, and when overgrown with fouling organisms. Having the aptitude to understand the best body position, ways to create leverage, and create a virtual work environment in your head that mirrors the blacked-out work area all cause for incredible efficiency. Again, this only comes with time in the water, and repetition of tasks.
Lastly is situational awareness. Placing oneself in that foreign environment is a very small piece of the puzzle. Anyone can learn the equipment and skills to jump in the water, but achieving a very well centered situational awareness is so critically important to mitigate environmental and physical hazards. This is particularly true in commercial diving when the diver must interact with a heavy lift or work in a confined space.
These three elements are often unspoken in dive training at all levels, though I believe are essential for maximizing underwater efficiency, and working in a safe manner. The tricky piece is acquiring the time in the water to realize these elements in their entirety. For those that have been so fortunate – I am sure you will agree – the underwater experience is forever changed, and it is possible to realize a new sense of self that can only call the ocean home.