Welcome to Scuba Cow

Scuba diving is a popular recreational sport for those that enjoy exploring the depths of our water bodies. It is physically and mentally demanding and requires training and eventually certification. SCUBA is the acronym for self contained underwater breathing apparatus and is differentiated from the SCBAs used by firefighters and hazardous equipment personnel by the 'underwater' attribute.

Although all of the scuba gear is important and requires careful consideration, the breathing equipment is essential for underwater life support. This consists of the air tank and the regulator.

Your scuba gear needs to fit in an optimum manner for both your safety and comfort. If you are inexperienced in outfitting yourself, ensure that you have the assistance of a trained professional or experienced diver to assist you with your equipment needs.

Scuba masks are critical for underwater eye protection and allow the diver to see underwater. A quality diving mask will have a viewing plate made of tempered glass that fits the diver's head via a skirt made of silicone or rubber to provide a water tight seal against the face. A strap is attached to the skirt and is placed behind the head to keep the mask in place. Prescription lenses can be fitted inside of the viewing plate to correct any physical problems that the diver may have and are often used in lieu of contact lenses. A mask can be test fit for leaks by inhaling while it is placed against the face. If it remains in place without using the straps, it is a sufficiently good fit for underwater use.

A well constructed and properly fit scuba mask will allow you to peer into the deep and explore the reefs, coral, fish and let you spot any sunken treasure if you happen to come across it.

Fins for scuba diving are also called swimfins (swim fins) or flippers. They are usually made from rubber or plastic materials and increase the propulsion thrust by providing a larger surface area to move the diver by displacing a larger amount of water that a bare foot could. This is of paramount importance when the diver is weighted down with equipment.

Paddle fins are the basic design with which most people are familiar. They are noted as being very versatile and provide a high degree of economy relative to energy transfer. Fins attach to the feet via either an open heel design that uses adjustable straps or a closed heel design that fits like a pair of shoes. Paddle fin variations are vented fins that have vents in the foot pocket; split fins (commonly used in snorkeling) that create suction and lift forces to aid in movement; and freediving fins that are longer with stiff foot pockets that help to conserve energy by being more efficient.

Wetsuits are used to provide warmth to the diver when water temperatures are above 50 deg F. They are usually made of neoprene and trap a layer of water between the body and the wetsuit itself that is warmed and insulated by the diver's own body heat. Wetsuits are relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated pieces of equipment.

However, to ensure their optimum function, a wetsuit must be properly fit since an overly tight suit can impair circulation and too loose of a suit will allow for too much water and result in a reduced heating capacity.

Wetsuits are most commonly worn by the recreational diver in controlled environmental settings. There are other types of dive suits (drysuits and hot water suits) designed to meet the needs of the professional diver, but those are specific purpose suits that are expensive and beyond our scope.

The scuba tank (diving tank or diving cylinder) holds compressed breathing air (or an oxygen enriched mixture) that is supplied to the diver by a valve while under water. They are available in a variety of sizes and pressure ratings and each of these factors relate to the amount of uncompressed breathing air that is available to the scuba diver.

Three liter tanks are considered the smallest size that is useful for recreational diving and cylinders of up to 18 liters are also available in a variety of tank and manifold configurations. Scuba tanks are generally made of steel or aluminum, with aluminum tanks preferred by most recreational divers due to their lighter weight.

Regulators are integral pieces of equipment in providing an air supply to the diver. A diving regulator's purpose it to reduce the pressure of the stored air in the tank and supply it to the diver at ambient pressure. Essentially, it is a pressure reducing valve.

Integrated into the diving regulator is the demand valve. The demand valve senses the negative pressure caused by inhaling and subsequently only releases the air to the diver when it is called for.

The diver needs to achieve neutral buoyancy while in the water to navigate in a vertical dimension. That is to say that since a body will naturally float, some method needs to be employed to provide an additional weight so that the volume of the diver is equivalent to the weight of the displaced water.

This is most simplistically accomplished by the addition of weights or a weight belt. However, a more flexible piece of equipment that is used to counteract a diver's ability to float is the buoyancy compensator (BC) or buoyancy control device (BCD) that is used in addition to a weighting system.

This equipment actually serves two integral purposes; it can act as an emergency device to provide buoyancy the same way that a life vest does for a boater and it can be used to control and adjust the diver's neutral buoyancy with respect to his equipment and the environment.

Buoyancy compensators are available in a couple of styles, with the vest or jacket type being the most common with recreational divers since they can integrate with the tank and regulator to provide a complete system. Buoyancy compensators are connected to the tank that supplies air to the bladders to provide floatation. They also incorporate a backplate to support the diving cylinder and an integrated weighting system.

Although scuba diving can be an expensive hobby in which to partake, these costs are primarily associated with the initial equipment purchase. Your best equipment advice will come from your diving instructor and scuba friends that dive in the same waters as you since they will be able to differentiate between what is needed and what is extraneous.