Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '99:
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, breathing would be it. The long-term benefits of breathing under extreme changes in pressure has been proven by millions of people whose lungs do not have hideous, gaping holes in them, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own tragic, yet amusing, experience.
I will dispense this advice now.
Enjoy the convenience and elasticity of your fin straps. No, never mind. You will not understand the convenience and elasticity convenience of your fin straps until they've broken. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll think back of all the dives you've missed because of broken fin straps and recall in a way you can't grasp now, how much of a moron you must be to have forgotten an extra fin strap .
You are not as negatively buoyant as you imagine.
Don't worry about being eaten by the local fauna. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as expecting your dive buddy to calculate the correct NDL for your dive. The real troubles during your dive are apt to be things that never crossed your nitrogen soaked mind - The kind that will keep you in a decompression chamber until 4:00 PM, next Tuesday.
Stuff everything you see into your BC pockets during every dive.
Don't close the valve on your dive buddy's tank No matter how funny it may be. Don't put up with dive buddies who will turn off yours.
Don't waste your time on perfect buoyancy. Sometimes your dive slate will sink you like an anchor; sometimes you cant submerge without the aid of a 55 gallon drum full of lead shot. There are 5 gazillion variables, and you will bleed from your ears if you think about it too much.
Remember to keep some slack in your float line. Don't get tangled in it. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.
Keep your old dive logs. Throw away your raunchy old mouthpieces.
Don't feel bad if you havent quite mastered the compass. The most interesting dives I have been on were led by divemasters who didnt know how to use one. The most interesting divemasters I know often mistake it for their watch.
Get plenty of Dramamine Keep it in your dive bag.
Be gentle with your mask strap. You'll miss it when it breaks.
Maybe you'll find a sane, human-type dive buddy - maybe you won't.
Maybe hell have a Death Star Class spear gun as well, maybe you won't.
Maybe you'll need to design a spear-proof vest; maybe you'll require a prosthetic torso.
Whatever you do, don't pity yourself too much, or weep bitterly for yourself either. Your dive buddy is probably insane. So is everybody else's.
Spit in your mask. Do it as often as possible. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. Spit is the best de-fogger you'll ever own.
Use the standard hand-signals, even if you dont quite remember *exactly* what they meant (If your dive buddy doesnt understand, simply exaggerate the gesture until he/she does).
Shit-can any directions you receive with SCUBA gear - Who the hell needs directions on How to use a snorkel anyway!?! (Besides your dive buddy)
Do not look at the picture on your Certification card - It will only make you feel ugly.
Do not get too attached to your weights or the stuff you clip to your BC. You never know when they'll be gone for good.
Understand that dive boat captains come and go, but always tip them generously. Slip them at least a 5 or a 10, because when you surface, youd like to see the dive boat waiting for you, not back at the dock next to the Tiki Bar.
Float on the surface, but submerge before you drift to Cuba. Play underwater, but surface before your joints start to tingle.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Your power inflator will stick. You'll get sand in your second stage. You, too, will pee in a rental wetsuit. And when this happens, you'll fantasize that when you were a newbie, power inflators never got stuck, you never inhaled sand, and nobody ever peed in the rental wetsuit you are currently wearing.
Pee in your wetsuit.
Don't expect anyone else to watch your SPG. Maybe you have a 120 cu. Ft. tank, maybe you have a pony bottle. But you never know when either one might run out.
Don't mess too much with your power inflator or by the time you're 4 minutes into the dive you will have 300psi.
Be careful whose gear you buy, but be patient with those who let you borrow it. Buying used gear is a form of mental illness. Selling it is a way of fishing your wetsuit from the dive bag (Where it has been for the past 5 weeks - after you put it away wet...), rinsing it off, chiseling off the reeking moldy parts and stiffing some poor shmuck for more than it's worth.
But trust me on the breathing....