Appeared in DIVER March 2001

Throwing down the gauntlet



When kitting up, at what point do you put your gloves on
Why do I ask Well, back when I had just started diving, I was sitting on a beach preparing for my first foray past 30m. It was to be on the stern of the Lucy, a nice little wreck to the north of Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire (Wreck Tour 3, May 1999).
My kit included a sharkskin Cousteau Classic wetsuit, a Snark demand valve and an orange Fenzy ABLJ. So far, all I had worn on my hands were a pair of medium pink Marigolds.
Other recently trained divers were telling me that this dive would be colder than before. For some unfathomable reason I got concerned about this, despite having made several dives between 25 and 30m. One even offered me a loan of his extra-warm 5mm neoprene gloves. I dont know why but I accepted.

Out above the wreck, we kitted up and rolled into the water. I left the gloves until last because they were incredibly cumbersome and I needed my fingers free to sort everything out. I needed help from the boat-handler to pull them onto my hands and do them up.
As with most new divers, I flapped and fumbled my way down the shotline. My experienced buddy kept a close eye on me.
With no direct feed, I didnt even attempt to adjust my buoyancy until we were kneeling on the deck at the back of the superstructure. Take a deep breath. Demand valve out. ABLJ valve in. Exhale most of it, but keep enough back to clear the DV before taking my next breath.

Now nicely neutrally buoyant, we started to explore the wreck, and my problems began. Held almost upright in the water by the ABLJ round my neck and 6mm of sharkskin neoprene squashed to nothing, my weightbelt slipped past my hips.
Many years on, as an instructor, this is something I have seen many times, but back then it was new to me and a bit of a problem.
With the thick gloves on, I couldnt adjust the belt. I couldnt feel what I was doing, and with all the buoyancy round my neck and a poorly adjusted ABLJ, I couldnt even see what I was trying to adjust. In the heat of the moment, it did not occur to me to dump buoyancy and lie flat. I just wrapped my arms and legs round a handy railing and held tight.
Fortunately, my buddy soon noticed and got me sorted out. He dumped my buoyancy, laid me face down on the deck, slid my weightbelt up to my waist and tightened it up. He wasnt wearing gloves. After the dive we went through the procedure for adjusting a weightbelt and I have had no problems since.
Which brings me back to my original question: when kitting up, when do you put your gloves on
When I wear gloves, which is not that often, I put them on before anything else - excluding my suit, of course. Sometimes I even put on my gloves before strapping my watch and dive computer round my wrist seals.

My reasoning is that if I am to safely wear gloves, I need to be able to make any adjustments to my kit while wearing them. I need to be able to adjust my harness and weightbelt, put my mask on, put my fins on and use my knife to cut line, all while wearing gloves.
As a photographer, I need to be able to use my camera while wearing gloves. For Diver Wreck Tours, I need to be able to make sketches; if working with lines, I need to be able to tie and untie knots.
If I cant even put the rest of my kit on in the boat while wearing gloves, what chance have I got of sorting out any of these things once under water Thats why I make a point of putting my gloves on first. It keeps me in practice.

If someone in the boat asks me to help them sort out their mask because they have gloves on, I usually refuse. Instead I guide them through doing it for themselves. If that doesnt work, I ask them what they would do if they had to sort their mask out under water.
If they explain that they would take their gloves off under water as and when necessary, I suggest a dry run on the boat. If they make excuses that for training exercises they leave their gloves behind, I suggest that they should do so for every dive.
If you have to wear gloves, either for warmth or physical protection, make sure it is not at the expense of your capability to look after yourself in the water. Make a habit of kitting up gloves first.