- without breaking your fingernails
By Louise Trewavas
Don't run out of air.
Trying to claw your way out through the ceiling is guaranteed to damage your fingernails, so follow the rule of thirds. Turn around while you have at least two thirds of your air supply left. This gives you one third to get out, and one third to deal with any emergencies eg your buddy running out of air...
Don't get lost.
It's terribly stressful; scrabbling about will split those nails something awful and the temptation to chew them can become overwhelming. Make sure you always have a continuous guideline, with direction arrows showing you the way out, and keep it within close reach so that you can grab it if the visibility kicks up.
Get totally familiar with your kit.
Know how to find everything quickly and by touch so that if your torch goes out and you need to find your back-up, or you need to reach your knife, you can do it nice and smoothly without snagging your nails.
Practice your safety techniques frequently.
So if you do need to share air with a panicky out of air diver you can do so calmly. Underwater tussles over who gets which regulator can chip your nail varnish something awful. Believe me, resisting the urge to give them a good slap is far easier if you feel in control of the situation.
Master your buoyancy and technique.
Crashing into the floor or the ceiling is considered very bad form, and grabbing at things to steady yourself will mash those nails up in no time. Good cave diving position is to keep your body horizontal and your legs up behind you, knees bent. Sounds undignified but with practice can look surprisingly graceful. Oh and it avoids disturbing the silt.
Take three torches.
Caves are notoriously dark places and it really helps to see where you're going. If you only take two torches and the first one fails, you just know for a fact that you're going to drop the second one, or the battery will run out; so play safe and take a third. Avoid having to grope your way out by touch alone, wrecking your fingernails in the process.
Kay Walten's top nail saving tip
Cave exploration and fingernails just donŒt get along, so keep them dead short, and when you need to look impressive, just get those nylon extensions done.
Cave Girl! - Kay Walten explains the attractions of cave diving.