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The IST dive slate is used for communicating underwater. When diving you should always dive with a buddy or partner. This is mostly for safety reasons, i.e. if something goes wrong, there is someone there to help out. A dive can last several hours underwater and obviously with breathing apparatus stuck in your mouth it's pretty difficult to talk even if you could be heard.
A dive slate is an simple piece of equipment that allows you to write whilst underwater and makes it possible to communicate with your buddy without having to surface and terminate the dive.
I've recently qualified as a BSAC (British sub aqua club) assistant instructor and now find myself giving lessons and training within my club. I use a dive slate to plan lessons and use it in the pool to act as an aid to my memory of what I should be covering within a lesson. I actually have a variety of slates now due to some overeager bidding on ebay.
===The IST slate===
The IST slate measures 15cm x 12cm and is a few mm thick. The main slate is simply a piece of plastic (probably polyethylene PE but I'm not sure) which has a hole in the top for attatching a clip and a blue logo printed at the bottom.
The slate includes a pencil which is attached to the slate with a bright yellow rubber bungee cord. The pencil is small and similar in size to the tiny ones that you get for free in Argos measuring in around 8cm. (I may be stocking up with spares next time I visit the holders of the laminated book of dreams)
A clip is provided which consists of a belt type nylon strap secured to the slate by a loop and with a clip the other end for securing the slate to the rest of your diving gear. In the middle of the nylon belt is a push to release clip acting as a quick release system.
My dive kit has a lot of steel D rings built into it which are easy to clip this slate to and keep it out of the way when I am not looking at it.
In use I find that it can be quite hard to write on the slate hard enough that the pencil is visible. This is easier on land prior to a dive, so making a lesson plan in advance works well.
The pencil marks do not change underwater and I find that you do need to use a rubber (eraser) to remove any notes, this can be a little annoying underwater if you run out of space.
Running out of space is the main issue. This dive slate is very small and I find making a lesson plan including all the briefings and debriefings as taught by BSAC (with endless other acronyms in there) easily fills the slate for an hour lesson. Because of this I tend to use a slightly larger slate and this one now just stays in a pocket for open water diving as a communication tool.
The materials appear to be good quality and the strap, plastic slate and rubber attaching the pencil have shown no signs of deterioration in the few months I have been using it.
I bought this on ebay for around £3 which is extremely resonable as it sells in dive shops and online for around £6. The larger versions are usually about £12, so I think this is a very good value product as the clip probably costs a lot more to make than the plastic slate does.