TIPS FOR SHORE DIVING
Whether on holiday or diving at home, shore diving offers flexibility that boat diving can’t compete with. There’s no boat schedule to adhere to, which in addition to diving when you please, can often mean your bottom time is limited only by the gas in your tank.
Given that on the whole shore dives are shallow this can extend your in-water time immensely; underwater photographers love this. Shore diving also offers those divers who suffer from motion sickness stress and nausea free dive experiences.
If you’re diving at a resort on their house reef, there should be an entry and exit protocol so that the dive team know who is in the water and when they should be back. Of course, there should be provision for an emergency so do make sure you know what to do and find out the location of the first aid and emergency oxygen before you get wet. Shore dive independently of a resort or organization and these are considerations you have to make yourself. It’s vital that someone knows when you should be back and ideal if that person is on the shore. They will be able to see if you signal for help but also be on hand to assist you with your entry, exit, or an emergency situation, should that be required.
TIP: Waves break in water only a little deeper than their height, watching them will give you some idea of the depth and the location of reefs.
No matter how you are diving if you’ve never dived in that location before some pre-dive information will go a long way towards your enjoyment and safety. Talk to others that are familiar with the site and get the best orientation you can. Make sure you; check weather reports, thoroughly assess the conditions, look for navigational markers, and have an alternative exit plan ready in case of changing conditions.
TIP: Waves often break in sets; so, taking the time to watch and plan your entry accordingly can make your entry easier.
Be aware of local regulations when it comes to surface marker buoys, find out a little about the top side boat traffic and ensure you are using the best method of marking your position underwater.
TIP: When towing a surface marker through a surf zone; ensure it’s positioned so that it’s not being pushed into you. Ideally, you need to use the conditions to pull it away from the dive group to avoid entanglement.
Apart from making a dive plan with your buddy, you should also try to make sure you kit up at the same time to avoid anyone overheating. Do your buddy check before you get to the water.
The way you get in and out of the water from the shore will depend on the conditions. As a general rule and to form good habits you should always enter the water fully kitted up, buddy checked with your mask on, regulator in and some air in your BCD. This way if you slip, you can breathe and float comfortably.
When you choose to put your fins on will depend a little on the waves. If it’s flat calm, you might be happy to paddle in and sit/float in the water while you don your fins. If there’s some choppiness, it’s advisable to put your fins on before you get in the water. It’s clunky but with your buddy’s help, you will either be able to sidestep in together of shuffle backwards. Take it slowly, hold each other for support, and if you fall, don’t struggle to get back up. Regardless, swim as soon as you are able, it’s far easier. Protect your mask as waves hit, and once you are through the surf zone, if you still have to surface swim to your descent point, you can switch over to your snorkel to conserve air.
TIP: If you shuffle your feet rather than step you will not only eliminate the possibility of stepping on something sharp or poisonous, but you will scare any undesirable bottom dwellers from your path.
Pay attention during your dive. You are quite likely to encounter surge which is the to and fro water motion caused by waves. On the whole, the back and forth brings you more or less back to where you started but take care next to the reef or rocks. The best way to dive in surge is to go with the flow; fighting it will cost you gas, energy, and enjoyment. What you should take care to notice is if it gets stronger which could indicate worsening conditions on the surface. A darkening sky could also indicate a change in the weather too.
Don’t underestimate either the energy or gas requirements that you may need to get back to shore in choppy seas. Plan accordingly and be conservative.
As with your entry, move through the surf zone quickly, protect your mask and use a hand in front of you for protection too. You swim far easier than you walk in scuba gear but standing up in scuba gear with the sudden loss of the water’s buoyancy is quite tough so don’t put too much strain on your legs. Think about standing and wading once you are at a depth at which you can do this with control. Work together with your buddy to shuffle back to shore in much the same way as you entered. Again, your choice of when to take your fins off will depend on the conditions; flat and calm conditions would see you opt for this, but if it’s choppy you should keep them on. If you fall, it might just be easier to crawl in; this is where good surface support is worth their weight in gold. As with your entry, keep your regulator in and your mask on until you are fully on dry land.
It’s a shame that shore diving often feels like a consolation and somehow not as ‘good’ as boat diving and yet there are some fabulous shore dives along the world’s coastlines. Our current sojourn in Bali proves that half of the dives mentioned in our recent Bali’s Best Dive Site’s post are shore dives. Where are some of your favorite shore diving spots?