Drift Diving –  Considerations Before Your First Experience

By Roy Cabalo

Every diver has their preferred dive, be it reef, wreck, or cave diving.  And every diver knows that each type of dive has its nuances that they wish they would have known better when they started.  In my case, it was drift diving.  Let me share a few things that you might want to think about before you get wet.

Negative Entry

The negative entry is one you don’t learn in the basic open water course and can be critical to a smooth descent and not missing your target.  In a negative entry, you aren’t waiting around on the surface to signal OK and wait for your buddy.  Communicate prior to make sure you both understand: you’re going in with your BCDs empty, equalizing early and often, using a long stride into the water on a deep exhale, keeping vertical body posture starting out, checking on each other at about 5-7 meters deep, and getting to the bottom as soon as safely possible.

A little extra weight doesn’t hurt.

A little extra weight is just that – 1 to 2 pounds, not 4 or 5!  This goes hand in hand with your negative entry towards making your decent smooth and easy.  You aren’t racing to the bottom, but you aren’t making a leisurely descent!  A good captain will give you a reasonable lead to start your drift and the lead should be something that’s part of the dive briefing.  Remember, too little weight and you don’t sink fast enough, too much weight becomes dangerous!

The Dive Briefing

Remember the dive briefing that divers tend to overlook?  It could provide you with the information that makes the difference between a good dive and a GREAT dive.  A dive briefing should have a few routine things you’ve heard several times before – boat rules, where the dive guide will be (if you have one), time limits, depths and such. Some key parts are unique to each dive: identifying your objective – drifting over a reef, ledge, or wreck trek, key things for you to look for, geographic features that will indicate you are drifting along the correct path, and so on.  Really listen to this briefing!  I can’t tell you how many divers are having sidebar conversations and miss so much great information.

Don’t lose your cool if you surface and the boat isn’t right there.

Different divers will stay down different amounts of time, and the boat will take time to pick everyone up.  Add a little air to your safety sausage while you’re waiting for the boat.  Stay close to your buddy; it’s very easy to unknowingly drift apart.  Take the time while on the surface to talk about the dive and what you saw.  If the waves seem to be a bit much, leave your regulator or your snorkel in your mouth.  This is a great time to relax and think about the things you saw that so many other don’t.  Divers see the other 71% of the world, so your memories are some of the greatest things you’ll be able to share with others.

Hopefully, these few thoughts will come to mind next time you get ready to drift and they become a valuable reference for future dives.  The weather is beautiful, let’s go Dive Dive Dive!

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