By the time divers born in the 1980’s started to dive, the sport had evolved rapidly from its earlier days. Divers in this generation have access to equipment and training the generation before would not have dreamt of when they started diving.
First, it’s important to realize that this is not going to be like any other scuba diving course you have taken. ERDI courses are designed to save lives, recover bodies and sensitive crime scene evidence, and place divers in hazardous environments.
A diver should be able to move through the water using their fins as the exclusive means of propulsion to increase efficiency and minimize the impact to the environment.
by Lauren Kieren:
“How do we get the younger generation involved in diving?”
– Accept, mentor, and guide them in the right direction.
Throughout this text we will outline examples of reverse age discrimination* and its effects on the dive community.
More often than not I am the smallest, youngest, and only female at a dive site. Growing up with two big brothers who believe in equal opportunities to test and challenge me, I never thought twice about being the odd one out amongst a group of older males.
My perspective on this changed as I transitioned into technical diving and received a consistent response from divers on the majority of the tech dive trips I went on. These responses include divers moving my equipment away from the group on the boat while I was not present, questioning my experience, asking if I am old enough to dive or strong enough to carry my gear, stating they will have to keep an eye on me in the water, and probably rescue me later on, refusing to talk to me or acknowledge my presence – all of which occurred without knowing my experience or seeing me in the water.
I have been actively diving since I was 12 years old. I have over 3000 dives, hundreds of open circuit advanced trimix level dives; some of which include mapping deep trenches and surveying historically significant anchors, I can dive and teach on multiple rebreathers and have hundreds of logged CCR hours accumulated, most of which are in caves and wrecks. I have personally worked with over 500 students; I have been an Instructor Trainer Evaluator for the past two years. I have completed 2 recoveries, I am 25 years old, and I am asking the dive community to not judge a book by its cover.
It’s important to note, I never intended on sharing this information with the public as I feared it would dissuade people in my demographic from entering into technical diving. My intentions are always to motivate, inspire, and encourage more people into the dive community. I focus most of my time and resources on growing the industry as a whole and as a result, felt this is a necessary topic to bring to the table for consideration.
So what changed? While conducting an Instructor Trainer Workshop (ITW) in the summer of 2014, the youngest candidate in the class (24 year old male), pulled me aside to ask for advice on how to deal with the older generation of divers never giving him a chance. My response was simple, “get in the water and show them what you can do.”
This conversation lingered on with me after the ITW so I began asking young dive professionals if they have had similar experiences. The responses were alarming; this issue seems to be more prevalent than I would have ever imagined and the dive community will struggle to grow if this trend continues.
I hope outlining examples of reverse age discrimination and things to consider while dealing with younger divers and instructors will help the community grow as a whole, and work together to encourage young divers to excel in this sport.
What if I told you… I have been diving for over 16 years, technical diving for 14 years, diving rebreathers for 12 years, cave diving for 11 years, teaching scuba for 8 years and teaching CCR and cave for the past 4 years – yet I have been told by a open water student they will not take a course from someone half their age after meeting me at face value.
I am 26 years old, I have been diving over half of my life, and I am told on many occasions divers will not take a course from me due to my age. Why is that? Are those people missing out on potential good instruction? Are their biases correct? Can someone who is younger still be a good diver and instructor?
One of my previous students; Kent Jolly notes, “It took me over a year to find a rebreather model to meet my needs and an instructor with the experience I hoped to learn from in training… After signing up for the rebreather course with Randy Thornton, on the first day of class his son, Michael Thornton walks through the door to conduct my training… My immediate thoughts were ‘bait and switch,’ surely he’s too young to have the expertise and experience I paid for. It took less than an hour to let my guard down and have an open mind after realizing Michael has more knowledge and experience than what I originally expected from any dive professional.”
Many times, a younger instructor has more recently completed their professional development training. Many times, they are more up to date on what is current in this ever changing world. Teaching techniques, curriculum, and training in general has progressed with time. Technology has also caused the sport of diving to change dramatically over the last two decades. With this information, why is it inconceivable that a young instructor could be the right choice?
Have an open mind, just because a person is young in age; does not mean they are young in experience, especially if you take into consideration all of the knowledge and wisdom that went into developing what they were taught. I believe I learned to dive with good curriculum but I believe the next generation of divers will have even better tools to work with. They have the potential (at an even younger age) to be much better teachers than what we have today. Next time you have the opportunity to take a class from someone half your age, don’t pass it up without considering if this could be a good choice for you.
SDI Instructor, TDI Instructor Trainer
When I first started teaching technical diving around 1999-2000 for Kevin Gurr’s company, ‘Phoenix Diver Training,’ I was young for the industry (31 years old). During this time, the technical diving community was in its adolescent stage so people sought out the pioneers and leaders in the industry, the people who were literally writing the text books for training.
I clearly remember a group of students arriving one Monday morning for a technical nitrox class and after introducing myself, the students asked, “where is Kevin Gurr? We came to Phoenix to train with Kevin, what can you teach us? You’re so young!”
Kevin quickly came down from his office and told the group, “I trained him – I believe he is ready to represent me, the company, and the dive industry. Phil will conduct your class and you can pay at the end if you feel you receive good instruction.”
Every student paid after a dive planning lecture and I have never looked back.
Taking a class is not about proving what you already know and passing a test. It is about finding out what you don’t know and where there is room to grow and improve with the guidance of an instructor, regardless of their age.
Becky Kagan Schott
Underwater DP, Cameraman, Photographer, SDI, TDI Instructor
Liquid Productions, Inc.
After losing my Dad at the age of 13, I made a personal choice to live my life to the fullest and follow my dreams without letting anything get in the way. My passion for scuba diving developed during this period and I was determined to make it more than a hobby but an essential part of my life. I took every scuba diving course imaginable and found myself working with an Instructor by the name of Herb Sugden.
Herb forever changed my life by taking me under his wing and becoming my mentor from the age of 15 as a cavern diver, to the age of 18 as a full cave diver, and later on into my dive professional development training. Throughout these stages, Herb allowed me to gain experience and learn by discovery under his watchful eye. He was never easy on me, I always appreciated this and he was very patient, understanding, and encouraging. Herb introduced me to technical diving which is a world I am still obsessed with to this day.
These are the positive attributes of a mentor and role model in the dive industry; someone who can inspire and drive an individual to be the best in their ability and encourage them to continue on, consider other facets in diving, and move forward. With an influx of young divers coming into the dive scene, I feel the importance of mentorship and good role modeling is an important topic for discussion.
I have never felt discriminated as a female in the dive industry, if anything I think it helped me stand out in a primarily male dominated sport, however I have felt discriminated at times due to my age. I greatly admire and respect the divers that have come before me; it is never my intention to take away from their accomplishments. That being said, several years ago I found it difficult to enter a film festival as a speaker. I noticed the lineup of presenters were accepted year after year and some of them did not even film what they were showcasing as their work. There is no doubt these presenters were very accomplished but I found myself asking why the industry is not looking for a young new perspective. I struggled for months trying to communicate with the organizers of this event and when I finally had the chance to speak to someone, I snapped and said; “I won an Emmy this year, what is it going to take to allow me to present at this film festival?”
I was able to present that year and I was very proud of myself. Unfortunately I received an unwelcome response from the other presenters; only one person on the speaker lineup talked with me that evening. I lost a lot of respect for my peers that day and I made a promise to myself that in the future, I would try to help motivate and mentor someone when the opportunity presents itself. I strive to be approachable and support others in the industry, no matter how old or young they are.
In December 2014, I won 4 more Emmy Awards for filming a cave diving special and I am in my early 30’s. I would not be in this position and have these opportunities to film in amazing places around the world without mentorship and support. I encourage everyone to mentor someone in the future.
As mentioned in the beginning, the dive community will struggle to grow if this trend continues on. Year after year at dive industry trade shows, meetings are held to discuss how to enhance the dive industry and bring in a younger generation of divers to step in and make diving “cool” again. Colorful flow charts and infographics are created in hopes of finding the magic cure as we are in a dying industry starving for a fresh, young, new perspective.
Reverse age discrimination is only one area in a larger pool of issues that need to be addressed in order to grow this industry as a whole. The truth is, the younger generation is here, driven to make diving mainstream, and need to be accepted to assist in moving forward. We are experimenting with new technologies, incorporating modern teaching methods into our courses, and exploring never before seen places and bringing footage of it all back to be shared with the world. So listen up, you might just learn something.
*Reverse age discrimination – A term used to describe discrimination against a younger generation, including ignoring their presence or ideas because they are too young or act in a certain way due to their age.
There are many reasons to love scuba diving. Some people just love being in the water, or experiencing the thrill and adventure that diving is. Some find it to be a relaxing escape, but almost everyone agrees that exploring our oceans and coming face-to-face with some of the world’s most interesting marine life imaginable – straight from the depths of the mystifying seas tops the list of scuba diving benefits. Whether it’s a rare species of coral, the elusive frog fish or a massive great white shark, we all have had an amazing underwater encounter. At SDI/TDI/ERDI World Headquarters, we want to know… What was your first AMAZING underwater encounter? Share your first-hand account and pictures/videos with us, and we will publish right here for all to enjoy. Just fill out the form below.
1. Sea-Horse giving birth!
Back when I was guiding dives in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, I had an experience that blew my mind! Talk about being at the right place at the most perfect time to witness this wonder of nature in the birth of new life. I was leading my group along the wall of Cousin’s Rock looking for neat things among the black coral. Some of the main attractions were the sea-horses, but I never expected to see one that was about to give birth! Luckily, my video camera recorded the whole thing.
– Cris Merz
2. AMAZING encounter (while teaching)
The most amazing encounter I experienced while teaching was during the SDI Scuba Discovery course with two participants. The students took to the water quickly and easily during our pool session in the morning but naturally, they were antsy to get in the open water environment to experience diving in the ocean. Little did we all know our open water dives were going to be one of my most memorable experiences in the water! After our first descent, we enjoyed a leisurely dive across a beautiful reef in the Caribbean around 10 metres/30 feet. With limitless visibility in crystal clear water; we saw a green moray eel, a turtle, and an assortment of colorful reef fish but we did not anticipate what was coming next… A massive shadow came over us and we looked up to find an enormous whale shark swimming near the surface! We couldn’t believe our eyes as we remained still in the water, hovering, while watching this incredible creature swim away… To make this experience even better, we were greeted by two manta rays swimming around the boat upon our return! They put on a fantastic show as we conducted our safety stop prior to ascending. Now keep in mind, this was the first diving experience the SDI Scuba Discovery divers experienced and the first time I saw a whale shark! It was an amazing encounter while teaching I will never forget.
– Lauren Kieren
To participate, fill out this form, and tell us about your Amazing Underwater Encounter!
by Lauren Kieren:
Being prepared for your next TDI diver course is critical to your learning during your progression in dive training. Whether you signed up for the TDI Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course or CCR Advanced Mixed Gas; learning at this level requires that you connect with the training and fully comprehend the theory development presented in the academic sessions, as well as actively participate in the in-water sessions.
A great deal of learning will happen after you successfully complete the TDI Diver course; however, you should expect to spend an equal amount of time learning outside of class as you spend working in class with your instructor. With that said, class preparation is a vital part to your overall learning experience throughout this process.
In the event you do not prepare for your next series in technical dive training, you can place yourself and others in your class at a major disadvantage. You will put yourself in the position of playing “catch up,” versus being actively involved and thinking ahead during training.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your course by showing up prepared and ready to learn:
- ORGANIZE YOUR EQUIPMENT – If your instructor sends you an equipment list and you are expected to show up to class with the items, do yourself and your instructor a favor by getting it organized prior to commencement of training. Lay everything out and double check your list to ensure you have the required items. This is a good time to verify the equipment actually works before you pack it in your gear bag for class. This is also the perfect time to make sure all your equipment, new or old, is labeled with your name.
- GET IN THE WATER – Before you start your next course, take some time to work on skills from previous courses. If all you can do is get in the pool and work on your buoyancy and trim, do it! Showing up with your basic skills fine tuned will help your technical training tremendously, especially if it’s been more than a couple of weeks since your last dive. It is common for TDI Instructors to require an assessment dive where students demonstrate they can perform skills from previous courses. If this dive does not go well, the instructor may require some remedial training that could delay or prevent the start of your course. If you are trained to dive in the equipment you will be using during your next progression in training, get in the water to make sure your equipment is dialed in; verify your harness is adjusted correctly and your hose lengths and routing are where you want them to be.
- COMPLETE YOUR HOMEWORK – Your instructor will most likely require you to complete some pre-course studies, such as reading the required TDI manual and completing the Knowledge Reviews. It’s possible your instructor might suggest additional text or materials outside of the TDI resources… read in advance and try to absorb as much information as possible before you start your course. A thorough pre-course review can help refresh your memory on previous course information, give you more confidence in class, and help you prepare to ask relevant questions, or make a significant contribution to the overall class by offering timely/appropriate comments. After reviewing the TDI manual and materials required by your instructor, make notes if you have any questions on the content, and hone in on the important points.
- HAVE AN OPEN MIND – Your next progression in technical dive training (regardless of the level) is critical to the overall safety and success of your future dives. If you already knew the information and had experience at this level, it’s very unlikely you would be participating in the course. With that said, pay attention and have an open mind. It’s important to be open and willing to receive the information your instructor is providing. If you are unsure of the information provided, ask your instructor for clarification or wait until after class to talk one-on-one.
- GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST AND COME TO CLASS PREPARED – Finally, get a good night’s rest before you start training, come to class prepared, and show up on time. Arriving for your first day of class disorganized, late, and unprepared sets the tone for the rest of the day, if not the class, and could diminish the overall objective you are trying to accomplish. Being prepared means you’re on time or early, you have all of the required pre-course studies complete, and you have all the necessary equipment (in working order) to start training.
Good class preparation will help you better understand the academic and in-water sessions, keep you confident in class and allow you to make the most of your time during your next series of technical dive training.
For more information on courses offered by Technical Diving International, TDI – Click Here! OR to find a TDI Instructor near you, go to the Find a TDI Instructor Search on the website. We are always open for questions so feel free to send us a message at email@example.com.
by Lauren Kieren:
Picture a clear sky, slight breeze, warm sun beating down on flat calm seas, and limitless visibility underwater… What could make this picture perfect dive day go from fantastic to terrible? Having to skip out on a dive! If you are a new diver or this is your first dive of the season – there are a few Do’s and Don’ts to consider before taking a giant stride in and having to skip out on a dive. This list by no means covers every item to consider, but it’s a good head start to diving back in.
To start, don’t compare scuba diving to riding a bicycle. We all know the saying, “if you don’t use it – you lose it,” the saying applies to diving as well. Regardless of how many certification cards are in your wallet or how many dives you have logged, after a period of inactivity, your skills will diminish over time.
Do participate in a SDI Inactive Diver or refresher course if you have not been diving within the past 12 months. It’s better to go through a tune up in a pool or confined open water setting under the guidance of an active dive professional versus trying to figure everything out during your initial descent.
Don’t forget your certification card while prepping for your dive trip. Nothing is worse than having your gear packed while you’re getting excited for the dive, and you get turned away during check in for not bringing your certification card. If this happens and the location has internet access, you can verify your SDI Certification online without missing the dive and order a replacement card.
Do check in early for your dive trip. You might be able to pick the best spot on the boat or find an empty bench if you’re shore diving. Allow yourself some time to set up your gear without rushing and verify all of your equipment is on, functioning, and ready to dive.
Don’t be “that guy” (or gal) on the dive boat or at the shore site with a suit case full of scuba equipment exploding all over the place. This can cause people to trip over it and it can be invasive to their personal space to set up.
Do make a checklist of necessary dive equipment for the day, lay everything out before packing it, and only bring what you need. If you are diving off a boat, store your empty gear bag under the bench and be attentive to keeping your equipment streamlined and confined to your space.
Don’t get yourself in trouble or put yourself at unnecessary risk of Decompression Sickness (DCS) by not paying attention to your personal dive computer (PDC). Don’t be “that guy” (or gal) who ends up back on the dive boat or shore location with a screaming dive computer sounding like a fire truck coming down the road.
Do keep an eye on your PDC and pressure gauge during the dive. In addition to your depth, time, no decompression limits, and air consumption rate. Get to know the functions of your computer and learn how to read the displays before making the dive. Take the proactive approach to safety in the water and be aware of your limitations. Your first dive of the season or after a period of inactivity can go by very quick! Pay close attention as the time may sneak up on you.
Don’t ascend faster than your bubbles.
Do CYA… Computerize Your Ascent. Your dive computer is a necessary piece of equipment; no different than your mask and fins. It’s a fantastic tool to utilize to enhance the safety of your dives. During your ascent, pay close attention to your computer. Most modern day computers have an ascent alarm to warn you if you’re going up too fast. If your computer does not have an ascent alarm, watch your depth and time to ascend no faster than 18M / 60FT per minute.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun! Do give us a call or send an e-mail to tell us about your dives. While we’re stuck in the office, we want to hear about your fun, exciting experience underwater!
Did you like these condensed Do’s and Don’ts for your first dive back in? Feel free to pass these on to your dive buddies and share it on Social Media. If there are specific Do’s and Don’ts you want to see, let us know in the comment section below. We will continue to add more Do’s and Don’ts lists in the future so keep an eye out for the next round to come!
by Lauren Kieren:
Hundreds of dive enthusiasts took a weekend out of the water to take part in a groundbreaking Technical Diving Conference on May 17-18, 2014 in Miami, Florida. If you missed the event, continue reading for a recap of the weekend’s highlights.
This two day conference was composed of three elements: an exhibition, a conference, and a gala awards ceremony dinner. Participants were able to meet the true dive explorers of today, pioneering dive medical professionals, outstanding dive educators, award winning photographers/videographers, equipment manufacturers, leading dive industry professionals, and more!
It all kicked off on Friday night with a barbeque dinner allowing attendees, exhibitors, and presenters the opportunity to network, rub shoulders, and get to know one another at this casual event.
We were able to spend the evening catching up with old friends, making new ones, and talking TEKDiveUSA all evening. What more could we ask for?
Waking up after an exciting night at the kickoff barbeque wasn’t easy, but knowing we were heading to some great presentations gave us the right motivation to crawl out of bed early Saturday morning.
Upon arrival at the conference center, we quickly realized what our biggest problem was going to be. We were not going to be able to attend all of the fantastic presentations being offered! We decided to divide and conquer, and try to hit as many presentations as we could. Here is a recap of some of the presentations we attended…
Cave Explorer Panel – The organizers of TEKDiveUSA put Lamar Hires, Phil Short, Josh Thornton, Andy Pitkin, Brett Hemphill, Jill Heinerth, and Brian Kakuk (all world renowned cave explorers) together to see what would happen… They did not battle it out, but there were some great discussions about what drives this diverse group to explore; how they prep for diving in remote locations with limited options, what factors they consider during an exploration dive, what extra precautions are required of this type of diving and what fuels their motivation? For some it was the desire to conduct scientific research, for others it was the desire go where no man (or woman) has gone before. For one honest individual… It was for purely “selfish” reasons – to be the first one there! We appreciated their honesty and the good laugh to start our day.
Phantom Cave Team – Deep in the desert of West Texas lays Phantom Springs Cave. A group of enthusiastic divers from varying backgrounds came together to conduct research dives, document, explore and survey this cave. This team was able to map out over 8,000 feet of the cave and due to their determination and desire for exploration; discover the deepest underwater cave system in the United States.
This presentation covered the history of the cave, challenging logistics with diving in a remote location, challenging dive conditions (silt, numerous ascent/descents, diving in zero visibility, extreme depths, equipment failures, etc.), the sediment traps installed to study water quality, and more. This group even reserved some time to mention Phantom Cave’s resident endangered pupfish… Presenters made sure to warn us NOT to step on the pupfish!
Developments in CCR Functional Safety – Kevin Juergensen (Juergensen Marine), Leon Scamahorn (Inner Space Systems), Bruce Partridge (Shearwater Research), Paul Raymaekers (rEvo), and Martin Parker (Ambient Pressure), led by moderator Randy Thornton (CCRExplorers & Dive Addicts), sat down for a panel style discussion on improvements in rebreather functional safety over the past 20 years. The discussion was informative, entertaining, and even a bit heated at times, and gave listeners a unique insight into the minds of some of the greatest rebreather designers on the planet.
DCS in Remote Locations – Technical diving expeditions are taking participants into increasingly remote locations. Formulating a plan for management of decompression sickness (DCS) in such locations can be very challenging. In particular, evacuating a diver for recompression therapy can be costly, difficult, and a potentially hazardous undertaking. In this presentation, Dr. Simon Mitchell defined “mild DCS,” and gave his thoughts on alternative methods for treatment in remote locations. He also discussed methods behind in water recompression treatments and their benefits in remote locations.
Is Helium Your Friend? – Aside from the clear benefits of helium, other differences are less well understood. It is thought that faster uptake of helium than nitrogen into the body during bounce dives results in a greater decompression obligation. Switching to air or nitrox during ascent is thought to accelerate decompression but also to risk inner-ear decompression sickness. If DCS occurs, the typical symptoms following helium-based diving are thought to be different from nitrox diving. Is any of this true? Dr. David Doolette, Research Physiologist for the Navy Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU), presented his findings and ongoing research regarding the use of helium in based breathing gasses in bounce decompression dives. This informative presentation answered many questions we’ve had relating to trimix decompression schedules, and also spurred several new questions that will only be answered with time and more research.
Mars: The Discovery of the Century – Following a life-long search, Richard Lundgren and his team discovered the shipwreck of “Mars the Magnificent,” in May of 2011. Richard delivered a presentation on the recently discovered shipwreck that was lost in battle in 1564, almost 450 years ago! Mars was a Swedish unrated warship of three deck levels and was discovered in 75m of water in the Baltic Sea between the Swedish islands of Oland and Gotland. Experts regard Mars as the missing link, as the wreck presents a unique opportunity in understanding warship design and naval battle tactic developments. The presentation took us back to the brutal naval battle of 1564, followed by guided tour of the wreck site of Mars the Magnificent, a truly extraordinary time capsule. Richard shared the ground breaking research, exploration, survey, photography, and 3D modeling techniques developed throughout this project. For more info, please visit https://www.oceandiscovery.org.
Rescue of an Unconscious Diver at Depth – Dr. Simon Mitchell presented his findings while working with the Diving Committee of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society on some of the most debated topics regarding in water rescue techniques. He was able to definitively answer some of the most common questions regarding rescuing unconscious divers from depth including:
- Should you try to replace the regulator?
- Should you wait until a seizure is finished before ascending?
- What procedures should be used for a rebreather diver?
- Should you try to complete any decompression obligations before surfacing the diver?
- Should you try to administer in water rescue breaths? And More…
For a complete description of the findings of this research, please visit The Rubicon Foundation webpage.
Myths and Misconceptions of Thermal Stress and Physiology – Diving is carried out in a tremendous range of environments and conditions. Proper preparation can make a polar diver more comfortable than a tropical diver. Dr. Pollock discussed thermal stress, thermal protection, and implications for diving health.
Why Divers Do Stupid Things – How can very smart people often make such stupid mistakes? Leading technical diving Instructor Trainer Mark Powell answered this question in an informative, very entertaining and controversial talk. He was able to explain why smart people can make such stupid mistakes and why you are at risk of making the very same mistakes while diving. Mark has a unique way of presenting informative topics to make you think about issues in a slightly different way.
Believe it or not… We were able to get some “work” done over the weekend at TEKDiveUSA. On Sunday morning, May 18, 2014 – the first face-to-face meeting of the newly formed Rebreather Training Council (RTC) took place.
The members of the RTC are training organizations that offer courses in the use of rebreathers. The RTC aims to promote safety and standardization in the field of rebreather training, and the group intends to work closely with the Rebreather Education and Safety Association (RESA) to achieve these goals.
Conclusion – Overall, the conference was a huge success, extremely educational, and a lot of fun to attend. The entire weekend was an excellent opportunity for divers to further educate themselves on some of the most important topics regarding technical diving today, as well as rub shoulders with some of the industry’s top professionals and leading experts. We had a great time and we’re looking forward to TEKDiveUSA.2016!
by Lauren Kieren:
Drift diving is like flying underwater. When you are soaring along the bottom contour, neutrally buoyant, guided by a gentle current, watching the marine life; it gives you a perspective of the underwater world that is difficult to obtain any other way.
Depending on where you dive, Divemasters (DM’s) and dive operations may use different techniques for drift diving. In many cases, drift dives are conducted off a boat while a DM guides the direction of the dive while towing a Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) to mark the divers’ location in the water. Meanwhile, a boat might be following the group to pick up divers as they surface (keep in mind, drift diving from a boat requires a skilled boat operator to conduct drift diving procedures properly).
Prior to participating in drift diving activities, you should be extremely proficient in your diving skills. If you have not participated in diving activities for a period of six months or longer, we highly encourage a diver to go through the SDI Inactive Diver Course before considering this type of advanced dive. Setting up a drift dive can be a fast paced activity that requires your diving skills and techniques to be dialed in – the ascents and descents can be challenging but once you are on the bottom… It’s your time to cruise along the ocean floor.
So what should you consider before drift diving? Here are a few tips and tricks before you hit the water:
STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME – Prior to entering the water, ensure all of your dive equipment is on, functioning, and you have completed a pre-dive safety check. Make sure you are properly weighted so you can descend with the group. If you are having difficulties equalizing on the descent – signal to your buddy and be aware of the divers’ location on the bottom, and the surface marker buoy signaling your location. If conditions allow (good visibility and manageable current) slow your descent to catch up with the group. If conditions do not allow for this and you cannot catch up with the group, surface with your buddy to abort the dive.
GO WITH THE FLOW – Once you are on the bottom, it’s important to “go with the flow.” Avoid swimming against the current, as this will increase your work load and air consumption rate. Streamline yourself and your gear to glide effortlessly through the water. Keep an eye out in front of you to plan your moves accordingly. If you see obstructions ahead of you – whether it’s a coral head, a wreck, or a cluster of fishing line – it’s important to plan your moves ahead of time to avoid a collision.
SELF AWARENESS – As previously mentioned, the descents of a drift dive can be fast paced. It is extremely important during all dives (especially drift dives), to monitor your depth gauge to ensure you are staying at a consistent depth versus drifting downward or upward without realizing it. Also, keep a close eye on your no decompression limit (NDL), as you glide along the bottom your air consumption rate may be reduced due to the lack of physical exertion required during this phase of the dive. Remember, just because you have ample an amount of cylinder pressure remaining, does not mean your NDL, or bottom time hasn’t exceeded the limits. Finally, check your tank pressure early and often and make sure you will have an ample supply of breathing gas to make a slow ascent, conduct a safety stop, and safely surface with some remaining tank reserve.
MAKE YOURSELF NOTICEABLE! – No, we’re not talking about wearing flashy dive gear… Prior to ascending, make sure to keep your eyes open and your ears tuned for boat traffic. If you and your buddy are surfacing before the group, ascend in sight of the SMB the DM is towing. Once at the surface, deploy your own Surface Marker Buoy, give yourself some distance from the SMB marking the divers underwater, then signal to the dive boat for pick up. If necessary, carry a whistle or audible alarm to be heard from a distance if you are not seen. When the boat makes its way towards you, stay put and do not swim towards the boat unless instructed by the boat operator.
Drift diving is a fun and exciting way to explore the underwater world, however, it can also lead to increased stress and anxiety if you are not prepared. This text is not intended to replace proper dive training, nor does it cover all aspects and requirements of drift diving. Following these tips along with proper training will ensure you get the most out of your drift diving experience.
Check out these tips and tricks for the ideal trim!