Clipping: A Vital Skill for Fluid Diving

by Edd Stockdale:

Having spent more than a few years teaching diving, and especially technical diving, one area that always seems to be an issue with students is handling clips. While they are used for the attachment of SPGs, primary regulator, torches, and of course stages, they are paramount for the technical trainee and diver alike.

This article touches upon efficient ways to operate the ‘cursed’ clip and offers a few ideas on handling known as ‘Clip Management’.

First, always insure that the clips being used are suitable to the environment in which you are diving. For example, there would be no point in putting a small clip on your stage bottle used in cold water with dry gloves, or a massive one on a backup torch in the tropics.

When handling the clips always try to use your thumb to open the gate, with the index finger to control the back, and the ring finger to stabilise the base. This can be applied to both large and smaller clips where the base ring is too small to put a finger through. Using the thumb in this way will reduce the area of the gate covered by the digit. Practice on land and get into the habit of always clipping the same way, developing a muscle memory which will very rapidly become fluid and second nature.

Specific attachments can be made easier with positioning of the hand as well as angling the clip in the correct direction. Three examples of which are:

  1. Longhose: Always approach the right hand from above, palm out stabilizing with the ring finger. When clipping to the chest D-ring always clip upwards as this makes removal a downward and easier motion. If you are having difficulty locating D-ring attachment, place the left thumb to the clip and bring the thumbs together.
  1. SPG hose: Locate the hose first then slide the hand to the position of the clip. Moving the hand in this manner limits fumbling, especially if there are large numbers of stages on the left side. When locating, extend your right arm forward and out arching the back slightly. This extends the torso out making the clip easier to locate and handle.
  1. Stage clips: With larger clips handling stages becomes much easier. Always clip the hip first. Using either the thumb on the opposite hand or SPG to locate the hip D-ring. Once on at the hip, push base of tank to raise neck, grabbing neck clip with opposite-side hand and clip on D-ring. Standardize the position of the gate either up or down while using the tank-side hand to locate D-ring with thumb.

These are not to be taken as the only methods to handle clips efficiently but rather to offer assistance to students and certified technical divers alike in improving clip management. Regardless of the method, it is critical to practice, and once comfortable to repeat the skill the same way to establish a muscle memory. Development of these techniques means that all clipping can then be carried out while maintaining control and awareness of what is happening around you.

All these techniques may seem obvious to an experienced technical diver who has performed these skills many times, but following these steps at the beginning or introducing the idea to students early on can help newer divers develop the necessary muscle memory.


Normal Clip: Using the middle finger to hold clip and the index to control the back allows the thumb to easily open the gate.


Hose Clip: When the connecting clip ring is too small you can still hold the clip using the middle finger and the ring finger to stabilise hose with index and thumb as normal.


Longhose Clip: When clipping, bring the right hand down palm out to grab clip using the ring and little finger to hold hose. This allows for very smooth clipping motion to chest D-ring.

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4 replies
  1. Stephen Phillips
    Stephen Phillips says:

    I would beg to differ on attaching hip first I tend to teach students to attach chest first chiefly because in the unlikely event due do many circumstances in open water diving at least if they lose control of the deco cylinder or stage cylinder at least it is a position for recovery or in emergency can access reg if needed. If attached to hip first cylinders tend to have a mind of their own if contact is lost making recovery sometimes a long winded affair

  2. PJ Prinsloo
    PJ Prinsloo says:

    I agree with Stephen Phillips. I have seen on more than one occasion divers clipping in on the hip first and loosing grip of the top clip and then battling to get the tank up again to clip onto the chest. If it is on your chest first, you have more control and can deploy or stow a regulator in place, even if the hip is not clipped in yet. Immediate access to the gas is more important.

  3. Bill Carver
    Bill Carver says:

    I am not a fan of putting a finger through a ring. If a stage gets loose or something snags, getting the finger disentangled can be a problem. Compromising a glove or seal, or even puling a glove off can happen. And on a pitching boat or in a bad situation a broken finger is a very real possibility. Otherwise good info.


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