Dive planning avoids any misunderstandings or disappointments (forgotten equipment, poor dive site conditions, etc.). It ensures that your dive holiday is properly planned to ensure that you have a great time. This will include all elements involved in planning a dive: selecting a buddy, dive objective, choosing a dive site and preparations regarding all equipment to take with and pack in your gear bag.
At the dive site, you and your buddy will plan the details of your dive. Evaluate the conditions and decide whether your training and comfort levels are adequate to participate in the day’s diving. The conditions may also alter your dive objectives, e.g. if there is a big swell, you may want to opt for a slightly deeper dive to avoid surge. Most dive operators will help you choose an appropriate site to match the conditions. This is a good time to review hand signals and emergency procedures and what to do should you become separated underwater.
Before each dive, you will be briefed by a dive master. The brief will include all the information you will need to complete the dive, such as procedures on boating, entry, exit, launch, emergencies as well as information about the dive site, depths, times and any other interesting information such as marine life and wrecks.
The order you should put your gear on will vary depending on the point of entry. Typically, with a giant stride, be it from the shore or a live-aboard, you will start with your exposure protection, followed by your weight belt, hard gear and lastly, mask and fins. When doing a seated entry, you will don your exposure protection prior to pushing in the boat. When you arrive at the dive site, it is recommended that you place your fins on first (space permitting) as a safety precaution, followed by your weight belt, as it will allow you to propel yourself at the surface in case you fall in prior to donning your BCD. The skipper will then help you don your hard gear whilst remaining seated and the last item to be put on will be your mask.
Dive the Plan
Boat Dive Entries
The two most common types of boat dive entries are the giant stride entry and the back roll entry. For both entry types, you will inflate your BCD a little and hold your mask, regulator and weights firmly in place. Once you get the signal to do a giant stride entry, look up to the horizon, flex one fin upwards and take a large step off the boat. In a back roll entry, you will sit on the edge of the boat, facing inwards. Make sure that the area behind you is clear and, on the skipper’s count, fall backwards, keeping your knees up. Once you are floating on the surface, give the signal that everything is okay and join your buddy.
Shore Dive Entries
Shore entries are a bit trickier so you may need an experienced diver to assist you if you’ve never done one before. The best way to make your entry is to don your fins prior to entering the water and then move backwards through the surf, bracing yourself against your buddy if possible to keep your balance. Once you are deep enough, you can then swim to your dive site.
An easy acronym to help you remember your sequence for descending is ”SORTED”:
S – Signal your buddy and boat that you’re ready to descend.
O – General orientation towards the exit point and dive site.
R – Replace your snorkel with your regulator.
T – Note the time prior to descending for logging procedures after the dive.
E – Elevate your LPI hose and equalise for the first time.
D – Dump the air from your BCD. This will allow you to start your descent. It is ideal to start in a feet first position as it slows down the descent which helps with equalisation and orientation.
Once you have reached your desired depth, you can begin your dive as set out in the briefing.
An easy acronym to remember your sequence for an ascent is “STELAR”:
S – Signal your buddy and dive master that you are ready to start your ascent.
T – Note the time of the start of ascent to calculate bottom time for logging procedures.
E – Elevate your LPI hose and release air in a controlled fashion to ensure a slow ascent.
L – Look up and take note of overhead obstructions, such as other divers or boats.
A – Start your ascent while keeping track of your ascent rate.
R – Rotate your body whilst swimming and visually check to make sure you have a clear path to the surface.
Remember, it’s important to make a safety stop on all your dives for added conservatism. A safety stop is a period of time divers must spend at a constant depth in shallow water at the end of a dive to safely eliminate absorbed inert gasses from the body. It also gives you time to stabilise and control your ascent rate before continuing to the surface.
Once you are at the surface, fully inflate your BCD so that you float easily and follow the following procedures for boat and shore dives:
There will most likely be someone on the boat who is assigned to help divers out of the water. When it is your turn to get into the boat, firstly hand up any loose items that you have on you (e.g., cameras). You can then take off your weight belt and BCD and hand those up separately. If there is a boarding ladder, get a firm grip on the ladder before removing your fins and climbing into the boat. If there isn’t a ladder, propel yourself out of the water, pulling up onto the top edge of the side of the boat while kicking hard with your fins.
Once you have surfaced away from the surf, assess the conditions and, when the time is right, swim towards the shore as quickly as possible. Make sure you stay as close to your buddy as possible and try stay near the bottom. When you reach the shore, crawl out on your hands and knees if need be or remove your fins in shallow water, with your buddy’s assistance, and exit the water.
What to Do in an Emergency
Diving is a safe sport, but common sense tells you that when you’re under metres of water, you face certain hazards and risks. Hazards include: overexertion, running low on or out of air, free flow of your regulator and entanglement. In all these situations, there is always a safe way out, especially if you have been trained well and have a trustworthy and safe dive buddy at your side! Remember to always STOP, THINK, BREATHE and then calmly THINK of an appropriate solution.