When shore diving, you're the boat captain and divemaster. You get to determine the schedule and plan the route of every dive. However, beach entries and exits can sometimes be challenging, especially when dealing with rocks and heavy surf. To get the most out of your next shore-diving experience, follow these five diving tips.
1. Research the site. Get all the information you can on the dive site before you hit the beach. Check out maps, guidebooks, websites and charts for details of the diving conditions. And whenever possible, speak with local divers who've made the dive before to find out what you can expect.
2. Get geared up. Wait until you get to the water's edge, then put on your mask and put your reg into your mouth. If the beach is steep, put on your fins and walk backwards until you get enough water under you to start swimming. If it's a gradually sloping beach, wade in until the water becomes chest deep before putting on your fins — that way, the water will help you maintain your balance. Take care to watch for sharp objects underfoot.
3. Get past the surf line. If you get knocked down by a wave, don't attempt to get up — just crawl on all fours or, if there's enough water beneath you, kick hard for deeper water. If you can maintain your balance until the surf line, though, roll onto your back and surface kick out to where the water starts calming down.
4. Find a reference point on shore. While kicking, zero in on a fixed point on the beach to help stay on course and determine whether the current is carrying you down the beach. Find a large stationary object on shore — buildings and trees work good — to use as a visual reference point. Use this object to find your way back to your entry point when you return to shore.
5. Exit underwater. Except when diving in big surf, it's usually easiest to return to the beach through the surf zone while underwater. To do this, become negatively buoyant, and swim toward the beach with the waves. If possible, swim underwater all the way to the shore's edge. The most effective method for exiting the water is often by crawling on your hands and knees. Wait until you're on the beach to take your fins off, and then head for the showers to wash off the sand.
Bonus Tip: Plan to have a clean dive tarp to stand on while unsuiting, a plastic tub for dropping your wet gear into, and a couple bottles of fresh water for rinsing down. To change clothes in public without getting arrested, wrap an oversized beach towel around your waist. However, some dive coats now have pass-through pockets that enable you to put the coat on and change clothes without messing with zippers or buttons.
John Brumm is Sport Diver Asia Pacific’s Gear Editor.