With shore divers’ independence comes added planning responsibility. You simply do not have that added safety buffer of the divemaster on a boat. While you can pay someone to come along, I find following some simple steps and procedures and using them regularly, takes much of the worry out of it. Also, please feel free anytime you see me diving an area, to message me and tag along. Here is where I give the insurance disclaimer, yadada, blahblah, not responsible BUT please feel free to come tag along.
Basically I have this broken down into section
Plan Ahead & Site Selection, Waves, current and tide conditions, Entry & Exit, Be prepared for anything,
- Find out some info ahead of time if it is a new shore diving site. I have many writeups here on favorite haunts. Also, ask you LDS, they should know. Some may have a dive plan for you. Is there parking, are you permitted to dive there?
- Depending on the site you may experience gently sloping sandy beaches or steep shorelines. Some may be old coral reefs akak “iron shore,” or rocks that may make entries and exits more challenging by presenting uneven, sharp, slippery surfaces for divers to traverse. Still other shore diving sites may have docks or piers with ladders for entering and exiting the water.
- How far is your walk to the shore line? How far is the swim to the reef?
- Do your buddy check – just because you dive all the time with the same person, is no reason to be sloppy. Sloppiness leads to accidents. Check your clips, pressure, and listen for air leaks or blown o-rings if you have not used your equipment for a while. Do you have spare o-rings and know how to change them yourself? I also keep a roll of duct tape and several other little things handy for emergency repairs.
- What’s your intitial dive plan? Figure it out and talk about it before you go into water.
Entry & Exit
- How are you going to get your equipment on and where? We have a good system out the back of the jeep but that is after 3 years of shore diving . If you are putting it on down by the shoreline, are you gonna use a tarp to keep equipment clean or a towel? Sand in dive equipment is not a good thing.
- Make sure your mask and snorkel if you are using one are secure on your head. It sucks to be hit by a wave and have to hunt for them in rough conditions.
- Are you wearing dive boots? if not, be prepared for shells or rough coquina rock until you get your fins on.
- Where are you taking equipment off? This always depends on the ease of entry and exit. I am truly blessed that if the shore exit is gonna be rough or I am gonna sink up to my need in muck, hubby takes his up and comes back to help me out. This may be by taking my equipment or just taking my weights off me. Ladies, myself included have commented many times how tired out legs are after and you don’t always notice it till you sink right by the shore and you can’t plow through to the hard sand. I have on occasion had to crawl up the beach through the waves. Especially in Lauderdale by the Sea when conditions changed.
- Do you have your gobbly gook? or mask defogger?
- Dive flag check, gauge check, psi check, equipment on, max dive, gloves, hoodie and any other equipment you plan to use should be secured and checked.
- The method for entering the water from shore greatly depends on the topography and conditions. I opt for the easiest and quickest. Generally I will walk right in until I am waist deep. I slightly inflate when I get to knee depth. Undertow, soft ground and the added weight of scuba equipment can be super challenging to manage with even the slightest wave action. On shore dives you will generally have slight wave action no matter what. The further North the worse. I carry my fins in and then hubby and I both help each other out of need be. I get out through the surf quicker if there is any. I watch some people walking backwards into waves to maintain balance but I generally find these are newb shore divers that have been told to do it this way. If you have your fins on and lose balance you will have more propulsion to kick through the surf. If you are in a new area and unsure, go out first in just your wetsuit and check out the terrain. If you get knocked over by a wave, try to remember to go under it not through it. Get your balance and try again.
Tides, currents and conditions are extremely important. Many shore diving locations are easier depending on which tide you want to go in or out with. High tide, many times will chop things up a bit and make it more challenging to get your equipment on in the water.
- Know your compass headings – what setting is sea, land, east, west. For example in LDBS be know them by heart, makes navigating easy.
- Make notes of current, is there one, which way is it heading
- Is there a swell between reefs.
- How far is the swim between reefs, mark it by psi spent or feet kicks used.
- How much psi did you blow on the swim out, add 300 psi as you may be tried or you may have condition changes.
Your in now and on the reef, what now?
- Where’s your buddy? 30 second buddy sighting rule, if you don’t see your dive buddy within 30 seconds, pop up and wait until they do the same. You can generally see the bubbles of where they are.
- know your hand signals…Rich and I have many of our own. Letter C-swim straight out to c; Letter L means head in to land, circle motion with finger means swim around, we use to fingers and run them parallel for swim East West parallel to shore and look around, pointing up means head to surface, shaking hand side to side means ear problems I need to equalize
- Tapping palm means what’s your psi, you should know yours and your buddies so you can be alert to any issues. I generally end up with 3-700 more than Rich at end of dive.
- You really need to be using a dive flag, I should never have to point this out but MANY people don’t for shore. It is the law and FWC has been all over the coast and will bust you.
- You hear a boat close, what should you do? Get to the bottom and out of the way. Be careful when coming up especially for jet skiers on the weekend.
- Ripples in the sand generally run parallel to shore and can be an invaluable navigation aid.
- Seafans and other gorgonians flow parallel to the shore.
Err on the side of caution and safety. More is safer, less is stupid. I like shore diving because it gives me freedom to control where and when I dive. However, choosing my own location means I have to personally be prepared for any issues that could arise.
- Know you local emergency responders, not just 911. Can you tell them where you are if you need them?
- Know the incoming and outgoing tides
- check the weather, are storms predicted for later. One thing in Florida, it can be on you quick and nothing sucks more than having to hightail it out of the water quick with lightning strikes and steel tanks on your back.
- Do you know what to do for a sea urchin barb, jellyfish sting, or stone fish issue? Know the problem critters in the area you are diving. A basic first aid kit and proper first aid training are great diver tools. We keep it with our diving repair kit. Spare o-rings ect.
Whatever, wherever and however you dive…be safe and be prepared. Take your time and enjoy the adventure. Things that used to scare me 2 years ago are a walk in the park now. But I do remember those fears and phobias.