Logging dives — recording essential details of each individual dive for future reference — is mandatory during open-water training. A qualifying instructor must then sign the dive log once the student has satisfactorily completed the dives. But as our diving careers progress, unless completing a continuing-education course, the dive log becomes something more personal for divers. Following initial training, many divers fail to log dives at all, seeing it as an unnecessary chore or meaningless exercise.
However, logging dives has multiple benefits. It is a good habit worth continuing and cultivating as you progress in your dive career. And, as a bonus, it will also pay dividends if you’re considering pursuing divemaster level training or beyond in the future. Here are some of our top reasons you should be keeping a dive log.
Proof of experience
There is no substitute for experience. An up-to-date dive log illustrates the type and frequency of your diving experience. It’s not about bragging rights on the dive deck, however. In some circumstances, dive center owners, trip leaders, guides, boat captains and tour operators will insist on a certain level of experience before permitting divers to undertake a specific dive or trip itinerary.
For example, liveaboard operators may request a minimum number of logged dives before allowing guests to dive in environmentally challenging conditions. If you’re diving somewhere with low visibility, low temperatures or strong currents, for example, an operator might seek proof of experience.
On liveaboard vessels, the trip leader will typically verify a diver’s certification card upon check-in. However, the trip leader may also sometimes request a look at the diver’s log book too. This allows them to establish when the diver was last in the water or if may need a refresher course. Log books can also establish the diver’s experience level, as the type, depth and duration of dives in the log book provides the trip leader with clues about the diver and style of diving they’re accustomed to.
Instructors, trip leaders and guides aren’t usually interested in the precise number of dives you’ve completed. However, experienced trip leaders will often use logbook information to help tailor the itinerary and dive-site selection and make professional judgements on the suitability of conditions before the boat has even left the harbor.
If you intend to pursue further levels in diving, such as divemaster or instructor, you must have evidence of a certain number of logged dives.
Remembering equipment and configuration
During your initial training, you’ll learn how make sure your equipment fits correctly. As a certified diver, operators will expect you to know your sizes. Therefore, during your course, write down the equipment you’ve been using in your logbook, together with the weighting that was effective with that equipment and in that environment. Note the size and type of BCD, exposure suit, fins and other pieces of core equipment. This guide will offer a reference for future dives in similar conditions.
As you progress, your needs for comfort and safety may vary hugely from environment to environment. Different exposure suits, regulators, fins, BCDs, weight systems and accessories may be suitable in certain environments, or even at different dive sites in the same area. The logbook is a great place to record these details for future dives. If you have your own equipment you can also use your logbook to note when manufacturer-recommended services are due.
The dive log as a journal
The dive log can be more than simply data storage; it can also function as a dive journal. Along with recording your equipment, you can record your memories of your diving adventures. You can also record milestones and ask your buddy to witness events such as your 50th, 100th or 500th dive.
Many divers also record marine-life sightings, using their log book to list where and when they saw animals for the first time. It’s a place where you can research and record what you saw on the dive during your surface intervals from reference books – from sharks, rays and eels to different species of coral or reef fish.
You can also use your log to record who was in your dive group. Diving is a social sport and most divers like to collect the stickers, stamps and details of their dive companions. The process helps you to put names to the faces in your photos and allows you to connect on social media with new friends and plan more dive trips. A log is also a personal document where you can record your thoughts about your dive and the dive group; what was the story of your dive? Did you like your buddy? What aspects of the dive did you enjoy or not enjoy?
A development tool
A key aspect of being a good diver is realizing that your development never stops. Many divers slip into a comfort zone of dive behavior and interaction, doing things as they’ve always done. However, using your dive logs allows you to actively seek out advice and feedback, record it and act on it. This, in turn, helps you avoid the Dunning-Kruger effect.
When the dive is over, record and reflect on it. How were your ascent and descent? Was your buoyancy smooth and controlled and did you comfortably hold a safety stop in the correct position? Was your buddy contact and communication safe and timely? Ask your buddy if he was happy with your position and communication during the dive.
If you’re a novice or felt unsure, speak with the dive instructor, divemaster or guide and ask for feedback. Sometimes novice divers make errors inadvertently and remain unaware of them — and how to improve — unless they ask the dive leader. For example, sometimes a novice diver can enter or exit the water incorrectly, touch the reef or seabed repeatedly, or be too far from the group without realizing their error. And, with no feedback, the error continues unchecked throughout their diving career.
If you’re considering progressing to divemaster level or beyond, the dive log can be a goldmine of information. Take a slate or pad to each briefing and note key details of the dive and procedural requests. Consider why the guide has made certain requests and follow them. After the dive, draw a small map of the dive site in your log book and note your route, depth, turn points, currents, and descent/ascent points. Practice doing so will pay dividends later in your diving career when you must do the same for your guests. In certain areas, professional divers must legally record the training dives they complete with students, so it’s a great habit to cultivate.
As technology develops, we don’t need to write out dive logs on paper. Many dive-computer manufacturers produce models that allow the user to connect (either via cable or Bluetooth) and download their data. If you’re a technology junkie this allows you to analyze your dive in detail without writing anything down.
Your logbook is much more than a means to count dive numbers. It’s a record of experience and a diary of memories. It’s a training aid and tool to help plan and prepare for dives. If you can get in the habit of utilizing your logbook to its full potential it will help you to grow as a diver and have a richer and more rewarding dive experience.