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Training Fundamentals: Top Tips for a Successful Giant Stride Entry

The giant stride entry is one of the most common for divers. What’s the best way execute a giant stride, and what pitfalls should you avoid?

Their first giant stride entry is quite memorable for most scuba divers. Standing at the edge of a swimming pool, quayside, jetty or boat, the weight of the equipment on your back suddenly feels considerably heavier as you contemplate entering the water. Will I really just float back to the surface? Will what I’ve learned to do actually work? Then, having completed the skill — possibly not in the most stylish way on your first attempt — your fears vanish, and it suddenly seems like a fun way to get into the water.

The giant stride entry is a very common for deep-water entry from larger vessels, quaysides, jetties and on some shore dives where topography allows. If you do it correctly, it’s a simple and safe procedure. Here’s what you need to know about executing a perfect giant stride entry.

Pre-entry attention

Every entry technique varies subtly depending on your geographic location and the layout of the boat or dive site. Consequently and most importantly, listen to the briefing every time for tips on the best way to get in the water.

Where on the boat or quayside will you be entering the water? If you’re not sure, take a moment before the dive to look at the entry and exit areas. Familiarize yourself with rails, ladders and any hazards.

What is the crew or skipper signal to enter the water? For example, on some larger vessels, the skipper will sound a horn or ring a bell when it’s time to enter. On others, the crew on the dive deck will signal you to go. Or the dive leader may simply instruct you to enter as soon as they’ve surfaced and given the ‘ok’ signal.

What is your window of time to enter the water? On some dives, the boat is moored on an anchor line in a secluded, non-tidal lagoon, unaffected by current. Here, you’ll have all the time in the world to prepare and enter the water. Alternatively, at a more challenging dive site you may need to be ready to enter the water as quickly as you safely can on the signal. Any delays at sites like this may mean becoming separated from the group or drifting past the site entirely. At some dive sites the boat doesn’t technically stop: the skipper will bring it into position, drifting over a wreck or at the split point of a reef’s current with the vessel in neutral. The aim here is to bring divers to the prime position for dive-site entry, allowing just enough time for them to enter the water.

Tip: Take a slate to dive briefings to jot down key information. If you’re not sure, ask the dive leader. It’s better to ask than compromise safety or the dives of others. In nearly all cases, the dive instructor or guide will be first in the water and last out. Take their lead.

Pre-dive checks

Before you jump in, visualize how you’ll gear up and how you’ll physically enter the water. Consider how to secure your equipment and accessories for a successful giant stride entry. Think about how you might clip hoses and where you might keep torches or reels. Do a thorough pre-dive safety check on every dive but especially on the first dive of a trip when errors are more common.

Double-check your gas is on. Ensure you have everything you need, such as a computer, knife, compass, DSMB and reel, and any toys you may be taking such as cameras. When you stand to make the final move to the entry point, check with your buddy that your cylinders are secure and look each other up and down for anything dangling, twisted or tangled, such as twisted primary and alternate air sources. If you’re using nitrox, make sure you’ve set your computer accordingly.

Tip: Take some time at the end of the previous dive to prepare for the next. Order and secure your equipment so you know exactly where it is when you arrive for the next dive.

The final approach

It’s time to dive. Before you’re close to the entry point, make sure your mask is treated and in position. If you’re using anti-fog spray or saliva, treat the mask — then keep it on your face in position. The less exposure it has to the outside environment, the less likely it is to fog up during the dive.

Be sure your jacket or wing is at least two-thirds full, depending on your equipment’s weight. If you trip or fall into the water by accident due to water movement at least you’ll have positive buoyancy. For the same reason, put your regulator in your mouth. If there are steps or a rail down to the entry point, use them.

Make sure your fins are secured over the ‘stirrup’ on the heels of your boots, where appropriate.

Tip: When you’re at the entry point and ready to go, let the dive leader know. Give a clear OK signal. 

Entry and confirmation

On the boat’s dive platform, you should now have everything in place. Glance down to ensure that the entry area is clear. Wait for your signal, as outlined in the briefing. And importantly — look straight ahead at the horizon, not down. Spread your right palm and use it to secure your mask and regulator on your face. Doing so gives you a view ahead while simultaneously keeping your mask in place as you hit the water. With your left arm gather up any dangling items, such as your SPG and accessories and hold them and against your torso while placing a hand on your weight-belt buckle. If your jacket has integrated weights, place your arm across your waist.

On the signal, make a large stride forward. Do not hop or jump. You must be sure that your cylinder clears the dive deck for safety reasons.

With your jacket or wing inflated you’ll only be beneath the surface for a second. Gently fin back to the surface and ensure positive buoyancy. Your chin should be clear of waterline and, if it’s not, add air as necessary to your jacket or wing.

Confirm you’re ok to surface crew/dive leader, swap to snorkel, if you use one, to conserve gas and protect your airway. Move away from the entry area and only return for cameras or accessories if instructed. Do not make assumptions and swim directly back to the entry point to collect items unannounced – you may enter the path of a diver jumping into the water.

Tip: Double check that nothing has become loose on entry. If you have a more-advanced regulator, make sure you’ve turned the venturi adjustment to the minimum before entry and clipped your alternate-air sources facing down to avoid free-flow.

If entering from a larger liveaboard boat, note the boat maybe towing a zodiac or dinghy on a line behind. Stay clear of the line and avoid entanglement.

Go to your happy place

Assemble with other divers in your group on the surface, as briefed. If using a buoy line or trail line, don’t let go of it, especially if there is current or water movement. Know who you’re diving with to avoid separation or becoming embroiled with another group on a busy dive site. Look for identifying features on your group’s gear, such as colored masks or fins. Pause, breathe and calm yourself mentally and physically for the dive ahead.

A safe giant stride entry is the foundation of a good dive. Pay attention to local procedures and find a pre-dive routine that works for you. Be calm and methodical about your entry. You’ll have a better dive and a better day.