Depending on where you’re diving, you may find that the simplest way to enter the water is to walk right in. Below, we’ve compiled our top tips for executing a successful shore entry.
We can define shore diving as a dive where both the entry and exit take place from a shoreline, beach, jetty or quayside. This style of diving is incredibly popular in many parts of the world and is often more accessible than boat diving. If you have your own equipment, shore diving also allows you to dive independently with your buddy.
However, it’s often not simply a case of wandering off the beach into the water as the mood suits you. Shore diving has its own hazards and precautions you might take to ensure a happy, safe and successful day’s diving.
Do your research
In addition to regular pre-dive checks, if you’re diving at a commercially run lake or quarry you must often abide by specific rules, regulations and recommendations. Find out what they are and follow them. It may be something as simple as the lake’s opening time or closing time when all divers must be out of the water. Alternatively the lake may forbid solo diving, even for those qualified.
If you’re diving in the ocean, the winds, tides and currents are critical. Get it right and you’ll have a short walk to the water and a relaxing dive. Get it wrong and you could be fighting the tide or current. You could even have a more dangerous incident, potentially getting pushed away from your exit point despite your best efforts. Check wind forecasts and tide tables. Know the best time to enter the water, and if you’re unsure, check with a local dive shop.
Orient yourself to the area before you dive. Where is the best place to enter and exit the water? What are the potential hazards? Again, speak with the local dive center or club and experienced local guides. Certain shore sites have a natural area of rocky ‘steps’ that divers to access a convenient entry point. Or, they may have discovered that another area makes for a difficult exit due to rip currents. Note other factors such as surf and surge or concealed hazards beneath the surface, such as sharp rocks and urchins. Each factor impacts the exposure protection you choose, your route and what you bring on the dive (or leave behind).
Take what you need
It should apply to every dive but make sure you (and your buddy) have a DSMB and reel and know how to deploy them. At ocean shore-dive sites, you may need to make yourself visible to boat traffic or identify yourself to dive friends on shore. Similarly, always bring a cutting tool as rogue fishing line tends to be more prevalent at sea shore-dive sites on wrecks or underneath jetties. Taking cameras and accessories may be fun but tailor what you bring to safety. It’s all weight you’ll need to carry.
Bring some friends to wait for you on shore or, at the very least, advise someone not in the water when you intend to enter and exit water and to begin emergency procedures if you’re not back within a timeframe. At some dive sites, you may also need to advise the local harbormaster of your activities.
Entering the water
With a classic beach-diving shore entry, take some time to make a final environmental assessment before entering the water. Work through your pre-dive checklist and make sure that the conditions are safe for diving. Note entry and exit points. Take compass bearings and double-check that you have everything you need. Then, it’s time to buddy check and enter the water.
- Watch the wave cycle for a few minutes and note the interval between waves. Pay attention to the rhythm and get a feel for the best moment to enter the water.
- Ensure your jacket or wing is inflated as you enter. Always have your mask on and your regulator in your mouth during the initial entry.
- Enter the water close to your buddy either backward or sideways — never forward. Usually you’ll enter with fins on, except in exceptionally calm conditions, or on stony/rocky beaches. Keep close contact with your buddy and protect your mask with your free hand.
- Begin to shuffle backward, taking care with your balance and staying near your buddy. As you edge backward, glance over your shoulder and continue to monitor the conditions.
- As you reach swimming depth at waist height, time your final entry together through the surf or surge to coincide with a lull between wave cycles. If you haven’t yet donned your fins, now is the time to do so while holding onto your buddy for support.
- If more powerful waves hit your body, lean into it. Imagine you’re leaning into a strong gust of wind. Keep your legs apart to create a stable platform.
- Choose your moment and launch yourself quickly and assertively backward into the water between waves and don’t stop kicking. Try to be a speedy as you can to clear the initial surf zone until you reach an area of relative calm.
- When clear of the initial waves, roll onto your stomach and switch from your regulator to your snorkel as you learned in your open-water diver training to conserve air, unless you are ready to descend on the site at this point.
- If you feel tired from the initial entry, pause for a moment with your buddy and regain a normal breathing pattern before moving on. Overexertion may lead to anxiety and perceptual narrowing.
- Diving is a team activity so move at the slowest diver’s pace steadily to the final descent point.
Shore diving opens another avenue of diving and consequently, more wonderful diving experiences. The keys to a successful shore dive are planning and preparation. Gather all the information you need to remain safe and remember to plan the dive and dive the plan.