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Look Before You Leap

July 25, 2014

Safety is the first thought of and most important aspect of scuba diving. With all your pre-dive checks completed, it's time to get into the water. Diving from the shore, it's simple. We just walk out through the shallows until it's deep enough to swim, where you can put your fins on. When diving from a boat, things are different.
The most dangerous thing you might meet when diving is your own boat. When you decide to leave it, the diver will want to get away from its hard and possibly rotating surfaces as quickly and efficiently as possible. The same goes for a rocky shoreline next to deep water. Entering the water from bigger vessels is akin to jumping from a pier. Divers tend to make a giant stride entry from these so that they get as clear from the hard edge of the platform as possible.
The last thing you do when getting kitted up ready to dive is to put your fins on. A diver walking with fins is a hazard to himself and others and diver in the water without fins is unable to manoeuvre. So put on your fins at the last moment just as you will take off your fins as a last resort when leaving the water. Go to the point of entry with your mask in place, and holding on firmly with one hand, put your fins on with the other. Then you are ready to go.
The next thing to do is to make sure that the water is clear for you to jump. Arriving on top of another diver who jumped in before you or who might even be coming up is not a good idea. Take a good look before you leap. There will be occasions when there is enough space for more than one diver to make a giant stride entry at the same time. Each must be sure to enter their own patch of water as a collision between divers loaded with heavy equipment could be serious. It is usually safest if all divers jump at the same time on a count of three, otherwise each should wait their turn, pausing while the previous giant-strider swims clear.
Never jump into the water without having given thought to how you are going to get back out. Divers should also be thoughtful about the way they get out because again it's the boat itself that represents the hazard. Be aware that the boat may be at anchor but that means it is almost certain to be swinging gently in an arc making it slightly more difficult than expected to grab the ladder. It may be plunging up and down on the waves in which case it is best to get on to the ladder in one purposeful movement so that you are carried up with the boat's next rise.
Some ladders are designed for a diver to climb fully kitted with fins in place. Others require you to take off you fins before climbing the steps. There should always be help at hand and you should keep your mask and regulator in place in case you fall back into the water. We'll deal with diving from small boats another time.
Happy Diving - John Bantin

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