Diving from the shore is a challenging but rewarding activity. It is a good option for divers who get seasick, and there is less time lost to logistics and loading that you get with boat diving. You and your buddy are in charge of the schedule, so there is no pressure on you to keep up with more experienced divers OR to sit around in the sun waiting for the slower ones in the group to gear up. It is also a cheap way to get wet while still enjoying the fantastic, diverse marine life that lives on the reefs and marine reserves so easily accessible.
- Get Tooled Up
There are some pieces of dive gear that are crucial to shore diving for safety and comfort. Full foot fins are not going to be of much use to you on a rocky shoreline or pebbly beach. You will need a solid pair of neoprene boots (or a drysuit boot) with a sturdy sole for walking over uneven ground. Pair them with open heel fins with an adjustable strap or clip to make them easy to don and doff at the surface. The easiest strap system is the spring strap, as seen on the Hollis F1 and Aqualung Storm Fins. When walking down to the shoreline, you can even clip your fins to your BCD or harness with a bolt snap. The Apeks RK3 and Scubapro Seawing Nova 2 Fins have grommet holes on the tips for this purpose.
Changing mats are handy for keeping sand out of places you don’t want it – such as between the toes! Some drysuit manufacturers provide them at time of purchase. The reasonably-priced Fourth Element Changing Mat is waterproof and rolls up easily for storage in your car or van. Combine it with a Fourth Element Storm Poncho – a handy multi-use item that you can get changed under and stay warm in after your dive.
Finally, don’t leave your SMB at home when shore diving. They can alert boats and other water-traffic and swimmers that there are divers below in shallow water. At Mike’s, we package an Apeks Lifeline Spool and marker buoy together as an SMB bundle.
- The Ins and Outs
In swelly conditions, you may choose to put your fins on with the help of your buddy prior to entry and then walk backwards through the surf. In calmer conditions, you can kneel down or float at the surface to don your fins. Environmental conditions may not allow you to avoid any embarrassing stumbles, so put your mask on and keep your snorkel or regulator in your mouth at all times. This will stop you choking if you do “Go for a Burton”. A partially inflated BCD is sensible in the shallows in case you fall over. Fully inflated makes it difficult to get back up again! However, make sure you have more air in it the further out you wade.
Before exiting, ensure you have “tidied up” any non-essential equipment such as reels and SMBs. There is nothing more embarrassing than getting tangled up in redundant gear while being laughed at by small children on the beach! Following a dive, you will be way more tired than when you went in, so help your buddy stand up by taking some of the weight of their tank. Watch out for dips in the sand or pebbles, so you don’t lose your footing. Secure your fins and put your mask around your neck when walking back to your de-kitting area.
- Do You Know Where You’re Going To?
Knowing where you are going and need to return to makes a dive plan more effective while conserving air. If you are not diving with a guide, it is worth talking to those with local knowledge or look at a map of the area. Some shore dives are more enjoyable or have increased visibility at certain times of the day, depending on the tides. Plan your dive by swimming against the current to begin with. When you have less air, your return journey should be a lot easier as the current carries you back. Take a compass bearing before you descend if you are heading to any points of interest, and also use natural navigation techniques (such as the formation of the bottom) to help find your way back.
- Going Pete Tong
You may not have the luxury of a non-diving partner who is willing to sit on the shore and wait for your return with a hot brew and fluffy towel! However, it is never a bad thing to let your loved ones know where you are going and when you should be expected back. Agree to send a text within a realistic time frame or sign back in at the dive centre when you had agreed to do so. As part of a Rescue Diver course you learn how to formulate an Emergency Action Plan. This is a simple list of where the nearest first aid kit and emergency oxygen is located, along with a list of important local numbers such as hospital, coastguard and recompression chamber. Create one of these and give it to someone who is available to help in the event of an emergency.
Assess the environmental factors prior to entry such as any visible rip currents, choppy water and how to deal with poor visibility/surface conditions. It is generally best to dive at slack tide when you will feel the least effects of the tides, although that may not always be possible. If you are caught in a strong current underwater and find you are getting overexerted, swim close to the reef or the bottom, where it is generally weaker. If you find you are caught in a rip tide on the surface, try to swim parallel to the shore.
Finally, run through a review of communication procedures with your buddy and agree on turn pressures and max depths etc. Plan your dive and dive your plan!
- Nothing Will Work Unless you Do
There is no denying the fact that diving from a boat is pretty easy when it comes to logistics. There is less lifting, carrying and walking with heavy gear. A responsible able-bodied diver doesn’t need to be a decathlete, but you should have a level of muscle and bone strength, good lung function and be able to carry out moderate exercise. Of course, we are all different, and some divers may need to put gear on in the water if they have a disability or a bad back. However, just 20 minutes of exercise each day can make all the difference if you need to walk up and down steps wearing cylinders, have a long walk to the water’s edge in SCUBA or carry out a moderate surface swim. Staying fit will also improve your air consumption and reduce the risk of decompression-related illness.
Stay hydrated, as there is likely to be less shade when diving from the shore than there is on a boat. Finally, get a yearly diving medical to check that your fitness is being maintained and that there aren’t any underlying health conditions you may not be aware of.