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Shore Diving Refresher



A Shore Thing
By Brian Courtney
I once missed a dive boat because a 20-minute drawbridge opening made me late to the dock. I waited around to do the afternoon dive, but by noon the weather had turned and the trip was cancelled. The whole day was shot and I was disappointed. If I were shore diving instead of boat diving, I easily could have done two morning dives.      

Such is the freedom that shore diving offers. It also opens opportunities to dive more frequently and at a wider variety of sites. But to get these benefits you have to know the ins and outs of shore diving - literally. Entries and exits from shore are different from those on boats, and they require planning and cooperation with your dive buddy.

Getting In

It's best to scout your dive location ahead of time, not just on dive day. When you're ready to dive, pick your entry  and exit points and formulate your strategy for making them work.
Always consider the exit before you enter, says John Kinsella, director of training and quality assurance for PADI Americas, and always choose an alternate exit point. Discussing an exit plan is tough when you're in the water with a regulator in your mouth.

The hardest part of entries and exits is getting through the surf zone, the area of greatest water movement. On beaches, this is where waves gain size and break. On rocky coastlines, it's the area where surge moves hardest into the rocks.
In both environments, keep your BC deflated and your regulator in your mouth. The ideal timing is to find a lull in the water movement and then move without delay all the way through the surf zone.
If it's calm and flat, simply walk in carrying your fins. You may be able to get past the surf zone on foot.
For rougher surf, put your fins on in ankle-deep water. Maintain contact with your buddy and shuffle backward into the water while looking over your shoulder. Brace for crashing waves by standing with your legs more than shoulder width apart and your hand holding your reg and mask in place. As soon as you can find a lull, turn and swim out. If you fall while shuffling out, keep contact with your buddy and stay down. Swim out through the surf zone together.

Getting Out

The thing about getting out is that it's usually not pretty. Fortunately, there is no style scoring in scuba.
Rest on the surface just outside the surf zone before exiting. This allows you time to gather yourself and to assess the situation. If surf conditions changed during your dive and affected your exit choice, switch to your alternate exit.
When ready, put your reg in and with your BC inflated surface-swim toward shore. On the beach, it's often easiest to simply keep swimming until you run out of water, then continue by crawling on hands and knees until you are out. This way you don't need to remove your fins in the surf, and you won't get knocked down by waves.
Exiting to a rocky coast is different. Kinsella advises getting low and working up the rocks. Avoid wave impact by carefully resting your head on your arm against a rock until the wave passes. Crawl up the rocks, keeping your center of gravity as low as possible. Watch out for barnacles and other rock dwellers.
With a little planning and common sense, shore diving can add new venues and flexibility to your diving world.


Senior editor Brian Courtney is a PADI Instructor.
Contact him with questions or comments via e-mail at:

This article first appeared in Sport Diver Magazine Jan/Feb 2001


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