Plenty of divers are interested in the prospect of drift diving. When you’re just starting out, there’s enough to worry about just trying to maintain balance and depth, pay attention to your air, and attempt to move around. You don’t need any extra distractions.
Once you’ve been at it for a while, though, and you’ve become a comfortable and seasoned diver, you may start looking for a way to add some action to your dives and see more scenery in the short amount of time you have under the waves. Drift diving in currents could be just the upgrade you’re seeking.
Of course, this type of scuba diving, wherein you allow the natural currents from a river or ocean tides to carry you on their merry way, is not without potential concerns. It is certainly fun to gain the sensation of flying underwater, not to mention watching miles of river bed or the ocean floor glide past below. However, you need to be careful.
The current can carry you far and fast, separating you from your group or your dive operator. It can cause you to become lost and disoriented or even drag you to depths you hadn’t anticipated. With proper knowledge, training, and preparation, however, you can avoid most potential pitfalls and have a fun and safe diving experience. Here are just a few helpful tips for those who want to try drift diving.
1. Do Your Homework
As a responsible consumer, it’s always in your best interest to comparison shop before you select goods or services. In other words, you need to spend some time seeking a reputable local dive operator if you plan on drift diving in currents.
Even if you’re familiar with the area you’re diving in, drift diving can be a completely different experience than what you’re used to. If something should go wrong, you need to know that the person waiting on the surface has your back, so to speak.
A little research can go a long way toward ensuring that the dive operator, captain, and crew you select are all professionals. Take the time to read reviews and call to speak with potential dive operators to get a sense of which ones know their stuff and which ones might be out of their depth.
2. Take a Course
You took courses to learn how to dive in the first place, so why would drift diving in currents be any different? There are specialty training courses that teach beginners the basics of handling currents, maintaining safety, and enjoying the drift diving experience.
3. Practice Safety First
Any time you dive, you want to make sure you observe all safety guidelines. Being underwater can prove dangerous for those who behave inappropriately. There are several additional safety precautions to observe when you add the risks of drift diving in currents.
For starters, you should receive at least enough training to know how to react should a common emergency arise. This may include becoming lost or separated from your group or getting dragged up or down by the current. The last thing you want is to panic in an underwater emergency situation.
You should also drift dive only in high visibility conditions to ensure that you don’t unwittingly crash into reefs, marine life, or fellow divers, just for example. Alternately, you don’t want to drift into dangerous waters or become hopelessly lost in the muck. Don’t forget to bring along safety gear like a visibility buoy or safety sausage, as well as a reef hook. Lines and surface floats can help your spotters keep tabs on your location.
4. Start with Shallow Waters and Stay Near the Bed
When drift diving in currents, you’ll find that you can maintain more control near the river or sea bed. If you need to slow down or get your bearings, descending will drop you out of the current. Starting with shallow waters makes this easier to accomplish until you feel more comfortable with this type of diving.
5. Go with the Flow – Literally
Fighting the current is going to wear you out, deplete your air supply, and ultimately accomplish very little. Don’t do it. The fun of drift diving in currents lies in letting the water take you where it will. Simply content yourself with slight adjustments to stay on course and at proper depth. If you feel like you need to slow down, drop to the bottom to regroup or pop to the top to signal your spotter for a pickup.