Shore doesn't have to mean surf!
Anyone who knows Dive Bunnies knows that we are big fans of scuba diving independently (something that we covered in our 2 part blog, Can I dive independently).
The freedom to pick and choose where, and when, to drop under the waves really works for us and it is something that we encourage and support all scuba divers to enjoy.
This means that you will usually find us diving from the shore, certainly more than you find us dropping off a boat. Diving from boats absolutely works for us - it’s just that the natural commercial constraints of scuba diving don’t (always).
Shore diving is a great way to spend a day out with friends and family. You can combine it with other local attractions, take in a great spot to have lunch or head out for a lazy, pre-dive breakfast; surface intervals also don’t have to mean sitting in a damp wetsuit in the blazing sun (or freezing cold).
For some scuba divers, shore diving simply means tackling the surf when you enter and exit the water - but this depends on where you dive and when. A big advantage of scuba diving from the shore, compared to diving from a boat, is that you can often enter the water gradually, building depth as you walk in, rather than dropping straight in.
Ideally you should enjoy a mix of both shore and boat diving (and should certainly have experience of both).
Packing your scuba diving equipment
When you are shore diving you will usually be packing up your diving equipment well in advance and well away from your chosen dive site.
Don’t get caught out upon arrival…there is nothing more disappointing than that moment when you dig through your crate or bag, stating assertively, “I know I packed my boots”, whilst that voice in your head is metaphorically shaking its own head at you.
Been there, done that - although you learn fast!
Sometimes it is possible to nip back to base and grab the missing item, sometimes that’s the end of your diving for the day, which may also mean the end of your buddy’s diving for that day. There are only so many spares you can reasonably expect others to carry!
This means that before you get going and once the vehicle is packed - run through a buddy check/visualisation of your equipment. We use the bottom-up approach - visualise and think about the equipment you have packed from your toes to your head: ‘Do I have fins, boots, wetsuit, BCD, weights, regulator, mask?’.
Always pack with your buddy and cross reference. Remember if your buddy can't dive, it may mean that you can't - so take some ownership of their packing.
Having a crate to store your dive equipment is a top tip. It makes life much easier when it comes to transferring kit from the dive centre/house to your car and back again at the end of the day.
We would also say:
Keep all of your kit in the same area, whether that is packed ready to go, or laying out drying - it then means that a final, visual check of that area should mean, provided it is empty, you have packed everything you need.
Even if you are diving independently, the dive centre that you have rented tanks and weights from may well be able to let you store your equipment there - especially out of season. Their protocols and space constraints actually ‘force’ you to keep all your kit together, making it far less likely that you will forget something.
Kitting up shoreside
When you dive from a boat you will, usually, change into your wetsuit whilst still at the dive centre. Happy days!
When shore diving, it is far more likely (inevitable?) that you will not change until you are actually parked up at your chosen dive site. The challenge is that most shore diving sites don’t have changing facilities!
At all. Not even a little bit. Not even a toilet!
A couple of top tips on this - number one, think about what you are wearing on the journey to the site - whipping off a T-shirt and switching out of shorts is far easier than jeans and a shirt.
Number two, get your hands on a changing gown (just google ‘scuba diving changing gown’) as these are, frankly a god send in being able to change relatively effortlessly whilst maintaining your modesty.
One area that can prove a little tricky is when you need bare feet to switch into your dive boots. For this, if you have an equipment crate, stand in that, or invest in a changing mat, many of which have drawstrings so that they can double up as a wet bag.
The only other thing we would mention is take yourself a towel that you don’t mind getting dirty - shore diving environments are seldom as clean as a boat, particularly when you are changing on wet sand.
Entry and exit
Exit, exit, exit.
Entry is important, exit is vital.
We really cannot emphasise this enough. Getting into the water safely and comfortably is far, far less important than being able to get out again.
At the end of the dive you may well feel a bit cold and you will certainly be much more tired than when you set off, so always think that the getting in bit will be easier than the getting out bit.
One really important factor is to consider how surface conditions may change whilst you are under the water. A relatively subtle change in wind direction or strength, can make a big difference in the suitability of an exit point.
If there is not a predefined entry point, then you will need to do a bit of a recce first.
This is where a snorkel can prove invaluable - nipping down to the shoreline and dropping in for a quick snorkel allows you to assess underwater hazards and how you will actually make entry (deep water vs. walk in).
It is also a great way to get a good understanding of how your chosen exit will work, and what level of physical exertion will be required at the end of the dive.
The single most important aspect is deciding how the buddy teams will work, especially in terms of what point you will be putting your fins on, and taking them off again.
There is no point one diver being in the water, ably assisted by his or her buddy, only for the buddy to be standing on the shore. Likewise, there is no point one diver being safely ashore whilst his or her buddy drifts off helplessly due to a lack of fins.
After that, agree where divers will wait until all divers are good to go. It is perfectly acceptable for this to be under the water to drop below surf, etc.
And once you are in, check your equipment again. Things can become loose or lost on entry.
Once you have completed your safety stop (see our blogs on What is a safety stop in diving? and Can I ignore my safety stop when diving?) then it is important that you understand how to find and approach your exit.
Before you enter the water, always make sure that you understand if you will be able to exit in full equipment, and if not, where you will be removing your equipment and what the protocol is for leaving it with a diver to supervise and hand up to you.
Remember that you may well be tired and a bit cold at the end of your dive.
Another top Dive Bunnies' tip when it comes to shore diving is to get yourself some really, really good boots. We recommend scuba diving rock boots over the softer bottomed ones, just remember that switching to a pair may require larger fins.
Case study: Send them up one at a time.
"It was a shore dive that we were used to and we were diving with a group that knew the site. It was a bit bumpy when we arrived and we had a conversation about whether we could dive safely.
We all decided that we could. But, and it was a big but, the exit would be more challenging.
It wasn't an easy exit, but we knew what was involved. In the pre-dive briefing we agreed to change the exit plan. Instead of us all completing the safety stop together and then each buddy pair proceeding to the exit in turn, we would complete the safety stop, then all move to a sheltered ledge and exit one at a time.
The next logical question was, who would be the first to exit, unaided? Decision was that it would not be possible, so an experienced diver volunteered not to dive, stay ashore, and wait instead at the exit to help others out.
So although one person couldn't dive, 6 of us did.
Dealing with surf and waves
One thing that can change the ease of both entry and exit is wave action and it's important to watch the waves and time your actions accordingly.
Deep entry and exit
Count the waves.
Although the much quoted ‘Rule of 7’ (which states that the 7th wave will be the largest) is completely false, waves will tend to travel in patterns (unless you have stormy conditions) so it may be possible to establish a pattern in terms of which wave is likely to be the largest.
This is what you will usually want to time your entry with, so that you can ‘ride’ the wave back out from shore once it has broken. You certainly don’t want to be entering the water just before it hits!
The same with your exit, watch the incoming waves and ride the largest to your desired exit, giving you a bit more time to sort yourself out before another large one hits.
Don't underestimate the power of water movement, especially when you are in scuba diving equipment.
Entry through surf
Again, count the waves and make sure you are not trying to put your fins on when the largest wave is about to hit.
Ideally, you need to walk down through the surf as a buddy pair, supporting each other as you go, but this is a judgement call because if one of you gets knocked over, the other one will invariably follow.
If you are entering as a buddy pair, walk side by side. Decide beforehand at which point you want to put your fins on and support each other in doing so. We recommend you have an empty BCD with your regulator in, so that your equipment surface area is minimised.
If a large wave is about to hit, widen your legs slightly, lower your centre of gravity and brace into the wave. Often you will find that you establish a cadence: brace, fin on, brace, fin on.
As ever, once your fins are on, walk backwards whilst looking over your shoulder. You will usually want to walk out as far as you can.
And remember - check your scuba diving equipment once you are in the water and before you start your dive - things become loose and lost!
Shore diving can be enormously rewarding, particularly if you are confident and capable enough to dive independently.
The freedom to explore both on land and under the water can make scuba diving trips so much more rewarding and enjoyable for both divers and non divers alike.
Boat diving absolutely has it's place, but shore diving has been a regular winner for us here at Dive Bunnies!
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