In yesterday’s post (Loving Current Diving Part I) I talked about the major types of reefs and how current generally flows around them. Understand that there are ALWAYS variations on the theme. Now let’s look at how you want to actually move within the current to make your dive an enjoyable and safe one rather than a schlep!
1. Remember that diving in current doesn’t always mean fighting it –
You can dive with, against or across currents. The easiest dives are often those with a little current. If your buoyancy is good, you can simply fold up your legs and float down the reef, let it pass by you rather than you swimming by it! Of course to do this you have to be sure you begin your dive up current.
Even if the current is strong it can be fun to “fly” down the reef. One thing that freaks people out is going too fast in the current or passing by the dive guide. If you are diving up in the water column you will go faster (see #3 on staying low). If you turn your body to face into the reef, thus creating more “drag” on your body, you will go slower. If you want to stop and wait for your buddy (recommended!) or dive guide (also recommended!), look ahead and find a place on the reef where you can grab ahold (NOT on live coral), spin your body so your feet are down current and hold on. With a little practice you will soon become a pro!
Divers tend to instinctively drop in and turn up current. Maybe you don’t have to! As long as the boat driver and the divers are on the same page, use current to your advantage, go with it!
2. Maneuvering in the “breeze”
A good way to think about current is like wind. I get down on a dive in current and simply think it’s a windy day on the reef. The wind comes from a particular direction like the current and also eddies and swirls like wind. So if you were walking down the street on a windy day and wanted to be out of the wind, how would you do it?
You would hide behind things! You can do the same thing on the reef! Notice which way the “wind” is coming from and hide behind a coral head to get out of it. While you are hiding behind one coral head look for another. Plan your next move, don’t just swim out into it, fight it while trying to figure out where to go. Check out what is behind the coral head you are hiding behind and find some cool things to look at. Then look around for the next spot.
3. Stay Low.
Current tends to be strongest higher up in the water column. Stay as low to the reef as possible without crashing into things. So you will want to be sure you are properly weighted on the dive so you don’t “float up” into the current. Also, if you are low to the reef and need to stop, you are not fighting your way down to the bottom.
4. Body Positioning and Weight.
I mentioned above to be properly weighted for your dive (always!). If you are too light you will float up into the current. As well, you can find it challenging diving in current if you are overweighted. Notice divers who are overweighted and how their bodies are vertical in the water. As the weight gives them negative buoyancy, they compensate by lifting up their bodies and kicking. If you are heads up in a current it will have the tendency to “lift” you and remember you want to stay low to the reef when swimming up current.
5. Current is not the same thing as surge.
When it is wavy, the force of the water pushes against you in the shallows. However, as the wave trough comes overhead you will be pushed back. This back and forth movement is not current. If you are moving in surge, here is a tip. Ride the forward motion with the wave by kicking. When the wave recedes, simply ride it back, don’t fight it. By consistently kicking forward and riding it back you will move yourself forward on the reef. Work WITH the action, not against it.
6. Descending in Current
Often divers are so worried about descending and messing with their ears that they forget the current is pulling them along. It is vital that as you descend you are constantly scanning the dive site to see what the current is doing. Perhaps it is blowing you off the reef or away from your dive buddy. If you are having trouble with your ears, swim over the dive guide and keep his bubbles below you as you work your way down or swim to the reef so you can keep it in sight. If you do lose your bearings, surface and have the boat redrop you and your buddy over the group. If the current is strong your dive guide should have instructed you to make a quick descent to the reef, no dilly dallying on the surface!
7. Ascending in current.
If you are diving on a reef, you can simply come up with your buddy to do your safety stop over the reef. It’s a good idea to have a surface marker buoy, especially in currents. If the current is strong, the dive boat may not realize how far down the reef you have floated. If you are diving on a pinnacle, you can do one of two things. If the current is not strong, pick out a coral head on the pinnacle and while you are at 15’ keep that reference point below you by kicking over it. This way you will surface over the reef where the dive boat is waiting.
If the current is strong, you can do a blue water safety stop if you are comfortable with it. If the current is very strong and there is a potential for you to drift out of sight quickly, abort the safety stop and come directly to the surface. Remember it is a safety stop NOT a decompression requirement. You might also consider arranging for the entire group to come up together when the first person is low on air. This may shorten your dive but is a good safety requirement in strong current.
But wait…there’s more!
Well, here we are 1000 words later! I realize how many tips I have on diving in current. In my next post we will look at different routes to take to best move along in current on the major types of reefs. I’ll add a fourth post on final considerations of gear and buddies in current.
To Your Adventures!