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
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.
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
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.
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
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.