3 ways scuba divers can enter the water from a boat

Scuba divers have options when it comes to entering the water to start a dive…and it is not as easy as it might look! It is good to decide in advance which type of entry you and your dive group are going to do that day. This will depend on the type of boat or entry point, and the water and weather conditions that day. We are going to give you a run-down of the three main ways to enter the water to start a dive, so you will know which to choose next time you go scuba diving.

The giant stride

The giant stride technique is most suitable to bigger boats such as liveaboards or yachts, or entries where you must drop to get in the water.

To perform a giant stride, first you must put on all of your equipment (make sure to perform your buddy check before you jump in) and face the water, standing on the end of the dive entry point or boat. Next, make sure you have enough air in your buoyancy control device (BCD) to allow you to be positively buoyant on the surface of the water. Avoid having it completely full as this could cause more of an impact when you hit the water. Place the palm of your right hand on your face to keep your mask and regulator in place, and hold your weight belt with your left hand to make sure it does not open and fall off in the water. Look out to the horizon, and take a big step forwards, you will briefly go underwater but bob straight back up. Full inflate your BCD and remove the regulator from your mouth, you might want to put a snorkel in your mouth to replace it if the water is choppy. Lastly, signal that you are "OK" to the people on the boat or shore and wait for your buddies to join you in the water.

The backwards roll

If you are diving from a small boat like a Zodiac, the backwards roll might be more suitable than the giant stride.

To perform a backwards roll, first don all your dive equipment (perform your buddy check of course) and sit on the edge of the boat with your back to the water. Holding your weight belt with your left hand, and with your mask and regulator held in place with your right palm, you fall backwards into the water. Do this with a mostly full BCD to soften the blow but allow you to be positively buoyant on the surface. Just like with the giant stride, inflate your BCD fully once you are in the water, remove your regulator, replace with a snorkel if necessary, and signal that you are "OK".

Negative entry

A negative entry (or negative buoyancy descent) adapts the above techniques to allow you to head straight underwater for your dive, instead of bobbing back up.

If you are diving in a location that has strong surface currents or big waves, it is easy to get swept away and separated from your group when you get into the water. Using the negative entry you can jump together with your dive buddy or group, all descend immediately together, and meet up deeper underwater where it is likely to be calmer.

To perform a negative entry, first gear up and perform your buddy check, make sure that you have everything you need for your dive including cameras and extra items because you will not be able to easily get back on the boat once you have jumped. Using one of the above techniques (depending on which is more suitable), enter the water making sure to hold your weight belt and keep your mask and snorkel firmly in place, this time, however, you will have an empty BCD. If you have performed a buoyancy check before diving you should still be positively buoyant on the surface even with an empty BCD, but this does not mean you need extra weight to perform a negative entry. You simply exhale as you hit the water, just like you practice in a buoyancy check. A full exhalation will be enough to send you under the water. As you descend, try to position your body with either your feet down or your head down, and keep your body as straight as possible to remain streamline. Meet your dive buddies and continue on with the dive.

Unsure how to perform a buoyancy check for scuba diving? Check out our step-by-step guide: How to do a Proper Buoyancy Check (divessi.com)

Things to keep in mind when performing a negative entry:

  • Equalize often: You will be descending fast and there is a lot to think about. Your ears should be top priority in this situation. Equalize as soon as you hit the water, and then as often as you can on the descent; well before you feel any pain or discomfort. Pushing your ears can cause long term damage at worst, and cut your dive short at best.
  • Discuss the plan with your buddies:On top of the regular dive briefing, it is important to discuss the depth at which you will meet up after the negative entry (usually around 10m/33ft). You should also have a secure plan of what to do should one of you get separated or be unable to find the rest of the group. Make sure to do a head count when you have all met up underwater.
  • Check gauges: Make sure to keep an eye on your depth as you descend, it can be very easy to go deeper than you are supposed to. To avoid this, add a little air into your BCD as you descend to slow you down, keep adding air until you are neutrally buoyant as the agreed depth.

Now you have all the information you need to make an informed decision of how to enter the water for a dive. It is good to practice these techniques in calm waters before trying them out in strong currents or big waves. If you ever feel uncomfortable about diving in a location that has rough conditions, trust your gut and skip the dive.

Happy jumping!