Drift diving can be some of the most exhilarating moments a diver can have, yet when a current becomes too strong or changes direction in a manner that the diver cannot control things can go drastically wrong, in very quick succession. These are some of the factors to keep in mind when conducting dives in heavy current.
Make sure it’s worth it
So why diving in currents if we could simply dive on a better day? Some dive sites are world famous but come with very challenging conditions most of the time. There is not much point diving in strong currents if it is only a matter of timing in regard to tides or due to extreme weather events.
Listen to the briefing, know where you are
All too often it is the experienced diver that finds themselves in trouble with currents, not listening to the briefing by the experienced Divemaster or diving alone may lead to dangerous situations. If a Divemaster states that the currents are strong today and it is essential to descend with a negative entry, do what he says otherwise you may lose the group and find yourself back on the boat or worse drifting off.
Diving with currents requires certain equipment that should be purchased or rented prior to the dive. Reef hooks and SMB’s are two of the most important pieces of dive equipment, reef hooks can be used to attach to descent lines leaving arms free or to strap to the bottom in heavy current. Reef hooks and strong cord are relatively cheap, costing $20 dollars for a standard set. Being able to attach to rock or line enables divers to use less energy and air battling the current and is an ideal solution for those wanting to have easy access to cameras.
SMB’s are vital in any diving situation. If something goes awry or a diver needs to surface and get the boat or person on lands attention these big inflatable tubes are the best way. A 1 meter SMB can be purchased for $20 – $50 and some can come with over 50 meters of line.
Don’t forget the basics
Never fight the current, it is too strong! Even with free diving fins and excellent trim diving against current can be exhausting and eventually lead to over exertion and potential lung overexpansion injuries. Go with the flow and enjoy the ride, if the current gets out of hand make sure your buoyancy is good, ascent normally and safely, conduct your 3 minute safety stop and surface. If your buoyancy is poor the current can increase the power of the current taking one down or up, in that case unexperienced divers should not dive in strong currents.
If all goes awry
It may seem obvious but the best thing to do is not panic by avoiding overexhaustion. While strong current can be terrifying it is crucial to stay close to your buddy, communicate well and ascent in the proper manner. Quick ascent will only make matters worse, if you use your SMB and make a 5 meter, 3 minute safety stop everything will be fine. Many strong currents will be formed close to walls or pinnacles, if this occurs to you, swim away from the area and into deeper water where currents may not be as strong.