Skin Diver Online HomeEnter our Email Contest
  • DIVING NEWS|
  • FEATURES|
  • ARTICLES|
  • SERVICES|
  • CONTACT US|
  • SCUBA GEAR|
  • DIVE SAFETY|
  • TRAVEL|
  • EQUIPMENT|
  • FIND|
  • Enjoyable Current Diving
    by Jeanne Bear Sleeper

    Current diving is a '90s type of activity;you go with the flow and it is easy and fun! Currents have gotten bad rap as being a problem for divers, but they can be your silent partner in propulsion and make diving more of an adventure. The trick is to learn how to use the power of the current for your benefit. Swimming against a current is no fun and potentially dangerous. Riding a current to cover long distances or to drift and sightsee is fun.

    Using a current for a free ride requires some pre-planning. You need to recognize which direction the current is running and plan your entry and exit points accordingly. This sounds basic, but you would be surprised how many divers goof it up. If you enter the water at a sandy beach and plan 30 minutes of bottom time in a one mile per hour current, then be sure that about one-half mile down the shoreline there is an exit place. More than one pair of divers has found the base of steep cliffs at the end of their current dive. Safety gear like the XS Scuba Safety Sausage (SMB) and other floats and flags that are found at Scuba.com can make the dives safer.

    When shore diving, you also want to know whether the current hugs the shoreline or veers off to deep water. If you have a boat following your bubbles from a safe distance, the current's exact path and shore conditions are less of a concern. Shore divers need to plan ahead to have transportation at the exit vicinity. It's no fun to ride a current down, then hike in full dive gear up the road to where you originally parked. Even in Southern California you get pretty weird looks hiking up to the bus stop in scuba gear.

    Divers frequently need to cross currents to get to an intended dive site. You need to be able to 'read the current' before you hop in the water. Currents come in every speed, depth, width and direction. They are not the same from day to day, even at the same beach.

    You can learn to read the currents by:
    Watching the surface of the water for telltale lines.

    Looking for bent over bottom-attached marine plants.

    Looking for 'missing' kelp;the kelp canopy is often pulled underwater by a current.

    Noticing the direction anchored boats are facing on the surface.

    Look at boat anchorlines;are they straight up and down, or pulled taut at an angle?

    Watching swimmers or surfers to see if they are slowly moving down the coast.
    Plan your path through the water when crossing a current by:
    Aiming before your intended site so you get swept down to it.

    Aiming farther up current of your target dive site, the stronger the current.

    Angling so you cross the current, then swim in calmer surface water the rest of the way.

    Crossing the current on the surface, so you can keep the target dive area in sight.

    Descending while swimming into the current.
    You may want to streamline your equipment to reduce the effects of drag, which are accentuated by the current.
    Cut off extra long strap ends so they do not flap in the current.

    Thread straps so the tag end is on the inside, if possible.

    Remove things you do not need from BC and wetsuit pockets; think sleek.

    Wear a low volume mask. Like the Mares Essence Liquidskin Frameless Mask found at Scuba.com.

    Try not to carry things such as goody bags or lights in your hands.

    Tuck your boots and gloves under your wetsuit legs and sleeves.

    Eliminate as much dangling or clipped-on equipment as you can without jeopardizing safety or the tools you need for the intended dive purpose.

    Attach your snorkel to the inside of your mask strap so it is more secure against the side of your head.

    Have a technician evaluate your regulator settings if the octopus second stage freeflows in a current.
    If you are mid-dive and feel the effects of a current, there are several things you can do to gain control. Most divers are concerned with conserving air and energy so they can get to, or complete a dive in a fixed location. This is when a current is less fun, since you are fighting it rather than riding it.
    Stay close to the bottom. Currents are often less on the bottom than they are ten feet above.

    Position yourself head into the current. Compared to broadside, there is less surface area for the current to push upon if you head into the water stream.

    If you are on the bottom, use your arms to pull yourself along. You will go farther with less energy compared to kicking.

    Hide in the lee;get out of the current by going on the backside of the reef, inside a wreck or behind a big boulder.

    Evaluate what you planned to do on the dive and see if the plan needs modifying;i.e., skip the photography and stick with sightseeing.

    Change depths;a current in the mid water column may not be so bad closer to the bottom.

    If the current is from tidal flow and you miscalculated the slack time, exit the water sooner, rather than later, when the current is even stronger.

    Summary

    Some currents are not divable;by anyone. Others require experience to safely cross or ride. It is an individual decision after you evaluate the environmental conditions and your physical ability. Local conditions also have all kinds of quirks that only the locals may know. So, if you are not a local, ask the natives for tips about the area where you plan to dive. Other divers or instructors on the beach, the local professional dive retailer, lifeguards and dive guide books are all sources of information.

    There is no substitute for experience when it comes to evaluating and diving in currents. Advanced or specialty diving classes offer closely supervised learning experiences.

    Current diving can really be fun, when you plan ahead and can let the invisible force carry you across the underwater landscape. Crossing a current can be doable if you plan an angled path that allows for the current to carry you to where you want to go. And sometimes, you just have to remember to swim perpendicular to a longshore current to get out of it, or end a dive early if the bottom current is too strong. The current dictates sometimes, and you can adapt and enjoy or be stubborn and get worn out and mad.

    You can make a current dive easier by reducing drag with a sleek, uncluttered profile. You can apply brain power instead of fin power and have a grand time sailing the underwater wind.