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Beach Diving 101

Hiking to Jade Cove Throughout the years I have dove hundreds of beach dives form Monterey to San Diego and some kayak dives and that’s nothing compared to some other divers I know. I think beach diving will not only make you a better diver, it will also help keep you physically fit. Beach diving is not for all divers and I recommend anyone wishing to start beach diving to go with someone you can learn from. A couple of other good options are joining a club and going to there scheduled beach dives or participating in a Rocks, Rips & Reefs activity.

Diane and Ray-La Piedra State BeachBeach diving does require some skills different to boat diving and a certain level of stamina and physical fitness, this can all vary depending on the dive site. The nice thing about beach diving is it is relatively inexpensive, does not require a full day, can be done year round and can be a great social activity. Below are some basic things to think of before, during and after your beach dive. This is not intended as instructions and if you go you must do so at your own risk and ability. It can be very easy to get into trouble when not prepared. Below are some things to consider when planning and doing a beach dive.

Advanced planning for a beach dive

  • Why do you want to go-what is the purpose
  • Who are you planning it for-a group or just you and your buddy
  • What is the skill level of your buddy or group
  • Where would you like to dive-have you dove there before-if not try and checkout the dive site before
  • Is it a steep beach or shallow a long way out-this could make the difference of big surf or not
  • How is the entry-is it a long walk, swim or both to the desired dive site
  • Where can you park-a group will require more parking-free or paid
  • Are there any services at or near dive site-food, water for gear and yourself wash down, bathrooms, air fills, etc.
  • Emergency services close by or are you totally on your own
  • There are many books, maps and websites with information on the different beach dives to help in your planning
  • Always have plan B or C-bring boogie boards or have alternate dive site planned-with a group it is usually easier to have an alternate activity at the dive site-once you start to move to other places you will loose people

Now that you know where you want to go beach diving at, there are some things to think of that will help you in planning when to go if you have that luxury. The more you plan the more enjoyable the dive should be

  • What time of year should you go-winter with rain and runoff-summer with possible plankton bloom or fall with Santa Ana winds-some dive sites are better at a certain time of year which can tie in with your purpose-like bug hunting, photography or just sightseeing
  • Remember conditions change all the time, you really don’t know exactly how it will be until you are at the site.
  • What time of day is best-the tides can make or break the dive-planning it around a high or low tide depending on the dive site can be very important-it is usually not the best to plan around a full or new moon as the tides will be at there highest-diving the site at high slack tide is generally the best for beach dives-if it’s a rocky beach going out at high tide will help you not having to walk over all the rocks.
  • The time you plan the dive for is important-you will need to do some backward planning from when to enter to how long to get ready for dive and have plenty of time for divers to get there
  • Should you meet at the dive site or meet somewhere else and carpool together

It is now the night or better yet, a few days before the dive. There are some things you will need to do now that the dive is close.

  • Check weather-it may not be worthwhile to even think of going now-plan B or C might be next-if you are to be with a group, pass on any information that is necessary for the others to have
  • Recheck information on the dive site if it has been a while since you planned it-some dive sites have been closed to the public or maybe an event was planned for the same place
  • Check all your gear to see that it works and that you are not missing anything-is your tank or tanks filled-special gear for the dive-hunting, photography, night dive, etc.
  • Do you need other things like a wash tub with extra water, food, money for parking, dive mats or tarp, range lights for a night dive, hiking boots or a rope to get to the dive site
  • Do you feel well enough to go and dive-this can be a good time to cancel out if needed
  • Leave your day dive plan with someone-this is very important if you are diving solo
  • Do you have your emergency supplies such as a first-aid kit or 02 kit and do others know how to use it

Now you’re at the beach with your buddy or group and everyone is ready to have fun. There is some on site planning that still should be done.

  • How are the dive conditions-Is surf OK, water vis looks good, no lightning expected-this is the best time to call the dive off if needed and you will not have to clean the dive gear
  • What will you do in case of an emergency and you need to call or contact emergency personal -check phone reception or where pay phone is-try them to make sure they work-where are the lifeguards or emergency personal coming from
  • Have first-aid kit and 02 kit where it is accessible-if left in car everyone needs to know where your keys are-best to hide one somewhere-your key will do no good if you have it and you are on the dive when something is needed-who else is trained in first-aid and 02
  • If everything is a go it is time to figure out a general plan for the diving to be done
  • Check surf and timing of the wave sets-where will you enter and exit-where is the best diving at the dive site-do you have to walk down the beach or make a long swim
  • Get your staging area ready-put tarp or mats down in sand if possible-make sure if tide is coming in your things you left behind on the beach will not get washed away when the tide comes in

You now know you are going to do the dive; there are still a few things that must be done to make the dive go much better.

  • Do a complete buddy check-head to toe check of your gear, get familiar with it-go over emergency procedures such as if you run out of air-what will you do if you lose each other, have a plan-go over the hand signals you will be using-go over your complete dive plan-this is diver preventative maintenance to help avoid any accidents and any misunderstandings
  • How do you want to enter and exit the water -this depends on what is best for the conditions and what works best for you-not everyone has learned the same thing or doe’s it the same-if everyone is going to walk in and put there fins on and you feel better to put them on and then go in then do it-the others may not necessarily be doing the best thing anyways
  • Take every dive seriously-even the easiest dives can turn bad
  • Learn to be self-sufficient
  • An most importantly, learn that “You can say no, when others say go”-your life is much more important then a dive and there can always be another dive, but not another life in this world

Please check the resources below for beach dive site information:

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