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  • Beach Diving Done Right

    Beach Diving Done Right

    Pure diving freedom just takes some planning
    and a little know-how.


    By Scuba Gear Reports.com


    EVERYONE LOVES A good boat dive, whether it’s a day trip or a five-day live-aboard adventure. That said, there is something special about beach diving. It’s the luxury of driving up to the beach of your choice and diving on your own schedule. Plus, you get to explore some really interesting dive sites that you’d never see by boat, because dive boats don’t tend to go to these places. Pure diving freedom, combined with the thrill of checking out some really cool out-of-the-way sites, that won’t empty your wallet. That’s beach diving.

    But these good times don’t just happen on their own. It takes some planning and a little know-how. Here are some things you can do that will up the chances that your beach diving experience will be one to remember.

    Research the Proposed Dive Site – While a great way to find out about beach diving sites is still to listen to recommendations from dive buddies, like just about everything else these days, the best place to start your search for a worthwhile dive site is online. Chances are, if it’s a good place to dive, someone else has already been there, and has written a review or a summary of their dive experiences. These site reviews can give you an idea of the topography and marine life you can expect to see, where the best entry and exit points are, and if there are any hazards you need to be aware of. You can also get info on forecasted swells and water temperature. A good resource for this is a website called shorediving.com. It offers tips on dive sites all over the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and beyond. There are also more localized resources available; for example, for Southern California divers there is LagunaPages.com, offering info on dive sites within the Laguna Beach city limits.

    Pick Your Time – You can practically dive any site at any time, but if you dive it at slack high tide you will most likely have the best dive conditions. At slack high tide the visibility is generally better, entries and exits are easier, and (hopefully) you won’t have to surface-swim 100 yards to find 20 feet of depth. So find out when high tide is and plan on getting to the site right then. By the time you suit up and walk to the water, it will be slack high tide. Tide chart provided by Softseas.net

    Crucial Gear Tips – Shore diving often requires traversing stairs and/or rocks to get to the dive site’s entry point. So first and foremost, bring the right booties, like a 3mm to 5mm bootie with a good traction sole. Also important, bring some snacks and water for after the dive. If you are doing multiple dives, nothing is better than a drink and something to eat before braving the surf one more time.

    Carpool with Your Buddy – We’re not saying this just to be “Green.” If it's a popular dive site, parking could very well be an issue. If you and your buddy drive separately, you might end up having to park quite a distance from each other. This makes suiting up and doing your buddy check a real pain in the backside.

    Evaluate the Conditions Upon Arrival – When you get to the dive site, the first thing you want to do is take a walk down to the shore and see how the water and waves look. Forecasts and webcams are one thing; seeing the conditions first-hand is another. Watch the surf for awhile, get a feel for the sets and the lulls in between. If the surf looks iffy or is just too darn big for anyone with a lick of sense, scratch the dive and go have a good breakfast.

    Gear Up at the Car – You should be completely geared up with fins in hand by the time you close your car trunk and prepare to head for the beach. Do your buddy check at the car, with emphasis on the Final OK. Nothing is worse than walking down three flights of stairs and all the way out to the water, and then realize you left your mask sitting on the roof of your car. Note: some BCs have a clip inside the cargo pocket to hold your car key; however, we prefer to put our key in the inside pocket of our wetsuit.

    Surf Entry – Get to the waterline and watch the surf. With your mask around your neck and fins in hand (with straps already adjusted), wait for the lull in between sets to make your entry. It is important to get out of the surf zone as soon as possible. Get to about chest deep water and turn to face the beach and use the Figure 4 to put on your fins while keeping an over-the-shoulder eye on the surf. Stay close to your buddy during the entry. If one of you is having a problem, the other can help stabilize while fins are being strapped on. Pro Tip: If you are bringing a camera or a·dive light that won’t fit into your BC pocket, clip it!·You might think you have an iron grip, but even a moderate three-foot wave can prove you wrong.

    ~ Enjoy the Dive! ~


    Exiting the Dive – On your way back in from your dive, make sure to surface well before you reach the surf zone. Inflate your BC and swim toward shore while watching the surf. Gauge the sets and get a feel for when the next lull is going to occur. When it does, stay close to your buddy and swim for the beach. When you get to chest deep water, remove your fins and quick-march out of the water, keeping an eye peeled over your shoulder for any breakers looking to sneak up and embarrass you.

    Another Dive? – If you’re doing multiple dives and you have a long walk or lots of stairs between you and your car, it’s not a bad idea to take off your BC and set it down, preferably in a non-sandy area, making sure to keep your reg and octo out of the sand. Remove the BC and haul just the tank back to your car to swap it out for a fresh one. Not having to return to the car with a wet and weighted BC (especially if you’re diving in cold water) will save time and a lot of energy you’re going to need for your next dive.

    Finishing your Day – There are two things we never go beach diving without. One is a mat to stand on while changing. Standing on wet, dirty and sometimes extremely hot asphalt while barefoot is no fun at all. Secondly, we make sure to bring plenty of fresh water to rinse both ourselves and our gear. This doesn’t replace cleaning your gear when you get home; it just never hurts to give your rig a quick rinse before packing it up for the ride home. And if you’re like us, you’ll want to go grab a burrito after a great dive. A good after-dive body rinse makes the rest of the day just that much more enjoyable. Pro Tip: If you are diving at night or during cold weather, heat your rinse water. Before leaving home, fill your water jug with really hot water. By the time you finish your dive the water will be warm and feel oh-so-good when rinsing off.

    Wet Gear – If you don’t have a truck or waterproof-lined car trunk, how do you get your wet gear home without leaking salt water everywhere? After doing the initial gear rinse, we like to throw everything in a plastic storage bin.·These inexpensive tubs are great because once you get home you can use them to do a proper rinse and soak (see 10 Reg Maintenance Tips and BC Maintenance Tips ) so your gear can be ready for your next beach diving adventure. SGR

    For more articles and gear reviews go to www.scubagearreports.com
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. Thalassamania's Avatar
      Thalassamania -
      Pretty good piece, but it assumes a rather gentle entry, if we assume, say, Monastery Beach, CA then these two sections are inappropriate. Especially the bolded areas.

      Surf Entry
      – Get to the waterline and watch the surf. With your mask around your neck and fins in hand (with straps already adjusted), wait for the lull in between sets to make your entry. It is important to get out of the surf zone as soon as possible. Get to about chest deep water and turn to face the beach and use the Figure 4 to put on your fins while keeping an over-the-shoulder eye on the surf. Stay close to your buddy during the entry. If one of you is having a problem, the other can help stabilize while fins are being strapped on. Pro Tip: If you are bringing a camera or a·dive light that won’t fit into your BC pocket, clip it!·You might think you have an iron grip, but even a moderate three-foot wave can prove you wrong.

      Exiting the Dive – On your way back in from your dive, make sure to surface well before you reach the surf zone. Inflate your BC and swim toward shore while watching the surf. Gauge the sets and get a feel for when the next lull is going to occur. When it does, stay close to your buddy and swim for the beach. When you get to chest deep water, remove your fins and quick-march out of the water, keeping an eye peeled over your shoulder for any breakers looking to sneak up and embarrass you.
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      In severe beach breaks you should put your fins on before entering the water, enter solo, snorkel in your mouth, time your entry to the break and get out beyond the break as fast as possible. Go under the waves if you need too. Then your buddy should do the same. I've watched two many buddy pairs smashed into each other to suggest any other way.

      Exiting is the opposite, I'd recommend snorkel in the mouth, BC deflated, body surf in on a wave and when your hand and knees contact the bottom, crawl out of the water as fast as you can. Then you buddy can follow, using the same procedure.
    1. raftingtigger's Avatar
      raftingtigger -
      Ditto the above. I like your rinse bottles.
    1. lostreefkw's Avatar
      lostreefkw -
      All great ideas! Thanks for sharing!
    1. sheeper's Avatar
      sheeper -
      here on the Florida Treasure Coast i generally hit 1-2 beach dives a week. This article is spot-on; I've been doing much of the same things for years
    1. spectrum's Avatar
      spectrum -
      Nice feature, it's good to see shore diving (my passion) get some attention. I've been meaning to write something along these lines for a while for my site. I may differ with a few of your points but that's what will make or features unique.

      Pete
    1. mselenaous's Avatar
      mselenaous -
      Great article. Fond memories of learning to shore dive in SoCal's Laguna Beach and Redondo Beach.There's nothing like getting washing machined during a surf exit to teach you how to humbly crawl out on hands and knees.
    1. Selchie in LB's Avatar
      Selchie in LB -
      Nicely done article. We in southern California are lucky to have a variety of beach entry sites. Thalassamania you make some interesting points. Mselenaous I too have humbly crawled out of Redondo Beach! LOL Another point is to turn sideways so that you are not taking the brunt of a wave either front or back side on. Thus your body is slicing the wave. I have been caught a couple of times in the back of the knees exiting. So just like the gag of knocking someone's knee from behind and buckling the leg, a wave can do the same. The other issue with beach entries is the stability of the sand and the slope. Those of you who dive Redondo Beach know about those factors. The sand is mushy and shifts and there is that weird dip which is somewhat steep. I have not experienced rocky entries, so maybe a follow-up article on those types of entries could be added.
    1. GrumpyOldGuy's Avatar
      GrumpyOldGuy -
      Quote Originally Posted by mselenaous View Post
      Great article. Fond memories of learning to shore dive in SoCal's Laguna Beach and Redondo Beach.There's nothing like getting washing machined during a surf exit to teach you how to humbly crawl out on hands and knees.
      We used to call it the "crawl of shame", often followed by the missing fin hunt. Been there, done that......
    1. geoff w's Avatar
      geoff w -
      Good article, but you might want to note that most of the electronic keys that come with new cars won't work after being submerged in salt water. Also, a discussion on vehicle safety and not leaving anything of value visible is a must, even for areas with lots of pedestrian traffic. While doing a beach dive, my car and several others around me were all broken in to and all money and iPhones stolen
    1. Searcaigh's Avatar
      Searcaigh -
      Another point to add is to inform somebody onshore where you intend to dive and call them when you have completed the dives. Of course the best option is to have a non-diver onshore with the car, who can aid in any emergency plus have hot drinks etc ready for the SI.
    1. G4man's Avatar
      G4man -
      Great stuff, Thanks to all for the information.I plan on starting to dive again next year after hip surgery...any suggestions? Also would like any information on the Florida Panhandle Gulf side, any good dive sites?Thanks again and Keep breathing!
    1. sail44's Avatar
      sail44 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thalassamania View Post
      Pretty good piece, but it assumes a rather gentle entry, if we assume, say, Monastery Beach, CA then these two sections are inappropriate. Especially the bolded areas.

      Surf Entry
      – Get to the waterline and watch the surf. With your mask around your neck and fins in hand (with straps already adjusted), wait for the lull in between sets to make your entry. It is important to get out of the surf zone as soon as possible. Get to about chest deep water and turn to face the beach and use the Figure 4 to put on your fins while keeping an over-the-shoulder eye on the surf. Stay close to your buddy during the entry. If one of you is having a problem, the other can help stabilize while fins are being strapped on. Pro Tip: If you are bringing a camera or a·dive light that won’t fit into your BC pocket, clip it!·You might think you have an iron grip, but even a moderate three-foot wave can prove you wrong.

      Exiting the Dive – On your way back in from your dive, make sure to surface well before you reach the surf zone. Inflate your BC and swim toward shore while watching the surf. Gauge the sets and get a feel for when the next lull is going to occur. When it does, stay close to your buddy and swim for the beach. When you get to chest deep water, remove your fins and quick-march out of the water, keeping an eye peeled over your shoulder for any breakers looking to sneak up and embarrass you.
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      In severe beach breaks you should put your fins on before entering the water, enter solo, snorkel in your mouth, time your entry to the break and get out beyond the break as fast as possible. Go under the waves if you need too. Then your buddy should do the same. I've watched two many buddy pairs smashed into each other to suggest any other way.

      Exiting is the opposite, I'd recommend snorkel in the mouth, BC deflated, body surf in on a wave and when your hand and knees contact the bottom, crawl out of the water as fast as you can. Then you buddy can follow, using the same procedure.

      All very good tips in all the posts. One thing I would add (as you can see from my profile pic), I love to dive the Philippines and often it is shore diving. I know here in the States both coasts don't have so much the problem/obstacle but it is a good practice. Be vigilant about "look-ups" when approaching shoreline. In the Fils, there's hardly a beach, especially around some of the best places, where fishing boats aren't buzzing around. Here in the central Florida East Coast, there's a lot of wave runners and other recreation craft that don't see or don't respect your dive flag. Getting clocked in the head can be, as we all know, fatal at worst and a bad visit to the hospital at best. Dive safe and buddy-up, share what you see, exchange "look ups".
    1. sanchoshark's Avatar
      sanchoshark -
      Location, location, location. Beach diving is well worth it someplace like Bonaire, fer shur. Maybe the best beach wall I've seen is Cane Bay on St Croix. A drift from Villa Blanca to the Municipal Pier in Cozumel is worth doing; a beach dive across the island on the windward side is likely to get you hurt. ReefCI's island off southern Belize offers decent beach diving, but you've got a long panga ride out (and they recently had some pirate issues). North Wall on Grand Cayman is another quite decent shore dive. But generally, boats make life SO much easier...
    1. debb's Avatar
      debb -
      Thanks for the tips. One thing missing is how to get to shore with an SLR camera with strobes. Assuming that your buddy is there it is an easy scenario. But last year in Bonaire doing a dusk dive my buddy and I got separated while getting bashed by surf and I "turtled" trying to keep my camera off the bottom. A nearby evening swimmer had to help me out. Any tips?
    1. damage's Avatar
      damage -
      Bring some first aid equipment, It can be something as simple as white vinegar, alcohol and gausses or a complete one if you are trained for using it, accidents can happen.
    1. Waterpaw's Avatar
      Waterpaw -
      For the most part, not all, but for the most part...a sharp poke in the eye is more fun than beach diving! Dressing on the side of the road, trying not to get sand and rocks in your equipment is useless, LONG HEAVY WALKS, carrying tons of equipment through sand-rocks-up and down stairs, killer surf, losing equipment because of getting pounded by waves, trying to get on fins in the pounding surf, doing the exit "crawl of shame" and getting more sand in your equipment than you ever thought possible...gee, it doesn't get any better, than that! GIVE ME A BOAT DIVE ANYTIME!!!
    1. daverubino's Avatar
      daverubino -
      I don't know about the rest of you, but I live to shore dive Bonaire. It's by far my favorite dive destination. Most of the sites are an easy dive and getting unlimited air for the week affords me tons of dives. You get your dive map, read about the dive and entry, and go find the rock by the side of the road with the site name on it. I know shore diving isn't this easy everywhere, and for those I use a boat, but on Bonaire, shore diving rocks!
    1. ActionScuba's Avatar
      ActionScuba -
      Great article! We love shore diving and do lots of it close to home in Motnreal and we LOVE going to Bonaire for that very reason. In fact, we're off to Bonaire with a group from our shop in November. 10 glorious days of non-stop diving!One thing to remember about shore diving that is different from boat diving is that you are usually your own surface support. So be sure to bring the appropriate safety items, including emergency Oxygen, a first aid kit and even a float. Don't forget that there won't be a boat and crew waiting in case of emergency.
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