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Getting Comfortable with Downcurrents

Discussion in 'Advanced Scuba Discussions' started by Scuba_Noob, Jul 26, 2012.

  1. Scuba_Noob

    Scuba_Noob Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Victoria, BC
    I'm posting this in Advanced because downcurrents don't necessarily seem like a basic/new thing.

    I know quite a few places, like Cozumel, have great dive sites that occasionally have 'random' downcurrents. From reading numerous threads, I get that the primary strategy is to get away from the wall (or even go sideways, like with a ripcurrent). Of course, from Scubaboard and other forums, you can get a whole bunch of information, but you can't really get the comfort and experience.

    People constantly say that you shouldn't dive beyond your comfort. I have a good amount of dives, and I feel really comfortable most places underwater. Downcurrents just seem kind of freaky (e.g., facing a strong downcurrent when you're lower on air at the end of a dive). I'm sure I'd be able to handle it well, but it still wouldn't be comfortable being in a downcurrent.

    It seems that the only way to get comfortable with the risk of downcurrents is diving currents or drift diving (all which I'm fine with), and eventually diving with downcurrents, i.e., going beyond your comfort level. I guess it's just something I've never experienced, and a little bit of apprehension of the unknown.

    The question is: How did you get comfortable with the risk of downcurrents and dealing with them?
  2. TSandM

    TSandM Missed and loved by many. Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    I don't think you can get comfortable with downcurrents. You can get comfortable with diving in general, and know the theoretical response to a downcurrent, and employ it should you run into a major one. My first experience with vertical currents was in Indonesia. Luckily, the downcurrent we hit was mild and more interesting than scary; I wish I could say the same for the up currents.
  3. supergaijin

    supergaijin Dive Shop

    If you continue to drift dive, eventually you will encounter a downcurrent or two. They are a bit like twisters- some areas are famous for them (and even then the chances that you will see them are rare) and then they are random effects of nature which can and do pop up in places not normally associated. Strength and duration change. You probably have already encountered downcurrents tugging at your fins at certain places along the reef.

    The stronger the currents and the more unstable/varied the reef topography, the greater the chances of encountering a downward moving current or upward moving current at some point during the drift dive- especially with drifts greater than 2 knots. This may not seem much (people talk about diving 3-4 knots) but consider that in 60minutes, the water will travel two nautical miles which is 2.3 land miles (3.6km).

    Situational awareness is important diving in currents. Where is my buddy, how deep am I, how much gas do I have left, how close to deco am I etc. The trick is to know this whilst 'flying' along a reef looking for eye-magnets such as sharks and rays.
    DivemasterDennis likes this.
  4. DivemasterDennis

    DivemasterDennis DivemasterDennis ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Lakewood, Colorado
    Good comments above me here. I concur that a down current is not a comfortable situation, but one can be calm and level headed in dealing with them. That comes from time in the water in current- whether a drift dive, or just encountering current on a dive. The importance of checking gauges regulary when diving a wall, or other "bottomless" venue cannot be overstated. I totally embrace close buddy proximity and awareness on every dive, particularly those where down currents may be encountered. Also, familiarity with your own and your buddy's equipment, including bcd and weight system is critical. If you think about it, safe diving practices generally make a diver more comfortable and safe on every dive, including those where such current may be encountered. As part of setting up and predive planning I would also review procedures with my buddy that we will follow in the event of encountering such a situation. There are lots of good tips on that on other threads. More experience in currents will lead to more competence in dealing with them. I have limited down current experience (2 events, one very modest, one a bit more challenging) My wife and I were diving together on each and did fine because we did review our plan if we encountered a down current, we stay close to each other, we are familiar with each other's gear, and we stay close to each other on every dive.
  5. Dive the World

    Dive the World Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Dubai, UAE
    have not been in one but know people that dive is those situations at least once a month - Most of the time a stage tank for extra air just in case.

    From what I understand you just have to remain calm and work out of it while making sure that you just don't pop to the surface once that current eases up its hold.

    like said earlier - be conscious and aware

    good luck
  6. Scuba-dan

    Scuba-dan Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Ottawa, Canada
    Ya that's one of my fears and I've been avoiding dive with deep bottoms and walls... Usually a down current is pretty narrow, safe to say?

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