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Currents and diver experience level

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by Cosmographer, Apr 12, 2012.

  1. Cosmographer

    Cosmographer Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    149
    28
    28
    I've read many posts now that advise against particular dive sites for new divers due to strong currents. I've always wondered what difference a diver's experience level makes in a such conditions. Rather than experience level, wouldn't physical fitness be a better indicator of whether a diver can handle strong currents?
     
  2. smellzlikefish

    smellzlikefish Marine Scientist

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Oahu, Hawaii
    1,283
    250
    83
    The ability to deal with heavy current is a healthy mix of about 20% physical prowess and 80% technique. For example, one common issue many new divers have is the development of an efficient fin kick. Many sue the flutter kick as their only means of propulsion when other kicks may be more effective. Furthermore, at some dive sites the current is so strong that it isn't only acceptable, but necessary to carefully grab the bottom to maintain position. In fact, one highly effective way of moving through an area of high surge is to grab the botto as the wave draws back and then let go, allowing the passing wave to whoosh you forward effortlessly. If done incorrectly, the diver may sash into a rock or damage benthic organisms.

    Even in regards to physical ability, you might be healthy as all heck, but the muscles you use for finning through the water aren't necessarily developed via squats, for example.
     
  3. Cosmographer

    Cosmographer Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    149
    28
    28
    Thanks for the input. We are considering visiting dive sites like Manta Point/Crystal Bay in Bali as well as Komodo in the near future. Since some SB'ers have indicated that these can be advanced sites due to currents, I was wondering how we could best prepare ourselves. As far as proper kicking technique goes, I'm not sure that that comes from just experience - I would assume some instruction would be involved.
     
  4. RickyF

    RickyF Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Oahu
    611
    187
    43
    Being in good physical condition is important, but skills, self rescue skills and experience is even more important. Bouyancy skills need to be almost second nature. Having experience in different conditions and being able to make rational decisions in stressful enviornments can impact the outcome of getting caught in unusual scenarios such as down currents where you can be sucked down at a pretty good rate. If you are prone to panic, not completely comfortable in the water or to not be able to make good decisions in stressful enviornments due to lack of experience or training, you can find yourself in very bad conditions.
     
  5. Cosmographer

    Cosmographer Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    149
    28
    28
    Ok, here is what I am gathering so far:

    Experience is important in strong currents because:
    1) You may need to use different kicking techniques*
    2) Knowing when to use the current and when to fight it
    3) Developing the proper muscles*
    4) Being able to make rational decisions under stress**
    5) Self-rescue skills may be needed*

    * indicates (to me at least) that these are best achieved by training and instruction - not just having a certain number of dives under your belt.
    ** I agree that more experience = more comfort under water = less chance of panic = better chance of making the right decisions. However, in this particular case (strong currents), it seems that education is again, more important than experience. For example, regardless of how many dives I've done, if I was caught in a downcurrent for the first time, I would not know how to react unless I was taught this. I suppose you could learn this from experience after being caught in many downcurrents (read: trial and error) but this is obviously not the ideal way to prepare oneself.

    I feel like divers use the caveat "you should be an experienced diver to do XX site" as a catch-all disclaimer without realizing that that advice is actually not very helpful. What constitutes the right kind of experience for that particular challenge? For example, to dive Komodo, what kind of experience should I have under my belt? What kind of training? Surely, having 200 dives in shallow waters with no currents and perfect conditions would not qualify me as an experienced-enough diver for Komodo or the Galapagos.

    Anyway, I'm digressing now, but it seems that for currents, what has been offered thus far falls more into "education and training" rather than "experience". I suppose some consider these to overlap which is fine, but in either case, where would one go to receive the instruction necessary? My OW/AOW course taught almost nothing about upcurrents or downcurrents. (Actually, quite a few important pieces of information are missing from those courses, imo - but thats another topic).
     
  6. Quero

    Quero Will be missed Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Phuket, Thailand
    9,494
    2,246
    0
    Crystal Bay and even more so Blue Corner are not beginner dives. Part of what makes them inappropriate for beginners is that inexperienced divers are already task loaded with the ordinary aspects of diving--air consumption, propulsion, buoyancy--which have not yet become automatic, so that adding the challenge of strong current becomes too much to cope with. This can happen with any additional task--you'd be surprised at the number of intermediate divers who suddenly "forget" how to dive the moment they have a camera in their hands. However, a camera can't kill you the way a current can.

    You mention that you believe that even 200 dives in easy conditions wouldn't prepare a diver for a current dive, and reading between the lines, I gather you're suggesting that a diver with 20 dives would be on a par with that 200-dive diver if neither had any experience with strong currents. But I believe you're mistaken if that's your thinking. In those 200 dives, the diver will presumably have internalized the propulsion/consumption/buoyancy aspects of diving and will no longer consciously focus on them, whereas newer divers still have to concentrate on these things during the course of the dive. Naturally the current will present a challenge to the 200-dive diver, but it will be the only aspect of the dive s/he needs to attend consciously to.

    Technique may be some part of it, but a greater part is presence of mind, and this presence of mind cannot be taught or studied--it comes from experience.
     
  7. Cosmographer

    Cosmographer Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    149
    28
    28
    Hi Quero,

    For the new diver in your example with only 20 dives, if he has already "internalized the propulsion/consumption/buoyancy aspects of diving and will no longer consciously focus on them", would you then consider these more challenging sites (ie Crystal Bay) appropriate?
     
  8. Quero

    Quero Will be missed Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Phuket, Thailand
    9,494
    2,246
    0
    You are asking me, personally, Cosmo, and my answer would be that I would not take such an inexperienced diver to these sites without first having done several easier observation dives with the diver.

    It does happen that very inexperienced divers with as few as 20 dives are exceptionally talented and nail the basics early. But it is rare. Generally speaking, divers who self-assess as "proficient" scare me since it's very often a case of over-confidence. That sort of hubris gets people killed--sometimes both the diver in trouble and another diver who tries to help.

    I wouldn't want to be in the position of having to perform a dangerous rescue because a diver just doesn't know what he doesn't know and attempts a dive that is beyond his capabilities to handle should an unforeseen issue arise. Again, I would not advise an inexperienced diver to attempt these dives, and if I were leading the dive, I wouldn't take an inexperienced diver on the dive unless I had personally checked him out.

    Keep in mind that I have done all these dives you've mentioned (Penida, Komodo, Galapagos), and they can be challenging even for expert divers. The only time I have ever got into a situation I thought I might not make it out of was at Penida. Only my presence of mind allowed me to escape unharmed.
     
    ff1diver and fjpatrum like this.
  9. go-scuba-dive

    go-scuba-dive Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: USA
    45
    5
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    I agree wholeheartedly. I've had OW divers who were quite good at dealing with currents and Advanced divers who were no better than a newly certified OW diver. So the key is to gauge how good a diver is beforehand by doing a check dive or taking the diver to a dive site where you can gauge how good he or she is/how comfortable he/she is in the water.
     
  10. Cosmographer

    Cosmographer Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    149
    28
    28
    Thanks for your input, Quero. Would you mind sharing this experience at Penida? :D

    As far as experience goes, I can understand that more experience = better diver = more appropriate for challenging dives. What I would like to know is what does it take to be a "more experienced" diver. What is the criteria? I don't think number of logged dives is necessarily an accurate measurement of one's abilities or "presence of mind". If that's what the scuba community feels is the best indicator, then so be it .. I'll just be in the minority then.

    What I'm trying to get at is, how do you get experience if you need experience to get it? For example, how would one know what to do in a downcurrent if one has never experienced it? Just having 200 dives under one's belt won't teach you the proper techniques and responses to such a condition. It's kind of like telling someone that you just need experience in dealing with riptides in order to cope with one .. surely there are techniques involved in down/up/strong currents (just as there are for riptides) that ought to be taught somewhere.
     

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