The Joy of Shore Diving | Sea Dog Divers | Sieg Stahl

By Sieg Stahl

Sometimes I ask myself; what is it about shore diving that I find so enjoyable and appealing?  It is the feeling of freedom and independence, or do I just hate waking up early to catch the morning dive boat?

Let me start by making it clear that I absolutely love diving from a boat!  Whether I’m on a day boat or a liveaboard, it’s definitely the best way to experience a wide variety of great dive sites, and it certainly allows for some of the easiest entries into the water.  In fact, I would daresay that boat diving is by far the norm and probably the way that the majority of us spend our dive time on vacation.

With that being said, then why even bother with shore diving?  Besides, it’s a lesser form of diving and only something to do when you don’t have access to a boat….RIGHT?  I have actually heard sentiments like that around the docks and the dive shop water cooler, but anyone who really feels that way is missing out on some great dives and a lot of fun!

So let’s begin with a brief discussion about choosing destinations and dive resorts that offer shore diving in the first place.  Seems simple enough, right?  This is the part where you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and do a little homework.…. 

While there are definitely some destinations around the world that are not conducive to shore diving, due to location, conditions, lack of entry point, nothing of interest, etc.,  the majority will tell you (via marketing materials or the internet) that shore diving is available…..ding, ding, ding, this is where the homework comes into play!  Most of us have heard “yes, you can shore dive” in response to our questions about whether shore diving is possible at a location.  But let’s be honest, there can be a huge difference between merely having an opportunity to get wet and rack up some bottom time, versus having access to some really phenomenal underwater experiences from shore!  You know…..the kind of diving that is so good that your surface interval can’t go by fast enough so you can get right back in for another dive!

My intention here is not to bore you with my version of the “10 All-Time Best Shore Diving Locations” (we’ll leave that stuff to the dive magazines), but rather to point out that you really do need to do a little research and reading before you book your next trip in order to have the best experience possible.   In fact, I would strongly suggest that you also talk with some well-travelled friends (who enjoy & really appreciate “good” shore diving) to get some insight as to destinations that might offer you some truly memorable experiences.  These days I find myself to be just a bit skeptical of glossy brochures and rely more heavily on input from a few trusted travel advisors. 

So now that you have a great location picked out, let’s consider some of the really cool advantages of shore diving and just what it is that makes it so special.  The first thing that comes to mind is freedom and independence!  No matter whether your goal is to shoot photos or videos, count & identify fish, gain experience & hone your buoyancy skills , or just enjoy some Zen dive time on the reef, there is nothing more relaxing and stress-free than setting your own dive schedule.  You can dive whenever the mood strikes without being tied to boat departure times.  In fact, in some locations, you can even dive shore dive 24/7 so all you need are some dive lights and a buddy willing to join you.

Another positive aspect is that there are no crowds, and you’re not getting in the water at the same time with 24 other divers from the same boat.  Once in the water, you and your buddy can descend without waiting, and you are able to set your own course and dive plan based on what your dive objective and goals are.  Your dives can be as short, long, and as often as your nitrogen levels will safely allow!  I know that there are probably a few among us that get a bit queasy on boats, so for some, shore diving can solve that problem as well.  The lists of positives go on from there, but I think you get the idea that there can be some real advantages to diving independently from shore… long as it really is “good” shore diving.  Right!

Is there a down side?

Like with most things in life, with freedom comes some responsibility as well, and shore diving is no exception.  In case you haven’t really given it much thought, let’s take a quick look at some of the key considerations and skills required to be a safe and competent shore diver.  As with all dives, it’s always important to make a realistic and truthful assessment of whether the dive is within your capabilities and level of experience as a diver.

Although points of entry & exit at some locations might be fairly civilized and easy to access, many locations are not and will require some careful pre-planning in order to execute the dive safely.  Tides, currents, surge, surface swims, boat traffic, and other physical hazards should all be considered as well as planning for emergencies and filing a dive plan with someone responsible, especially in more remote locations where aid is not readily available.  Thought should also be given to the need for dive flags, surface floats, first aid suppliies and any other specialized equipment that might be needed for the local environment and conditions.  

Another critical consideration is your ability to navigate underwater.  Since shore dives typically rely on your own navigation rather than that of a dive guide, you need to ask yourself if your compass skills are up to the task.  Remember those navigation drills back in your Open Water class?  Do they seem like a blur?  Not quite sure how you passed?  Completing a Navigation Specialty and some practice with a compass and natural navigation is something I strongly recommend for all divers in order to help make them more self-reliant.

I think we all recognize that as divers we are always learning and experiencing new things.  And I am a firm believer in acquiring that experience incrementally, so I would encourage you to educate, prepare yourself, and give shore diving a try.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still really a big fan of boat diving, but there is definitely something special about having the ability to mix it up with some great shore diving that makes for a wonderful combination and can contribute greatly to your enjoyment of a dive destination.  All it takes is some research and preparation, and who knows, you just might become a shore dive junkie along the way!

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