What To Expect From Your Dive Briefing
Originally found at ScubaDiveDestinations.com
In some areas, diving under the direct supervision of a divemaster is the norm; in others, it’s more common for buddy pairs to be allowed to explore independently while the dive guide or skipper remains onshore or on the boat. Whatever the situation, it’s likely that the vast majority of your dives will be preceded by a briefing. In reality, these briefings vary wildly in terms of content and thoroughness depending on the circumstances of a particular dive, and the professionalism of the person delivering them. However, there are some key points that all dive briefings should include- some of which are simply interesting, others of which pertain to safety and are therefore crucial to understand before entering the water.
It’s usual for a divemaster to first introduce him or herself, and then the dive site that you’re about to explore. As well as the site’s name, this section of the briefing should also mention any interesting facts relevant to the particular area. For example, a wreck dive is always more rewarding if you know the ship’s history- when and how it sank, what it was once used for and how its current state differs from how it might have looked in its heyday. A dive site description is an important part of a briefing not only because it enhances your experience, but also because it helps you to anticipate your dive. This is important particularly if you and your buddy will be exploring independently- knowing the topography will help you to navigate, whilst learning the location of particular points of interest (a resident moray eel, the ship’s anchor etc) will enable you to get the very most out of your dive. Especially, your divemaster should mention the day’s conditions and how they could affect your dive, for example, the predicted visibility, and the direction and strength of any current. On many dive sites, there are potential hazards which could prove dangerous unless divers are made aware of them. This section of the briefing should draw your attention to any such aspects, from the presence of fire coal or a resident stonefish, to a sheer drop-off where depth must be constantly monitored.
Your divemaster should also go through the specifics of the dive, from exit and entry procedures (which can vary hugely depending on whether you’re doing a shore entry, a surf entry, entering from a large liveaboard or an inflatable tender), to maximum depths and bottom times. By sticking to these restrictions, you will stay within your safe no-decompression limits- remember that even on dives guided by a divemaster, you are responsible for keeping track of both depth and time. You should also be reminded of the air reserve on which to begin your ascent- even though you may have a maximum dive time of 50 minutes, if you reach your reserve first, you must end your dive. Air reserves also differ depending on the type of dive you’re doing- for example, deep dives require a larger reserve to allow enough air to ascend slowly from depth and still perform a safety stop. A safety stop should be part of every single dive unless mitigating circumstances dictate otherwise (running low on air, bad weather, or an emergency situation), and your divemaster should remind divers of this in their briefing. The divemaster should also explain his or her role, and any special procedures particular to a specific dive- for example, mandatory descent or ascent on a buoy line, or appropriate behaviour on a creature encounter dive.
Two of the most important aspects of a briefing are the signal review, and the detailing of emergency procedures. Signs and signals are often universal, but can equally differ from place to place. For example, the signal for a half tank of air remaining in the States is used to signal the end of a dive in Africa- to avoid confusion, particularly when buddy pairs do not know each other, all important signs and signals should be revised before entering the water. Emergency procedures
should also be universal, for example, the correct course of action to take upon becoming lost, or experiencing an out of air situation. However, the specifics tend to differ from place to place, and knowing what to do if such a situation arises could be the difference between life and death. Make sure that you are told what the procedures are, what the signal is for a dive aborted in an emergency, and what the recall signal is if an accident occurs on the surface and the boat captain needs you to return to the boat. Your divemaster or skipper should also brief you as to where emergency equipment like the oxygen, the first aid kit and the boat radio/cell phone are kept, and brief you about roll call procedures in order to make sure no-one gets left behind after a dive.
Finally, your divemaster should brief you about local rules and regulations, and environmental concerns. As respectful divers, we shouldn’t touch, tease or take anything from the reef anyway- but in some places, removing shells or other marine life from the ocean is illegal. Similarly, many wreck sites are protected, and wreck penetration (even with the appropriate qualifications) is prohibited, as well as taking artefacts or souvenirs away with you. Your divemaster should remind you to keep your impact on the underwater world to an absolute minimum- to watch that your fins don’t damage delicate coral, for example, and keep your equipment streamlined to prevent it from knocking along the reef beneath you.
These are all points that your divemaster should touch on, however briefly. Being prepared for a dive and knowing what to expect underwater is essential not only to your enjoyment, but also to your safety. If you feel that your divemaster has left something important out, don’t be afraid to ask- because at the end of the day, a good briefing is the key to a great dive.
Originally from England, I first learned to dive so that I could go cage diving with great whites off Guadalupe Island, Mexico, in 2008. From that first shark encounter onwards, I have been utterly hooked on the underwater world, and particularly on the issue of shark conservation. Whilst studying for my degree in London, I worked at London Aquarium, before going to Mozambique to research whale sharks off Tofo. I completed my PADI Instructor’s course while living in South Africa, and spent nine months teaching and guiding on Aliwal Shoal, where I set up a tiger shark ID project and began writing for the conservation organisation Shark Angels. In September last year, I set off on a thirteen month journey around South East Asia, Fiji and New Zealand, and am currently instructing in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.
Photography website: www.jessvyvyanrobinsonphotography.com
Email: [email protected]