Weather. One of the biggest factors on whether or not a dive is going to happen. If you’ve been diving for a bit, then it has happened to you; a dive cancelled (or at least the scare of cancelling), because of weather. Big swells, lightning, heavy rains, strong currents, and high winds are just some of the weather issues that will cancel a dive. So the big question is when do you cancel the dive? How high is too high when it comes to waves? How strong is too strong when it comes to currents? How fast is too fast when it comes to wind? There is no easy simple one size fits all answer to these questions either. For some reference I asked two instructors with about 45 years diving between them. Jeff Randy (a PADI Master Instructor), and Brett Borchers (a PADI Course Director); at All Wet Scuba in Tempe, AZ answer my questions about weather, safety, and precautions that divers should take:
Q: Let’s talk about making the choice on when to dive and whether or not weather is actually bad to dive.
Brett: “To be honest, you should start this whole conservation with the sentence of ‘knowing when to call a dive is just as important as knowing when to dive.’ Bravado aside, being able to call a dive makes you a more responsible diver; than making a decision to dive in bad weather. You can take the example of the Rouse divers. The ocean is not going to dry up tomorrow; you can always dive another day. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on the trip; I always stick to Brett’s rule #1: always go home safe to your family every day.”
Jeff: “Yes; you should take precaution when diving in bad weather. You should think; ‘is the dive worth it?’ Live to dive another day, leave your ego out of it, when making weather decisions. No bikinis in bad weather means no point in diving for me.”
Q: Let’s talk about waves and currents. Brett; I know you’re a Tec diver: how should a diver evaluate conditions based within their own limits?
Brett: “It really boils down to what the diver is comfortable with. Realistically, a little anxiety is a good thing. Being with a more experienced diver is also a good thing. Being in over your head, is not. Because peer pressure gets divers killed every year. Some of the best divers I know have called dives because they weren’t comfortable with the conditions of the dive. The reality is, listen to that little voice in the back of your head; it will keep you alive”
Jeff: “Realise you’re going to tire in currents. You might want to be conservative early on in the day; or become more conservative later in the day as swimming against the current is dehydrating and tiring you on each dive.”
Q: What about lightning? We’ve all read books and seen movies of divers in sever lightning storms; how real is this? Can lightning come up that fast?
Brett: “The safest place in a lightning storm is actually underwater because the water dissipates the lightning strike if there are any. If you’re in the water already, drop back down. If you’re still on the boat, don’t gear back up, just stay inside the boat. If you have to descend from lightning, 20 feet is a good place to hover. It’s better if you can get to a hard deck: settle on the bottom and wait it out if possible. Obviously, stay away from a metal deck of a ship.”
Jeff: “Yes, in the tropics storms can brew up in a matter of minutes and dissipate just as quickly. The boat is also just as safe as being underwater: you want to stay inside the boat, lightning strikes the highest point. Put your booties on; the rubber soles give an insulating layer and ground you. I’ve seen some wicked lightning flashes underwater.”
Ultimately, weather decisions should be your choice. Make the decision based on your own limits and comfort level, and don’t let others make the decision for you. Educate yourself on local weather patterns where you dive, and get advanced forecast when traveling to a dive site.
Thanks to All Wet Scuba for opening up their centre and talking to me.
Your World. Underwater.