Drift Diving Tips

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s a SCUBA diver riding the current. What? Think about it, in SCUBA classes you are told about being neutrally buoyant. So, you don’t weigh more or less than the water but basically the same. Think back to those open-water classes… neutrally buoyant divers only move just a couple of inches in the water with the inhale and exhale of a breath of air.

When you take your classes in the lake, you try to practice that neutral buoyancy. But in the lake, you have to keep kicking your fins to propel yourself through the water. It is different in the ocean though.

As most people know, the ocean has currents. Those currents are actually your friend when diving through the open waters of the ocean. You expend less energy propelling yourself through the waters. Instead, the fins help you navigate around walls or down behind the reef, etc. Basically, you kick less for those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to dive in ocean waters yet.

This gives you the feeling of flying. So, you might be Superman? Just a thought. Or a mermaid as a lot of people like to think! But there are some helpful tips to keep in mind. This could be considered an advanced diving practice, but keeping everything in mind, it’s a breeze. Or a current… You choose.

Drift Diving Tips

Be Prepared

Put the Boy Scout Motto into practice. Be sure before you enter the water you have checked your gear. This is actually a good one for any diving. But, check your gear. Make sure the regulator works, it’s hooked up to your BC, you have air in your tank. Locate your fins and mask. All the stuff you’d do before any dive. Then, make sure you have everything including a marker buoy.

Go with the Flow

Once you are down to “cruising altitude” go with the flow. If you are doing a shore dive, you’ll want to go against the current first so that you can ride the current “home.” But if you are doing deeper dives off a boat, just ride the current and stay with your group. Keep a lookout in front of you so you can plan accordingly. This prevents you from getting caught up in coral heads, wrecks, other groups of divers, etc. Keeping an eye in front of you allows you to plan accordingly.


Depending on the time of year and surface weather conditions, currents can be strong. Make sure you know your limits. Also, keep an eye on your gauges, your depths, and of course your computer. Finally, be aware of your no decompression limits. Most boat dives tend to be around an hour give or take. You’ll learn what the dive will be like in your dive briefing. Know your limits and “Dive Like Mike”* if you need to. Safety is important.

Make Yourself Noticeable

As you start making your ascent to the surface, remember Marker buoy rules. Most boat captains prefer to have divers come up in clusters, but if you have to come up early for whatever reason, follow safety sausage rules. Look/Listen for boat traffic. Then send your safety sausage up when you hit around 30 feet. Make sure to do your safety stops, keeping yourself between 10 and 20 feet for 3-5 minutes before ascending to the surface. Use the safety sausage to mark yourself once on the surface so boats know where you are. Carry a whistle or other audible alarm too should you need to signal your dive boat. And stay put once on the surface unless instructed by the boat captain.

Drift Diving

This article is just a list of diving tips. There is an SDI class that goes into further detail on how to drift dive. Safety is the most important part of all diving. Stay with your group and always let your dive buddy know what is happening. While if you are unprepared, this can be a stressful type of diving, the reality is this can be an extremely beneficial type of diving.

You expend less energy while seeing more of the 70% of the world’s surface that is covered in water. Relax, enjoy, be safe, and have fun.



*Dive Like Mike – If you need to dive 10 feet above the majority of the group to help conserve air so you can make the same dive length as the group. Although Mike told Grady once that it was getting crowded up there.

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