Picture this: You’re filled with excitement as you step onto the shaded deck of the dive boat. It’s still cool and damp with morning dew but will soon be so hot you’ll barely be able to walk across it without your booties on. As you and your buddy stow your soft gear under the bench, you overhear one diver going on and on about the thousands of dives he has “under his weight belt.” He talks about all the sharks he’s touched, shares his personal depth records and expresses inklings of resentment toward the younger divemaster he likely won’t listen to. Although you and your buddy opt to sit on the other side boat, he makes his rounds during the trip to the dive site, telling his war stories and flaunting his brand new dive computer. On the first dive he glides effortlessly (and with perfect form) right into the frame of the video you’re shooting.
Don’t be this diver on any dive boat you board. Instead, employ these dive etiquette tips on your next trip and return home with an actual boatload of future dive buddies.
Once you board the boat, pick a spot to set up where you’ll be most comfortable, but look around and be mindful of other divers. If you see older or smaller divers who may be at higher risk of falling in full gear while walking across the deck, let them set up closer to the exit point. Alternatively, if you see a group, give them room to set up together. Once you’ve found a good spot to get ready, stow your gear properly in designated areas; don’t throw your mask in a bin labeled “Cameras Only,” keep any loose weights or weight pockets on the deck until you’re ready to don them, and put your dry items in a bag to keep them consolidated in the dry-storage area. Also, make sure any soft gear, such as your mask, fins, snorkel and gear bag, are tucked away under benches to ensure they aren’t trip hazards (and prevent them from being kicked overboard).
After your gear is securely stowed, sit back and enjoy your trip to the dive site. If you’re meeting your buddy for the first time, get to know them. Getting to know your buddy and gauging their experience level and demeanor is important for making sure you’re on the same page about the dive ahead, and sharing and comparing your experience can be done without being intimidating or condescending. Communicating with your buddy can also clue you in to any signs of impending problems. For example, if your buddy is abnormally chatty about a subject or expresses grave concerns during small talk, they might be more likely to panic when you hit the water. Simply communicating with your buddy can prevent a host of accidents, and it can help ensure you enjoy your dives.
Communicating with your dive guides will also go a long way toward keeping you safe and comfortable on your dives. If you have any concerns, an experienced dive guide should be able to help you troubleshoot or remediate them. Even if you don’t have any concerns going into the dive, communicating with your dive guide is a great idea. It puts them at ease because they will be clued in to your demeanor and level of comfort. It gives you an advantage because it enables you to gain pertinent knowledge such as site-specific tips and tricks to make your dive go more smoothly — or the epic history of your dive site.
Whether you’re diving guided or unguided, actively listen to the dive briefing. Not only will your dive guides and boat captains thank you for this, the information relayed in the briefing might end up enhancing your experience or even saving your life. Good dive briefings tell you everything from the most important safety information to where to find the most unique marine life. Paying close attention really can help you get the most out of your dives; you’ll be more comfortable, you’ll know what to look for, and you’ll have fewer issues returning to the boat. And if you’ve listened to the same briefing at the same site you’ve dived countless times, remaining silent keeps others from missing vital information they may not already know.
Once you hit the water, dive etiquette becomes especially important. For your own sake, the sake of your guide and the sake of the dive site, remain situationally aware. Use proper diving techniques for the environment you’re in and follow your guide at a safe distance. For the sanity and safety of other divers in the water with you, be conscious of where you are in the water column and who is nearby. No one wants another diver crashing down on them from above or kicking up sand in their face. Behavior like this not only bothersome to other divers, it’s potentially dangerous.
If you mind your manners throughout the dive, don’t abandon them at the surface on your way back to the boat. Exiting the water after a scuba dive isn’t always a graceful affair, and in some circumstances it can a dangerous challenge. For everyone’s safety and peace of mind, give people room on the ladder. Take care not to rush others who might be struggling, and never position yourself directly behind or underneath anyone on a ladder: A tank to the face will ruin everyone’s afternoon, especially yours. Once everyone is out be responsive to roll calls (project your voice) and get ready for the next activity, whether it’s suiting up for one more dive or heading back to dry land.
Following these simple dive etiquette suggestions may not guarantee companionship, free merchandise or discounts on all future dives, but it might prevent some frustration and help keep everyone on board any dive boat safer and happier.