South African oceans are rough, so boats that allow you to elegantly ‘giant stride’ your way into the water from a flat dive platform at the stern are basically non-existent here.

Instead our semi-rigid inflatables (RIBs) keep you shoulder-to-shoulder with your dive buddies while gearing up and the only way into the water is by back-roll entry, so best get comfortable with this entry technique ASAP. 

If you haven’t boat dived for a while, here’s a quick refresher on getting into the water without mishap.

  • Do your pre-dive safety check as soon as you’re geared up so that you’re not fumbling during the Skipper’s countdown. I use the acronym BWRAF – Big Waves Really Are Fun – to check my BCD, Weight System, Releases, Air Supply and Fins/FaceMask pre-entry. Leave a little air in your BCD to keep you buoyant for a positive entry.
  • Listen carefully to the Skipper’s briefing about the entry countdown and if you’re not sure of anything, ask. Questions keep everyone safe, no need to be ashamed of wanting clarity.
  • Check your mask strap is securely below the curve at the back of your skull, then place the heel of your hand against your regulator and the fingertips on the top of your mask and hold it gently against your forehead.
  • With your other hand, gather any loose gear attached to your BCD… Go-Pro, gauges, torch and the like… and hold it firm against your chest to avoid getting a nasty knock on the nose as you roll back.
  • Listen for the Skipper’s countdown and roll back on their agreed signal. No need to push off with your feet, your tank’s weight will give you all the momentum you need.
  • Once you are safely upright in the water, check your mask strap again – they often ride up on impact with the water, so re-secure it ASAP.
  • If all is well, let the Skipper know with an “Okay” signal (touching your fist to the top of your head).

What should you be wary of?

There are always two things on my mind as I prepare to back-roll into the water:

  1. being out of sync and risking an injury from another diver’s cylinder if they roll back on top of me. Keep an eye to your left and right and roll back together. Once you are in the water, kick wide of the boat to leave the space clear for anyone who may have hesitated.
  2. Losing my mask due to the strap coming loose as my head meets the water. If you follow my detailed instructions up above about mask-securing, you should escape that fate. 

And that’s it! Let’s hope your next boat dive goes swimmingly