5 Steps for a Controlled Descent

Scuba diving controlled descent

A controlled descent when scuba diving, will relieve your anxiety, help you equalize, help keep you safe and conserve air. There is nothing quite like the feeling of arriving at a dive site and peering into the water. Is the visibility good? What lies beneath? Divers are eager to get into the water and explore the undersea world.   By controlling our descent, scuba divers are better able to equalize and less likely to damage coral, scare away marine life or stir up sand. 

A controlled descent is another aspect of your dive portfolio.  Remember the PADI acronym S.O.R.T.E.D. and follow the tips below to ensure you complete a controlled descent every time you scuba dive.

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A controlled descent – S.O.R.T.E.D

SIGNAL – Gather with your buddy and signal you are ready to begin your descent by making a fist and pointing your thumb down.  Ensure your buddy signals ok in return.

ORIENTATION – Orient yourself by looking at your surroundings and note any fixed landmarks. Check your compass headings and finally look down into the water ensuring you have a clear path for your descent and know where you are about to dive.

REGULATOR – Switch from your snorkel to your regulator.  Something I have missed on more than one occasion, generally when there is a group of us going down a mooring line and I’m at the back, conserving air with my snorkel in! It never takes me long to realize my mistake and switch to my regulator!

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TIME – Look at the time, though now our dive computers display the time and the length of our dive.

EQUALIZE/ELEVATE – Elevate your low-pressure inflator hose and begin to equalize your ears.

DEFLATE – Release air from your BCD (buoyancy compensator), exhale and begin your controlled descent. As you descend remember to equalize and check your buoyancy, becoming neutrally buoyant as you approach the dive site.

When I first did a free descent, I didn’t even descend but bobbed around just under the surface.  I have come a long way since then.  I practiced my controlled descent using a line until I was able to comfortably manage a free descent.  Everyone has their own style and I have watched and learned. 

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My 5 Tips for a controlled descent

1/ Buoyancy check and weights for a contolled descent

Do a buoyancy check and get your weights right.  If you are underweighted it can be an exhausting struggle to get down.  If you are overweighted you will sink very quickly, not having time to equalize properly, or you may lose control of your descent.

2/ Vertical and relaxed for a controlled descent

Remain vertical and relax. As you deflate your BCD exhale and begin your descent. If you are having difficulty sinking, try your dump valve. It will release air quickly, so short sharp pulls, I find it easier to release trapped air this way. Many divers swim down, expending a lot of energy and using a lot of air. My golden rule – conserve air.  When I perfected my free descent, I saved 30 to 50 bar which is another 15 minutes under water.

3/ Lesson water resistance for a controlled descent

As you descend, point your fins slightly downwards, bend your legs a little. This position will keep you in control and lesson water resistance saving energy and air.

4/ Exhale for a controlled descent

Use your breath, concentrating on smaller inhales and bigger exhales.  Be conscious of your buoyancy and the environment around you.  Become neutrally buoyant before you touch the bottom.

5/ Use the anchor line for a controlled descent

The mooring or anchor line gives you some stability while you are learning. Do your descent next to the line and use it if necessary to help pull yourself down. This is especially applicable if there is current or if equalizing is an issue.    

Once you reach the dive site, let go and slowly fin away and enjoy your dive.

It’s never too late – TAKE THE DIVE WITH TANYA

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Published by emptynestdiver

Learning to dive in my fifties has been a great adventure, I am a senior scuba diver but young at heart.

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