Skip to content

Mind your diving manners – A refresher on Scuba Etiquette

Diverwire.com contributing writer Stacy Amberson is on fire. Based in Sacramento, California, she’s passionate about diving (and writing) although she doesn’t get in the water as often as she’d like. Here’s her latest feature – today she talks about Diver’s Etiquette.

Webster’s dictionary defines Etiquette as, “personal conduct or behavior as evaluated by an accepted standard of appropriateness for a social or professional setting”.  Basically it’s all about courteous behavior for the good of the group.

There are some general rules of Dive and Dive Boat etiquette that most people follow as a matter of course; it’s how they behave normally.  Many articles, blogs and social forums have addressed this issue however we continue to fall victim to the discourteous diver.

In the interest of dive harmony it warrants another look … maybe from a slightly different perspective:

•    Please be on time; everyone is excited to get underwater and we shouldn’t have to wait on you.  If you can afford scuba you can afford a watch – buy it and use it.

•    Check your gear before you leave home, the shop or hotel.  Make sure you have everything you’re going to need and that it’s all in good working order.   It serves a similar life-preservation function as skydiving equipment and you wouldn’t wait until 10, 000 feet to check your parachute.

•    Stow your gear in a size appropriate bag (this means the smallest bag that will hold all necessary gear) neatly and out of the way when you’re on the boat.  Some of us have trouble navigating the boat upright under ideal circumstances without tripping over your cluttered gear.  Don’t hesitate to lend a hand; if you see someone fully geared up drop a mask, fin, etc. and you can safely grab it for them, do so.

•    And a huge personal pet peeve; you dive with fins on your feet.  Flipper was the dolphin star of an old TV show, adorable and much beloved but was never worn on a diver’s feet.

•    Spray-on sunscreen is a treasure of modern convenience; it is healthy to protect our skin. But please, use it down wind or better yet, before you join the group.  Also remember to use ocean friendly products.  Speaking of products, everyone likes to look their best.  Ladies and a few select gentlemen please come to grips with the fact that diving is not a glamorous sport. Save the hairspray, make-up and for the love of all that is holy the perfume/cologne for after the dive.

•    You can however, contribute to the overall aesthetics on the boat.  Be a pal; discretely give a heads up if you notice someone with nasal matter on their face when they come up from the dive.  Mothers out there – withstand the urge to clean it up for them!  Our kids hate it when we do it to them and an adult diver won’t like it any better.  

•    Resist the urge to argue or fight with your spouse/significant-other on the boat, it makes everyone uncomfortable.  Save it for when you’re in private, and afterward you can move directly to the making up.  Comparatively, the dive boat is not the right forum for a political, religious or opinionated tirade; just because you have a ‘captive audience’ doesn’t mean you have to take advantage of it.  

•    In that same vein; one-up a story and we’ll listen with interest and admire your travel/dive experience.  One-up everyone who speaks and we’ll think you’re a pathetic bore with poor self esteem and request to be on a different boat next time.

•    Please don’t try to be in charge unless the DM or crew requests your help.  You may very well be the most knowledgeable, highly certified, physically fit, geographically erudite, ultimate diver who ever lived but here and now you’re one of the group, so sit back, relax and enjoy it.

•    Follow instructions from the DM or crew on how and when to enter the water, wait your turn and then be ready to go – don’t dawdle.  Some of us are ready to throw you in at that point.

•    Once underwater don’t flail about, remember to move slowly and be aware of your position and that of those around you.  Although an elbow or fin blow to the nose won’t ruin a dive for most of us, it isn’t as good as for instance, spotting a Manta Ray.

•    If the guide or DM points out an item of interest, don’t rush the area like the free cheese give-away on welfare payday.  Move slowly, take turns and let everyone have a chance.  Yes, you may miss it.  That happens sometimes and it’s not the end of the world.  You may feel some minor disappointment but also feel good and slightly superior knowing that you are a courteous diver and people will want to dive with you again.

•    Small, minute fin movements near the bottom or on a swim through; sandstorms happen frequently in the desert countries and are moderately interesting in theory, but most of us choose diving instead.

•    If you are diving with a group, please stay with your group.  We all get caught up in the wonder and beauty of the undersea world but pay attention to your group.  Don’t make them search for you or get so far behind you mistakenly join another group.  In either scenario people are inconvenienced because of your inattention.

•    On a similar note, occasionally there will be something of such magnificent and singular interest that you just have to exceed the planned depth to check it out.  Remember; safety first. Be a good buddy. And contrary to some schools of thought – going deep for the sake of depth does not make you a better diver, tougher, more attractive or in any way increase the size of certain anatomical features.

•    Unwise behavior (rather than breach of etiquette) still causes many an experienced diver to grind their teeth into calcium dust. Please! We’re begging here, if you haven’t mastered buoyancy and/or basic skills don’t bring a huge cumbersome professional sized camera rig into the mix.  You may be Ansel Adams up on top; we respect your talent and will often pay huge sums for mere prints of your work, but underwater you’re still a new diver.  Get some experience and skills under your belt and then bring a boatful of camera gear with our full blessings.

•    At the end of the dive bear in mind that everyone will get a chance to use the ladder or ramp in order to exit the water.  This isn’t a shoe sale where it’s completely acceptable to shove children or the elderly out of your way.  Unless you’re in a low budget horror movie, the ladder or ramp will be there when it’s your turn.

•    Finally, although this topic has been beat to death from both sides, tip your dive crew.  Regardless of the endless arguments either for or against, it’s the right thing to do.  Just do it. Five dollars a tank is appropriate; although more for exceptional service is even better.

•    And not so much dive or dive boat etiquette but just in general because we’re on a roll here.  Foreign countries are going to be different from home.  That’s why most of us travel. Don’t complain about those differences, embrace and learn from them. Respect the locals and their customs. If you are genuinely upset, appalled and morally outraged by the lifestyle and/or traditions, keep it to yourself and find inner peace and contentment with the knowledge that nobody will make you return.  

•    Mistakes happen.  If you do something dumb, be willing to laugh at yourself because the rest of us certainly will.  If you slip-up or make a faux pas, apologize and move on.  No one is perfect and we wouldn’t want to dive with them if they were.  Most of all enjoy yourself, diving is the most wonderful activity and you are one of the fortunate who get to do it.

Read more of Stacy’s Stories here: Stacy Amberson on DiverWire.com

Leave a Comment