Scuba diving has been around longer than most people might realize. The underwater activity stretches all the way back to ancient Roman and Greek times when people used things like hollow plant stems to help them stay submerged for longer.
It’s safe to say we have come a long way since then. Instead of using makeshift devices to prolong our time in the water, we now use much more sophisticated pieces of equipment like scuba tanks, full face snorkel masks, and buoyancy devices to aid with dives.
Another way we have evolved the art of diving is how we actually enter the ocean or body of water. In the past, divers would simply gear up on the beach or shoreline and walk into the ocean. In modern times, however, this technique has changed quite a lot.
If you’ve ever seen scuba divers in real life, movies, or TV shows, they all have one thing in common: the way they enter the water. More often than not scuba divers will start their dive by falling back off the side of the boat into the water. But why do scuba divers dive backwards? Today, we look to answer that very question.
Why Do Scuba Divers Fall Backwards? The Three Main Reasons
So, why do scuba divers dive backwards? Well, if you ask any dad out there, they’ll tell you, “because if you fall forward you’ll land in the boat”. All jokes aside, there are actually a few reasons as to why scuba divers choose this specific technique when they go on dives.
It Helps to Keep Your Equipment in Check
One of the reasons why scuba divers choose to enter the water by performing a backwards dive is to protect their equipment.
This method, which is actually known as the ‘Backward Roll Entry Technique’, is usually used on smaller boats called RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats), which are not particularly stable in the water.
In the world of scuba diving, before you enter the water it is essential that you have all of your gauges and regulators positioned correctly around your body. The last thing you would want to happen is to have your breathing apparatus knocked out of your mouth just as you enter the water.
If you were to dive forward face-first, there is a high chance that the force of the impact could knock pieces of your equipment loose. If this were to happen, the diver could potentially start to panic, and you certainly don’t want that during a dive.
By using the backward roll entry technique, you ensure that you enter the water with all your equipment properly attached. Well-trained divers will even go a step further and place the palm of their hand on the regulator while holding their fingertips on the goggles to ensure they stay in place.
Diving Backwards Helps Prevent Injury
Another reason why scuba divers choose to go in backwards is to prevent injury as they enter the water. One thing to keep in mind about scuba diving is the fact that the equipment used can be quite heavy.
A regular steel cylinder tank with a capacity of 80 cubic feet weighs between 28 to 30 pounds, which is quite a lot of weight to be lugging around. Now imagine diving face-first into the ocean with all that weight pushing down on your back. Not only could it cause injury, but it can be quite disorientating.
Another benefit to using this technique is that your tank is the first thing to touch the water, which then breaks the surface tension of the water and gives you a much smoother entry.
If you’ve ever done a belly-flop into a swimming pool, even from just a few feet high, you’ll know how much it hurts to enter the water stomach or face first. Now try doing a belly-flop with 28 to 30 pounds strapped to your back, and you quickly see why it’s such a big injury risk.
It Helps to Keep the Boat Stable
If you’ve ever been on a RIB before, you’ll know that they’re not the most stable of boats, especially in rough or choppy waters.
If you add three or four standing divers along with all their equipment to an already unstable platform like a RIB, you can see how things can get quite chaotic.
Having each of the divers seated on the side of the boat as they fall back significantly increases stability, thus making for a more enjoyable time for everyone involved.
How to Perform the Backward Roll Entry Technique
Now that you know why divers fall backwards, let us take a look at how to perform the backward roll entry technique.
- Ensure that all of your gear is in working condition. This includes things like your full face snorkel or scuba mask and regulator.
- Take a seat on the side of the boat with your back facing the ocean.
- Keep your legs and ankles crossed while in the seated position. This will help keep your legs together as you fall back into the water.
- Once you are seated with your legs and ankles crossed, perform a final check of your equipment to ensure all hoses and gauges are properly attached, especially around your face and chest. Also, make sure that your buoyancy device is inflated to the correct pressure.
- Place the palm of your right hand over the regulator to ensure that it doesn’t pop out of your mouth during entry. With the same hand, place the tips of your fingers over your scuba mask to secure it to your face.
- Place your left hand on the back of your head to ensure the mask strap is securely fastened. This also makes sure that you don’t accidentally hit the back of your head on your oxygen tank.
- Before falling back, make sure that the water behind you is clear of any obstructions. This is especially important if someone has just dived before you. The captain or dive master will always let you know when it is safe to dive, but it’s also good practice to give a quick glance over your shoulder to make sure the coast is clear.
- Once you receive the green light from the captain or dive master, you can finally perform the backward roll entry technique. Firmly tuck your chin into your chest, cross your legs, and simply fall back. It is important not to throw yourself back into the water. Doing so will throw you into an unwanted flip as your legs roll over your head, which can be quite disorientating. Instead, let gravity do the work for you!
- Once you’ve made it into the water with no issues, return to the surface to give the dive master a thumbs up. Then clear the area surrounding the boat to avoid any unfortunate collisions.
Why Do Divers Dive Backwards? Final Thoughts
The art of scuba diving has come a long way since its inception. The equipment, along with the different techniques and rules surrounding the activity has evolved to a point where it is arguably one of the safest hobbies to take up.
Scuba Diving is not only a great hobby, but reports suggest it can have a positive impact on your mental health. If you’re looking to pick up scuba diving as a pastime, check out our list of the best and most affordable diving watches to help keep track of how long you’ve been exploring the depths of the ocean.