Aug 2014

Plan to Dive, Dive to Plan

By Mike Waddington

SCUBA diving is an adventure sport, this means that there are added risks to it that other sports may not include. Whenever taking part in any sport or activity with added hazards it is essential that you take everything possible into consideration so that the risk or injury is as low as possible. There is a famous saying in SCUBA diving “Plan to dive, dive to plan”. I have heard it used many times by many different divers all over the world, but what does it mean? If you are planning to go SCUBA Diving then you need to come up with and plan, and when you actually go for the dive you follow the plan exactly as you made it. The plan should always include a contingency so if something out of your control does go wrong then you can still keep safe and comfortable.

But how do we plan for a dive? For most people they plan to go diving, go to a dive shop or club and let them sort out the rest. But many divers like to head off with their buddy, away from the crowds to give them that real sense of adventure.

When coming up with a plan there are several things to take into account, here is a quick guide to get you started with some aspects of dive planning.

Diving Location

Deciding where you want to dive is going to be the first thing you normally start with. Once the diving destination has been decided you need to work out how to get there, look into information about the best time to dive. Different places work better at different tides, and some places are almost impossible to dive while the water level is rising or falling. If you need to organise a boat to take you out, this will need to be done well in advance. If you are planning on diving out at sea the conditions can often be unfavourable. It is a good idea to plan a backup site, or even two so if conditions don’t meet the expectations then you can still go diving.

Dive Team

We never dive alone, and usually even as a solo diver we want to be with another diver in case things go wrong. It is nice to get a group of people together, more people underwater means more eyes on everyone all the time. Although all the agencies say you need another diver with you, if you are heading away from land just with a group of friends I would recommend having a team of three or four divers, and at least one person as surface support. This can be the boat captain but it is always good to have the captain plus one more. This way if there are any emergencies and the surface support does have to get in the water, the captain can always move the boat to meet the dive team.

Scuba Equipment

If you are planning a dive trip you need to get everything sorted well in advance, and this includes checking you gear. There is nothing more annoying than turning up to a dive site to realise that your fin strap has broken and you don’t have another. Read Be Prepared, Pack a Spares Kit for a guide on what to take with you as a suitable spares kit. If you are taking anything electronic check its function level before, and have spare batteries or at least a spare piece of equipment to replace it if it dies. Although this isn’t suitable with dive computers as they keep track of your nitrogen loading. I prefer to dive with two computers in case one of them runs out of battery mid dive.

Dive Emergencies

What do you do in case of an emergency? You should write up an Emergency Action Plan, like you do I your Rescue Diver course. This should include a plan on how to evacuate divers to the nearest medical facility, a script of what to say when calling the emergency services, a list of contact details for the emergency services and a list of steps to dealing with and emergency once first aid has been administered. All the divers should be first aid trained ideally, but more importantly the surface cover needs to be both trained in first aid and also Rescue Diving. This way if there are any problems then they know what they need to do. Also you need to make sure you have enough emergency equipment to get a diver into a medical facility. Apart from carrying a well-stocked first aid kit you need enough Oxygen to get at least one diver to the nearest medical facility, with time to spare. DAN (Divers Alert Network) make some nice and affordable portable Oxygen kits, hopefully you will never need to use it, but it needs to be there for every dive, and regularly check the pressure to make sure it isn’t draining over time.

The list of things to plan for a dive is almost endless. There is always more things to think about and the deeper you get into it the more you realise needs to be sorted. This is one of the main reasons many divers choose to dive with a dive shop or club. But there is nothing more satisfying than organising an expedition and it playing out flawlessly. But you have to remember that things don’t always play out as you intended, which is why it is important to have a contingency plan. For me the planning aspect is just as fun as the dive itself, especially when you find yourself with a good team who share the responsibly equally.

‘Plan to Dive, Dive to Plan’ was written by Mike

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!


PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia