Summer’s here and as you can imagine, this is our busiest time of year. Surprisingly though, the summer is actually not the best time to dive, not here in BC anyway. Oh sure, the sun comes out and so does the desire to jump in the water.
If it’s cool creatures and fish you want to see, then you may want to rethink your summer diving strategy. Of course there are pros and cons to learning to dive this time of year. Consider the following information when planning your Open Water Scuba Course:
Sun is shining, the temperature is nice and warm, spirits are high. Fully wetsuited up and roasting, jumping in the water is the best idea anyone has ever had.
So everyone splashes in, cools off a bit, gathers close and then it’s time to descend. So you deflate your BCD and start going down into the water. Uhhh, hold on, where’d everyone go? Where’d your hands go!!?? Where’d the surface go? The water is so murky that is impossible to see more than a couple feet in front of your face. You can’t even see your own extremities unless you bring them close up to you. It is imperative when descending in these conditions to stay very, very, close to your buddy and your group. It is incredibly easy to get separated in a matter of seconds. The good news is the visibility does clear up. If you can just get past the first 20 ish feet, then you will be rewarded with the fantastic views of all the ocean has to offer and the cool creatures that live there.
The reason this happens in the summertime is because the warm weather cause a bloom of the plankton in the water and run off from the mountains and streams into the ocean. Combine these two factors together and you get very low visibility. The good side is that it is only really bad on the surface and usually clears up past 20-30 feet. Even past these depths however, the visibility is still usually no more than roughly 10-20 feet distance.
The benefit to diving in the summer is that, well, it’s warmer, obviously! What this translates to is the ability to dive using a wetsuit instead of a drysuit. The difference? Besides the obvious that you get wet in a wetsuit and stay dry in a drysuit? A wetsuit is generally more comfortable. There aren’t any tight seals around your wrists and neck and when diving there is no extra air space that can squeeze your body. Because you wear less, taking up less water displacement, you don’t need to wear as much weight to get you down. Drysuits are a bit technical. There is another air space to deal with and different valves to find and adjust. These can be challenging for new divers. Sometimes it can be hard to find the valves when you need to and the air moves around in your suit, which moves you around in the water. When learning to dive, not only is the environment completely foreign, there are so many other things going on, that the less you have to deal with, the less valves and buttons to find and air spaces to deal with the better. This is the number one benefit to diving in the summer it is easier to learn in a wetsuit to concentrate fully on simply scuba diving. Once you have experienced your first few dives, then you can come back in the fall/winter to do your drysuit training when the visibility is better.
Diving in the fall/winter is known in the BC coast dive community as THE time to dive. The window of optimum visibility is from about November to late February. The visibility this time of year is comparable to any tropical destination with 306 degree views ranging from 40-60 feet! The temperature of the water at depth does not actually change that much. At most a couple degrees. It is the temperature at the surface that is the major contributing factor to divers’ warmth before and in between dives. This is when staying cozy and dry is beneficial. To start with, you wear layers of warm clothes, putting the drysuit over top. In a wetsuit, you have to strip down to your bathing suit first to put it on. I don’t need to tell you that this will make you cold in the middle of winter! Not a good way to start a dive. Most people can deal with one dive in the winter in a wetsuit, but once they get out, the cold winter air hits your wet body and it’s like pulling teeth to get the diver to get back in the water! Can’t say I’d blame them really. I love diving and there’s no way I’d get back in! Yes, once you dive in a drysuit, chances are, you will become a drysuit snob and never dive in a wetsuit again. Yes it is more technical and takes time to get used to, but the luxury of staying dry (mostly dry) is worth the extra effort.
So it in one way it is easier to learn in the summer, although it can be less enjoyable as there is less to see. Wait till the winter to see more, but then you also have more gear technicalities to deal with.
What is the best time for you to learn to dive? You are the only one who can make that decision. Do you get claustrophobic easily? How well do you manage rising stress levels in tough situations? Can you deal with multiple issues and remain calm? Asking yourself these kinds of questions can help you get the most enjoyable diving experience by choosing the best time of year to learn to dive.
Nicole Nautical Lion Riggler