When we are in control we descend slowly allowing our air spaces time to equalize as the pressure changes this included your mask and your ears. Descending to fast can make equalization difficult and cause discomfort in your ears.
We also want to make sure we are controlling our decent to avoid damaging the coral or other marine life below. It also helps to learn how to control your buoyancy throughout the dive so we dont damage any marine organisms. And lastly we want to avoid ‘crash’ landing on the bottom because this could stir up sediment below. This can make the visibility become cloudy which is no fun for anyone.
Get S.O.R.T.E.D and perform a 5-point descent
Signal – Before you start you descent signal to your dive buddy or group leader that you are OK and ready to descent. Use the thumbs down sign and make sure all divers are ready to descend before you go under.
Orientation – Take a second to look at the horizon, beach or other fixed point on shore to gain a sense of orientation. Put your face in the water and look below for a more oriented path towards the reef, think about where you want to go before you start. You can also use a compass at the surface to orient yourself and keep that heading underwater.
Regulator – Make sure your regulator is in your mouth and take a few breaths to make sure your air is open. You should always check your air on the boat during the pre-dive safety check but it never hurts to do a final check before you descent. If you are using a snorkel at the surface always remember to switch your snorkel to regulator before you descend.
Time – Take a look at your watch or dive computer and check the time before you descend. Make sure that your computer is active and showing the time before your dive.
Elevate – Lift up your BCD deflator hose and elevate it above your head. Release all the air from your BCD and let go of the hose, exhale and start you descent.
Descend – Look down, think down and go down is what I always tell my students. A controlled descent it much easier if you are looking forward and following the descent rate of the group, while keeping an eye on the reef below. As you are approaching the reef start adding air to your BCD to compensate your decrease in buoyancy due to the increasing water pressure around you.
What to avoid
Avoid falling through the water butt first. Orient yourself at the surface and look where you want to go. Dont forget you can still use your body underwater so orient yourself in a position with your feet below, with a slight tilt or lean forward so you can see the bottom and your group.
Avoid pain and discomfort in your ears by equalizing early and often before you start to feel the squeeze. Signal your buddy or group leader if your having trouble equalizing.
Avoid damaging corals by practicing you buoyancy in the pool before you dive and by keeping your eyes on the reef while you descent. The most common mistake new divers make is descending to quickly, in an uncontrolled butt first descent which can lead to divers damaging sensitive marine habitat.