Diving in Strong Currents

Diving in Strong Currents

Some of the most exciting diving is accomplished in moving water. Don't let currents shake your confidence. Never swim against a strong current. Learn the technique of drift diving from a qualified instructor, and swim the opposite way.


  1. Assess the visual pattern of currents before diving.
  2. Ask a knowledgeable local resident about an unfamiliar dive site. Usually fishermen and surfers are the best for this (promise each you'll stay away from fish and waves, respectively).
  3. Enter the water and descend to the bottom, where the current is milder and there are more interesting things to see.
  4. Begin the dive by swimming into the current.
  5. Streamline your body to reduce water resistance.
  6. Swim slowly.
  7. Return to the exit point before exhaustion occurs.
  8. Use the water's force to usher you toward the exit point when you turn back.

The ocean water moves around all over the globe all the time. The tides, weather and wind dictates the direction and the strength of these movements. The moon and the sun is what are ultimately responsible and there is nothing we can do about it. Besides, drift diving is some of the easiest diving you can do. YOu just flow with the current. Many places like Cozumel, the current basically goes in one direction. The strong currents you read about in places like Indonesia are not nearly so uniform. They pour around an island, or they flow over the top and down the reef, or upwell pushing you to the surface. You can get all different directions in one dive. In that environment, you're just getting from point A to B meaning you couldn't put your fin rockets to too much good. Sometimes current is good, sometimes current is bad.

Knowledge and planning is the only weapon we have to make the best out of the situation. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Your guide is responsible for checking the currents and plan the dives in a safe and enjoyable way. You might use a line with a small weight next to the boat to find out the general direction of the current. Or maybe there are a lot of jellyfish in the water to give you a hint. Sometimes it’s enough to watch the surface and it’s obvious. Anyway it’s good to have an idea where to start your current check before you get into the water.

In an estuary, study a tide table and dive at slack tide (the time surrounding a high or low point). Keep an eye on the time so the increasing current doesn't catch you unawares.


  • Beware of rip currents in the ocean (usually identified by a line of frothy, turbid water moving in a line away from shore). If caught up in one, don't panic; swim parallel to shore until you escape it.
  • Never swim against a strong current. Learn the technique of drift diving from a qualified instructor, and swim the opposite way.
Last Updated on Friday 17th December 2010