8 Tricks for a Perfect Descent when Scuba Diving

You’ve executed a perfect giant stride off the boat, or maybe swam out from shore, and now it’s time to descend and start your dive. You hold your inflator hose up, press the exhaust button, but nothing seems to happen and you are still on the surface. You look around and everyone else seems to be having no problems descending, plus now the boat (or shore) crew is calling out to see if you are all right. What to do?

Diver Underwater

Diver Underwater

1- Check your weighting: This needs to be done from shore or the boat, before you even get in the water. As an example, a typical diver in the Northwest diver with a 2-piece 7mm wetsuit or dry suit and steel cylinder would need 10% of their body weight plus 10 pounds to start. Check with your dive leader or open water diver manual for guidance on weighting for your current dive environment.

2- Remember your surface descent method:

  • Signal that you & your buddy are ready to start your dive
  • Orientate yourself on the descent line or buddy for the descent
  • Regulator In. Swap from your snorkel to your regulator
  • Time. Check the start time of your dive
  • Equalize your ears as your go down


3- Body Positioning: You need to be in a head up/feet down position to effectively vent air from your BCD. The BCD cannot vent if you are lying on your stomach or you are not holding your inflator hose up all the way.

4- No Kicking or Sculling: Many divers experiencing problems with their initial descent may be kicking with their fins or rapidly moving their arms (sculling) without realizing it. The kicking and sculling motion act to keep you on the surface.

5- Breath Holding: Keeping an excessive amount of air in your lungs can contribute to difficult descent. Remember to relax, breathe normally, and never hold your breath.

6- Check for the bottom: Once you have begun your initial descent, look down and locate the bottom so that you can gauge your rate of travel.

7- Slow Your Descent: Add small amounts of air to your BCD (or dry suit) to help show your descent. Again, don’t forget to continuously equalize your ears.

8- Avoid Touching the Bottom: Slow your descent enough so that you stop about 2-3 feet from the bottom. Don’t hit or touch the bottom, never “turtle” or land hard to avoid damaging marine life or stirring up substrate.

Now you are neutrally buoyant and ready to continue scuba diving adventure.