In scuba, there exists something called drift diving. To many, it’s a whole different kind of experience which completely changes the dive. Generally speaking, a drift dive takes place when the current, or water movement is so strong, that one doesn`t even swim to reach a destination. The diver in question just crosses his or her arms, maintains good posture in the water, then lets the current do the rest.
To understand drift, one first has to have knowledge of currents; this is taught on most Padi Open Water courses, and then in even more detail on the advanced / Divemaster levels.
A current, simply put, is a continuous, directed movement of water generated by various factors including (but certainly not limited to) the effects of wind, positioning on the globe, water depth and weather patterns.
In terms of drift diving, current is crucial to take participants over a much greater distance in a shorter space of time. Drifts also provide opportunities for varying underwater encounters. Big shoals and large pelagic fish such as rays and sharks often use strong drifts as passage.
A memorable scene in Pixar`s `Finding Nemo` depicts sea turtles as using a drift to `surf` their way down the great barrier, which is precisely the reason that many divers enjoy drift so much…the adrenaline rush that comes from such experiences is un-matched.
But current isn`t always welcome in diving; for beginners, current can be something of a nightmare…often, one finds fighting a strong current fairly exhausting, not to mention the body positioning that is required to reduce `drag` in the water (much in the way a racing car is streamlined to minimise resistance from the air…the same goes for divers underwater)
I decided to mention this today as, currents, as exhilarating/difficult as they can be, are unpredictable. A site can have ripping water movement one moment, then only an hour later, nothing at all; all this, due to the wonders of nature on earth.
This morning, Karang Divers took some advanced divers to a site just off the south coast of Gili Trawangan. After conducting our briefing and buddy check, we noticed how strong the current seemed on the surface, but once in the water, it became clear that diving in such a turbid drift was not going to be possible.
As a Padi professional, one is taught to always exercise caution (this is something our Divemaster candidates will be learning from next week when they arrive), not to mention, a healthy dose of good judgement. Safety has to come first, after all, diving though an adventure, is meant to be fun.
This is something that we at Karang Divers, and I am sure every dive outfit on Gili Air, practices. Knowing your customer`s experience level, gauging their comfort in the water, and making careful decisions is drummed into us at every level. Indeed, an IDC at our neighbouring dive shop is taking place right now, which is a test of new instructors to ensure they have passed all levels and standards set by their governing body (in this case, Padi). In fact, the main reason that Instructor candidates fail their practical assessments is due to lack of safety in the water.
Lets not forget that diving at times has a bad reputation…the last thing the industry needs is new instructors taking undue risks in the water. In conclusion, Drifts are great, and the same can be said of general current; as long as everyone involved knows how to manage themselves effectively in the water…that’s all that really matters in the long run.