Updated: Feb 27, 2020
Recently, after a couple of dives that got a bit hairy with some down current , I was happy to hear divers on both occasions say they had not felt any anxiety during the dive because their briefing had prepared them for that possibility and they had been told how to react. The old saying ‘forewarned is forearmed’ is never truer than in diving, especially when there is the likelihood of strong currents or other hazards. However, safety considerations are not the only important part in a dive briefing. A good briefing will get you excited, increase your enjoyment, avoid silly mistakes and avoid you feeling like an idiot if it’s your first time diving in new conditions or set up.
Here are a few reasons why a complete and thorough dive briefing is so important:
Of course, the briefing needs to cover the safety aspects of the dive. If the divers know what hazards to expect and how to react, in the unlikely event that they occur, they will not only stay much calmer but will also, well, react correctly as they have been instructed, sparing the dive guide and themselves a whole lot of stress!
Thus, a good dive briefing should include a description of potential hazards and how to deal with them, may they be strong current, strong surge, low visibility, trigger fish attacks, boat passage overhead etc. Divers will seldom be scared off by this description but rather feel more confident going in the water with in mind what to do in case of a problem. Reiterating the one-minute rule in case of buddy separation and explaining good ascent technique if this were to happen is always valuable too. The dive guide may want to point out other safety features like an SMB in the pocket of the BCD and remind divers of the name of their boat (in case they had to ascend alone and were picked up by another boat).
Having a complete and thorough safety briefing often avoids many difficult situations underwater and means divers can enjoy their dive feeling way more confident and informed.
# Excitement/ Increased enjoyment
It’s always way more fun to go on a dive when someone has got you all excited about what you may see. If you’ve been told there is the possibility of big pelagics, chances are you’ll keep an eye out on the blue and it might just be you who spots that big shark. Without that information in the briefing, you might have been nudibranch hunting and missed it completely. Expect to be psyched by the briefing, knowing what the coolest best things are you can see on this dive. Your guide may even tell you where to look for specific creatures or warning signs that creatures are about (like banner fish presence for mola mola for instance) so you can join in on the searching and spotting.
# Knowing what’s going on
A good briefing helps you know who is doing what and when. You know who is getting in the water first, how we’re getting in, which direction we’re going in, how deep, maximum time, what the site look like generally ( A wall? A flattish coral garden?) and maybe a few key underwater features to look out for ( a special huge sea fan for example). This means you’re not getting in the way of other groups or boiling in your wetsuit as others go first when everyone gets ready on the boat. You know where and how you’re going to meet on the surface, your descent and ascent techniques, your safety stop protocol so you’re not anxiously looking over at the dive guide to see what they’re doing to be able to follow. It’s nice to know what’s going on!
# Not feeling like an idiot
Especially if it’s your first time diving in certain conditions, and even more so if you are quite a novice diver, having someone explain proper equipment donning protocol and entry and exit techniques will often help prevent embarrassing muddling when getting ready and getting in. If it’s not been said, ask for an explanation, it’s part of a good briefing.
# Getting more out of the dive
A basic environmental briefing on interaction with the aquatic realm should be in there and will increase your enjoyment. How to interact when manta ray diving, what to do when you meet a Mola mola/ big shark/ turtle, how to position yourself to look at small critters and avoid damaging coral, if these apply , they should be covered. A few tips on buoyancy control in general and/or specifics linked to the dive site you’re exploring are always welcome too. A good briefing should give you all the information and tools for you to thoroughly enjoy the dive in a relaxed, safe and respectful way.
# Debriefs are important too!
Debriefs are not just about filling in logbooks. Though this is an important part of the post dive moment, you should also expect to be enlightened!
Indeed, your dive guide can help you find and identify fish and marine creatures that struck you during the dive. You can find their names, maybe in several languages (English and your own is often a winner). What makes the debrief fun is also to hear weird and interesting facts about the marine creatures, their behavioural patterns-like symbiosis and cleaning-or unique features - like a mantis shrimp’s eyes and punch speed. You might get info on where to find some creatures you are interested in even if you didn’t see them that day so you know where to look for them next time. This part of the debrief is a time to learn and share information and fascinating aspects about the aquatic realm. It may also contain conservation advice and warnings, for instance after seing bleached or damaged coral.
You may also want to discuss the equipment you used or the one you saw your guide using, especially if you’re considering buying your own or upgrading.
Finally, especially if you’re quite novice, your guide may offer some tips and advice to improve your dive technique. You might go over a moment in the dive where you didn’t feel quite so comfortable and dissect how you could have anticipated or positioned yourself better to feel more in control and relaxed. This is particularly useful when you are doing several consecutive days of diving and can improve every day.
Next time you're diving, make sure you get a good briefing and if you're thinking of guiding keep this in mind when you prepare and deliver your own briefing and debriefs.