Passive Communication and Scuba Diving

US Navy 110615-N-OT964-323 Chief Navy Diver Ry...

US Navy 110615-N-OT964-323 Chief Navy Diver Ryan Oakley, right, assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1, and a Pakistan Navy diver give an OK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What Is Passive Communication?


Passive communication is communication that does not require or provoke a response. During open water certification, student divers typically learn active communication, which involves the use of hand signs, light signals, written notes, or signals made with an underwater communication device such as a noisemaker. Passive communication is more subtle, and relies on factors such as diver positioning and movement. Members of a dive team with strong passive communication skills can confirm that all team members are present, breathing, and calm without using hand signals or otherwise disrupting the flow of the dive.


Types of Passive Underwater Communication:




By far the most effective type of passive communication is positioning.


During an open water dive, buddies should maintain a side-by-side or a slightly staggered position in a team of two, or a staggered position in a team of three. Divers determine which diver will be on the left/right before the dive, and maintain this positioning whenever possible. Buddies stay within each other’s peripheral vision and no more than a few feet from each other. As long as a dive buddy stays in position, he is “okay” and no communication is needed. However, the moment he moves from his teammate’s peripheral vision, active communication is needed.


For example, if one buddy stops to check out an interesting fish, the other should immediately notice that his buddy has stopped swimming and turn to establish visual contact with the buddy. The buddy can then point out the fantastic fish. Another example is a diver who stops to solve a problem. He will lag behind and fall out of position. His teammate(s) should notice, stop, and communicate with the lagging diver to solve the problem.


Following and Leading Properly


A second form of passive communication is accomplished by a diver fulfilling his role as either a leader or a follower. Before a dive, the buddy team should determine which diver will be leading and which diver(s) will be following. The leading diver establishes direction and swim pace, but the following divers also have an important role to play. They must be attentive to the leader and adjust their positioning to his. If one diver wishes to change direction, ascend, or modify the team’s movement in any way, he communicates his wish with the dive leader. The leader then communicates the adjustment with any other divers, and modifies his actions to accommodate the requested change. As long as no changes are required by the following diver he stays in position, passively communicating with the leader that everything is okay and that he approves of the navigation and pace.


 Passive Light Communication


Passive light communication is of great use on night dives and on dives where visibility is reduced.


Passive light communication works similarly to passive positioning communication. Divers take care to direct their light beams so that they are clearly visible to all team members. Divers use their lights to illuminate the area in front of the dive team. A diver should be able to see his teammates’ lights without turning or glancing over his shoulder. Divers should react immediately if a light disappears.


Besides light position, light movement is a good form of passive communication. Light movement (as opposed to light signals), is the manner in which a diver shines his light beam around the dive site. A diver’s light beam should move slowly and smoothly as he looks around. By moving his light beam calmly and deliberately, and by returning his light beam to position in front of the dive team every few moments, a diver passively communicates that all is okay. Jerky, uncontrolled movements indicate a problem.


Touch Contact


Any diver who faces the possibility of extremely reduced visibility  should be familiar with touch contact signals. Of course, there are both active and passive forms of touch contact communication. Active touch contact communication includes pushes, pulls, and hand movements to indicate stop, start, and entanglement. Passive communication is accomplished by the following diver maintaining a firm but calm grip on the leading diver’s leg or arm to communicate that he is in position and that all is well.


Ascents and Descents


Passive communication on ascents and descents requires a concentrated effort from all the members of a dive team. In open water, buddies should descend and ascend facing each other, maintaining visual contact between team members, and adjusting ascent/descent rates so that team members stay within a few feet of each other for the entire depth change. As long as the divers maintain this positioning, all can be assumed to be okay and the divers may proceed with the ascent or descent. In the event of a problem, face-to-face positioning allows the issue to be easily communicated.


The Take-home Message about Passive Communication in Scuba Diving:


Efficient passive communication is rarely taught in open water certification courses, but it is worth perfecting. Passive communication makes diving more efficient by eliminating unnecessary signalling and improves dive safety by encouraging stronger buddy awareness.




Tips for Putting on a Wetsuit More Easily


Women in wet suits

Women in wet suits (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Unfortunately, wetsuits do not fit like clothes. For it to work properly, a scuba diving wet suit should essentially make contact with your whole body. It also does not slide on easily, like our clothes, so it can be a challenge to make sure it is put on properly.


Here are some simple steps so you know how to put on a scuba diving wet suit properly.


  1. Put both legs in and pull the suit up over your thighs.(Note: If you help your heel in by pulling out the bottom of the leg (you should be sitting to do this) it will put less strain on your seams). Pull on the shin area to adjust the ankle area. Pull on the knee area to adjust the shin area. Pull on the thigh area to adjust the knees. Basically you are working out each roll as you move up.
  2. Pull up on the thigh area up to your crotch. This is where most of the problems arise. If the wetsuit isn’t pulled snug enough into the crotch, it will feel too short and the wetsuit will pull at your shoulders. So make that wetsuit nice and snug at the crotch. An essential step in how to put on a wetsuit properly.
  3. Work the arms in the same way as you did your legs. Gently pull the suit up your arms and then lift it onto your chest. The armpit should also be like the crotch area, nice and snug to give you more range of movement and comfort.


Some Wetsuits Are Simply Too Tight


Indication that a wetsuit is too tight include:


  • If a wetsuit restricts breathing or blood flow, it is too small
  • If a wetsuit squeezes uncomfortably around the neck, it is too small.
  • If the wetsuit is stretched so tightly that the material no longer conforms to the wearer’s body, it is too small.. Water will circulate in the suit and it will not keep the diver as warm as a properly fitting suit would.
  • If the wetsuit material is pulled so tightly over the diver’s body that it is stretched thin in places, the suit is too small. The over-stretched material will not keep the diver as warm as he would be in a properly fitting suit.




A Few Good Tricks for Squeezing into Snug Wetsuit


  1. 1.       The Plastic Bag Trick


Place a plastic grocery bag around your foot before sliding it into your wetsuit. Once your foot is through the wetsuit leg, remove the bag and repeat the process with the other foot, and then each hand. The plastic bag helps the neoprene to slide easily over your skin.


  1. 2.        Blow into the Wetsuit


This trick requires a willing dive buddy. Once your hand is through the wetsuit sleeve, have your dive buddy lift the edge of the wrist seal and blow a bubble of air into the suit. This breaks the suit’s contact with your skin and helps the rest of the sleeve to slide into place.


  1. 4.       Start with the Wetsuit Inside Out


Turn the offending wetsuit completely inside out, and put one foot through the ankle of the reversed suit. Roll the suit up your leg slowly, and repeat with the other leg, the torso, and finally the arms.


  1. 5.       Put on the Wetsuit in the Water


If convenient, jump into the water with the wetsuit and pull the suit on in the water. Whenever the suit sticks, pull it away from your body to allow water to break the seal between the suit and your body.


  1. 6.       Use a Commercially Available Dive Skin (or Pantyhose and a Leotard)


Most wetsuit  manufacturers  sell  thin  lycra “dive skins”. Dive skins cover a diver from ankle to wrist, and provide protection from jellyfish and coral. When used under a wetsuit, dive skins aid in donning and removing the suit by preventing the suit from sticking to the diver’s skin.


Before dive skins were widely available, many divers used pantyhose (yes, even the men) and long-sleeved leotards to help slide on wetsuits. If you ever see a diver on a boat wearing pantyhose, don’t laugh!  Chances are he has been diving much longer than you.


  1. 7.       Use a Water-Based Lubricant


Water-based lubricants may also help a diver to put his wetsuit on more easily. The diver spreads a small amount of lubricant on his wrists and ankles to help them slide through the tightest parts of the wetsuit. KY Jelly works well as a wetsuit lubricant, but any water-based lubricant may be applied as necessary. However, take care never to use an oil-based lubricant (such as petroleum jelly); oil-based lubricants will degrade the neoprene wetsuit material.


  1. 8.       Have Zippers Installed


Installing zippers in a wetsuit’s ankles and wrists makes donning the suit much easier. Many dive gear manufacturers already produce wetsuits with zippers at the wrists and ankles. However, if you already own a suit without sippers, a wetsuit tailor or custom wetsuit designer may be able to install zippers for you. Be warned, after-market zippers allow greater water circulation, reducing the wetsuit’s thermal protection. Ankle and wrist zippers are also an extra failure point — they may wear out or break.


What Techniques Are Bad Ideas?


  1. 1.       Soap, Detergents, Shampoos, and Conditioners


Soap, detergents and other solutions that are not biodegradable should not be used with wetsuits, as some of the liquid will invariably leak from the wetsuit into the water. Even biodegradable detergents and soaps may irritate or dry out a diver’s skin. These solutions may also affect the wetsuit’s neoprene.


  1. 2.       Oil-Based Products


Neoprene can be damaged by oil-based products such as petroleum jelly or oil-based lubricants. Never use oil, grease, or any oil-based compound to aid in sliding on a wetsuit.