First – everyone should know that he or she only should dive within their limits and conditions they’re comfortable diving in. One shouldn’t underestimate the physically demanding power of a strong current.
If before getting in the water you feel that the current is much stronger than you have experienced before, or feel concerned about the dive briefing, you should tell your buddy or your dive guide!
It could also be that on this specific day there is a current on a dive site which is usually calm, so let’s look at how to behave in such a situation.
If you find yourself in such a situation where a strong current suddenly starts, try to swim close to the bottom, reef, a wreck, whatever is near you. The best is to find shelter behind an object. There you can protect yourself and regain normal breathing if you are tired. If you swim to the bottom, the current is not as strong there as in mid-water. When the current just is too strong and you can find no shelter – end the dive.
As a PADI certified Drift Diver you can also go with the current and turn the dive into a drift dive. Drift dives require a bit of experience, so you know how to handle the current. Also you have the necessary equipment, such as a surface marker buoy or a reef hook! You can’t learn to dive a strong current from reading. It is the experience that will teach you how to handle it.
It could also happen that you are swept away from your dive area and/or your buddy or group. Always remain calm and don’t panic! If the current is really strong or you’re already carried away a good distance, don’t fight it, but swim out of it. Moreover, a lot of currents don’t last for long, so maybe just letting it run its course might work. If none of it helps, end the dive and ascend in a normal pace.
At the surface, fill your BCD and signal your boat where you are with your surface marker (“safety sausage”). When you’re not diving with a boat signal people at the shore where you are and swim back in a steady pace. Don’t swim as if you are about to win an Olympic race and rather reserve your energy. When at the shore, try to find someone of your group and signal them that you’re OK.
We really would recommend to anyone considering diving in an area with currents to do the PADI Drift specialty. It’s really helpful in such situation and also fun in any case. What are your experiences with strong currents? Let us know all about it in the comments!