Basic Skills

How to Prepare for your First Night Dive

Scuba Diver Underwater at Night

Exploring the underwater world at night can be even more incredible than diving during the day.



Night diving is one of the most magical experiences you can have as a diver. But diving in the dark does require a little extra preparation to stay safe. Here are five tips to get you ready.

1. Be Gear Savvy

Night dives include equipment you might not use during the day, such as underwater flashlights and tank strobes. Be sure to install the batteries, check the bulbs and familiarize yourself with how these items work beforehand so you’re not fumbling in the dark.

2. Give Yourself A Hand

Hand signals are hard to see at night, so night divers use their flashlights for modified signals. For example, wave the beam of your flashlight on the bottom in front of your buddy (never in the eyes) to get her attention.

3. Dive It During The Day

The best way to prepare for a night dive is to explore the site during the day beforehand. You’ll know the layout of the reef, your entry and exit points, and exactly which sections of the dive site you want to see.

4. Brush Up On Compass Skills

During the day, it’s easy to navigate by underwater landmarks in good visibility. At night, you’ll only see the patch of reef illuminated by your flashlight, so your compass is the most reliable way to get around.

5. Practice Going Slowly

Slower is always better underwater. You breathe less air and see more when you take your time. That goes double for night diving. Not to mention that getting lost or having to make a long surface swim can quickly turn from frustrating to dangerous in the dark.

How to Prepare for your First Night Dive Read More »

Dive Hacks: Tips for Wreck Diving

Diver near wrecks in Morehead City, North Carolina

Tanya Burnett

Shipwreck fanatic (aka metal head) Robert Purifoy talks wreck diving.

Shipwrecks are magnetic to divers. Mysterious, poignant and sometimes haunting, sunken ships have compelled humankind since we first figured out a way to breathe underwater. There’s something seductive about the hidden treasures they harbor in their rusty bellies, and some of the world’s most popular dive destinations owe their fame to wrecks.

From the historic warships of Chuuk Lagoon, Palau, Bikini Atoll and the Scapa Flow to the man-made attractions of the Florida Keys, New Zealand, Grand Cayman and Australia, the draw of artificial reefs is global. But sunken ships pose unique challenges to divers, including the potential for entanglement in fishing line, laceration by sharp metal or becoming lost deep in their bowels. Specific training and equipment are prudent when attempting any wreck dive, and there’s no quick and easy substitute for experience.

Robert Purifoy of Olympus Dive Center in Morehead City, North Carolina, has been intrigued by shipwrecks since before he was old enough to become certified. As the son of North Carolina pioneer George Purifoy, who was instrumental in discovering such famous regional sites as the U-352 and the USS Schurz, he started working on dive boats at age 10, earned his instructor rating in 1990, and now runs charters as captain of the 65-foot Olympus.

“The older shipwrecks that were true warships and have a history are fascinating to me,” says Purifoy. “Other wrecks I like for the marine life that congregates around them. Artificial or historic — every wreck has its own unique appeal.”

His backyard on the fabled Outer Banks of North Carolina boasts wrecks sunk on purpose and by tragic events, and offers a variety of challenges, from depth to size, condition and beyond.

“The U-352 is my favorite wreck, for sure. It’s easy to navigate and one of those bucket-list dives because of the history,” Purifoy says. “Another favorite is one of the newer ships that was sunk as an artificial reef, the USCGC Spar, because it’s got a lot of relief, sits close to the Gulf Stream for consistent good visibility, and is usually inhabited by quite a few sand tiger sharks.”

It’s a world-class training ground for wreck divers— here are four choice lessons from Purifoy’s logbook.


Wreck diving can become complicated and strenuous. Before your next expedition (or local artificial reef ) consider the added benefit of taking a specialty course, having your gear serviced and increasing your normal workout.

“A little preparation goes a long way, and training is the first step,” Purifoy says. “We always recommend that people come out early and do a shallow warm-up dive to make sure they have their weight right, their computer is working properly, and there’s nothing else that might cause them to miss the dive. There’s nothing more disappointing than making it to that bucket-list wreck dive and everything goes as planned except for you.”


Finding out the layout and back story of a sunken ship can aid in navigation, clue you in to cool features and create a deeper appreciation for what you’re experiencing. Purifoy says your best source for information is always the local dive professionals, who have likely explored most every inch of the wrecks in their region.

“Knowing the history of the ship makes it come alive,” says Purifoy. “Beyond that, it helps you to set goals or objectives for your dive. Otherwise, you might surface and hear everyone else on the boat saying, ‘Wow, did you see that big propeller?’ And you’re thinking, ‘What propeller?’”


Although there’s no substitute for proper buoyancy (which should be perfected before attempting a penetration), inside a wreck (after the proper training), limiting the amount of kicking you do will decrease the risk of a siltout or debris falling from an overhead environment.

“When penetrating a wreck that has a good water flow and visibility, I use a pull-and-glide technique as opposed to kicking,” says Purifoy. “It’s a technique that cave divers often use where you reach out and carefully take a handhold to give yourself a pull and just glide. If it’s a tight space where there’s not a lot of water moving, I use a very careful frog kick.”


The rigors of wreck diving require specialized gear to solve specific problems. Packing along a bright light to illuminate the dark corners, a clean slate to diagram structural features, a reel and line to mark your path through winding corridors, and a sharp cutting tool to shred potential entanglements can increase your safety and enjoyment.

“With the proper training, I recommend a stage bottle, especially for penetration,” Purifoy says. “In addition, I recommend a dual-outlet-valve system where you have two first stages, so if you were to have a hose get cut or break, you could turn one of those valves off and still have a fully independent scuba unit to complete your dive.” His redundancy strategy can be carried over into other accessories as well, from dive computers to torches. “I always dive with at least two computers, or at least a computer and a secondary timing device,” says Purifoy. “And keep in mind that your backup light needs to be as good as your primary light because it may become your primary light.”


The right tools — including a multipurpose cutting tool—increase your safety when wreck diving.


Cressi Alligator

Courtesy Cressi

This clever unit combines the strength of a knife with the utility of scissors in a single compact package (6.5 inches in length) that can fit comfortably inside most BC pockets. For added function, the blade is serrated to increase its bite and the shears are spring-loaded for easy use with gloves. Plus, it’s built from corrosion-resistant stainless steel, offers rubber handle inserts to ensure a positive grip, and stows neatly into a low-profile molded sheath.

MSRP $74.95; INFO

Dive Hacks: Tips for Wreck Diving Read More »

5 Tips to Streamline Gear for Easy Diving

Wearing just enough weight underwater allows your BC to save air.


Wearing just enough weight underwater allows your BC to save air

Staying streamlined underwater has many benefits, from reducing your risk of snagging hoses on delicate corals to improving air consumption by reducing drag as you swim. Follow these five tips to help stay sleek on your next dive.

  1. CARRY ONLY WHAT YOU NEED: Loading down the D-rings with so much gear you look like a Christmas tree is a common mistake divers make. Instead of clipping on every gadget you own for every dive, be selective according to your dive plan. Shallow reef ? Leave the stage bottle behind. Wreck penetration?
    Trade your fish ID cards for a reel and dive lights.

  2. MINIMIZE AND SECURE HOSES: Never leave your hoses hanging, and cut out extra hoses when you can. For example, using a computer with a remote air sensor will eliminate the need for a high-pressure hose. Otherwise, make sure your octopus and gauges are clipped securely to your BC, with the hoses routed properly under your arms.

  3. STOW THE SNORKEL: For many divers, a snorkel can be cumbersome underwater, and a snag hazard. Sure, your open-water instructor said it was required equipment. But honestly, when is the last time you used it while scuba diving? Instead of clipping it on your mask, opt for a collapsible model that fits in your BC pocket.

  4. DIAL IN YOUR WEIGHT: Wearing too much weight underwater forces you to over inflate your BC, which causes drag and burns more air. Wear just enough weight that when you exhale completely at the surface, you sink to eye level. You’ll have to work a little to descend at first, but once you’re 5 to 10 feet down, you’ll have near-perfect buoyancy, without adding any air to your BC.

  5. GET THE RIGHT FIT: Comfortable, well-fitting gear is another key to staying streamlined, and the most important pieces to consider are your wetsuit and BC. The best way to get the right fit is to visit your local dive shop, where you can take your time to find the make, model and size that suit you perfectly. However, if you plan to use rental gear, show up at the dive center a little earlier than normal so you have time to try on a few sizes before heading to the boat.

For more information on getting the right scuba gear click here

5 Tips to Streamline Gear for Easy Diving Read More »

Dive Hacks: Tips for Diving with Sharks

People think we’re crazy. When the subject of diving with sharks — and the pure, unfettered joy of it — creeps into conversation with the uninitiated, looks of terror, disgust or disbelief typically follow. Despite your most detailed and rational explanation, it’s often impossible to convince the naive, media-hype believers that it’s positively awesome to share the water with these exquisite creatures. The simple fact is those people don’t know what they’re missing.

Shark dives are some of the most coveted experiences in the underwater world. And dive destinations, operators and sites around the world that offer consistent close encounters are among the scuba tribe’s most popular. From Florida to North Carolina, Rhode Island, the Bahamas, Isla Mujeres, South Africa, Fiji, Cocos Island, Fakarava, Isla Guadalupe, the Galapagos and beyond, if there are heaps of sharks in the water, you’ll find divers doing their best to get close. But what are the best practices for getting close to these often skittish and bashful animals?

To discover the secrets of a true shark whisperer, I asked UNEXSO’s Cristina Zenato (, a cave explorer, master instructor and educator in Grand Bahama who has been hand feeding and hypnotizing sharks (through tonic immobility) for more than 20 years.

“My babies — the Caribbean reef sharks — are always on the top of my list,” says the Women Divers Hall of Famer of her favorite species. “But I am fascinated by many different species, including the goblin shark and the sevengill, and I have a special place in my heart for the blue shark.”

Here are five things she says to consider before your next encounter.


Before any dive that involves large numbers or large species of sharks — whether it’s fed, baited or otherwise — Zenato recommends relying on the instructions of the local dive pros rather than basing your plan on what you think you know. “What is an acceptable procedure for one species of shark might be totally inappropriate with another,” she explains. “It’s important to rely on the understanding and knowledge of the professionals who work with the animals on a regular basis.”


Many of the world’s best shark dives are orchestrated by commercial operators. But before committing your safety and dive dollars, it pays to ask the right questions. “In general I would ask how long they’ve been established and do they have a good safety record,” says Zenato. “Do they have a standard description of what they’re going to do or their rules? And how do they answer your questions and address your concerns?”


Most shark-dive operators have specific rules for equipment. Most require full wetsuits and sometimes even black gloves and hoods for pro- tection. According to Zenato: “This is not the place to test a new wetsuit, camera, BC or other equipment. Dive with gear you are comfortable and familiar with so you can enjoy the time with the animals and not worry about anything else.” And about what you’ve heard about sharks being attracted to colors, especially yellow or pink? “They are attracted by contrast more than colors,” she says. “If you’re in a full yellow wetsuit, they’re not going to be attracted to that. But if you’re wearing a black wetsuit with- out black gloves, your white hands will have enough contrast to attract inquisitive attention.”


Because sharks are such dynamic swimmers, diving with them is a 3-D experience. Strong situational awareness is essential to ensure your safety and enjoyment. “You have to be aware of everything around you
— the sharks, the boat, the current, the other divers, where you’re drifting,” Zenato says. “Pay close attention to instructions, and be ready when it’s time to get out of the water. Furthermore, if you’re a photographer, take your eye away from the viewfinder every once in a while and just look at the whole scene.”


If you’re lucky (or savvy) enough to encounter sharks in an open-water environment, be mindful of physical cues that can translate their mood or intentions. “There’s a huge difference between an animal that has never been exposed to divers and one that is used to baited dives,” Zenato explains. “A wild animal that is not used to this kind of repetitive in- teraction will have a more natural display. Quick movements such as sudden changes of direction, rapid dropping of the pectoral fins or any other fast action indicates an uncomfortable animal. Also, when the inquisitive nature of some sharks — for example, blue sharks and oceanic whitetips — intrudes on your personal space, it might be time to get out of the water.”

Dive Hacks: Tips for Diving with Sharks Read More »

Scroll to Top