Perfecting Your Back-Roll Scuba Entry

Diver prepares

While there are many different ways the diver can enter the water, the back-roll entry method is the most common and the most popular. But for some, it can also be the most difficult. If you’re here because perfecting your back-roll scuba entry is important to you, then you’ll find a variety of techniques you can try that can make this entry method a cinch. In some cases, a diver may only have previously used the giant stride diving entry, because, for many, the back-roll entry can seem a little intimidating. However, with a little practice and by following the steps I’ve included here to ensure a proper and safe entry, you should be able to get the hang of it in no time.

Small Vessel Entry Tips

If you’ve ever dived from a dinghy, zodiac or RIB, then you’ve probably used this scuba diving entry method. A dinghy or zodiac is usually the crucial part of the vessel’s standard equipment on most liveaboard trips. A dinghy can act as a type of rescue vessel if a diver loses their partner, they surface in the wrong area or they become lost. A diving team will also use them often to check water conditions.

Most divers love dinghies because they’ll be able to get a lot closer to an optimum entry point for a dive compared to when using a larger vessel. Using a smaller boat is also common if you’re diving with a land-based resort. Because you’ll use a dinghy often, it’s important that you get the back-roll entry method down since it’s the best way you can enter the water when you’re on a smaller boat.

When you dive from a smaller boat, it means that space is tight, so you’ll only be able to take what you need. You can easily prepare your gear before you even board the boat. If you’re wearing the best scuba diving fins that feature the traditional fin straps, then you’ll need to loosen them prior to boarding the boat and make sure you secure and adjust any other accessories before you hop on.

Typically, a small vessel will take passengers on a journey that ranges from 10 to 20 minutes to the dive site. If you’ve already traveled more than halfway to the entry point only to discover that you’ve forgotten your freediving watch and the vessel needs to turn around, then you’ll make yourself and your team of divers late to the dive site, which can potentially cause you to miss the best tide time to enter the water.

Making it to the Entry Point

On your average diving trip, you’ll show up at a set time and load the boat with your diving partner, class, or with your group of friends. If this is your first dive, this can be a scary and exciting time. The ride to the entry point will give you time to calm your nerves, focus your mind, and check all of your gear.

When the time comes, make sure that you board the dinghy as instructed. Typically, a crew will help you and your diving team onboard as you transition to a small boat. The crew will take into consideration weight distribution on the vessel while helping your board so it’s important that you follow their cues and directions in terms of where to sit. Once you’re seated a crew will pass out your accessories including fins. At this time you can put on your mask and adjust it since sea spray will hit you in the face as the dinghy bounces along. Make sure you also perform your buddy check at this time and ensure that both of you have all of the gear you need, none of your gear is loose, and you’re fully prepared for the entry point that’s coming up quickly. If you’re beginning to feel seasick make sure you keep one eye on the horizon in order to avoid seasickness and continue to scan the surface for any passing wildlife in order to keep yourself distracted.

To learn more about handling different types of weather and water conditions at sea, click here to read my guide on diving tips for beginners.

A Perfect Entry

At this time, the driver of the dinghy will slow down as they approach the entry point and surveys the conditions in order to determine where to stop. The Divemaster or the dinghy driver will ask for final confirmation that every diver is ready to go. This will mean that your mask is treated, your scuba diving fins are on and your regulator is placed in your mouth. Once you’re ready you’ll use the okay signal to confirm. You’ll hold your regulator and mask in one hand in order to ensure nothing gets tangled and every piece of gear remains secure. Next, you’ll shift backward, so that you’re safely clear of the dinghy. There will typically be a countdown so you can be prepared to roll in once you’re given the mark. Next, tuck your chin to your chest and roll backward into the water once the countdown has ended. When you’re oriented in the water, make sure you give the team on the boat to the okay signal.

Why You Need to Use a Back-Roll Entry

This type of entry can open up an exciting world of diving from smaller vessels so you can access a variety of diving sites and get closer to the action. In order to become comfortable with this type of entry make sure you follow the correct steps, use some common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

The diver that’s used to making giant stride entries from a dive boat may find using the back roll entry method a little daunting. However, this type of entry allows you to easily get into the water when you’re on a smaller vessel especially rigid inflatable boats. For divers who commonly use this type of boat, a back row entry is second nature and not a big deal. However, this entry method is not usually taught in an open-water class. This means the first time can make a new diver feel a bit nervous.

Many divers are often concerned that they’ll fumble and land in the water awkwardly. Others worry that they’ll hit the boat on their way out or that their tank will hit them in the head. Another concern is feeling disoriented after somersaulting into the water. In reality, the back-row method is a flip into the water, not a somersault. Basically, all you’re doing is leaning backward and allowing gravity to help you fall into the water.

The Proper Steps

If you’re a new diver, and you want to learn how to properly execute this type of entry I will slowly walk you through the steps below.

  • First, Once you have all of your gear on, sit on the edge of the vessl, facing inward. You’ll want to slide your body back so that you’re seated slightly near the outer edge of the boat’s pontoon or gunwale. Much like a giant stride entry, be sure that all of your gear is correctly in place and secure including your fins and mask.
  • Now’s the time to inflate the BCD so you’re able to maintain positive buoyancy as soon as you enter the water and place the regulator in your mouth. Like with a giant stride entry, you’ll use the palm of your dominant hand to secure your regulator and the fingertips of the same hand to secure your mask in place. Place your other hand over the mask strap on the back of your head in order to prevent it from slipping off once you enter the water. Doing so will also prevent your head from hitting the cylinder valve.
  • Look back to be sure that the water behind you is perfectly clear especially if your diving with other friends that have entered prior to you. The captain or Divemaster will give you the signal when it’s safe for you to go, however, it’s always best for you to glance over your shoulder to ensure the spot is perfectly clear. If all the divers are planning to execute the entry at the same time then you’ll wait for the instructor’s count or the go command. Do not hesitate at this time.
  • Next, tuck your chin into your chest. Doing so will help to prevent your head from hitting the valve on the tank. Keep your knees and feet together or you can cross your ankles. Now you’re ready to lean backward and roll into the water. The key to making a gentle entry is the way you fall backward into the water. If you end up forcing yourself backward your legs will flip and can continue rolling over your head. This can result in disorientation underwater. During this time, gravity will help you along.
  • If you enter the water correctly than you’ll surface immediately just like when you execute a giant stride. Once you’re safely in the water and have your bearings about you give the captain the okay signal.
  • Next, clear the entry area, checking to ensure that all of your gear is still in place and secured. And that’s all there is to it.
  • If you’re a new diver, or an experienced diver that normally uses the giant stride technique, practice this entry style whenever possible. You’ll find that if you remain calm and confident and follow the steps I’ve included here, you should have no trouble making the perfect back-roll entry.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the basic steps involved in perfecting your back roll scuba diving entry you can begin practicing this technique as often as possible. Many people who own pools will try practicing on an inflatable raft. It’s also possible to do this if you are enrolled in a scuba diving program and you specifically ask your instructor for some tips on how to execute this entry correctly. If your program does not specifically teach this entry method, request it. For some reason, many programs do not teach their students how to use this method despite the fact that it’s commonly used out on the water since many smaller vessels are utilized for diving entry. In most cases, your diving instructor will be more than happy to teach the class how to execute this move correctly in order to give them an advantage out on the water for their first dive. If you don’t have time or the ability to practice this entry prior to your first dive, then keep the steps that I’ve included here in mind and you’ll be sure to smoothly execute this move.