Become a Better Diver through Shore Diving

Become a Better Diver through Shore Diving

If you’re anything like me, you still vividly remember that first breath from a regulator while you were under water. And if you’re reading this now, that experience probably changed your life forever! You became a diver!

For most of us, after earning the scuba certification, the next course of action was to book a dive trip in some tropical waters where we could explore the new and fascinating world of underwater environments.

Guided boat dives are an excellent method to improve your dive skills with general dive safety, learn buoyancy control, and fill your dive log with “critter” sightings and species identification.

But what comes next? There are numerous avenues of diving to explore, from advancing your open water skills, learning underwater photography, becoming an instructor or perhaps technical or wreck diving.

Another alternative to become a better diver!Scuba divers getting into a boat

However, if you’re “land-locked” booking guided boat dives and squeezing in a trip whenever you can might easily become the norm. And really, that is perfectly okay! Diving is very much about enjoyment and experiencing the moment.

But there is another alternative to increasing your skill level and enjoyment of recreational diving. It is not for everyone and it certainly isn’t as easy as a backwards roll off of a boat, but it is extremely rewarding. I am speaking of diving the ocean from a shore entry.

My personal evolution into the skill of shore diving came about several years ago.  I got a chance to meet up with my oldest son who had just completed his 5-year term with the U.S. Navy.  I booked us a dive trip in Cozumel, Mexico and I purposely chose one of the smaller dive operators on the island for the opportunity to dive with a more intimate group. We were set up with a series of, 2-tank drift dives for 6 days.

Our dive guide seemed to enjoy cruising along the sand and looking into crevices and under overhangs for lobster and crab. On the fourth day I was maybe 3 meters /10 feet away from our small group looking at something in the sand that had caught my eye.

Big eye trevally School

Dray van Beeck

Our dive guide, my son and the other couple were cruising along the bottom looking into the shadowy areas at the bottom of the reef. About 3 meters/10 feet right above them was this little shelf of coral where a school of silver fish numbering in the thousands, was taking shelter from the current.

I slowly ascended to the shelf and eased myself right into the center of this mass of fish. For a few seconds I could only see the flashing of silver scales and the black eyes of this school and found myself completely surrounded by them. It was one of those extremely cool experiences that only divers have.

The school of silver fish parted and a rising stream of bubbles soon revealed our dive guide. He looked a bit frustrated with me and motioned me to follow him. So I spent the remainder of the dive following along with the group, looking into the shadowy areas and being shown lobsters and crabs.

Upon arriving at the boat, I got a fairly good lecture from the dive guide about staying “tighter” with the group. And in all fairness, I had it coming because this man was in fact charged with my safety. And yet, I felt a bit disappointed by his scolding as I wouldn’t have traded that experience of being right in the middle of those thousands of fishes. There had to be an alternative!

Discovering Shore Diving

Divers walking out in the morning

Carsten Medom Madsen;

The next winter I found myself fortunate enough to make a trip to Bonaire…The Shore Diving Capital of the Caribbean for sure! One of the first things I realized on my check-out dive is that through the luxury of boat dives and the service they provide.

I had more or less forgotten how to set up my own gear! (and it pains me to admit that).

My wife was newly certified and it wasn’t long before we began exploring the varied and accessible dives that can be easily reached from shore. What an amazing place!

The resort we stayed at has a “drive-through” station where you drop off your empty tanks from your rental truck, check your new ones for the correct pressure and off you go. While not quite as easy as falling off a boat, it’s a close second, with many dives starting just a few meters from shore.

For the most part it was just my wife and I diving together for that week. We dove where we wanted, when we wanted. We lingered when we saw interesting things and we covered large areas when we wanted to explore the topography. We dove safely and we had a fantastic time.

It’s all up to you!

Two diver about to enter the water

Tatiana Morozova

Shore diving makes you responsible for the transportation, assembly and cleaning of your own gear. It makes you responsible for researching dive sites and understanding the local conditions. Shore diving makes you responsible for your own safety and enjoyment and it is much, much cheaper than diving from guided boats!

Shore diving is definitely not for everyone. It sometimes requires hiking heavy dive gear over difficult terrain. It sometimes requires swimming out quite far from shore to reach a reef and learning to send up a SMB.

Sometimes it requires that you abort a dive if conditions are not safe. But if you have enough confidence in your diving, safety and navigating skills, the added responsibility of shore diving will absolutely make you a better and even more confident diver! is an excellent resource for those interested in shore diving.

Have you ever done a Shore dive without a dive Guide? And what did you take back form that dive experience?

About The Author

James Olinger

Jim was a late comer to the sport, certified in 2006 but it has since become a true passion. He holds an open water certification, with over 100 logged divers in places like Cozumel Mexico, Ambergris Caye Belize, Bonaire, Hawaii multiple times and some freshwater lakes in the states.


  1. Drew Tracy

    Really great article. Thanks for this input on shore diving it is always an adventure.

  2. kim otto

    Wow. A divemaster should not “scold” a paying customer. Quite often divemasters move at a brisk pace, and I am not fond of this, so I let the divemaster know beforehand that I will be hanging back and not to worry. This should be fine when there are no great hasards on the dive and the diver has enough dive experience under her weightbelt.
    Shore diving — by all means. Imagine how much more difficult shore diving is trampling down steep hills and over slick sea weed-covered rocks to dive in cold water. But what awaits makes it more than worth it.

  3. David Tombs

    I am a technical diver who has recently re-discovered the joys of shore diving here n the UK. It is most certainly not an inferior type of diving, often requiring higher levels of fitness, navigational skills and awareness than some other types of diving. The rewards are just as great as boat diving and is simply fun! But you do need to take real care in the selection of the sites, risk analysis and an experienced buddy.

  4. Becky

    Last year I got my Open Water cert and was away! We (husband and I) decided to dive around the rocks of our favourite beach last summer (southern hemisphere here, so Dec/Jan) and took the current out. We learned that it was a brilliant idea to have a kayaker with a dive flag follow our bubbles and stay with us. It stopped people fishing of the rocks for an hour and the kayaker help pull us back into the beach

  5. David Tombs

    I can only stress the need for good diving skills. I recently got caught on fishing line and found that I had lost one of my knives on my forearm . I used the other one to cut myself free. The line had caught around my dsmb reel, which is actually well stored. The knife which I thought had been lost was caught up in the buoy. At this point in the dive I was in just over two meters of water. This is a dive which is considered very safe,7m max and used for training! I was well aware of the risks of line, the visibility was much less than 1.5 Meters, and I was very glad of previous cave training.


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