Scuba Diving Tips for Slow Comfortable and Safe Ascent

scuba ascent superman position
"Superman Position" - Safe Scuba Ascent

Slowly ascending when scuba diving is one of the most important skills and knowledge a scuba diver should master. A rapid ascent at the end of a dive can lead to serious consequences on the diver’s health.

What is a safe scuba ascent:

Seemingly trivial, ascending properly to the surface may be one of the most important skills a diver must master, in order to avoid serious injuries such as Decompression Sickness. By completing all 5 points mentioned below you’ll minimize those risks while allowing comfortable and safe ascent.

Scuba ascent rate speed:

We scuba divers must not ascent at a rate faster than 18m/60ft per minute. Some scuba organizations limit that rate to 9m/30ft per minute, as do most dive computers these days.

Keeping track of that speed can be done by monitoring your depth gauge while tracking time or easier by using a dive computer which does this for you and alerts you when ascending to fast.

Some diver suggest following the smallest bubble you exhale on its way up and avoiding exceeding that speed, but that may be a bit tricky and takes your attention away from other aspects of the dive.

How to complete a 5 point scuba ascent:

Remember the acronym S.T.A.R.S:

SIGNAL: A clear ready to ascent signal, confirming all diver are aware we’re about to finish the dive.

TIME: look at your watch or dive computer, making sure No Decompression Limit time wasn’t exceeded, and that safety stop was fully completed. You may choose to stop counting your bottom time at this point as ascent isn’t considered a part of bottom time.

AIRWAY: look up and make sure there’s a direct path to the surface. Search for obstacles along the way.

REACH/ROTATE: elevate your right arm, over your head, protecting it from unknown obstacles, elevate the low pressure inflater hose, allowing expanding air trapped in your BCD to escape from it. This position is also known as the superman position.

As you ascent keep rotating, making sure you are aware of what’s behind you.

SWIM– remember, if you relay on you BCD to elevate you, as you ascend air expand in your BCD making you positively buoyant, as a result you may exceed the maximum ascent rate of 18m/60ft per minute. It is thus safer to be slightly negatively buoyant and control the ascent rate by simply swimming.

5m/15ft safety stop - before ascending to the surface
Don't forget to complete a safety stop before ascending to the surface

Comfortable and safe scuba ascent tips:

  1. As mentioned before, it’s easier tracking your ascent rate using a dive computer.
  2. Use your fins to swim up rather than inflating your BCD.
  3. Use a slopping bottom or a reference line as opposed to ascending directly to the surface.
  4. Always be aware at what’s above you, looking up and protecting your head.
  5. Remember to always complete a safety stop at the end of the dive, especially after a long, deep and repetitive dive.
  6. Use a Life Sausage to mark yourself when approaching the surface.
  7. As soon as you’re at the surface, inflate your BCD to ensure positive buoyancy and saving energy.
  8. On extremely rare occasions a reverse block may occur. When diving with a cold you increase those chances. If you do experience pressure in your sinuses or teeth, stop your ascent, signal your buddies to stop with you, descend a bit to relieve the pressure and ascend only when pain is gone.

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