Scuba diving in certain areas comes with an increased likelihood of getting tangled up, such as near kelp forests or sunken shipwrecks.
This help guide explains how to avoid common entanglement hazards and what you should do if you get entangled underwater.
In fact, basic scuba skills training does not describe the techniques for freeing yourself from underwater snags in any great detail.
Even so, it's important for beginners to understand how stressful actual entanglements are going to be - and how to react.
Most humans will lose some manual dexterity (fine motor skills) when they're stressed. This is why all scuba divers should carry at least one dive knife (two is better).
Pro Tip: Carry EMT shears as well as a knife. Tuff Cut medical scissors are easy to use and they are safer for new divers who are practicing self-management techniques for dealing with entanglement.
At some point, you will know where you're going to dive. It could be near the large brown algae of a kelp forest or around the rusty ruins of an artificial reef.
Hence, it's important to think in advance and plan ahead of the dive. You should be able to determine whether the location will have hazards rising up from the ocean floor.
For example, big bommies and wreckage from scuttled ships usually have snagged trawling nets or monofilament (fishing line).
Another important part of preventing entanglements underwater is being flexible with the entry. Some of the best diving destinations around the world require different types of entries.
So, consider entering the water 'feet-first' and 'feet-together' when you're near kelp. This entry technique is better than making a headfirst dive or a backward roll (e.g. from a small boat).
Pro Tip: You can also try a special technique when ascending through a kelp forest. Stay in one place to create a vertical 'pipe' or hole to exit through as your exhaled bubbles help to clear the large blades (kelp fronds).
So, always dive with a streamlined configuration. None of the gear should dangle or stick out from your body.
Often, you can solve this problem by tucking them safe in hazardous environments (e.g. while diving around shipwrecks).
Some of the specialised techniques that you learn in the PADI® Wreck Diver Specialty course focus on how to dive around large underwater structures, including how to penetrate narrow passages.
The initial response by beginners who do not know how to prevent entanglement underwater is to twist, spin, and rotate.
Instead, entanglement training teaches divers to stay calm, relax, and freeze their position in the water. So, divers who feel some 'localised' resistance should stop what they are doing and try to avoid panicking. Often, struggling and twisting is going to make the situation worse.
Out of all these tips for avoiding entanglement while scuba diving, going backwards is the one that beginners use the least. In fact, moving backwards - even for a few metres - is often all you need to do to get the snagged point released.
Of course, following the scuba diving buddy system means you can get help to remove the hazard - or cut it loose if necessary.
But, what if that doesn't work or it's difficult to see where the resistance is? Sometimes, the recommendation is to remove the entangled item altogether (e.g. the BCD, or dive fin).
Moving it to a place where you can fix the problem, and then putting the gear back on, can be the best way to free yourself from the danger.
Sometimes you'll be able to unwind the entanglement, such as with fishing line or rope. If not, go ahead and use your diver's knife or EMT shears to cut yourself free.
It's important that beginners become familiar with scuba diving hand signals, especially when you need to get your buddy's attention.
As you may expect, the special training that cave divers receive to reduce the dangers of entanglement is rigorous.
They use a network of permanent lines and navigational markers (usually colour-coded). They fix them in positions where they are easy to see. Thus, it is rare for cavern or cave divers to get fins or other gear tangled up.
Nonetheless, the first step for managing entanglement risk in overhead environments is to have streamlined dive gear, including:
Pro Tip: One of the most important skills for cave and cavern divers to acquire is that of positional and situational awareness.
Divers with long hair or pony tails often look for tangle-prevention tips. We suggest wearing a scuba diving hood or neoprene beanie cap is a good method of keeping your hair from getting snarled.
Some youngsters will use other dive accessories and paraphernalia (e.g. headbands, scarves) to try and reduce a flyaway hair style underwater. The simple scuba beanie will help to stop your stray strands from wrapping around the equipment.
Disclaimer: The information in this help guide is not intended to replace formal instruction from a scuba professional. Please contact our friendly team if you need further advice.
Note: The short video [1:41 seconds] contains more information about the special scuba skill 'dealing with entanglement', especially for beginners.