Scuba Diver removes her mask underwaterPin

Scuba Diver removes her mask underwater

Scuba Diver removes her mask underwaterPin

You’re on a dive in 65 feet (that’s about 30 meters for my non-American friends) and your regulator begins to free flow. What you do next could be the difference between a cools story and a trip to a hyperbaric chamber


Without going into what the proper procedure would be (I’ll leave that to the training agencies) how comfortable would do you think you’d be with this situation? Unless it’s something that you feel would be a minor annoyance, you might want to read on to learn a simple drill you could do to help you deal with this potentially dangerous situation.

One of the most important attributes you can have as a diver is to be both comfortable and confident while underwater. Unfortunately, this is one of the toughest things to “teach” in a rushed SCUBA course.  There really are two reasons why this particular situation is hard to teach.  First, most dive courses barely have enough time to cover the basics, much less deal with events like these.  Second, being that this is a situation that is much more about mental state than anything else, it is hard to mimic.

One of the best ways that I have seen my students become comfortable underwater over the years is by mastering skills which require them to hold their breath. The reason why breath-held skills increase your comfort on SCUBA is simple, if you know you can handle tasks which require you not to breathe for more than a few seconds, then any situation which can happen on a SCUBA unit becomes trivial because, for the most part, you’ll always have air when you’re on SCUBA. Even in the event of a worst case scenario, an out of air situation, you’ll still know you have plenty of time to figure out what to do and execute it so you can come out virtually unscathed.

The Skin Diving Bailout

So, just what is a Skin Diving Bailout anyway?  The skill is actually quite simple to complete and does not require SCUBA gear.   This skill should be done in shallow water, 4 or 5 feet (1.5 meters) is plenty.

A skin diving bail out is when you immerse yourself into the water with your mask and fins off. You can wear a weight belt for this skill, just make sure you do a buoyancy check and are properly weighted.

  • You begin by sitting on the edge of the pool with your mask and fins in your hands.
  • You then immerse yourself into the water while holding your breath.
  • Once you are underwater, you place your fins on your feet.
  • Then you put your mask on and clear it,
  • After your mask is clear, you come to the surface and blast your snorkel. You should be able to continue breathing through your snorkel at the end of the skin diving bail out while keeping your head in the water.

The key to mastering this skill is to take your time doing it. Make sure you breathe slowly and deeply before jumping in the water. Take a deep breath just before you jump in the water. 

Now stay calm! Slowly put your fins on, put your mask on, clear it and finally clear your snorkel.    Staying calm and taking your time is key!  You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to complete this skill when you take your time.  Rushing usually will just make you feel anxious and have you run out of air much sooner.  Be deliberate in your movements.  When it comes to this skill, fast is slow!

This is the real takeaway, whatever happens underwater can be handled.  The key is staying calm, and acting slowly and deliberately.  Watch the video below to see how I do a skin diving bail out.

Have you ever done a skin diving bail before? If so, what was your experience with it? I’d love to know in the comments below.

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About the author 

Jose Cernuda

Jose is a NAUI SCUBA Instructor. He has been teaching recreational SCUBA since 2001 and diving since 1993. He has certifications in technical decompression diving as well as cave diving. When he's not teaching or diving Jose enjoys traveling, riding electric skateboards, flying drones and lifting weights.

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  1. A problem with good scuba buoyancy is often that people “breathe too much”. This is an issue because if a person is neutrally buoyant in the water a deep breath will cause them to rise and a deep exhalation will cause them to sink. This is followed by a delayed response so it can be confusing/counter-intuitive. For instance, when starting a dive it is a good practice to exhale deeply to begin the sinking process. (Yet another good reason to double check whether your tank valve is fully on!). But getting back, many divers start out “breathing too much” or too rapidly and these big breaths interfere with good buoyancy control. A good practice as you suggest is to be calm and relaxed and to breathe more in the middle zone. We practice by going to different levels in the pool and stopping and holding just using breath control alone and not by adjusting the bc. Now it is true that in deep water carbon dioxide buildup can be an issue as the gas is more dense. Don’t “skip breathe” or work too hard in deep water. If you feel panicky or light headed or short of breath, stop and relax and breathe deeply from the abdomen (i.e.: “belly breathe”) for a few breaths before going on.

  2. What’s happening in the video is a case in point. Jose starts with holding a big breath. Notice how he almost comes back to the surface at first but brings himself back to depth? This is because he has a big lungful of air and it is forcing him up a bit. However, if a diver is well ventilated at the beginning of the dive then a medium sized breath should be sufficient to sink more easily and still be oxygenated enough to do the tasks. Too many breaths prior to breath holding can reduce the carbon dioxide so much as to be dangerous (cause a loss of consciousness), so three or four breaths should be a maximum. If you ever feel light headed stop the breath hold dive immediately and surface and resume normal breathing.

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