Currents are a fact of diving. Dealing with strong currents can be exhilarating or a complete nightmare. During open water training you were taught how to dive in currents. Even if it is only in theory the training is still given and when used works well.
If a dive company is taking you to a site known for strong currents you should be briefed on the conditions you may encounter. Drift diving is like flying without a plane and is a great experience. If you have not done it before it can be very scary as you feel out of control. Knowing some basics will make the dive so much better.
Part of the training for diving in strong currents is knowing how to re-act to the current. If you fight the current you will lose. Any time a diver chooses to fight the water the water will beat you. Staying close to walls or the bottom gives you less current as that is its weakest point of the current. On really strong current maintain your position going with the current. You need to see what is coming. A sudden encounter with a large rock can spoil the fun of a drift dive.
Down currents and up currents are common in strong drifts. When a strong current encounters a large feature at depth this changes the currents normal progress. It is here that we find sudden down currents or up currents. Having good awareness and control will help you cope. Dropping 10 metres or more in the blink of an eye can cause problems for a diver who is unaware. Up currents can land you on the surface with little or no notice. As the up current pushes you to the surface your BCD will quickly assist the current. Know where your dump valves are located so you can control at least that part.
In a strong current you can use your body to control a little of the speed. Being horizontal in the current will have you flying with the current. Become vertical and the current will have so much more to push and you will slow down a little. If you angle your body to move up or down using the strength of the current. It can be tricky but learning how to use your legs to change direction not by finning. Once again using the currents strength by moving one leg to the side and allowing the current to move you.
Diving in strong currents can be an amazing time. If you are drift diving. The thought of having a long walk back to the entry point can be hard work. Having a chase boat is a much better idea. Practicing your technics for strong currents is good training. As in all diving gradually improve your skills and the difficulty of your dive. You should always use caution whenever you dive in challenging conditions.
PADI IDC Staff Instructor 331032
AUS DIVING ACADEMY