Meet new scuba divers, maintain a virtual dive log, participate in our forum, share underwater photos, research dive sites and more. Members login here.

Entanglement Training for Self-Reliant Divers
Airworks - 6/27/2023 6:00 PM
View Member Articles
Category: Educational
Comments: 0
Entanglement Training for Self-Reliant DiversLearning how to control panic while scuba diving, particularly for Self-Reliant or Solo divers, is a much-needed skill that may one day save your life.

Panic control, especially in entanglement situations, can best be developed by planning dives focused on performing incremental “entanglement severity level” self-training. The most practical way of doing that would be to deliberately put oneself in varying degrees of entanglement environments, with the proper redundancy and extraction equipment.

I am fortunate to live close to a local quarry that many regard as “dangerous” to swim or dive in. It is used primarily by dive shops and instructors for certifications. Search and Rescue teams, as well as the FBI, use a submerged bus for inserting and extracting life-size dummies as part of their training. Visibility there is generally very poor, so “blind” exercises are the norm.

The quarry is not very deep. Maybe 50’ max.
There are numerous boulders and huge rocks throughout.

For entanglement training, I use the large number of scattered submerged trees and branches for practice.

As a Self-Reliant diver, I always carry some redundant gear; two masks, an extra air source, a SMB, two knives, a small crowbar, and an extraction tool with an 8” serrated blade.

When I first began my personal entanglement training, I located one of the large submerged trees that had all kinds of scary-looking, finger-like branches, and deliberately tried to get tangled within one of its many “grips”.

The first step I took when I became aware that I couldn’t push forward was to immediately STOP all movement and say to myself: “I’m breathing, so it’s ok.” A little panic began to creep in so I just floated where I was, focusing on breathing and thinking “slow-mo”.

Next, I SLOWLY began moving my head and body side-to-side, then up-and-down, looking for the e-point (entanglement point), also using my arms and hands for the same purpose.

Once I found it – a branch just above my first stage that had caught my dive computer console retractable cable – I slowly grabbed the branch and began bending it back and forth. It finally snapped after a couple of tries, and I was free. Upon regaining composure (it’s amazing how quickly my breathing rate quickened without realizing it), I continued moving forward toward an opening.

I’ve repeated those steps – STOP movement, focus on BREATHING, then shift to SLOW-MOTION mentality - several times now, with the only variable being the e-point.

There’s an area at the south end of the quarry that has three huge trees and multiple branches tangled together and remain fairly stationary. It is a truly scary place to be entangled because it’s dark and any awkward movement will stir up sediment and debris particulates.

My third visit there involved removing my tank and bc, leaving them attached to a branch, taking two deep breaths on my reg, then setting it aside and slowly ascending to the surface, making sure to lightly but continuously exhale all the way up. Once there, I hyperventilated a few times, performed a pike dive, and descended back to my gear. I set my reg in my mouth, began breathing as I composed myself, then slowly attempted to don my bc and tank while the viz dropped to almost zero due to stirred and suspended particulates.

Upon losing visibility and experiencing difficulty putting on my bc and tank, I sensed panic sneaking back in. So again I STOPPED moving, concentrated on BREATHING while just floating there, and then began to slowly don my gear.

The most important aspect of this type of training is the willingness to progressively push the boundaries of your “comfort Zone” in incremental, thoughtful, and deliberate ways.

As Self-Reliant and Solo divers, it is incumbent upon us to continuously train ourselves to confidently master our physical, mental, and emotional faculties. Let’s not be OVER confident, but adequately confident. That’s what good training is supposed to do.

Learning how to slowly stretch ourselves as Solo divers will not only be incredibly self-affirming and confidence-boosting, but will help us understand that being well-prepared for unexpected underwater difficulties is training for life itself!