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Scuba Safety Stop – What Is It And How To Do It?

Although a recreational scuba safety stop is not strictly necessary, it is a precautionary measure that every diver should follow. So much so that all the diving agencies teach how to do it during their Open Water courses. Of course, the scuba safety stop is mandatory for the deepest and most prolonged dives.

In this article, we will see why this safety rule is so important, and how to do it practicing recreational diving and technical diving – Don’t miss out!

Scuba Safety Stop: Reviewing the Decompression Concept

Understanding the decompression concept is fundamental to appreciate the importance of the scuba safety stop.

As we know, human beings can’t breathe underwater by their own means, so we need to wear SCUBA gear and carry a gas cylinder. Although there are other gas mixtures, the most common one in diving tanks contains 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen.

As we descend, the nitrogen is diluted in our body. It is distributed throughout our body because of the pressure. As we ascend, the pressure decreases and the excess nitrogen accumulated can form small bubbles. The body eliminates the nitrogen through breathing and needs to do it slowly. Otherwise, these bubbles would increase in size and the diver could suffer from decompression sickness (DCS).

What Is and How Do I Make A Recreational Scuba Safety Stop?

The recreational scuba safety stop consists of stopping the ascent at 15 feet (4,5 meters) and staying at this depth for 3 minutes.

Scuba Safety stop - parada de seguridad en buceo - 2

The goal of the scuba safety stop is to help our body eliminate the nitrogen bubbles. So, it is also very important to ascend slowly. Some divers ascend at a maximum rate of 30 feet (9 meters) per minute, others maintain the habit of ascending at 60 feet (18 meters) per minute. Many prefer to rely on technology and follow their dive computer’s instructions.

When the diver reaches 15 feet (4,5 meters), the ascent should be stopped. If you follow an anchor line, it will help you to maintain your depth. You can hold on to it and maintain neutral buoyancy during the three minutes scuba safety stop.

If you don’t have an ascent line, check that you are maintaining your depth and time by using the indications of your depth gauge, or your dive computer.

During this time, you should inflate the Submersible Marker Buoy (SMB) to indicate your position to the dive boat that is going to pick you up, as well as to other boats that navigate on the surface. In this way, they will be able to take into account your presence, and they will know divers will emerge in a short time.

So far, we have been following the safety curves, so stops are recommended but not mandatory. But what happens if we exceed the safety limits? We will need to make a mandatory decompression stop.

According to PADI‘s recommendations, if we exceed the decompression limit by less than 5 minutes, we must remain at a depth of 10 feet (4.5 meters) for 8 minutes. If the excess time is over 5 minutes the diver should stop and stay at 10 feet (4.5 meters) as long as his remaining air in the tank safely allows.

The Scuba Safety Stops and Technical Depths

Scuba safety stops are unavoidable when exceeding 100 feet (30 meters) depth. Besides, as we said in the article “5 Aspects Of Deep-Water Diving That Will Surprise You”, from 120 feet (40 meters), we are talking about technical diving.

In extreme dives, they may require more than one stop during the ascent and the time that you should remain in them is also variable.

We should not forget, technical divers use different gas mixtures, which will condition the stops. In other words, scuba safety stops at technical depths have to be calculated taking into account a large number of variables. Therefore, the diver needs the skills, knowledge, and experience that only technical diving courses can offer.

Now you know the reason why the scuba safety stops are always respected at Dressel Divers. Are you coming to dive with us? Contact us.