Beginners Guide to Surface Diving

Skin Diving is defined as swimming freely under the water with the aid of a mask and a snorkel. So while snorkeling is done at the surface, skin diving takes snorkeling to the next level by allowing you to go beneath the water to get a closer look at things. This video on the left, explores one of the techniques that you the skin diver may choose to get below the water efficiently which is called surface dive. While the video is not of the best quality, it does give you the idea of what a pike surface dive should look like. 

Surface dives may be done from a stationary position in the water but they tend to be more effective if they are done while you are moving. The idea behind a pike surface dive is to end up in a head down vertical position with as much of your legs being up and out of the water as possible. It is the weight of the legs being out of the water that serve to assist you in getting below the surface of the water. There are a few equipment considerations that need to be taken into account if you are wearing a wetsuit or snorkeling vest. Wetsuits, made of neoprene, will actually add to your positive buoyancy but wearing a weight belt with minimal weight can help to offset this making it require less effort to get under the water. A weight belt is used only if it is needed and minimal amounts of weight should be used. With respect to your snorkeling vest, it should be totally deflated before attempting any skin dive.


The following are the steps used to execute a surface dive:

  • Make sure the snorkeling vest is deflated.

  • Your body should be in a stomach down, horizontal position at the surface of the water.

  • When you are ready to execute the surface dive, remember to inhale and hold your breath. This is important because once the top of your snorkel goes below the water’s surface you
    will not be able to breathe from it.

  • From either a stationary position or while in a forward motion, bend downward at the waist
    in as close to a 90 degree angle as possible.

  • While executing the above step, bring your legs up and out of the water so that the you end up in a head down vertical position which is perpendicular to the surface of the water. Do this while keeping your legs together and as straight as possible.This should be done quickly with the intent of getting as much of your legs out of the water as possible. Using your hands to assist in swimming motions is to be avoided as this will create excessive drag and hinder the entire descent.

  • Once your fins have dropped fully below the surface of the water is when you should begin
    kicking. Your kicks should be standard flutter kicks.

  • You have now made the transition from snorkeler to skin diver and are free to explore and
    enjoy the underwater world.


When you are ready to return to the surface the following are the steps for making a proper ascent following your skin dive:

  • Look up. The reason for looking up before starting your ascent is to make sure that there is nothing that may impede you in making a direct ascent to the surface. This could include other skin diver's, swimmer's, scuba divers, ledges and even boat bottoms.

  • Reach up. Bring one or both hands above your head with your arm or arms fully extended. The purpose of this action is to protect your head during the ascent in case something was not directly seen that could block or impede the ascent. The hands would hit the object before the head would. This position is maintained all the way to the surface.

  • Go up. A vertical ascent to the surface is preferred. While ascending, execute one or more 360 degree spiral turns sure that nothing such as a swimmer or another skin diver is moving into a position to interfere with your ascent.

  • Your hand or hands will be the first part of your body to break the surface of the water.

  • If the snorkel being used is not a dry snorkel it needs to be cleared of water before inhaling. Watch our video on the above right on how to do this. 

  • Continue having fun!