How to ascend and descend in scuba diving?

If you’re just getting started in scuba diving, one of the most important skills to learn is how to properly and safely ascend and descend. Ascending can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, but descending is even more important—you don’t want to run out of air while below sea level! This article will teach you how to ascend and descend properly so that both these skills become second nature.

How to ascend in scuba diving?

You’ll be ascending slowly, at a pace of 10 feet per minute. You want to take your time and ascend methodically. If you rush, it could cause you some problems—like the bends or decompression sickness (DCS).

Don’t worry about getting stuck on the way up; there are plenty of ways out if that happens.

When should you ascend?

As you ascend, your lung volume decreases. This is because there is less air pressure in your lungs and therefore less air to fill them up with. The amount of gas in a container expands when its temperature increases and contracts when its temperature decreases. This means that as you ascend, the higher temperature outside means there will be more molecules trying to squeeze into your lungs, which makes it harder for you to get enough oxygen from each breath (hypoxia). You should never ascend if:

  • You are out of air;
  • Your buddy is out of air;
  • You feel lightheaded or dizzy;
  • You are feeling ill or tired;

Ascend slowly

The most important thing to remember when ascending is that you need to do so slowly. You want to ascend at a rate that’s slow enough so that your body has time to adjust, but fast enough so that you don’t run out of air before reaching the surface.

If you’re new to scuba diving, it can be helpful in learning how much air pressure change you should expect when ascending and descending. The general rule of thumb for first-time divers is 1 foot per minute or less for ascent and 3-4 feet per minute or less for descent (or whatever feels comfortable). If you’re using a dive computer or automatic tank regulator with depth gauge/pressure gauge, this information will be displayed by default on the screen; if not, consult with an instructor who can help guide you through the process until it becomes second nature.*

  • Note: If someone isn’t able to follow these guidelines during training dives because they’re having trouble equalizing their ears correctly (more on this below), always err on the side of caution!

How to descend in scuba diving?

To descend in scuba diving, you should:

  • Descend slowly and in a controlled manner. Avoid dropping into the water too fast; this can cause decompression sickness. Slowly descend by following these steps:
  • Have a buddy ascend with you so that he or she can help get you out of any problems that arise during your descent.
  • Keep your feet first when going down so that if something goes wrong with your equipment, it will be easier to get yourself back to the surface.

Descend in a controlled manner

Descending is the same as ascending, but in reverse. It’s important to descend at a rate of 1-3 feet per second (1 foot every 2 seconds). This allows your body time to adjust to the change in pressure, and helps prevent decompression sickness (DCS), also known as “the bends.”

You will have a hard time controlling your buoyancy while descending, so it’s best to always dive with a buddy who can assist you if necessary. The best way for them to assist you is by keeping track of how much air remains in their tank. Once they reach critical point—when they have just enough air left for themselves—they should indicate that fact by tapping on your shoulders or pointing at their gauge.

Descend with a buddy

This is one of the most important principles to remember when diving. If you are in a group, it’s important that everyone descend together and ascend together. The reason for this is that if one person ascends before another, it could be disastrous. The diver who ascended first could get crushed by the weight of water on their buddy’s head as they come up from their dive too quickly and unexpectedly.

Breathing slowly and regularly while descending helps keep your ears from popping as much as possible, but remember not to hold your breath at all!

How fast can you ascend?

How fast you can ascend depends on your dive profile. If you’ve been deep diving, or diving at a depth of over 100 feet, it’s best to ascend at a rate of 10 feet per minute. When your dive was shallower and around 40 feet deep or less, then you should ascend at 30 feet per minute or slower.

If you ascended too quickly before, here are some tips for slowing down:

  • Use the buddy system—if one person ascends faster than the other, they could run out of air before the other person reaches them (or vice versa).
  • Slow down! If you’re worried about getting enough air for both yourself and your buddy as well as getting decompression sickness symptoms like nausea and vomiting upon reaching the surface too soon after surfacing from depth, then try moving slower.

How fast should you ascend?

When ascending, you should ascend at a rate of 10 feet per minute. Never ascend faster than 20 feet per minute.

If you need to go even slower than this, there is another technique called the “hovering ascent” which involves holding yourself at a specific depth for as long as possible until your lungs are full of air again before slowly ascending again to repeat the process until you reach the surface.

The most important skills to learn in scuba diving

One of the most important skills to learn in scuba diving is how to properly and safely ascend and descend. This can be a bit confusing at first, as there are many different ways of describing ascents and descents, but once you learn what they mean it’s not hard to understand them.

Ascending means raising yourself up from a depth towards the surface. The ascent rate that you use will depend on your specific training and certification; however, in general, it’s best for divers to ascend slowly. Your body has been under pressure for a long time (typically 8-10 minutes) so it needs time for nitrogen built up in your tissues from breathing air with too much oxygen (the opposite of hyperbaric medicine). If you make an abrupt change in pressure by quickly ascending without allowing this excess nitrogen out of your body then you might get decompression sickness (DCS).

When making an ascent quickly without proper decompression stops between depths there is a risk of getting decompression sickness during or after the dive. As such it is extremely important that when diving underwater one needs to follow safety protocols while making their way back up through various levels until they reach the surface where they can breathe normally again!


With the right training, you should be able to safely ascend and descend in any environment. As always, make sure you have a buddy with you when diving so they can assist if something goes wrong. It’s also important to know your limits when descending or ascending—and stick to them!

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