Why do Scuba Divers Fall in Backwards?

Why do Scuba Divers Fall in Backwards?

Every time we see scuba divers on tv or in films, we see them roll gracefully backwards into the water. I mean, it looks cool, but why do they do it?

The main reasons why divers fall in backwards are for safety, comfort and convenience. It eliminates the chances of losing balance, hitting your head on the tank, or losing scuba equipment on the way into the water. It is also more comfortable for beginners, as the heavy tank hits the water first, allowing them to surface quickly. 

Backrolling is also fun, it makes you look cool and provides awesome photo opportunities.

There’s always the joke answer too; If they fell forwards, they’d still be on the boat! (I know, I shouldn’t become a comedian!

Falling backwards into the water is more commonly known as a ‘back roll’, which is one method of entry. Other methods include the giant stride and gearing up on the surface, which I will explain in greater detail further in this article.

How to do a Scuba Dive Back Roll Entry?

Back rolling is falling into the water backwards from a boat or platform, it is pretty easy, however, there are some key points to remember. So, let’s dive into the components of a back roll!

Firstly, when preparing to dive, turn your tank on, gear up, and complete all your buddy checks. Then, sit on the edge of the boat or surface, slightly inflate your BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) and cross your fins to prevent kicking your dive buddy! 

The tank is over the edge, therefore it is important to lean forward so the weight of the tank does not pull you into the water until you are ready.

After checking it is safe to enter the water, place your right hand over your regulator (so it doesn’t pop out of your mouth), with two fingers on your mask.

With your left hand, secure the back strap of the mask behind your head. This is to make sure you do not lose your regulator or mask due to the force of the water. 

When you are ready, lean back, with your chin slightly tucked in, and fall backwards into the water. Once surfaced, fully inflate your BCD and signal to the boat master or other dive professionals that you are okay, and swim away from the entry point.

How to perform a back roll entry.

What are the Benefits of the Back Roll Entry?

  • Safety (no risk of falling over on the boat).
  • Easy to do (Gravity assists you).
  • Comfortable for beginners (you can see the surface at all times during it).
  • Less likely to lose any dive gear.
  • It looks cool and makes you feel like James Bond!

Back rolling is great as it is very diverse. Divers can back roll from the edge of boats and platforms of different types and heights in many different environments.

Let’s look into the benefits of back rolling in more detail!

Although falling into the water backwards may look very dangerous at first, it is very safe and easy. A typical gas cylinder weighs around 11-18 kg, therefore in addition to all your dive gear, it is very heavy on your back.

Allowing gravity to pull the tank’s weight into the water is the safest way to enter. 

Due to the weight of all your gear, you risk losing your balance when standing on a rocking boat, it is safest to stay seated and back roll to injury to you and others on the boat

Another advantage of back rolling, as I mentioned before, is that the tank hits the water first. Therefore, the immediate pressure of the water touches the tank before your body or equipment.

The force of the water could be uncomfortable when directed straight onto your mask or parts of your body. 

If an issue was to arise during the entry, during a backroll you would be facing the surface, not facing downwards. This can be more comfortable for beginners, knowing they are looking up, and will easily surface straight away where they can take their time to slowly descend.

There are two different types of back roll, a positive entry or a negative entry, which are beneficial for different situations.

During a positive (buoyancy) entry back roll, your BCD is slightly inflated, ensuring you float to the surface after falling backwards. The benefit of this type of back roll is that you can check on your dive buddies or students on the surface before going down. 

Negative (buoyancy) entry is when you fully deflate your BCD before back rolling, and instead of coming to the surface, you swim straight down. A benefit of this is immediately descending to avoid surface currents.

If you are dropping at a very specific area of a dive site, floating on the surface even for a minute can push you past the desired area, meaning you have to swim further. 

Are There Other Ways Divers Enter the Water?

  • The Giant Stride
  • Gearing up on the surface

There are a couple of other ways to enter the water, other than falling backwards.

Depending on the conditions, size of the boat and location, back rolling is not always the most convenient. If the boat is too high, the giant stride is favourable over the back roll, and during a shore dive, the only way to enter is to walk in.

The Giant Stride Dive Entry.

The giant stride is another popular entry method, which could also be positive or negative entry. This is where the diver is fully equipped, with their fins on, standing at the edge of the boat or entry surface. 

The diver checks if their environment is safe, then places their right hand on their regulator with two fingers on their mask. Their left hand holds the weight belt, as they lift one leg and take a giant stride into the water. 

This method is most commonly used if the surface is flat and sturdy enough to step off, or when the entry point is too high to back roll. Most liveaboards only have the ability for giant strides from a platform or from the deck, because the boat is too high to back roll. 

Benefits of this method include entering easier from a higher platform, and checking the environment is safe as you enter the water. 

However, disadvantages could include some discomfort, as the pressure of the water hits your face, body parts and if you do not do it correctly, the tank could hit the edge of the surface or you could fall forward face first. These are all potentially avoided by back rolling.

How to do a giant stride entry.

Gearing up on the Surface.

One other entry method would be to jump into the water with your fins and your mask, and have your gear handed to you. You then gear up on the surface of the water.

The advantages of this are that it is a safe way to enter the water, and can be good for divers with any back or leg issues. 

The biggest disadvantage is the increased possibility of losing gear while trying to gear up on the surface.

It is also quite difficult to gear up on the surface if there are waves or surface current, and this method is time-consuming, which could lead to surface current moving you away from the desired dive site location. 

Back rolling and the giant stride both allow you to do negative entries to avoid surface currents and spend time beforehand to complete a buddy check! 

Gearing up on the surface

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Although there are different methods of entry that may be more appropriate in different scenarios, back rolling is the most popular and diverse. Scuba divers love to back roll as it is fun, safe, and the quickest way to start the dive!

Regardless of your choice of entry method, entering the water is always exciting as it is the start of an awesome dive!

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Dive Entry FAQs

Why do divers roll in backwards?

Divers roll in backwards because it is the safest, easiest and most comfortable method of entry. It reduces the chance of falling over on the boat, you can always see the surface and you’re less likely to lose any dive gear…and it looks cool!

Bethany Nyquist

Bethany is a writer, an Environmental Scientist and Dive Master, exploring the underwater world. Practising Underwater Photography, Bethany aims to raise awareness for and help protect marine life.

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