To log or not to log? What’s the use of a dive log?

The humble dive log. A piece of recorded history, filled with pictures and memories of dives long gone…

But is the dive log as necessary as everyone seems to think? Does the dive log serve any purpose beyond being a sentimental record?

Many dive centres, like Living Seas Asia, have divers visiting them from all over the world, with varying certifications and experience levels. When planning dives, one important question comes to mind: How can we sort the divers into groups, or categorise them better so that we can keep a closer eye on those who need it?

Certifications have their limitations; they do not tell you about the diver’s experience. So how else can we know what to expect before we dive with strangers?

Enter the log book. Once a simple way to keep track of dives, the dive log has now become the “quality control form” for many dive centres to get a sense of how a diver dives. (Of course, that’s assuming the diver hasn’t forgotten to bring his log book along—and that the entries aren’t forged.)

As a dive instructor, I find log books useful—only to an extent. Again, the data captured in the log doesn’t tell all. Consider the number of dives a diver has clocked up. A higher number doesn’t necessarily indicate a higher skill level: 100 dives in a shallow bay with no current and averaging at a 5m depth doesn’t teach you very much at all, does it?

And what about the most recent dive date? A dangerous diver who dived yesterday will still be a dangerous diver today, unfortunately…

Going beyond the log book
So what can dive operators do to prevent poorly trained divers from injuring the reef, and even worse, themselves?

Conducting “check out dives” is a good first step. That way, dive leaders can get a sense of the skills lacking in a diver before bringing them out to the “nicer” spots (read: deeper and more challenging dives).

However, most dive centres stop at that, and don’t take the important step of educating these divers to be better underwater. But whose responsibility should it really be? The certifying instructors? The Dive Master on a leisure dive?

Honestly, it shouldn’t matter. We should all be doing what we can to help teach these divers how to be better stewards of the environment. If we fail in doing that, then we are as culpable as all the other instructors who trained that diver before us.

That said, the number one thing that all dive centres can and should do, is to train their students well early, starting from the Open Water certification. If dive instructors can all do this, then it wouldn’t be such a challenge vetting each and every diver coming to dive with us. The certification levels would actually mean something once again!

So, to log or not to log—that was the initial question. Ultimately, I believe that it’s entirely up to the diver. For dive centres, the log does serve as a good reference for the dives that came before, but it will not give a full picture of how the diver performs underwater.

To fellow divers: Whether you consider your dive log a treasure trove of memories or a badge of honour, I entreat you to take personal responsibility of your diving: Seek out the knowledge and skills that will allow you to do challenging dives, grow as a diver, and become a true steward of the underwater environment that we all love!

Leon Boey is a GUE, HSA and PADI instructor based in Singapore and Bali. He runs the dive education centre Livingseas in Singapore, Bali and Jakarta. Diving since 2005, he first fell in love with wrecks. He enjoys all sorts of diving, and loves being surrounded by fish.

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