Carve With Care: Halloween Safety Tips

Divers carefully carve pumpkins at the Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest off Key Largo, Fla., in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau.

As ghastly ghouls, witches, warlocks and ninja turtles take to the streets in search of candied delights, divers head to the sea equipped with pumpkins and carving knives.

Underwater pumpkin carving contests have been growing in popularity over the years. Divers descend with their pumpkins only to return as crafters hoisting vampires, sharks, octopi, sea turtles and dive flag gourds to present to the judges in hopes of a prize.

Are you celebrating the spookiest day of the year in traditional diving style? If so, prepare for this Halloween's underwater escapades with these dive safety tips in mind.

  • Don your wackiest wetsuit, but leave the capes and props at home; costumes underwater can cause serious complications and pose safety risks. It would be a shame and quite hazardous to have your underwater Superman impressions foiled by a case of cape entanglement. Costumes can be cumbersome, and they can affect buoyancy as well as your ability to maneuver safely and access gear. Save the costumes for the topside after party.

  • Water and air temperatures can start to cool off in the early autumn months. Be sure to wear appropriate exposure protection to enjoy a more comfortable dive. While gloves may reduce finger dexterity for those intricate pumpkin cuts, freezing fingers are also less nimble and more uncomfortable.

  • Make sure your skills are fresh in your mind. If it has been a while since your last dive, a refresher course can help clear out some of the mental cobwebs.

  • Pack it in; pack it out. As with any dive activity, don't leave any waste behind. If permitted, scoop out your pumpkin guts prior to the dive. This will make your underwater carving endeavor cleaner and more efficient. Bring a mesh bag to carry out any pumpkins cuts that you make during the competition.

  • As you descend, a hollowed pumpkin tends to be positively buoyant. Place a weight inside your pumpkin to keep it from floating away in the mid-carving frenzy. Be sure to incorporate this added weight in your dive plan.

  • Be careful with your carving knife. Cuts and damaged gear are dangerous and no fun. Carve your pumpkin with care and be cautious. Safely stow your knife before descending and ascending.

  • During the competition, keep an eye on your air supply and depth. While these events are usually hosted at shallow depths, it is easy to get absorbed in the crafting of the perfect aquatic jack-o-lantern. Be aware of your surroundings, including other divers and curious marine life. This is an opportunity to hone your skills as diver, focusing on a specific task while practicing dive safety.

  • Ask your host if your dive can be applied to a specialty course; combine a fun event with continued education and skill development.

Save the scares for the haunted house and keep your festivities fun with a little preparation. Happy Halloween and dive safely!