Would you love to be able to glide more effortlessly through the water on dives? As most newbies struggle to stay balanced under the water, you are not alone. It’s fair to say that it’s a tricky task to master and takes a whole lot of patience and practice.
At Ocean Scuba Dive, we want to give you a bit of a helping hand by discussing the keys to great buoyancy and tips for perfecting it. Whether its how to use your scuba BCD correctly, ways to streamline your body when in the water or even give you some tips on saving air, once you learn to master buoyancy, you’ll become a much better diver!
Why is it so Important to Control Buoyancy?
As you’ve probably learned from your open water diving courses, buoyancy is key and it means that while you dive you don’t sink to the bottom or float back to the water’s surface.
Effective buoyancy can help in a number of ways:
- Protects you and the environment you are diving in. Without controlled buoyancy, you may bump or crash into sea urchins or delicate coral.
- Reduces your fatigue levels and improves your air consumption, as you won’t have to work as hard to stay balanced.
- Aids the control of your rate of descent and ascent, therefore reducing the chance of suffering from decompression sickness, also referred to as the bends and divers’ disease.
- Gives you more confidence, thus enhancing your whole experience while diving
Keys to Great Buoyancy
So how do you improve your buoyancy control? There are essentially four may key aspects to buoyancy – BCD, breathing, weighting, and trim. We will highlight the importance of each in the section below.
It takes time and a lot of practice to use your BCD in the most effective way. Crucially, you need to quickly learn to avoid confusing the deflate buttons with those that inflate depending on where you want to go. You may think that you need to deflate to descend and inflate to ascend but it’s actually the opposite.
To ensure you descend with neutral or even a little negative buoyancy, you need to add air slowly and release it when you want to stay buoyant and control the depth you rise at when you want to ascend.
Your lungs are a major part of diving buoyancy. When you have control over your lungs you are able to make minor changes to buoyancy without needing to deflate or inflate your BCD.
Whenever your breath, you add or take air away from your balance overall. Therefore, if you are looking to drop a little further into the water, you need to just exhale more air than normal. Whereas, if you are looking to ascend a little in the water, simply inhale a little deeper than normal.
Another important factor to consider is the right weighting. A lot of beginners tend to be a little on the heavy side underwater. The additional weight they carry means they need to compensate for it by adding more air to their BCD. It would be more effective to lose some of the weight and dive with the appropriate weight from the get-go.
The best way to ensure you are correctly weighted is by floating on the surface at eye level with a BCD that is completely empty. Inhaling should make you rise up while exhaling should make you sink down at least until you are submerged enough that your eyes are underwater.
Trim is the name given to a steady and flat position under the water. To do this, you need to get yourself into the best position underwater, with your body flat, fins pointing out behind you and your knees bent to 90-degrees.
This is such a good position because you have the smallest surface area and therefore, are more streamlined. Combining this with frog kicks will enable you to glide and kick effectively through the water.
Tips to Help You Master Control of Buoyancy
If you have gotten a handle on the basics, there are still some things you can do to enhance and better your buoyancy skills. Remember, there are no quick ways to do this.
Enroll on a Course
Enrolling on a special buoyancy improvement course will help you improve your skills in a short amount of time. SDI, PADI and other training agencies all offer this kind of course.
There are a lot of ways you can enhance your buoyancy skills. Why not enroll in a PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Course. Or have your dive instructor give you pointers before or after dives.
Deflate and Rotate
One of the biggest issues that newbie scuba divers have is being unable to deflate the BCD correctly. This is generally because they do not keep the corrugated hose exhaust port as the system’s highest point. The result is that they go through the procedure of deflating properly, without actually doing it, because air is trapped.
This can be solved easily, by dropping your right shoulder as you swim through the water, raising your left shoulder and then turning your head to the left. Rotating in this way causes two important things to occur – the corrugated hose is at the highest point in your system, making it easier to release air. Because you will be able to see the hose, you will know for certain that air is being vented.
Practice, Practice & Practice
Practice, practice and yes, more practice is the most important key to perfecting buoyancy. The best place to do this is in shallower waters, as minor changes often make the biggest changes when it comes to buoyancy.