Diver’s Corner: Buoyancy
When it comes to diving, newly certified and veteran divers alike share many characteristics. A love for the ocean. Fascination with marine wildlife. A passion for the sport of diving itself. In addition to all of these qualities, many divers new and old share one more thing in common: they are improperly weighted. Improper weighting makes achieving neutral buoyancy impossible and can come from a variety of common mistakes. Many divers, even those that dive regularly, get into a habit of simply strapping on any weight belt they are given, fail to account for wetsuits and other equipment, don’t calculate kilogram/pound conversions properly, or may even just guess at the amount of weight they need. All of these errors can make dives less comfortable, increase breakage of coral and other marine substrate, and increase the risk of a dive accident or serious injury. So Passions of Paradise asked some of our staff instructors to come up with some tips to properly weight yourself during a dive, and as usual, they didn’t disappoint.
In an effort to help all divers achieve better buoyancy during dives, here are five tips to help you achieve perfect buoyancy:
- Take a course. PADI offers a course in buoyancy and weighting called “Peak Performance Buoyancy.” This course will teach you how to streamline your body while your swimming, how to trim your gear (putting weight in proper places, not just the proper amount of weight), and difference swimming and relaxation techniques, all of which can greatly improve your buoyancy.
- Pre-dive preparation. Check your equipment, as new equipment or equipment you are unfamiliar with can affect how you weigh yourself during the dive. For example, a new wetsuit will have more tiny air bubbles in the neoprene and therefore be more buoyant. A rental suit may be thicker than you are accustomed to, or may be a short-sleeve style instead of full-body. Check your attachments as well; if you are diving around a relatively shallow reef, do you really need to attach reels, knives, torches and other bulky equipment that may just get in the way?
- Use a buoyancy calculator. Many open water students are so excited to get into the water that they skim over the skills needed to calculate proper weighting. Divers are generally taught to being neutrally buoyant at 15 feet deep while wearing an empty BC and carrying a nearly empty tank. This is usually roughly calculated by the basic ballpark method: carry 10 percent of your body weight in lead. There are many other factors to consider; before diving, check out links such as http://www.sportdiver.com/learn-to-dive/article/buoyancy-calculator-scuba-divers to learn how to calculate buoyancy properly.
- During the ascent. Keep the point about BC positioning in mind while making gradual ascents too. It’s easy to trap some air in an unfamiliar BC, which will continue to expand as you ascend. On deeper dives, and given neutral buoyancy, you should only have to start swimming up a little before expanding air takes over. Make sure you’re ready to vent this off as needed.
- Log your dives. At the end of each dive, record how much equipment you had with you, what type of exposure protection you had, and how much weight you put on, and whether or not it felt right. The more you are able to look back on your experiences, the more you will get a feel for your proper weighting.
Now that you have these tips to improve your buoyancy, what are you waiting for? Book a dive on the Great Barrier Reef, and we’ll see you on board!