Buoyancy control is one of the fundamental skills that we learn as scuba diver. Usually the most interesting of sea creatures are found hidden in reef systems and having control of your buoyancy is not only safer for the marine environment, it is safer for you and your dive team. Buoyancy control can help you to get the most out of your dive, minimize your air consumption and can help you to most importantly, have fun throughout your dive. There are 6 contributing factors that affect buoyancy control these include, body positioning, what type of wetsuit you are wearing, the amount of lead weights you are wearing, the amount of air in your BCD (buoyancy control device), depth and how you control your breathing. With so many factors affecting your buoyancy it can be difficult for new divers to perfect this skill, however practice makes perfect and once you know what works for you, your issues with buoyancy will become a thing of the past.
There is always one person on your dive who hasn’t yet perfected this skill and who can sometimes ruin the dive for themselves and others so, here are 6 secret tips to help your buoyancy control and to prevent you from being that person.
6. Understand The Concept Of Boyle’s Law
When training to become an open water diver, Boyle’s law is drummed into us from the very beginning. It is important that you do not forget this, once you leave the classroom. This law of physics can directly relate to divers and states that ‘the pressure and volume of a gas have an inverse relationship, if the pressure surrounding a gas increases, the volume of the gas decreases and visa versa’. In relation to divers, this means that the air within your BCD, wetsuit, tank or lungs decreases as we descend and as we ascend, the volume of air increases the closer we get to the surface, this is why as divers, we are taught never to hold our breathe as this can result in some serious damage. This is an extremely important concept to understand for buoyancy as it shows that our breath control and equipment can directly affect our buoyancy. Remember however, that this law only applies if the temperature of the gas remains the same.
5. Improve Your Body Positioning
Perfecting your body positioning can be one of the hardest things a diver has to do when controlling their buoyancy underwater. It is important to remember that if your head is higher than your feet, as soon as you kick your fins this will generally send you upwards and if your head is lower than your feet, the kick of your fins will send you downwards. When you begin to travel upwards or downwards a divers initial response is to rectify this by either increasing the amount of air in their BCD or dumping the air from their BCD, which will in turn affect your balance and will prevent you from achieving neutral buoyancy. Your weights will also affect your buoyancy so in order to perfect your body position, once you are under the water, achieve neutral buoyancy, place your body in a horizontal position and see if your legs go down or up. If they sink, then adjust your weight belt. It is common that women find that their legs float when diving however; this can easily be sorted with some ankle weights.
4. Make Sure You Are Weighted Correctly
Having the incorrect amount of weight is so common and is an issue that most divers will have at one time or another. It is particularly common in new students, as they haven’t yet had the necessary experience to experiment with different weights. It is normal that instructors will overweight their students in order to prevent them from having uncontrolled ascents and to help them remain on the seabed to practice skills. However, as a result of this, divers go through their entire diving career believing that this is the correct weight for them. If a diver is over weighted, they will compensate by inflating their BCD when they feel like they are sinking and deflate their BCD when they feel that they are floating. Not only does this excess air in the BCD create drag but it can also be extremely time consuming and frustrating to constantly be altering the amount of air in their BCD. Being over weighted can ruin a dive. However, buoyancy control can be easily achieved if a diver uses minimal weights and therefore does not need to inflate their BCD throughout the dive.
3. Control Your Breathing
Using your lungs to ascend and descend is one of the most difficult lessons to learn as a trainee scuba diver. As a student the initial thought would be to inflate your BCD and ascend, however, remembering Boyle’s law, this is a big NO-NO. By playing around with your BCD, this can lead to issues with buoyancy and can put a diver in a dangerous position. The key is to use your breath to help you ascend or descend. Your lungs act like flotation or deflation devices, breathing in will help you to come up to the surface and breathing out will help you go down. Throughout your dive, you must ensure that your breathing is smooth and controlled, as any alternative will affect your buoyancy and balance under the water. If you feel that you are having an issue with your buoyancy, always adjust your breathing before jumping straight to adding air into your BCD. I know it is hard if you are a new diver, however try to relax under the water; this will help your buoyancy immensely.
2. DO NOT Use Your Hands
Using your hands can definitely affect your buoyancy, it can totally throw you off balance and can not only affect you, but also can be extremely annoying to your buddy or dive team. Using your hands to control your buoyancy or to help you change direction can be counteractive to finding neutral buoyancy. In addition, some divers use their arms when changing direction and this can not only waste energy, but can also affect air consumption. A number of accidents can happen when a diver uses their arms, not only can they cause damage to the surrounding underwater environment, but they can also cause some damage to fellow divers, such as accidentally pulling out their mask or pulling out their regulator. Flailing the arms to help you throughout your dive will also prevent you from learning how to do it correctly.
1. Log Your Dives And What Equipment You Were Using
Logging your dives is not only used to help you capture and remember all the amazing experiences you have had over the course of your diving career, it can also be essential when choosing what equipment works for you. It is important to always log how many weights you have used, what wetsuit or exposure suit you have used as well as the various conditions you came up against. By doing this, you will have a better chance of not experiencing any buoyancy issues when you go on your next dive. Instead of relying on your instructor or dive masters estimation, all you need to do is refer to your previous dives and adjust accordingly. Taking responsibility for your buoyancy is a great way to help you learn and increase your confidence under the water.