Perfect Buoyancy On Every Dive
Want to reduce your air consumption? Be able to fin faster and farther with less effort? Look relaxed and in perfect control? Finish the dive with less fatigue? Receive approving smiles from divemasters?
The secret is pinpoint buoyancy control, and it all begins with fine-tuning your weighting—that's how much lead you thread on your belt or put into your pouches. If you are carrying just the right amount of weight, you will have the smallest amount of BC inflation. That means less drag and more efficient finning. Less BC inflation also means less buoyancy shift with depth, so you'll make fewer adjustments.
How Much Weight Do I Need?
Correct weighting depends on your personal buoyancy needs and is influenced by a number of factors—from the composition of your body to the thickness of your wetsuit. You can get a rough estimate of how much weight you'll need by using our exclusive buoyancy calculator. You should be able to estimate the proper weight within 4 to 5 pounds. Now, go diving and:
Make One Final Check
Got your weighting exactly right on the first day of your vacation? Great. Now check it again a few days later. Chances are you can drop a couple more pounds. Why? You're more relaxed now, so you're breathing with less air in your lungs.
Is "Perfect" Weighting Always Perfect?
Because excellent buoyancy control and minimum weighting are the hallmarks of an expert diver, many of us feel pressure to eliminate every pound of lead we can. But sometimes that's a bad idea.
When you're wearing little or no neoprene, there's little or no buoyancy change with depth. You can therefore minimize your weighting without risking too much positive buoyancy when you ascend.
But wearing more neoprene means more changes in buoyancy as it compresses. At depth, you'll probably have to inflate your BC to compensate for it so you lose a good deal of the streamlining benefit. As you ascend, you'll have to vent that air accurately to avoid positive buoyancy. Here, a couple of extra pounds of lead will give you a margin for error.
Think of minimum weighting as you would the edge of a cliff. You don't want to fall over into positive buoyancy and an uncontrollable ascent. When in doubt, it's safer to stay a few steps—or pounds—back from the edge.
Fine Tune Your Trim
Finding perfect buoyancy isn't just about finding the right amount of weight, it's also about the distribution of that weight. Proper trim—the distribution of your weight front-to-back, side-to-side and head-to-toe—helps you keep your fins off the reef and maintain an efficient horizontal swimming position. You should be able to hover in a horizontal position (or, ideally, in any position) without your feet sinking or rising, without rolling to one side or the other.
If your weighting is spot-on so that you're neutral during your 15-foot safety stop, try these exercises to see if you're properly trimmed. If not, you can shift some weight to compensate. Don't expect perfection, but you can get close. (You've got at least three minutes to kill anyway.) The trick is to be as relaxed as possible. Don't fidget.
The Buddha Hover—Assume the modified lotus position (feet under your thighs) and grab your fin tips. This is a good position from which to fine-tune your buoyancy because your hands keep your fins from wiggling. It also detects trim problems: Do you fall over to one side or the other?
Prone Hover—Stretch out face-down and concentrate on relaxing and not moving your hands and feet. Do you roll to one side or the other? Do your fins rise or sink?
|Side Hover Illustration by Mike Gushock|
Side Hover—This is a better way to detect front-to-back imbalance. Stretch out on your side and, again, concentrate on not moving your hands and feet. Do you roll?