From an outside perspective, watching scuba divers gracefully explore coral reefs and take pictures of sea life doesn’t look difficult at all. As many divers know, what appears to be effortless actually requires a great deal of skill. Mastering buoyancy control doesn’t happen the first time you dive, but these 10 tips can help new divers quickly learn how to achieve better buoyancy control and ace their next dive:
Learn How Buoyancy Works
In order to truly master precision buoyancy control, it is helpful to learn a bit about how buoyancy works. You don’t need to become an expert in physics, but understanding Boyle’s Law and how it can affect your dive is helpful when it comes to achieving expert buoyancy control.
Boyle’s Law states that when the temperature is held constant, the pressure and volume of a gas have an inverse relationship. To understand this law, it might be helpful to visualize gas particles inside a container with a plunger on one end.
In this container, the pressure is low and the volume is high. Let’s say that we now decrease the volume of the container by pushing the plunger further into the container. Now, the pressure is high and the volume is low. This is called an “inverse relationship” because the pressure and volume move in different directions.
What Does This Have to Do with Buoyancy?
Once you understand Boyle’s Law, you can see how it applies to some of the fundamentals of scuba diving. It is a critical that all divers know this law so that they can have a better understanding of how their equipment and breath control works to control their buoyancy.
As a diver descends, the water pressure increases, and the volume of air in their BCD and their lungs decreases. As they ascend, the opposite happens, and the volume of air in their BCD will increase as water pressure decreases. With a good understanding of Boyle’s Law and knowing how your breathing affects buoyancy (more on this later), you can perfect both your ascent and descent.
Experiment with Weighting
Better buoyancy control can be achieved through proper weighting—or, fine-tuning their weight system that allows them to descend. Divers need weights that will allow them to sink slowly and in a controlled manner, but a surprising amount of divers (both old and new) seem to get their weighting systems wrong. This is most likely due to divers being unwilling to experiment with their weight system and not finding what works best for them.
To determine proper weighting, you will need to consider factors such as your wetsuit and your body composition. A buoyancy calculator will give you a rough estimate of how much weight you will need, but divers should note that these calculators are only meant to give you a ballpark range for weights.
Common Weighting Mistakes
When you experiment with your weighting system, there is a good chance that you will make some mistakes. These are the two most common weighting mistakes that you might run into:
By sink quickly so that they can easily reach the bottom, but this often results in constant adjusting of the BCD far, the most common mistake divers make is overweighting themselves. This allows them to.
Less is not more in the case of scuba diving. Some divers assume that because overweighting is bad, being as light as possible is better. However, if you find yourself needing to swim to descend, then you probably need to add more weight.
Check Your Buoyancy
Once you are experimenting with your weighting system, you will want to perform a buoyancy check after your dive. There are a lot of factors that go into achieving pinpoint buoyancy control and some of these factors you can’t control. You can get better at controlling your buoyancy by keeping a diver’s log and noting what exposure suit you wore, what type of diving equipment you used, how much weight you carried, whether you are diving in salt water or freshwater, etc. Continually checking and logging this information will help you achieve precision buoyancy control.
To perform a buoyancy check, make sure that your BCD is nearly empty. Empty the BCD completely while you are on the surface. Hold a single breath and float at eye level. You can use the results of this test for any other dives you take that day. You will know when you are correctly weighted because you will be just slightly negatively buoyant when you are at the three-minute safety stop.
Perfect Your Trim
In addition to the finding the right weighting system, the divers who have mastered buoyancy control have also perfected their body position in the water, or trim. Perfecting your trim takes a lot of practice and dedication, but it will help you become a much better diver. In addition to increasing your dive time, improving your trim also allows you to be less exhausted after a dive and helps you control your buoyancy.
How Do I Achieve Proper Trim?
Having difficulty with your trim is a common problem, and one that can go for years without being detected. Proper trim is when the body is perfectly horizontal, and the diver’s legs are bent at the knees, with his/her fins raised higher than any other parts of the legs.
Testing for Proper Trim
To test for proper trim, descend to 15 feet and achieve neutral buoyancy. Position yourself horizontally with your arms clasped in front of you and your legs stretched behind you. Now, try hovering in this position without moving your body for at least 30 seconds. If your body is shifting during the test, you will need to figure out where the problem is and correct it. Some women have trouble with their legs being particularly buoyant. In this case, ankle weights can be used to counteract this buoyancy.
Get Acquainted with Your BCD
Divers who want to achieve better buoyancy control should know the ins and outs of their buoyancy control device. The BCD is the piece of equipment that gives you control while you are in the water, and all divers should have a BCD that is perfectly fitted for them. One that is too large or too small will make achieving perfect buoyancy much harder.
In addition to this, you should know exactly how your specific BCD works. Do you know where the dump valves are and how to use them in certain positions and situations? If not, it is time to learn. Educating yourself on your BCD will not only help you master your buoyancy, but it will also contribute to safer diving practices. According to aDAN Diving Fatalities Workshop Report, poor buoyancy control is one of the top three root causing to diver fatalities. By learning everything you can about your BCD, you will become a better and safer diver.
Learn How to Control Your Breath
Becoming familiar with proper breathing techniques is a key component to scuba diving. Those who have never dived before assume that you breathe normally underwater like you would on land. However, divers who try to breathe normally will find themselves exhausted, because they will end up consuming air quicker. For better buoyancy control and a longer dive time, divers will need to learn how to use their lungs during every point of the dive.
As You Descend:
For descending, slowly exhale as you deflate your BCD. Continue to exhale until your head is about 20 inches under the surface. Stop deflating your BCD once you hit this point, even if there is air still left in it. When you find yourself needing to inhale, make sure that you inhale slow and steady. Continue descending as you exhale, while slowing or stopping when you need to inhale.
During the Dive :
Once you have made it to the bottom or level that you want, you should inhale slowly for four seconds, pause for two seconds (not holding your breath—just pause), and then exhale for four seconds.
As You Ascend:
During ascension, you need to be continuously breathing. Inhale for three seconds (do not hold your breath) and exhale for four seconds. Make sure that you are exhaling fully, as this will help you avoid lung over expansion injuries.
Avoid Using Your Hands
It can be difficult for new divers to not use their hands while they swim because they are tempted to correct their buoyancy this way. This is a bad habit that can mess with your buoyancy control. Using your hands and arms as a way to correct your buoyancy will prevent you from properly controlling your buoyancy through the use of your lungs, BCD, or your fins. The better you get at controlling your buoyancy, the less you will find yourself relying on your hands to correct your buoyancy.
It’s tempting to cheat and use your hands, but watch your instructor, and you will most likely see them swimming horizontally with their arms crossed. Plus, it’s very easy to accidentally stir up sediment and cause visibility issues during your dive. This could cause you to accidentally slam into precious coral reefs or even hurt yourself by accident.
Take a Scuba Diving Course
If all of these tips so far sound like a lot of work, that’s because scuba diving isn’t exactly easy. This is largely what makes it so rewarding for many divers. Continuously working on techniques to become a better diver is part of the journey. Whether you are seeking to improve your buoyancy control or you are a complete beginner looking to get started, taking a scuba diving course is never a bad idea.
With a course, you can learn from expert divers who can teach you the best scuba diving practices for a safe and fun experience. Here are some benefits other than acquiring better buoyancy control that you can expect from a scuba diving course:
Quickly correct bad habits :
Your diving instructors will be able to identify mistakes that you may not have noticed for years and can correct them on the spot. This will save you a lot of time and frustration.
It’s a group experience :
It is unlikely that you will be all alone in your class, and learning with others can help you learn even more quickly. This is because your fellow students might make mistakes that need correcting as well. You can learn from them and avoid making these mistakes yourself.
Some serious perks :
When you take a professional course, the program might include some additional perks, such as your dive experience being filmed so that you can purchase it later. This allows you to relive the experience again and again.
A safer and more relaxed dive :
If you were slightly nervous about scuba diving (and it’s perfectly normal to be nervous the first time), taking a course from a dive master will help ease your anxieties. This can make you feel more relaxed and safer on your dive.
Keep a Dive Log
Recording your dives in a dive log is key to improving your technique and achieving buoyancy control. Anyone who plans on diving regularly should be keeping track of their dives so that they can note their progress and improve where they are having difficulties. A dive log allows you to record the amount of weight that you used on a certain dive, your various equipment that you used, and the conditions of your dive, so that you can improve your buoyancy control. In addition, it doesn’t hurt to record your milestones and keep you motivated as well.
Invest in Your Dive Gear
All of your equipment plays an important role in your diving experience. Your BCD, your wetsuit, your mask—each piece of equipment will contribute to buoyancy control. It can be difficult to focus on breathing techniques or proper trim when your wet suit is so restrictive that you have limited movement. If you truly want to achieve better buoyancy control and have a good diving experience, avoid purchasing the cheapest scuba diving gear available.
In addition to this, don’t forget that your equipment needs to be properly cared for. After every single dive, you should be inspecting your gear and taking care of each piece so that you avoid equipment failure during your next dive. By doing so, you can expect a better dive experience and be able to focus on improving your buoyancy control.