So, there you are…a brand new open water diver. Throughout the course your instructor spoke of buoyancy control and had you practice buoyancy skills in confined water and open water, but, do you really have an understanding of how to achieve good buoyancy?
Good buoyancy can be like flying a glider…effortlessly riding the wind, but, in the case ofdiving, you’re gliding over the coral. Good buoyancy doesn’t just happen, you have to practice and work at it. The following tips will hopefully minimize the frustration of learning buoyancy control…
To understand Buoyancy, let’s go back to your open water class, do you remember the three things affect your buoyancy? BCD, Weights and finally your lungs.
Let’s go through each and talk about how they affect our buoyancy…
Weight – getting the right amount…too much and you end up “chasing” your buoyancy, too little and you spend the rest of the dive in a feet up head down position.
Buoyancy Check - Here’s how you do it:
- On the surface, while holding a normal breath and no air in the BCD you should float at eye level.
- When you exhale you should sink.
- Use a tank with 1500psi or less
- As an Aluminum tank empties, it becomes more buoyant…ideally you should be able to comfortably hover at your safety stop with a less than a full tank and little to no air in you BCD.
Some important reminders when doing your buoyancy check:
- Do not kick or scull - just hang
- A new wetsuit with a plush lining will trap more air than your old faith full one…be sure to allow time for water to fully enter all areas of the wetsuit.
- As you change equipment, your buoyancy changes also, do a buoyancy check whenever you change locations (salt vs. fresh) or change equipment
- A steel tank has less of a buoyancy swing than aluminum
Next is the BCD and how it affects buoyancy
- Only let enough air out of the BCD to start your descent
- As you descend, start adding air back into the BCD to control your speed
- If diving deep 60+ feet, don’t be surprised at how much air you’ll add to the BCD
- You should reach neutral buoyancy prior to reaching your planned depth
During The Dive
- R-E-L-A-XNothing messes up buoyancyworst than irregular breathing, remember, slow normal breaths
- Test yourself …when you stop kicking, what do you do? Sink, float?
- if you are properly weighted and staying at a constant depth your breathing will control your buoyancy.
- Before beginning your ascent, remember the ascent rate, most computers use 30ft/min as a guide. That's pretty slow and controlled.
- As you ascent be prepared to vent air from the BCD.
- Once you reach the safety stop, little to no air should be in the BCD, if not do another weight check and adjust.
And the most important point…The final ascent from your safety stop to the surface should be S L O W, remember the greatest pressure change is within the first 33 feet.
And finally, to practice and learn more take the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Course.
Dive Georgia offers this as a stand alone specialty or take it as part of the advanced open water course