It can be frustrating if you do not have expert buoyancy control, especially when starting out as a new diver. Follow these 5 buoyancy tips and you are well on the way to perfecting the art of flight underwater.
Buoyancy is often compared to as the feeling of flying. This is true if a diver masters their buoyancy. Many divers will provide each other with buoyancy tips along the way. To feel weightless and glide effortless through the water can be achieved with lots of practice, taking the PADI Buoyancy Specialty course and by following the 5 buoyancy tips below:
This guide assumes you are already properly weighted.
5 Buoyancy Tips
1. Relax whenever you are diving. This may sound straight forward. However it is paramount when attempting to master buoyancy control. Every adjustment you make to your buoyancy, be it by breathing or by adding or removing air from your BCD, has an effect. The upward or downward buoyancy motion respectively will be delayed significantly. Especially for new divers this is an unusual feeling, which can result in you not believing that breathing in actually creates upward buoyant motion and vice versa. By relaxing you can really feel this delay and how your actions affect your buoyancy.
2. Make buoyancy a habit on your every dive and during your entire dive. Rather than treating buoyancy as a skill to master, you should make it a habit to exercise good buoyancy all the time. You would not surface swim with your mask on your forehead, so you should not be doing forward and backward rolls on your safety stop! Maintain proper trim position throughout your dive and the results are very rewarding. This also forces you to think about your buoyancy no matter the depth or situation on your dive. Are you hovering or are you swimming?
3. Use your BCD less, not more. Your primary tool for adjusting and controlling your buoyancy is not your BCD. Your primary tool to adjust for buoyancy during your dive is your lungs. Think about your breathing. Taking very deep breaths will affect your buoyancy upward and exhaling all the way will affect it downward. The air in your BCD is primarily used to counter the weight you carry at a specific depth. Ideally you descend with an empty BCD to your maximum depth, add air to your BCD to achieve neutral buoyancy with a “normal breath” in your lungs. From then on you should be able to control your buoyancy motion exclusively with your breathing. As you progress to the shallower parts of your dive, you should only need to release small amounts of air from your BCD. Air expands on your way up and will provide too much upward buoyant motion. You rarely need to add air to your BCD later in the dive.
4. Body position is everything. As an advanced diver you perfect your trim body position. You won’t be using your hands to swim at all. With an arched back and your legs up high you can effortlessly glide through the water with minimal effort. If you are hovering, to look at a school of fish for example, you actually require a small amount more air in your BCD in order to maintain neutral buoyancy than if you are swimming along in trim position. This is why it is important to get a good body position from the get go. Beginner divers often have their head higher, meaning they actually swim up slightly and in order to “correct” this they over-weigh themselves. Perfect your trim, weight distribution and body position and work on your buoyancy skills from there.
5. Awareness of your body position, your depth, your breathing as well as your surroundings can greatly improve how effectively you can adjust your buoyancy. Taking a very deep breath at 40m will have less effect on your buoyancy than taking that same breath at a shallower depth. Without ever holding your breath, during a hover you can really use your breathing to maintain the exact same depth over a long period of time. You can use the delay in your buoyancy motion and offset your breathing to the upward and downward motion. Just as you feel yourself rising, breathe out and just as you feel yourself sinking breathe in. Use smaller breaths, because if you fill your lungs that upward motion will be more dramatic. Knowing exactly how you are positioned in the water will help you in determining how to adjust for your buoyancy. Factors such as currents and surge can definitely provide an additional challenge to your buoyancy. If you are diving into a medium or strong current, you can control your buoyancy by keeping your head low for example.
We hope these buoyancy tips got you excited about diving and trying it out on your next dive trip. Remember you can use these tools on every dive you take. If you are simply fun diving or if you are taking a course.
By Lionel (MSDT Instructor)
Have any buoyancy tips? Share them in the comments below!