Why is buoyancy control so important for divers?
When you have proper buoyancy, you are able to control how you descend, ascend, and maneuver underwater without exerting too much effort. When you are poor in this department, it makes your dive difficult and exposes you to errors and risks.
Developing good buoyancy skills is not something that you learn overnight unlike other things such as clearing your mask or recovering a regulator which can be accomplished by following procedural steps. It depends on your ability to “sense” your weight and balance in the water – something that you can fine-tune as you dive more often. Although floating and sinking seem easy and straightforward, managing your buoyancy while wearing your scuba equipment requires training and practice. This concept is introduced when you take a beginner’s diving course and enhanced as you progress to advanced courses.
Weighting is the first thing that you need to focus in order to master buoyancy. When you are too light in the water, you will float but when you are too heavy, you tend to put more air in your BCD to make up for the excess weight. This is where proper training comes in because it teaches you how to attain just the right weight.
Excellent buoyancy begins with finding your ideal weight which requires wearing the right amount of lead. To check if you are weighted properly, you must be able to float at eye level on the surface with a completely deflated BCD while holding your breath normally. When you exhale gradually, you should feel yourself sinking until your entire head is submerged underwater. Then when you inhale, you should begin to rise until your face is out of the water. Repeat the process by adding or lessening the lead in 1-2 lb increments until you get it right.
It is a good idea to keep a record of the weights that you used for each dive which you can use as a reference guide in making adjustments when you go to a new dive site. Keep in mind that if you’re wearing a wetsuit, the thickness of the material can affect the weights that you use.
When you are perfectly weighted, you should not go down like a sinking stone. The optimal way of submerging in water is staying neutrally buoyant during the entire descent so that you could control your descent and stop at any moment. This will enable you to equalize your ears and mask as you go down gradually.
In case you feel negatively buoyant at depth, you can adjust this by adding one or two small bursts of air to your BC but do not make the mistake of holding the inflator button down. Doing so might lead to a sudden ascent so be very careful.
Once you feel neutrally buoyant underwater, you can make small buoyancy adjustments through slow and intentional breathing. For instance, you can take a long, deep breath if you want to rise a little to swim above a coral or marine animal and exhale gradually if you need to go further down.
The second phase of mastering buoyancy is trim which refers to your body’s position underwater. Proper trim just like proper weighting requires training and practice to carry out smoothly. The ideal trim means being able to keep your body in a perfectly horizontal position which makes you look as if you are laying on your stomach on a make-believe platform. To achieve this position, your knees must be bent at 90 degrees so that your fins are pointed backward and higher than every other part of your leg. Your arms must be extended to the front of your body and at the same level as your stomach or just below it. At this point, you should be totally flat with no part of your body crossing the horizontal line.
Achieving good trim is important because it allows you to maintain a stable position underwater. It also cuts down the effort of moving through the water, decreases your air consumption rate, and allows you to dive longer.
Without it, you might swim at an angle to the floor which can dissolve your neutral buoyancy. When you have a problem maintaining a stable position, it takes your attention away from important things such as keeping track of your buddy, monitoring your depth and time and managing your gas. The kind of distraction can prevent you from enjoying your dive and may put you and your buddy in danger. It may also hinder you from doing other activities such as taking underwater photography.
To work on your trim, you can play around with your weight, body position, and configuration of scuba equipment to determine what is the most ideal for you. You can also ask the assistance of your buddy to ensure that you have a proper horizontal position in the water. Another option is to arrange for someone to record your movements on camera so you can study it later and determine what you need to work on.
Another essential factor of mastering buoyancy is proper propulsion which involves learning finning and kicking techniques particularly the frog kick. With your body flat and your knees bent at 90 degrees, spread your legs in a V-shape and use your ankles to rotate the fin blades outwards while keeping your fins parallel to the floor. Then in one fluid motion, pull your thighs next to one another and perform a scooping action using the tips of your feet.
This kicking technique is similar to the one used in the breaststroke and utilizes the full strength of your leg. It’s ideal for open water diving in mild currents, in the water column or when diving close to the bottom. However, it may not be advisable in the presence of strong currents or when diving close to walls.
Mastering the frog kick allows you to perform more forward thrusts using less effort since the technique pushes the water directly behind you.
Spot on buoyancy
Nothing boosts your scuba diving experience than mastering perfect buoyancy control but to achieve it, you need dedicated practice and the proper training which you can get from the specialty course Peak Perfect Buoyancy.