Mastering Buoyancy Control

Peak performance buoyancy control separates the dive noobs from the dive pros. No matter how many dives you have under your belt, whether its a few or a thousand, in scuba diving, nothing make an impression more than perfect buoyancy control.

The secret is complete buoyancy control begins when you learn to fine-tune your weighting (knowing exactly how much lead you wear and where you place it over your equipment configuration). If you are carrying just the right amount of weight, you will have the smallest amount of BC inflation. This equals less drag and more efficient finning. Less BC inflation also means less buoyancy shift when you change depth, so you’ll make fewer adjustments during the course of your dive. There are many tips and tricks, but pinpoint buoyancy control is the fundamental skill you need to get a hold of sooner or later. Precise control of your buoyancy is what enables you to hover completely motionless and glide effortlessly as you fin through the water, at any depth, without using your hands at all.

It sounds easy when you say it, so why isn’t it?

In fact, peak performance buoyancy control requires getting more than one thing right. The factors that affect your buoyancy besides ballast weight are BC inflation, your trim, exposure suit, depth and breath control. Your weight and your trim are the only two factors that, once you’ve selected them, stay put. All the others are variable, changing during the dive along with time or depth or both. Some you can control, some you can’t.

Mastering Buoyancy Control Advice

Here is our advice for getting perfect neutral buoyancy so you can enjoy your time underwater without flapping around in vain and fiddling too much with your BC inflator hose.

Take a Peak performance Buoyancy Course. We teach PADI’s “Peak Performance Buoyancy.” course which teaches you precise buoyancy control, streamlining, weight and trim adjustment, equipment configuration options and relaxation techniques. Accelerate your learning curve, divers who have completed this course early on look like a diver with 30 or 40 more dives that you think they have because they look so much more controlled in the water afterwards.

Prepare Pre-dive. Real buoyancy control begins with pre-dive preparation. As you pack and check your equipment, double-check to make sure nothing has changed that could affect initial weighting. New wetsuit? Major factor. Nice, springy new wet suits need more weight than old compressed flatties do. A fresh suit has more inherent buoyancy at first which after a few dives, especially deep dives, simply bursts its bubbles and become less buoyant on future dives. New BC? Unlikely to have a major effect at this point, but it will in the water. New weight belt or weights at different dive centers? Take a moment to make sure the new compares well to the old. Its unlikely on the dive boat you can stick ’em on a bathroom scale; but ask the divemaster aboard for an exact weight, often there is variation between claimed and actual weight, so 5 weights can be quiet different in actual “weight”. New cylinder? Another biggie. Some cylinders are negatively buoyant when full and simply less negative when empty; others sink first and float later. Ask yourself is it a 12lt Aluminium tank or otherwise?

Do a buoyancy check. Here’s how to make a proper buoyancy check: With your lungs half-full, you should float at eye level with an empty BC at the surface. But the fact that your average cylinder loses about 5 pounds as it empties gets you thinking about the buoyancy change in a tank and is a good reminder that it’s best to do a buoyancy check with a nearly empty cylinder before you dive. This is obviously a bit of a pain, so add about 5 pounds to your weight if you have done your buoyancy check with a full one. You can always take a moment and recheck buoyancy after a dive, just before you get out of the water. During the dive. Now for diving itself. Understand why feet-first descents have many advantages: One is that it’s easiest to completely empty your BCD in this position. Double-check that the point where the deflator hose attaches to the bladder is really the closest point to the surface as you prepare to descend. It’s often helpful to dip your opposite shoulder as you raise your LPI. Exhale, and this doesn’t just mean breath out and then in, breath out with breath control to allow yourself to sink. If you’re properly weighted, you should sink slowly. Keep your hand on the BC inflator and get ready to add controlled small bursts of air to adjust your descent rate. You’ll add more as the descent continues. If you’re making a deep dive for the first time, it can be a bit of a surprise to see just how much air you have to add as you continue. During the dive, enjoy the fruits of your hard work. Concentrate on what happens as you breathe. If you see something interesting below you, exhale and drift down for a look. Inhale and you’ll level off and start to rise. Don’t vary your breathing habits too much, though; breathing slowly deeply and continuously is of primary importance.

On Your ascents. Keep the point about BC positioning in mind while making gradual ascents too. It’s easy to trap some air in an unfamiliar BC, which will continue to expand as you ascend. On deeper dives, and given neutral buoyancy, you should only have to start swimming up a little before expanding air takes over. Make sure you’re ready to vent this off as needed and get familiar with your BCD’s dump values and air release mechanisms. Focus for your safety stop. The aim is to be neutral while doing your safety stop, so that’s when you can really fine-tune your buoyancy and practice. As you near the surface, keep an eye on your depth and stop at 5m. After three minutes, kick slowly for the surface. If you have done everything right, there should be no air in your BCD as you break the surface. You should also now be floating at eye level, rising a little as you inhale and sinking slowly as you exhale. If this is not the case, make appropriate adjustments before your next dive.

Keep Tabs in a Log After each dive, write down what exposure suit you wore, what equipment you used, how much lead you carried, how much your body weighs and whether you seemed too heavy or light at your safety stop .

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Improve your Buoyancy Control Summary

  • Take the peak performance buoyancy Course ( 1 day 2 dives )
  • Take Advanced Open Water Course, gain experience and ask to complete 1 peak performance buoyancy dive
  • Practice: Even when you take a fun diving trip you can practice buoyancy. Especially after your peak buoyancy class you can further practice and refine your buoyancy control techniques to become a true buoyancy master.
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