Importance of Mastering Buoyancy During Diving
Photo by Max Gotts
Neutral buoyancy is the most important fundamental skill every diver must master. It is also an essential skill that is difficult for novice divers to master. Perfecting your buoyancy control during each dive helps to minimise your breathing gas, allowing you to move around the ocean comfortably, keeps you calm, and not overexert yourself. Divers with good buoyancy usually create less to no damage to the corals and not disturb marine life.
Achieving perfect neutral buoyancy not only lets you have a pleasant dive trip and discover more of the underwater life, but this core and fundamental skills will also keep you safe when you descend into the water and ascend during your safety stops. (Because it is not safe for anyone to descend too deep or ascend too quickly.)
The ultimate goal in achieving perfect buoyancy is to truly enjoy your time underwater and reap the benefits of perfecting this skill so contribute to lower air consumption and reduced fatigues. Here we would like to share what to look out for when practising proper trimming and weighting.
All divers would have gone through this when they first started. Although divers know what to do, there are still some divers who struggle to sail through the waters smoothly and thus increase their air consumption.
The weighing system is primarily for two functions: Ballast and Trim. The right amount of ballast will prevent divers from floating up when they need to stay down and also keeping the body position in the right direction.
One of the common problems divers have is carrying more lead than they should, causing them to be overweight underwater. First, you have to understand how weight belts, wetsuits, cylinder tanks, and your breathing can contribute to achieving the right buoyancy.
Cylinder Tank Weight
Scuba tanks moulded using either steel or aluminium. While many would think steel might be a better choice, it may not necessarily be a better option for you as steel can be less buoyant nearing the end of the dive and thus having to carry more weights to compensate for the buoyancy.
Body Type & Size
For divers who are overweight, you will likely have to use more weights as fat tissues are less dense compared to muscle tissues. So, if you’re buffed and muscular, use lesser weights.
Buoyancy Control Device (BCD)
BCD helps to compensate for volume changes and maintain neutral buoyancy. As we descend, the wetsuit will compress, resulting in loss of volume and buoyancy. Adding air into the BCD when diving deeper will compensate in air volume lost, helping us maintain neutral buoyancy.
Before each dive, make sure you check the power inflator is in working condition. Have your BCD professionally serviced by an authorised dealer to make sure there are no leaks in the air bladder and restore the power inflator.
Different wetsuits contribute to a different size, thickness and type of suit can vary between manufacturers. Wetsuit ages over time, and that means your wetsuit will compress and become less buoyant. For comparison, for every millimetre of the thickness of a brand new wetsuit, there is an estimated 2 to 3 pounds of buoyancy. Thicker neoprene wetsuits are usually more buoyant than thinner ones.
If you have been training in freshwater conditions, take note that in saltwater you will need to use more weights as saltwater is denser compared to the latter. An estimate of every 1mm of the wetsuit = the number of 1kg block of lead weight to use (do the calculation of equipment buoyancy too as it contributes to the perfect the buoyancy)
When we get nervous underwater, we tend to hold our breath, and that also means a lung full of air. So, just relax and focus on your breathing. Reduce moving your limbs around too much minimum at the beginning of the dive. While one hand is holding onto your regulator, keep your other arm still and fins pointing downwards, take in small inhalation each time and when you exhale, hold on to it until you can feel yourself sinking to at least 5 feet.
Practice Makes Perfect
With experience and practice of proper breathing techniques, and knowing the right amount of weights to use, soon you will be hovering in the water like you’re in space.
Get Professional Help
When in doubt on how much weight you should be carrying, always get help from your dive instructor or dive guide before you jump in. Additionally, you can also take up a speciality certification to fine-tune your skills. SSI is one of the scuba schools that offers this program to teach you the skills and techniques needed to maximise your dive experience, getting the most out of your equipment and at the same time earn a Perfect Buoyancy Specialty certification.