5 Tips to Perfect Your BuoyancyMarch 22, 2023
Buoyancy control can seem a little daunting when you first start out in scuba diving. You may look at your instructor hovering effortlessly in the middle of the water and wonder if it involves some kind of magic potion they must give you when you pass your professional qualifications. But with these five easy tips and a little bit of practice, you can achieve perfect buoyancy, too. Are you ready to find out how?
What are the benefits to having good buoyancy?
There are many reasons why having good buoyancy while scuba diving is important (not just that you look cool in underwater photos!). Here are the main ones:
- Good buoyancy stops you from kicking up sand and silt which affects visibility for you and other divers. What is the point of going diving if you cannot see anything?
- It also helps to protect marine life and habitats as you will not be frantically kicking or sculling which can easily lead to a broken piece of coral.
- For the same reason, it also protects you from getting hurt on sharp corals, venomous fish, or dangerous marine debris.
- Having good buoyancy control helps you to conserve your air as you will be more relaxed and use less energy and not be out of breath.
- Bad buoyancy control can lead to a rapid ascent or descent which can be very dangerous. Descending too deep puts you at risk of losing the dive group, becoming ‘narced’ (from nitrogen narcosis), or exceeding safe bottom times. Ascending too quickly puts you at risk of decompression sickness, a lung overexpansion injury, or hitting boats on the surface.
Did you know that good buoyancy is a key skill in underwater photography?
So now that you know why perfecting your buoyancy is beneficial to you. Let’s look at how.
You learn how to perform a buoyancy check in your Open Water Diver course. But here is a quick reminder: First, you can take a rough guess at how much weight you need to add to your body for diving. A general guide is around ten percent of your body weight, but that is not to be relied on as everyone is different. Then, with all your equipment on, start on the surface (full BCD) with the regulator in your mouth (breathing normally), then you can fully deflate the BCD. If you are properly weighted you should still float on the surface even though the BCD is empty. By taking a big breath out, you should descend under the water. If you descend before taking the breath out, you are over-weighted, if you stay floating on the surface, you are under-weighted. Add/take off a little at a time until you nail this exercise.
Always perform a buoyancy check when diving in new places, in different waters, with new equipment (especially wetsuit), with a different size tank or a tank made from a different material, and if you have gained or lost body weight. Make sure to perform a buoyancy check in calm and safe waters.
If you would like to go over the buoyancy check in a bit more detail click here.
2. Adjust a little bit at a time
This is a mistake many beginners make. They try to add air to their BCD to achieve neutral buoyancy, but they do not realize there is a slight delay between adding the air and ascending. Avoid being trigger-happy with the inflator hose. Add just short bursts of air at a time until you feel neutrally buoyant in the water. The same goes for letting air out, release just a bit at a time else you are likely to sink like a rock. Always make sure to hold the inflator hose high above your head when letting air out of the BCD, and do it in an up-right body position to make it easier for the air to get out.
3. Sign up for a buoyancy specialty
If you really want to become a buoyancy pro’, the best way is by signing up for a Perfect Buoyancy specialty. In this course you learn in-depth tips and tricks to achieve perfect buoyancy, and practice buoyancy exercises over and over. Usually involving fun underwater games, the Perfect Buoyancy specialty is one of the most enjoyable as well as one of the most beneficial courses you can do.
4. Find the right weight system for you
Did you know there is more than one weight system to choose from? What works for one person does not necessarily work for someone else. It is good to experiment with weight systems so that you can be comfortable underwater. Here is a quick overview of the two main options:
- Weight belt: Probably what you were/will be given for your Open Water Diver course. A weight belt does exactly what it says on the tin; It is worn as a belt around the waist, and weights are attached to it either by sliding them on or adding them to pockets in the belt. Weight belts allow you to have evenly distributed weight around your body.
- Integrated weights: You might choose a BCD with integrated weights if you decide to buy your own BCD. Some BCD’s come with pockets that can be slid in and out of the sides and held in place using buckles or clips. Integrated weights make it easy to maintain a horizontal diving position and are easy to remove to adjust weight in the water.
Want to take your diving to the next level? Check out our 15 Skills Every Scuba Diver Should Master.
5. Try to relax
This comes with time in scuba diving but when you finally know what you are doing underwater and feel confident in your abilities you can dive with ease and breathe easy. Being relaxed makes for slower and more controlled breathing which is better for buoyancy control.
It can be good to practice breathwork and meditation in your free time as a way to become more peaceful and less anxious. You can then bring this to the water to achieve zen with scuba diving.