You moved like a fish underwater! Why do you still have so much air after your dives and why are you swimming so close to the reef yet not touching them? These were usually the comments of my divers when we surfaced after diving. Well, good buoyancy control is usually my answer to them then the next question will always be… HOW?!?
Proper buoyancy control is the most important or sometime the most difficult skill for a diver to master but maintaining neutral buoyancy is the key to easy diving, save more air, avoiding damage to coral reefs and most important; enjoy the underwater environment.
When I started diving 25years ago as a teenager, was not doing it for pleasure but was working as a part time cleaner in a yacht club in Singapore over the weekends to make some extra bucks for school allowance. I don’t even use a BCD when I was cleaning, it was just a back mounted with the tank and regulator. I would usually go for a short dive at the pier after cleaning the yacht, don’t know much about controlling buoyancy. I was just using my lungs to fine-tune my buoyancy underwater without the use of a Buoyancy Control Devise (BCD).
I became more involved in diving when I entered the Army; I was introduced to different types of BCD. I still remember using it in a swimming pool and trying to perfect in using it. I was amazed by the Instructors how they were able to control their buoyancy underwater, moving like a fish; slow and steady. I remembered asking myself how could I be like them. Years have pass… I have dived for so many years and certified more than 1500 students of all levels. Taught many students how to control their buoyancy, how to conserve their air underwater and how to enjoy the underwater world.
There are many information written about Buoyancy Control but I am just going to share with you 3 tips on how to control your buoyancy underwater. Hope these tips can help you to become a better diver and enjoy the beauty of the underwater world.
1. Are You Properly Weighted?
Divers usually have the idea of having more weights so that they will not have problems with their buoyancy underwater, they are afraid of having difficulty to get into the water but having more weights on will cause drag underwater. When you feel heavy, you need more effort to move underwater. It is important for us to be streamline as much as possible when we are underwater.
When you fully deflated your BCD, do you sink like a stone? If you are then you are wearing too much weight but if you have difficulty going down even you have fully deflated the BCD then you are under weight and strongly recommend you to do a buoyancy check. When you are properly weighted, you should be able to float at eye level when you hold a normal breath. However; do take note that it differ when you wear a different thickness or length of wetsuit. You also need to check again if you use a different BCD.
As you get more experience underwater you need lesser weights. When I started diving, I needed 6kg of weights to bring me down but today; I am only using 2kg of weights using the same length & thickness of wetsuit. As you get more comfortable underwater, try using lesser weights and you will feel less drag underwater.
2. Using Your Lungs To Fine Tune Your Buoyancy.
How do you do that? You are so big in size and you only use 2kg of weights, how? This is the usual comment of divers when they saw me putting on 2kg of weights before putting on my BCD. I used my lungs to fine tune buoyancy. Do understand that your lungs inflate as you inhale and deflate as you exhale.
When you are going into the water, don’t just deflate your BCD but also exhale as you go down and you will feel that you will get into the water much easier. As you are diving underwater, use your lungs to fine-tune your buoyancy. Do practice on a sandy bottom or swimming pool, trying fining around and breathing deep and slow. You will see yourself moving gently underwater and use it in practice, when you are swimming towards a reef, using your lungs to control your buoyancy underwater.
3. Streamline Yourself.
Are you having a Christmas tree decoration on your BCD? Do take note by having too much things on your BCD will cause drag and this may also affect your buoyancy underwater. Try to streamline yourself, having all hoses in place and do not have too much things hanging on your BCD.
As you are diving, do not use your hands as you are swimming. Keep your hands close to you and move horizontally underwater. Be close to the reefs to enjoy the beauty without touching or crushing the reefs. You don’t have to position your body vertically to deflate your BCD underwater. As you are swimming underwater and if you find that you need to adjust your buoyancy, remember there is a dump valve situated at the bottom right side of your BCD. Just have to pull the valve and air will also be released.
If you would like to know more of controlling your buoyancy underwater to improve your skills underwater, I recommend you to take up the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Course with Sea World Dive Center. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or +63 920 970 2728 for more information.