Imagine yourself at a nice restaurant. Everyone is well-dressed, there are linen napkins on the tables, mood lighting, decorative flowers, the whole bit. Now imagine one of the diners haphazardly crossing the room – stepping on someone’s foot, knocking over a vase of flowers….you get the idea. Later, the same guy tries to take a photo of a woman in a pretty dress. He gets too close to her with his camera and she gets creeped out and leaves.
No one wants to be “that guy,” or even that guy’s buddy. So it goes with diving.
As divers, we are guests of the underwater world, where good buoyancy is synonymous with good manners. It’s essential to be on your best behavior to protect the environment and keep from embarrassing yourself and your buddies.
There are two keys to buoyancy: balance and breathing
There are two major factors in achieving neutral buoyancy.
- First: wear the right amount of weight for the dive. This will differ depending on your exposure protection and conditions.
- Second: breathe slowly and evenly.
Get those two things sorted and you are the master of neutral buoyancy, right? Well, not exactly.
Many of us always seemed to need a lot of weight to get down. But, at depth over-weighting is awkward. Constantly adjusting the air in your BC and not maintaining that effortless hover others seemed to manage so easily. As an experienced diver it is easy to see other new divers with the same buoyancy problems. So what’s the secret?
The third key: get comfortable and relax!
Underwater, if you’re nervous and/or wearing unfamiliar gear, you’re not setting yourself up for success. Long, relaxed breaths allow you to maintain control over your buoyancy. Diving can be exciting, but don’t let adrenaline take over.
As a new diver you will generally unconsciously hold your breath because you are nervous. This teeny bit of breath-holding makes it hard to descend, so many make the mistake of wearing more weight to compensate. But wearing too much weight will screw up your buoyancy. It is a vicious cycle!
Here’s the fourth thing…..
It takes ages to work out buoyancy, but there is no need to struggle for so long. The Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty course gives new divers the skills it takes others months to achieve – in one weekend. Many divers make massive gains in just one afternoon pool session.
A PADI Pro will help you figure out the exact weight you need and where it should go on your body. Few divers wear all their weight around their waist. You’ve probably seen tank weights, ankle weights, and other configurations. The “right” distribution for you depends on body composition and desired body position (vertical for wall diving vs horizontal for a reef bottom).
Buoyancy is an essential diving skill and life-long practice. No matter what your area of interest (shooting video, doing research, public safety diving, wreck diving) perfect buoyancy is the key to success. Even if you don’t want to do anything but look at fish, the process of achieving good buoyancy should allow you to drop weight and extend your dive time.