Buoyancy control is one of the most essential skills that you can learn and perfect as a scuba diver.
It is the skill that will fine tune your diving efficiency and make your diving fun and effortless.
It is an important skill to master to eliminate a diver’s frustration in regard to moving and destroying the fragile environment.
What is Buoyancy?
We all know the example of a big, heavy ship that floats and small rocks that sink. Why? Because of the difference in mass and weight.
The big ship displaces more water than it weighs, therefore it will float. Whereas the small rock, despite being smaller, weighs more than the amount of water it displaces.
This works for your body as well. If the density of your weight is greater than the amount of water displaced you will sink; just as the opposite is true when you spread your arms and increase your displacement with the help of air in your BCD, you will float.
Think of yourself, and your dive gear, as one big object. If you displace 70 liters of water you'll need to weigh a total of 70 kg to be neutral in the water.
Why is Buoyancy so Important when Diving?
It's important because buoyancy is what controls your movement underwater .
Bad buoyancy control has a big effect on your diving and your impact on the coral reef.
And a good buoyancy control will make you better at managing your air, give you a better position in the water and all in all give you much more control of your diving.
Although it is not difficult, it is important to learn how to master buoyancy skills. Keep in mind, it takes practice. As you gain experience, you will become better at mastering and controlling your buoyancy.
Let's start out by getting your weighting in order.
Use the Proper Scuba Weights
When diving, you need to bring the right amount of weight to achieve proper buoyancy.
To do this you'll need to do the following:
- With the regulator in the mouth, release all the air from your BCD.
- You should be at eye level with the water.
- As you breathe in and out and go up and down in the water.
- Remember when the dive is finished the tank is usually empty and therefore 1-2 kg/lbs lighter. You need to account for this and bring 1-2 kg/lbs extra for the dive.
Learn more about Scuba Diving Weights: Weight belt or BCD integrated system
Now that you know how to weight yourself, let's look at handling your BCD.
Using the BCD for better Buoyancy
When you descend, you empty your BCD. After you reach your desired depth make yourself neutrally buoyant by adding small amounts of air.
Don't overdo it, small bursts with the inflator button. You don't want to over-inflate and risk a rapid ascent.
If you feel there is too much air, release in small amounts.
When you release air, stretch the inflator hose upwards so the air does not get trapped in the BCD. And look at your deflator for bubbles, if there are no bubbles coming out turn a bit to release trapped air from your BCD.
Once you've achieved neutral buoyancy you'll be moving slowly up and down, as you breathe in and out.
Breathing is where you affect your buoyancy the most, therefore we'll be going through your breathing, now:
Breathe for better buoyancy
While diving, it is not necessary to constantly use your BCD for controlling your buoyancy. The best way to control your position in the water by breathing in and out.
Read more about The Three BCD’s – The Outer, the Inner and the Mental one!
Your lungs are a natural buoyancy controller and you can utilize this perfectly when diving. Be aware of your possession in the water and control it with your breathing.
If you are moving upwards away from the bottom, you simply exhale all the way. This will empty your lungs of air - hence making your total volume smaller and making you negative buoyant. Once you've reached your desired depth again, assume normal breathing.
If you are too close to the bottom you breathe in, to rise a bit. Remember never to hold your breath, but use a big breath so move you up a bit.
If it's not working, adjust your BCD and try again.
To maximize your training in try practicing Buoyancy wit a UW frisbee
This exercise will help you relax and change your focus away from the buoyancy training.
Relax, and try not to stress. Relaxing in the water is the most important part of your buoyancy.
Once you've established neutral buoyancy and you're controlling your possession in the water with your breathing, try to forget it. Simply, let your mind focus on the dive and not your movement.
It might sound stupid but in time you'll learn to control your body as easy as you do on land. It will become second nature if you simply practice.
Practice and Practice some More
There is no alternative or short cut, practice is the key and will help you achieve perfection.
While undergoing your diving certification you will learn the basics in buoyancy control. It is important to know the basics, but remember that there is always room for improvement. The different training agencies have buoyancy courses that you can take after completing your open water course, which will improve upon your knowledge of buoyancy control.
With each dive you will see yourself improving in buoyancy control. Once you can master the act you will enjoy scuba diving to the fullest.