Whether you are diving a reef, braving a cave, or exploring an old shipwreck, one of the most important things to master is buoyancy. With great buoyancy, comes a better diving experience.
Being buoyant, or floating underwater, is something that sounds simple in theory but can take a bit of practice. There are three kinds of buoyancy:
The weightlessness of neutral buoyancy is what to aim for when you reach your depth. Being neutral means you get the most out of your dive — you can see and do more with less effort (meaning less fatigue), your air lasts longer, you better conserve the environment around you, and your dive becomes a lot safer, both for you and your buddies.
Don your equipment without adding weight or air to your BC and get in the water. Use a tank that is closer to being empty (if you can’t, add 5 lbs. of weight to mimic a full tank). With half a breath, the waterline should come up to your eyes. If you exhale completely, you should sink.
DiveBuddy.com offers a great and easy buoyancy calculator to help determine how much weight you’ll really need by asking questions about your upcoming dive. Even with this estimate, it’s still a good idea to take some extra weight with you in your bag just in case you need it.
By descending feet first, you have better control of the air in your BC. When you’re ready to descend, release some of the air and you should slowly sink. If you need to, recline backwards to get more air out. Add small bursts of air to control how fast you descend. You can also use this time to equalize the pressure in your ears – pressure changes occur the fastest near the surface. Now is also a good time to see how your breaths affect how you rise and sink. Relax, remember to breathe deeply and calmly. Never hold your breath.
Your normal safety stop should be at about 15′ depth, with about 500 psi left in your tank — this is a great opportunity to practice neutral buoyancy. Remove all air from your BC and relax. You should rise and fall slightly with only the air in your lungs. If you start to rise, you should add weight before your next dive. If you start to sink, then you should remove some weight. You may have to try this a few times to get it right.
Another reason to maintain your dive log! Even if you don’t have your buoyancy perfected, write down what wetsuit you wore, the weight you added, the type of water (fresh or salt), and how neutral you felt during the dive. By writing it down, you save yourself some time which means you can get to the fun part quicker!
Buoyancy can be tricky to perfect and it takes practice. It’s also something that needs constant upkeep — things like body weight can change over time, as can your wetsuit or equipment. Once you master neutral buoyancy, you can enjoy longer and safer dives with less fatigue and less chance of kicking fragile coral. With experimentation and time, neutral buoyancy is something any diver can successfully achieve!
Feel free to swing by our shop at Scuba Toys in Carrollton, TX, and we can help you with buoyancy and any other diving questions you might have. We offer classes, have an enormous online and in-store gear selection and certified instructors who are happy to help!
Call (877) 728-2243 or visit us at ScubaToys.com to learn more!
Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tauchsport-steininger/
Do you have any tips to share with our readers about controlling buoyancy? Let us know in the comments section below!