Trying to attain perfect neutral buoyancy is something all divers should try to achieve whether they are new divers or have been diving for decades. Maintaining exceptional buoyancy allows you to extend your bottom time by reducing air consumption, gives you better interaction with aquatic life, preserves fragile underwater environments and makes diving more effortless and fun. Here are some tips to achieve your perfect buoyancy!
1. First and foremost! Wear the correct amount of weight.
You should try to do a weight check whenever you change your equipment including your wetsuit, BCD, and/or boots, water environment (salt vs. fresh) and when you have body health or weight changes. Some people wear too much weight including new divers, who might wear a few pounds extra as they are trying to get used to new equipment and want to dive properly to get to depth. If you find yourself constantly inflating and deflating your BCD at depth, you may consider taking out a couple of pounds at a time, getting used to that new amount and doing a weight check at the end of each dive. The best time to do a weight check is at the surface when you have about 500 PSI in your tank. Since your tank will become more buoyant as your dive progresses.
2. Fine-tune your buoyancy underwater.
Your breathing affects your lung volume and lung volume affects buoyancy. You will rise and fall slightly when you are neutrally buoyant. To make minor depth adjustments use breath control. Staying at a certain depth, perhaps to look at a fish for instance, you can pause your breath – take little inhalations or exhalations to maintain that specific depth. However, you should remember to never hold your breath!
3. Proper weight distribution.
Different diving applications require different positioning and distribution. Normally, we want to dive in a relaxed horizontal position. However, if you are looking into nooks and crannies to find an eel or are taking pictures, you may want to be in a vertical head-first position with your head down and your feet up. When in this position, distribute your weights closer to your chest and away from your hips. To do this, start by pulling up your BCD tighter and higher and wearing your tank higher up as well. If you want a head-up, feet-down position, position your weights away from your spine and toward your sides and stomach. If your ankles are constantly rising, you may consider ankle weights – especially with a dry suit or fins that are positively buoyant. Don’t forget to use your trim weight pockets as well. These are located either on the back of your BCD bladder or on your tank strap. We recommend placing 20 to 40 percent of your weights in them. Try out different ratios to see what works best for you.
Now that your weights are placed at the right buoyancy, we can work on streamlining. Streamlining encourages efficient fin kicks, reduces energy needed to move through the water and makes diving more comfortable. Just as important, it keeps from destroying precious aquatic life and protects your gear from getting damaged and dirty. To streamline, you first want to make sure you are properly weighted, diving horizontal and have all of your hoses attached, straps tucked in and all of your gauges close to your body. You will also want to use visualization techniques to assist you in relaxing, establishing a comfortable breathing pattern and moving gracefully through the water. Lastly, try to keep in the best shape possible. This will give you increased stamina and you won’t get winded as easily and can conserve energy.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
Lastly, practice, practice and practice. A great time to practice is when you are doing your 3 minute safety stop between 15 to 20 feet. You will also want to practice when you have new equipment. Practice hovering just over the bottom of the ocean, pool or lake, while bending/crossing your legs. Have focused, comfortable, breathing and look at a visual reference to stay at the same depth. You can also practice the fin pivot while lying on the bottom and trying to have your chest rise while your fins stay on the bottom. Remember it takes a while for air in your lungs and BCD to take effect, so be patient.
Remember, good buoyancy will allow you to enjoy your dive more, give you more bottom time and won’t damage the aquatic wildlife.