Buoyancy is the key! Almost every aspect of your diving will improve slightly just by improving your buoyancy skills. Unfortunately, developing good buoyancy skills is one of the most difficult aspects of diving to master for most novice divers. The reason for this is that it is not a muscle memory skill like clearing a mask or recovering a regulator, whereby you follow certain mechanical steps to achieve the desired result. It is a sense or touch skill, akin to starting a car and driving off when parked on a hill. Using the gears, handbrake and accelerator on the flat is simple enough, but balancing them on a hill so that the car does not roll back requires the development of a certain sense or feel. So here is how to go about developing and mastering buoyancy.
Khao Lak Explorer Advanced Open Water Course and Peak Performance buyancy can teach proper buyancy and weight, to get the most out of your dives.
The first thing you need to sort out to master buoyancy is your weighting, too light and you float, too heavy and you end up having to put large amounts of air in your BCD to compensate for the extra weight. Ideally, you want to be weighted just right or slightly on the negative side. Most recreational instructors dive slightly over-weighted, especially when teaching because it gives them that little bit extra negative buoyancy if they need to control a student’s ascent.
To get your weighting spot on, you should be able to float at eye level on the surface with a fully deflated BCD while holding a normal breath of air in your lungs. As you exhale slowly, you should start to sink until your whole head goes under. When you inhale, you should start to float up until the majority of your face is out of the water. Initially to make things somewhat easier once you have established your proper weighting, you can add 1 kg to make yourself just that little bit extra negative
The second part of mastering buoyancy is trim. What is meant by trim in diving is your body position in a 3 dimensional environment. The ideal trim for a diver is to have their body perfectly horizontal in the water with their knees bent at 90 degrees and fins pointed backwards. Your centre of gravity and weighting should balance out around your navel, so that your knees don’t drop or conversely your head does not start pointing down. Additionally, you should also be balanced around your shoulders so that you are not listing to one side or the other – you should be totally flat.
Without proper propulsion techniques, mastering buoyancy will be hard; if you are constantly pushing yourself up or down with your fin kicks, it will be very difficult to nail on your buoyancy since you will be constantly having to adjust.
The key to efficient finning is mastering the frog kick. It is the most efficient and least energy-consuming kick since the entire force of the kick is directed backwards, propelling the diver forward. With your body flat and your knees bent at 90 degrees, splay your legs in a V shape. Once your legs are splayed, rotate your ankles outwards so that the sole of your fins are facing behind you, and then in one smooth motion pull your thighs together, and create a scooping motion with the tips of your feet.
To be able to better visualise the motions required for a proper frog kick, there are plenty of videos and tutorials available online to help new divers master the technique.
One of the biggest mistakes made by inexperienced divers when adding or taking air out of their BCD is to overdo it. As they descend, they feel they need to put some air in and they give their inflator a huge burst; this puts too much air in and the diver goes from being too negative to being too positive in a matter of seconds. The same happens when making ascents and the diver takes out too much air, becomes negative and starts sinking.
The best option is to put little squirts of air into the BCD at any given time. It is better to put 10 smaller squirts of air in than one large one, since this really starts to give the diver an idea about the exact amount of air needed to establish neutral buoyancy. The same also applies when taking air out of your BCD, although keep in mind to keep your ascent under control.
Underwater photography is very good to proactive your buoyancy as well.
Practice, practice, practice is the key.
Finally, buoyancy does not improve overnight, it is a skill that requires time and effort to master, and there are no shortcuts or substitutes. When it comes to buoyancy, the adage “practice makes perfect” has never been truer.