Buoyancy Control – Paradise Divers Tenerife

So what is Buoyancy…..

Archimedes’ principle indicates that the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces and it acts in the upward direction at the centre of mass of the displaced fluid.

So what does it mean? Why is buoyancy so important in the world of Scuba Diving? How can experienced divers make it look so easy?… well the truth of the matter is that knowing the principle of Archimedes or trying to figure it all out on this blog is not the answer… the answer is simply practice, experience and adjust.. I always tell divers that it takes someone on average between 50 to 100 dives to be comfortable in the water and have very good buoyancy skills. In this blog I will talk about ways to improve buoyancy and what to look for to adjust your trim but everyone is different and what works for one person might not work for another, therefore if it works then use it, if it doesn’t then try something different..

Buoyancy Control

Positioning

One of the first things you should look at is how you are positioned in the water, the majority of divers will be head up position, fins kicking upwards, kicking all the sand up… this is normal for beginners but it is something that should be looked at and fixed at the beginner courses such as the Open Water course. Unfortunately most of the time it is due to the Instructor over weighting the students to keep them down in case of an uncontrolled ascent and not adjusting as they progress… the diver then thinks it is normal and carries on using the same amount of weight once qualified.

All this extra weight will change our centre of gravity… COG.. those into car racing or flying will know that it is very important to understand and monitor the COG, well in diving it is the same, the more weight you carry on the belt (below the centre of gravity), the more air compensation you need therefore the BCD is inflated which increases the air volume above the centre of gravity, this will cause the top part of the body to float upwards and the fins to lower.

Most divers will notice this when they stop fining such as on a safety stop or taking a photo. When moving forwards they are constantly finning upwards therefore compensating for the negative buoyancy and being able to hold their depth somewhat, but when they stop fining they sink.

Another area to look at is how horizontal you should be, my position is pretty much horizontal (flat) with my arms in front of me, and this plays two roles, 1 I don’t have to move to monitor my computers and 2 it adds weight to the top of my COG. If I was to bring my head up it would also cause more friction against my body when trying to move forward, To demonstrate the effect simply put your hand outside your car window when moving and hold it horizontal/flat, it would be streamlined but when you slightly rise your fingers your hand will be pushed upwards…

Try to practice swimming in a skydiver position where your shoulders are inline with your hips and your back slightly arched. Once you start to get into this position you will soon realise which part you will need to adjust.

Weights

Weight belt or integrated?? “Maybe Both”!! The best way to adjust is to have smaller weights making up your total weight needed, 1kg or 2kg at maximum.. There are so many options for weights and as previously mentioned it will be different for everyone. Some of the options are, harness system, integrated weight pouches, weight belt, tank weights, BCD trim weight pockets, ankle weights, clipped weights (these are good for trying out different positions).

Position of Weights

So imagine I have a diver who has all their weight on their belt and they are complaining of not being able to keep their legs up… my first question would be, are they properly weighted?, first step is to do a weight check with an empty tank 50 to 60 bar of air. Once that is checked then we would need to move some weight up, this can be done by using trim pockets or tank weights. Another option which we haven’t discussed yet is the tank position, moving the tank up would increase the weight above the COG therefore bringing the upper body down and more horizontal.

Distribute your weight as much as you can and try out different positions and configurations, if it feels good then use that configuration for a while then adjust if required.

Breathing

As well as adjusting your position and weights we need to look at how we use our breathing and BCD inflator.. Too many times have I seen divers with their inflators in their hands inflating and deflating as they navigate through boulders, rocks and walls… only to find out that they have to turn back to the exit 15 minutes before anyone else… if this is you, your air consumption could be affected by how much you use your inflator or how much weight you are carrying.

The Perfect Hover Practice during a Safety Stop

Without holding your breath at any time you should be able to use your breathing control to move vertically in the water. On small depth changes breathing a bit deeper or releasing that extra air from your lungs could move you over a boulder or to descend to a sloping bottom, this will reduce the amount of air you use in your BCD and reduce air consumption, for big depth changes you would of course still use your BCD.
Log your configuration

For those that dive regularly with the same equipment it is easy to keep a note on your mind as to what weights and where you position them once you have done all your testing and check out dives… for some of us that use different kit and/or dive in different environments we cannot remember all the details… this is where a log book comes in handy… many divers ask me.. surely you don’t keep a log book still after thousands of dives… the answer is yes I do, I can give you the hours I’ve spent underwater and how many pleasure dives and courses I have done and there are various reasons why I still log them (through my computer download) but for the topic we are discussing I log configuration details and weight used such as for sidemount, twinset, single cylinder, single cylinder with a stage bottle or when I use a shorty vs a 5mm wetsuit or 7mm semidry.. each with different weight position and amount.

Log Book

If you select not to keep a log book then simply note it down on a booklet and keep it with your dive gear, it saves time, money and embarrassment… after all you don’t want to be the one on the surface with your fins sticking out of the water trying to fin down to start your descent…

I hope this has given you some guide around ways of improving your buoyancy, and if you need more help and guidance get yourself on a Peak Performance Buoyancy course… we run them all the time and most divers come out of the course with carrying less weights and better air consumption..

Happy diving
Dan

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