Fundamental Steps for Buoyancy Control

Divemasters often urge divers to look up close to see the little details in and on the reef, and on the other hand, we are also told not to touch! It´s easy to get yourself up close and personal, but pulling away from the reef without scraping your fins with it can prove quite difficult.

At first glance, buoyancy control looks quite a simple task….however, to get pinpoint buoyancy, you need to get at least 6 things right. We´ll get to them in a minute…. Precise buoyancy control is a fundamental skill that you learn to hover completely motionless, and back out of the area without using your hands.

The six things that affect buoyancy are:

  1. Ballast Weight
  2. BC Inflation
  3. Your Trim
  4. Your Exposure Suit Buoyancy
  5. Your Depth
  6. Breath Control

1 and 2 are the only two things that when set, stay put. The rest of the variables are constantly changing throughout the dive.

Ballast Weight 

Make sure you aren´t carrying more lead than what is needed. This is because if you are not balanced out properly, control over buoyancy will be much more difficult.

Be patient when plunging into the water as your wetsuit could trap a surprising amount of air. Give it time to get fully wet.

Exhaling and holding it is another way to get below the surface. We have a tendency to take deep inhales when we are nervous which can add to more buoyancy and keep you afloat. Do this until you start sinking, then start taking shallow inhales until you get below 5 feet.

Trim

The position your body takes in the water while you are still. Why this is important is because, if your fins are lower than your body, then should you move to go sideways, you will also go up. In order not to disrupt your buoyancy, make sure you are at least nearly horizontal, so you will be able to push forward and not upward as well.

Try stretching your legs out while you are exactly neutral. Check to see if your legs fall a little lower, in that case add more weight to the upper part of your body.

Tank Weight 

 Your scuba tank gets lighter every time you take a breath, using up air in the cylinder. You will have to adjust the tank´s buoyancy change, however this change is gradual.

Exposure Suit

The fact is, wetsuits float. This is because the same thing that makes neoprene warm also makes it float. Basically, gas gets trapped in tiny bubbles. Buoyancy and warmth of these wetsuits differ, although a thin tropical suit might have less buoyancy at the surface.

Minimizing the neoprene however, is not such a great idea if you are diving in cold weather, just for the sake of less buoyancy. You would be risking fatigue and decompression sickness.

An upside to all of this is if you do not change your depth, the buoyancy in your wetsuit won´t change either. For those who can opt for a very thin wetsuit diving in the tropics, you can ignore changes in depth since it affects buoyancy so little.

Depth 

Surface buoyancy of your wetsuit will change significantly with depth. Pressure flattens the gas bubbles that gave you all that buoyancy in the first place and lets less water in between it and your body. Buoyancy changes dramatically in the first few feet. First it´s hard to get yourself submerged with all the buoyancy, then once you are down, it´s like you are sinking much faster.

The process is the same when you ascend, bubbles start to form again as you get closer to the surface. Stay alert for buoyancy changes when changing depth, especially when ascending.

Breath Control

By just breathing in and out alone, the buoyancy of your body fluctuates. The lungs are a natural buoyancy compensator. You can rise or fall at will with just controlling your breaths.

Putting these steps all together, should help perfect your buoyancy control to a T.

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