The third - and final - article in a series offering practical tips on how to dive like a pro. This month we look at buoyancy, including breathing techniques, correct weighting and body positioning.
This month, we discuss the thorny topic of buoyancy, and offer some tips on optimum body positioning, weighting and breathing techniques
You know the ones I mean. Those divers who just seem to remain motionless in the water column, regardless of whether they are just hovering, playing with a camera, launching a DSMB or running through some complex technical shutdown drill. It can be frustrating to be in the water with these people when you are a newbie, and still coming to grips with controlling your buoyancy through your breathing, your BCD and, if you are in cold water, your drysuit. However, while there is no substitute for in-water experience - in general, you will find that most of these ‘dive gods’ have been diving for countless years or have logged thousands of dives, and so have relentlessly honed their technique - there are a few things you can practice and bring into your diving arsenal that will get you on the right track. First up is weighting. It is no good trying to sort out your buoyancy if you are vastly over-weighted (or underweighted, for that matter!), as your positioning in the water will be lousy and you’ll be fighting the effects of being too heavy or too light. Do a weight check when you get into the water and attempt to attain neutral buoyancy - the general rule of thumb is that with no air in your BCD or drysuit, and with a full breath in your lungs, you should float around eye-level in the water. Once you’ve got this sorted, make a note of the exposure protection you are wearing and whether you are in salt or fresh water, as there is nothing worse than forgetting how much weight you were using when you go diving the next time. Now you need to look at weight positioning. The ideal position underwater is in a nice horizontal trim - it is the most streamlined for when you are swimming around, and it keeps your legs and fins up away from whatever is below you, be that sand, silt, mud, coral or rock. You want your weights in such a place that you can stay horizontal relatively easily without your legs dropping down or your feet floating up. Try moving your weightbelt, or redistributing weight in dumpable and trim pockets, until staying somewhat horizontal is possible. Don’t worry if you are a little unstable, you will get better with time, but as long as you are somewhere near, it’s a good start. When you are adjusting your depth, keep the changes minor - just add or release small amounts of gas from your BCD and then stop moving afterwards. If you are still dropping or rising, add or release a little more and repeat. Eventually you will be at the point where you have attained neutral buoyancy and will just be going up and down slightly as you breathe. Keep your breathing nice and regular, and that way you will avoid going up or down in the water column unnecessarily. You will get to the point where you can go up and over, or down and under, certain obstacles simply by using your breath and then returning to the depth you were previously at without adjusting your BCD. If you are wearing a drysuit, then you have another air space to deal with. My personal preference is to just add enough gas to the suit to remove any squeeze, and still use my BCD for buoyancy control, as I feel that having less gas in your drysuit is a much safer option than having too much.
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