It's all about buoyancy

April 22, 2021 4 min read

It's all about buoyancy

The difference between a good diver and a bad?  Buoyancy.

The difference between harming marine life and not doing so? Buoyancy.

The difference between getting through loads of air, or being able to stay down longer? Safe slow ascents with safety stops against not being in proper control of your ascent? 

Well you've probably guessed the answer by now!  Yes it's all about ...


It's one of the most important, dare I posit even the most important, skill we learn when we learn to dive. It not only keeps marine life safe - why kill off the very thing you wanted to see (and if you don't believe me go and dive in Egypt and look at the mile upon mile of dead reef, much of it killed by divers crashing into it) but it keeps us safe and makes our diving sooooooo much more enjoyable.

But if we can't hover in that perfect oh-so-cool way other divers can, how do we get there?

Well the first thing to remember is that those more experienced divers couldn't hang like that either when they first started diving!  Practice is the key.  Keep diving and keep practising would be my absolute number 1 piece of advice.

But there are things that can help. So, some hints and tips:

1. Weighting

 Make sure you are correctly weighted. You should periodically do weight checks; new suits, under suits, new BCD or even a change of fins can change the requirement for the amount of lead you need.  Covid-19 has done many things to us all, and some of us now need a tad more weight than we did in 2019!

A quick reminder on weight checks - it's not just about do you sink!  But do you sink at the right pace is a much more important question.  If you are always the first to the bottom, chances are you're carrying too much lead.

So: put all your kit on, get in the water.  Put your regs in your mouth. Now hold a normal breath and let all of the air out of your BCD (or wing) and drysuit.  If you sink about half a metre fairly slowly you are probably about right.  Sink quite quickly - you're overweighted.  Bobbing.... more lead required.

Being overweighted is not only dangerous (it can and does lead to uncontrolled ascents)  but it will throw off your buoyancy and you'll use a load more air when submerged.


2. Bring Trim

Not only do you need to make sure you're correctly weighted you need to make sure the lead you're carrying is in the right place.  

If you want to hover upright (taking photo's or looking at reef walls for example) you will want lead near the front of you. So generally either side of your weight-belt buckle. 

In a drysuit?  You may want ankle weights if you find you have floaty feet!

Got integrated weights?  Do check you aren't over-loading them. Most integrated pockets have a maximum weight you can put in them - and no it doesn't correlate to how many shot weight pouches you can shove in there!

You may find it best to wear a combination of integrated, belt and ankle weights.

ALL of these will affect how you hover and how easy or difficult it is to achieve neutral buoyancy.


3. Having the right kit for you

Despite the fact that underwater there is no difference to the way our sport is played, the scuba scene is still mostly a male preserve.  We girls are making a substantial in-road into the sport though and about 30 - 40% of divers are now women. Until recently so many of the kit manufacturers didn't seem to get that fact, but thankfully they now seem to have rumbled the basic body difference 'twixt boy and girl.

Make sure your BCD fits in both wet and dry suits.  Make sure it fits on the shoulders - the ladies-fit ones have a narrower fit on the shoulders, and often a shorter body length.

Chaps, for those of you who have, how shall I put it ... a fondness for beer that shows up front... have a look at a harness style weight belts that goes under your BCD.  This will increase the amount of integrated weight you can wear without the problem of belt-slippage!

Drysuits. The fit is vital.  For men make sure it is not too tight on the chest or shoulders.  Ladies it's the chest and hips.  Male or female you should be able to squat down comfortably and reach back behind your head.  If the boots are too big they will trap air and your feet will float too much.  Ankle weights are NOT there to sort out ill-fitting suits.

Best advice on drysuit fit - ask the shop when you're buying it.  They should know if it fits you properly.


4. All the gear - now what

You have the right kit, weights and trim but you are still flapping about like a good 'un underwater.  There is NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! We were all like that once.

Go diving. Practice. Then dive some more and practice some more.  I 'learnt' buoyancy hanging on shot-lines after each and every dive.  I would stay there doing way longer than my 3 minute safety stop just practicing.  If I went up I'd grab the line, dump air and try again.  If I went down - grab line add air try again.  FINALLY much to my buddys delight I 'got' it.

Air in, breath in and then use the lungs to tweak.  And just keep diving.


Performance Buoyancy Course.  This is a 2 dive course during which your instructor will make sure your trim, weighting and kit are right.  They'll get you playing games, going over, under and round things. and generally giving you and your confidence a boost and on the right road to beautiful, considerate and safe diving!




Dale Spree
Dale Spree

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