It’s a well-known fact the art of buoyancy control in recreational diving is one of the most important skills you can learn. A word which can confuse many students during their open water training, it’s often considered lower in priorities when students are already having to learn critical skills in how to deal with potential diving problems.
And it’s true. The PADI Open Water course is designed to provide novice divers with the confidence and skill level to dive safely and problem solve in a given situation.
And there is only so much any dedicated instructor can do in the short time frame they have to cover expert buoyancy.
Many of us have repeatedly floated or sunk during training and to some it seems like an impossible task.
The Buoyancy Adventure
That is why I always encourage my students to extend their training and continue their diving adventures with the Advanced Open Water Course. One of the adventure dives is called Peak Performance Buoyancy and it is designed to focus on a combination of breathing techniques and using your BCD to get the perfect balance.
Neutral buoyancy or ‘floating’ is easy once you know how. Many people say it’s like riding a bike. Once you’ve mastered it, it’s your skill for life. This adventure dive is one of my favorite dives to teach and this is what I do.
You may well think that you don’t have enough weight during your open water training. The chances are you have far too much.
I conduct a test to establish whether you are correctly weighted. If you sink too fast, I’m taking weight from you. Full stop.
Being over weighted increases your drag and makes it more difficult to dive. You use way more air.
More air = shorter dives. With practice you can even sink using breath control and zero weight!
Once down and weighted correctly we will get you practicing some hovers that you learnt in open water. This is all to refresh you that the way you breathe affects where in the water you are.
Big breaths you go up, small you will sit in the sand. Steady controlled breathing to float in one place makes you already look far more professional.
The Ball & Spoon
Now you are hovering in one place I introduce a problem. Now you have more to concentrate on. You have a floating ball and an upside down spoon and your objective is to float perfectly still whilst not allowing the ball to leave the spoon. This is serious diving multi- tasking. I’m always there to catch it the first few times so don’t worry!
The Buoyancy Hoops
I usually use two 1 meter square hoops which float at various heights. Your job is to navigate through them without touching the sides. Firstly forwards, then upside down, then a ‘loop the loop’.
Easier said than done sometimes!
It’s Important to remember to take into account the tank on your back. If you are too high I will tell you to breathe out. Too low, the opposite. It can take several attempts. With this game it’s all about the breathing. No inflating or deflating of the BCD allowed.
Kiss The Weight
After we have hovered in various angles, including upside down, I will place a weight on the floor. Using breath control only, the aim is to slowly and carefully approach the weight and ‘kiss’ the weight (with your regulator still in of course).
Once you make contact you take a big breath, rise up and off you go. No touching the floor allowed whatsoever.
This is by far one of the trickiest games under the water. I put a waterproof slate on the floor and each student in turn gets to write their name on the slate. Another of those easier said than done.
Again, no touching anything apart from the pencil. The student with the best hand-writing wins a prize in the bar later.
Depending on dive site and conditions it’s possible to have a race through the water without fins. Everyone lines up in the starting position and on my ‘say so’ you have to run to the finish line.
I always start with zero breath so I can launch myself and at the same time a big breath gives me a huge leap. Mid water I breathe out everything and sink giving me a good bounce for the second stride. This technique always guarantees me a prize in the bar after work.
You Never Stop Learning
There are so many games, hints and tips that will perfect your Buoyancy. Remember that every dive is practice! A good briefing from your instructor about the art of buoyancy is essential prior to the dive which is why it is usually one of my most in depth briefings.
The Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty course increase your abilities even further. Imagine being able to dive in reverse and use back-finning to get yourself out of tight spots.
Using new found skills made simple everyone can enjoy their dive so much more without worrying about crashing in to the ground or floating too high. You will even be able to hover so perfectly still that your favorite fish doesn’t swim off , enabling you to get that great photograph.
What an incredible feeling that is!
Author: Matt Benham (PADI MSDT #360284)