Good buoyancy control is the holy grail of scuba diving and if you get this right your stress levels go down and your enjoyment goes up.
It seems simple but so many divers don't get it right so we are going to have a look at a few things that you can do to get your buoyancy to the next level. During your diver training you will have been shown how to control your buoyancy with your BCD and generally you will have been given a weight belt and shown how to do a buoyancy check. Normally when you are training as you are a little anxious you take large breaths of air making you super buoyant. This has to be balanced out with more weight on your weight belt. A lot of people as they start to dive remember what weight they had at the start and stick with it, thus meaning they are over weighted.
So why should you be properly weighted?
Having the correct weighting when diving is the corner stone of good buoyancy. The correct weight will help you to make nice smooth descents and easy but controlled ascents. You will be able to comfortably hold your depth and position at safety stops. You will also use less air and therefor have longer divers. This is because when you carry less weight you use less energy. Your manoeuvrability will improve as when you are correctly weighted your trim will be better.
It's a simple matter of physics
I've just taken my Instructors exams and there is a whole section on physics and with buoyancy in mind displacement is what we will look at here. To understand this you need to get your head around the science behind it - namely Archimedes' Principle.
Our Greek friend Archimedes said “An object placed in a liquid will be buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the liquid it displaces.”
So the buoyancy of an object depends on its weight and also it's volume - if it doesn't weigh a lot and has a large volume i.e. a balloon - it will float. If it weighs a lot and has a low volume i.e. a stone it will sink.
We can apply the same theory to diving - a slim diver with just boardies on needs less weight than a larger diver wearing a dry suit. So bearing this principal in mind - every time you change your suit, your equipment, your tank size or material you should check your weighting before you start your dive.
So start at the beginning
To do a buoyancy check you need somewhere to start. Check your log book from your first course and this should give you a starting point. However you will need to take into consideration your exposure suit and equipment used and also if it was fresh or salt water (salt water is more buoyant than fresh).
If you forgot to note your original weighting then this should give you an idea where to start.
As we said this is just a guiding and some people are just more buoyant than others so we then need to do a buoyancy check and here is how.
Once you know your correct weighting then we start to look at your trim. This is where on your set up is the weight distributed. Normally you would have the weight on the weight belt positioned on the hips and slightly towards the front of the body. Most BCD's now have integrated weight systems so the weight can be distributed in the weight pockets and most have trim pockets on the back of the jacket to. Getting your trim right stops you rolling, or pitching forwards or backwards which makes for hard work in the water.
Practice makes perfect
Then it is just a case of practicing and tweaking. Certainly a Peak Performance Buoyancy course would help you to get better weighted and improve on your diving technique and combined with lots of diving you will have it sorted in no time.