Proper buoyancy control is key for making longer dives, have better air conservation, and protecting the local marine environment.
When you’re able to control buoyancy well you’ll have more time and freedom to see more and get into those trickier spots.
It will also allow you to take better underwater photos/ videos while moving effectively through the water.
Since you will be consuming less air this will lead to a reduced risk of accidents, injuries, and emergencies.
Here are some tips to achieve better buoyancy that a beginner diver can use and the most experienced diver can always brush up on.
1. Perform Weight Check
A weight check is something all certified divers should have been taught, but we’ll review it now.
To perform a weight check, wear all of your scuba diving equipment in water too deep to stand.
Deflate your BCD all the way, and try to get to a point where you’re able to hang horizontally without any abnormal breathing patterns.
If your BCD is completely deflated, and you’re touching the bottom, try inflating your BCD very slightly. If this doesn’t help, you have too much weight. Take some out and try again.
If you’re not sinking well with an empty BCD, then you’ll need to add more weight and try again.
In order to help calculate how much weight you need, we built an estimated scuba diving weight calculator.
2. Use Your BCD for Better Buoyancy
While descending, most divers empty their BCD, and upon reaching their desired depth, they add small amounts of air to become neutrally buoyant.
Add little bits of air at a time with your inflator. If you add too much you will start to ascend and start the process over again or in the worst case a rapid ascent.
When you achieve neutral buoyancy you will only be moving up and down with your breath.
3. Deflate and Rotate
Certain types of BCD can get air get stuck in certain pockets. This can still happen if you’re vertical with a raised deflater hose.
Try to drop your shoulder and raise the other one, this makes the hose go to its highest point, and also you will be able to see it to make sure bubbles are coming out. You can also use your dump valves.
4. Breath and Relax
Your BCD is a tool for controlling your buoyancy, but it’s not the most important.
Breathwork is arguably more important.
The more relaxed you are and more you can control your breath, the easier it will be to move up and down.
Expert divers rarely use their BCD unless trying to float on the surface.
There are no shortcuts or tips that will allow you to get around this. If it’s your first dive or you’ve been out of the water for a while it will take some time.
Make sure you know the basics and observe qualified divers.
Never stop asking questions.
Scuba divers are generally a friendly bunch and are happy to help.
If you can practice in a pool or somewhere that is calmer and may have some obstacles to swim through or games to play that are fun as well as effective.
6. Take a Course/ Get Guidance
There are different courses from agencies like PADI that offer courses specific to peak performance buoyancy. If you are doing your advanced open water this is one of the 5 specialties you should do.
If you don’t want to take a course maybe just get a divemaster or instructor to help you privately (being sure to pay them for their time).
These courses will teach you how to relax, different types of breathing, streamlining, trim adjustments, weighting, etc.
You’ll probably want to be adept at your buoyancy especially if you want to wreck dive or muck dive, as these are sensitive environments.
7. Log Your Dive
Logging dives makes sense for a variety of reasons but it can even help you with your buoyancy control.
Every dive site has different water temps, and conditions and you will change your gear accordingly.
Wetsuits are very buoyant by nature, so even a slight change in wetsuit thickness can throw your weighting off.
Instead of relying on your memory or if it is a new environment, the dive guides advice you can look back through and see what worked for you in the past.
8. Compensate Air Loss with Inflation
As we go throughout our dive, we are using up air inside of our tanks. This air loss makes us less buoyant as the dive goes on. To compensate for this loss, divers occasionally tap a slight amount of air into their BCD so that they’re always displacing the same amount of water.
9. Stay Horizontal
The ideal position for a scuba diver is to be laid out horizontal.
Proper weighting helps with this, but if you’re still struggling, you may need to utilize trim pockets towards the top of your BCD if available.
Back-inflate BCDs also help with this, as most of the air is concentrated on your back, rather than wrapped around your body like a jacket BCD.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let us start with what exactly is buoyancy and how it works. The difference in mass and weight makes some things float and others sink.
For example, a cargo ship floats as it displaces more water than it weighs. But a rock sinks as it weighs more than it displaces.
The same goes for the body if your density of weight is greater than the amount of water displaced you sink and vice versa.
While displacement matters a lot for buoyancy, so does Boyle’s law.
This law states that when you multiply the pressure surrounding gas by the volume of the gas, the resulting number will always be the same (as long as it is a constant temperature).
In layman’s terms, this means that when the pressure increases (descending), the volume of the gas decreases, and the opposite goes for when you ascend. So when you are descending, the volume of air in your BCD, lungs, wetsuit, etc will decrease.
The reason that this is vital, is because it explains how our dive gear and breath control affect our buoyancy.
You want to get the most out of your diver and leave the smallest impact on the marine area, this is done through buoyancy control.
Bad buoyancy control has a big effect on your diving and can damage the corals, kill wildlife, and destroy wrecks. As opposed to good buoyancy control allows you to manage your air better, grove you better trim and control your dive.
Here are some factors to think about before and during the dive that will affect your buoyancy.
- BCD – How much is the BCD inflated or deflated? Does it have a metal plate (that is extra weight)? Are there pockets of air that are hard to empty out on the descent?
- Weighting – How much lead are you wearing? Do you have a camera or any other things that are negatively buoyant?
- Wetsuit – Is it a drysuit, 3mm, or 5mm? Do you have gloves, booties, or a hood? How cold will it get?
- Breathing – If you are breathing calmly and evenly? Are you stressed and taking large deep breaths?
- Depth – What is the dive plan and depth you will go to? How long will you need to do a safety stop?
- Trim – Am I streamlined? Do I have diving shorts on with things hanging off me? Am I finning correctly?
- Tank – What is the size of the tank? Is it steel or aluminum?