Why Mastering Buoyancy Control?
Buoyancy control is one of the most important skills a scuba diver can master. No wonder why Scuba Agencies and their professionals put a lot of effort into promoting good buoyancy skills for their divers. Proper Buoyancy control is the first step into becoming a better, safer, and more confident scuba diver.
Before we get to know how to gain better buoyancy control, let’s first look at the benefits of controlling our buoyancy when scuba diving:
1. Buoyancy control and air consumption:
To be able to dive longer, we need to minimize our body’s demand for air. One of the key elements in saving air is to relay on our equipment, our BCD (Buoyancy Compensator Device) or our Scuba Dry suit, when diving in cold water to do most of the job for us. In other words, if you find yourself kicking up or down, or trading water in any other way, only to stay leveled, you need to work on your buoyancy control. Ideally your BCD or Scuba Dry suit will hold enough air to keep you from either floating to the surface or sinking to the bottom. All you have to do is to breathe and occasionally use your fins to move forward.
2. Buoyancy control and confidence level.
Naturally, the more in control you are, and the less energy you use up trying to stay leveled, the more confident you become. In my career as a Scuba Instructor and Group Leader I’ve seem this difference on the novice diver that just got his buoyancy sorted many times. Until then diving was physically demanding. Once that obstacle was removed it was nothing but good times.
3. Buoyancy control and safety.
Scuba injuries, although rare, can be quite serious. Nearly all dive injuries are a result of bad scuba diving practices, where buoyancy is a major issue. Let’s review a few of the hazards in struggling with your buoyancy control:
A. The major issue is, in my opinion, “popping up”, floating to the surface. If you’re really struggling with your buoyancy, especially in shallow water, where small changes in depth means big changes in volume, you can easily find yourself floating to the surface. This kind of rapid ascent is extremely dangerous as it may cause DCS (Decompression Sickness).
B. Researches show that a saw-tooth diving profile is not recommended for divers as it may also increase our chances for Decompression Sickness. Bad buoyancy control nearly always leads to this kind of profile.
C. Not being able to stay level can make it harder to complete the 3 minutes Safety Stop, at 5m/15ft. failing to do so, especially after long deep dives, may also increase our chances for Decompression Sickness.
D. If you’re really lucking buoyancy control, you’ll end up wasting air a lot faster. That alone isn’t a problem as long as you’re aware of your air consumption.
E. poor buoyancy control may lead us to come in touch with object or critters that may impose injuries, such as brushing against sharp rusty edges of a boat wreck, accidentally landing on a sea urchin, fire corals, and others. If you’re not too sure about your buoyancy control, stay off the bottom, the reef and wrecks, allowing some room for mistakes to occur.
4. Buoyancy control and marine conservation.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, bad buoyancy control may seriously effect the marine environment:
A. Direct Physical (mechanical) damage- stepping on, or breaking fragile marine organisms of the reef is very costly. Coral Reef is generally slow growing, and a small broken piece of an Elkhorn Coral or Barrel Sponge for example may take years to recover.
B. Brushing against marine organisms can seem harmless but bare in mind these are all composed of tiny organisms. Additionally, it is said that marine organisms carry some protecting layer which can be removed when in contact with our fins or BCD’s for example. Removing this coating may increase their chances of getting infected by bacteria and other diseases.
C. Sediment particles smother reef organisms and reduce light available for photosynthesis. Bad buoyancy control close to the oceans sandy bottom can steer up the sand. Excessive sedimentation can affect the structure and function of the coral reef ecosystem by slowing coral growth and even kill the organisms.
5. Buoyancy control and underwater photography
As technology moves rapidly forward, so does underwater photography, which is now easily accessible to any diver. Problem is, tanking good underwater images takes more than just pressing the right buttons. In fact, there’s not much point in grabbing a camera unless you’ve got your buoyancy sorted:
A. it can be quite risky not taking care of your position and depths when all you look for is the perfect shot. I’ve seen new divers so focused on their camera and the perfect photo to show to their friends and family not even aware they rapidly ascend to the surface.
B. As mentioned previously, you may accidentally land on the reef, hurt or get hurt by marine creatures while struggling to aim for that special image you always dreamed of.
Once you’ve got your buoyancy sorted, grab a camera, it truly makes a difference, just make sure you practice first.
6. Buoyancy control and marine critters observation
Every diver can spot a turtle, shark or an eagle ray passing by. The real art is finding the small critters; the Pygmy Sea Horses, Frog Fish, Pipe Fish, Blennies and others hiding, nearly invisible on beneath the coral reef, inside crevices nearly unreachable.
You’ll find it virtually impossible to see these magnificent creatures without damaging their habitat, wrecking your equipment or getting yourself hurt. Seeing these guys, than being able to back up without using your arms poses a real challenge to all divers. It’s highly recommended to join a Peak Performance Buoyancy class (PPB) that allows you to fine-tune your buoyancy control skills, and puts a great effort into challenging you to master buoyancy in various positions and situation simulating real dive challenges.