Something that almost every new diver always struggles with is buoyancy control. It’s one of the main things that we use to tell beginner and experience divers apart – someone who has been diving for a long time tends to have flawless buoyancy control and seems to glide through the water effortlessly, while people who are still learning flail around and bump into everything. If you don’t do this, excellent, stop reading and go diving. If you don’t know if you do this, you probably do it. And if you know that you don’t have perfect buoyancy, don’t worry, it’s normal. Mostly it just takes time and practice, but here’s a few tips to speed up the process.
– Your low-pressure inflator buttons are not elevator buttons. This is something everybody is taught, but people tend to forget in the beginning. When you get down to the depth that you are going to be diving at, get the right amount of air into your BCD and then use only your breath for control. If you want to go up, slow down the part of your breathing when your lungs are fuller. If you want to go down, slow down the part of your breathing when your lungs are emptier. Simple as that, yet much more efficient than constantly adjusting your BCD! To get the right amount of air in, just take a medium breath and fill or empty your BCD until you are going neither up nor down. If you change your depth significantly, remember to readjust the air in your BCD, adding some if you go down and releasing when you go up.
– If you notice that you are kicking harder than normal or you feel like you are getting more tired than normal, you are probably kicking up to compensate for your negative buoyancy. Slow down or stop, get neutrally buoyant, then keep going.
– If you have to kick that to remain at the same level, slow down or stop and release air from your BCD. A common mistake is to try to do this while horizontal, most of the time you won’t be able to get any air out. Straighten up, elevate the hose and press the deflate button until you feel the air going away. If you’ve done that and there’s no air left, and you are still too positively buoyant… remember to bring more weight next time. It’s normal to be more buoyant at the end of a dive, since your air tank will be lighter, so that means that you have to start the dive a bit heavier to compensate for it. Instructors and divemasters usually bring extra weights with them precisely for this reason, so signal to them that you have a problem with your weights and if they’ll give you some if they can spare it, or hold on to you so that you don’t keep floating up during the safety stop.
– Not always related to buoyancy, but stop swimming with your arms! Nothing gives away a newbie faster than the arm flailing. Learn to adjust your position using your fins, it’s more efficient and you’ll avoid knocking into things and ripping your dive buddy’s regulator out of his mouth. Plus you’ll look cooler.