One of the most difficult skills to master in scuba diving is buoyancy. It takes more than just a couple of dives to weigh into your buoyancy but imagine being able to hover through the water, no matter what the depth and use your hands hardly at all.
The first way to conquer buoyancy control is to make sure that you tune into your weighting system. It may take some trial and error to get to that comfort level. With the right amount of weight, you will have the smallest amount of BCD inflation. In reality, the answer means less drag and a more efficient finning system.
There is more to buoyancy than meets the eye. Your wet suit, body trim, breathing, depth are all factors that play a large part in the buoyancy formula. SportDiver.com had some very helpful hints that are worth sharing with divers looking to gain more experience.
1. Take the PADI course known as "Peak Performance Buoyancy." Included are the topics of precise buoyancy control, streamlining, weight, trim adjustment, equipment configuration and relaxation techniques.
2. By doing pre-dive preparation, you will get the most out of your dive. Make sure as you pack your gear that nothing has altered your weighting system. Whether it be a new BCD or a new wetsuit, both can affect your weighting system to some degree.
3. Buoyancy checks are very important. With your lungs half-full, you should float at eye level with no air in your BC. But the fact that your average cylinder loses about 5 pounds as it empties gets you thinking about the buoyancy change in a tank and is a good reminder that it's best to do a buoyancy check with a nearly empty cylinder before you dive. This is obviously a bit of a pain, so add about 5 pounds to your weight if you have done your buoyancy check with a full one. You can always take a moment and recheck buoyancy after a dive, just before you get out of the water. See our Buoyancy Calculator for more tips on being properly weighted. If you you're overweighted because you struggle with descents, read How To Take Off Weights for tips on getting down without adding weights.
4. Concentrate on your descent and make a mental note to keep your hand on the BC inflator and get ready to add bursts of air to adjust the rate. Breathe deeply, slowly and continuously as you progress through the dive.
5. Once you have completed a totally enjoyable dive, it is imperative to master the ascent. Air expands as you ascend so make sure to release small bursts of air to keep your neutral buoyancy intact. If you are having to kick too much, that means that you have let out too much air so you will need to compensate by putting a quick burst of air back into the BCD. A few ascents and you will quite literally speaking have it under your belt.
6. The safety stop is the real test. By this time, there should be hardly any air in your BCD and you should be neutral enough to do the 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet without alot of kicking to get to the surface.
7. Keeping a log is the key to learning and gaining more experience. A log allows you to remember what type of wetsuit you wore, jot down the equipment used, how much weight you dove with and a summary of how you felt you did with mastering the technique of buoyancy. This will always come as a great reference for future use.
8. Remember that there is quite a difference between diving in fresh water vs. salt water. You will need more weight going from fresh to salt water.
The final reward is being able to enjoy your dive with little effort yet always completing your checklist so that you can take in the breathtaking marine world around you.