I’ve had the pleasure to teach some great divers recently – Open Water, Advanced Open Water & Specialties, and can say I am really quite proud of the divers they has grown to become. I have also experienced some amazing dives as well, watching them experience the marine world more and more along the way.
However, something keeps cropping up with the divers coming to me for further training – overweighting.
The initial evaluation dive – prior to actual training dives – is a chance for the divers to get to know each other underwater (and me!) – so not just swimming around looking at creatures and features and skills – we also do a buoyancy, trim and streamlining session underwater.
Recently, on a first dive at the beautiful Flinders Reef, Moreton Bay – I removed 21 lbs(9.5kg) of lead from a buddy pair. Trim and streamlining instantly changed, effort requirement dropped, and all of a sudden they looked far more comfortable in the water. With empty cylinders at the safety stop they needed to add some weight back to compensate, but the image of 7 x 3lb belt weights on the mooring block was an eye opener! This was a major change in the way they dived. Air consumption dropped, weary muscles did not cramp, big smiles making masks leak! And streamlining! Oh the streamlining!
So many divers are diving heavy. Much of this stems from our neoprene wetsuits having too much control in the shallows, and losing much of their positive buoyancy as we descend and the neoprene compresses. Other surface buoyancy comes from impatience when trying to descend, not exhaling when trying to descend, and of course moving your legs(fins) and arms in any way on that initial descent – as soon as those fins move you are propelled back to the waiting sunshine. So divers chuck on the lead, leading to head-up, hips-down poor streamlining, fins kicking up sand or belting coral, or just divers having to force their way through the water, instead of gliding.
Keep on checking your buoyancy. Ditch as much as you can to still be able to hold a comfortable safety stop at 5m at the end of your dive without effort. We should all be doing at least 3 minutes at 5m – so use this time with your buddy to see how your buoyancy is affected with a tanks holding low air, and your wetsuit trying to take you to the surface. If you are heavy at the safety stop you would benefit from reevaluating how much lead you carry!
Don’t forget also – a change in equipment will likely affect your buoyancy – Cylinders, BCDs, Wetsuits, and fins can all have different amounts of positive and negative buoyancy.
Most importantly, keep frustration at bay and resist duck diving to start the dive. Many undesirable things occur when a diver is trying to force themselves underwater when buoyant – from increased likelihood of ear/sinus damage, higher air consumption,… to your tank valve belting you in the back of the head!
Ask for help from a dive pro – thats what they are there for, and don’t be shy about it. We have all been there – I promise.
Thank You to Sascha Hofmann for the use of his images of us at Flinders Reef – you can check out his photography here – Underwater Photography with Sascha Hofmann
‘Til next time – Dive Safe.