Wow what a beautiful sand dollar! Totally round! And there we are. Safe in my pocket. Whoops! My NDL (the time I have left before I will need to add decompression stops to my dive)is a little low down here. We’d better ascend a bit. Just signal my buddy Dwayne… Yup good he agrees. So off we go…. Whoooops. Going a little fast. Breath way out – Pffffffffft. Let a little air out of the wing – Bubluble. Bubluble. Now I’m going down again. Nooooo! Breath in – WhhhhhHP. Add a quick bit of air with the power inflators. PSHT. Oh no now my feet are getting floaty!
Does that sound familiar? As a SCUBA Diver there isn’t a more important skill or one that takes as long to master as buoyancy control.
When I think about buoyancy control I think about the movie Hook, with Robin Williams as Peter Pan. You remember that one? There’s a scene where Peter is getting super close to remembering how to fly after finding his childhood teddy bear. He’s rising slowly into the air, holding the bear, and shouting happily “I GOT IT!” talking about his “happy thoughts”. Then KONK. He gets a tree branch to the head – drops the teddy bear – “I lost it.” he exclaims simply – then he falls to the forest floor. His adventure really begins a bit later when he regains his happy thoughts and masters flying. “Happy thoughts” are what I call the concentration we have to have for good buoyancy control. When we’re stressed or doing something unusual like shell collecting, taking pictures, or mapping out a new site, our concentration can waver a bit. All of a sudden we’re feet up and fooling with our power inflator to regain our position in the water column, trying to get our own happy thoughts back.
When you see pictures in diving magazines or online of the adventurous diver swimming gently along a beautiful reef or circling peacefully around the pilothouse of some far off wreck, remember that those are staged! In my years of diving and teaching diving all over the world it’s more the exception than the rule that divers are so calm and composed. I don’t want to call it rare, as I have met so many divers who do indeed exude that confidence in their buoyancy control. Those are divers with a firm grasp on their happy thoughts.
My fellow certified divers will know all the benefits of good, second nature buoyancy control: Better air consumption; The safety of staying at the depths you planned for; and most importantly a far less stressful dive! For the uninitiated let me talk about these for a moment. Better air consumption means getting the most out of the tank of compressed gas strapped to your back. If you use less to constantly adjust the amount of air in your BCD you’ll have more to use for it’s intended purpose: Diving! In the diving world one of the few golden rules states in two parts: Plan your dive, then dive your plan. The reason it’s one of the golden rules is because of how important it is to dive safety. It means that in the first part you’ve considered your air, your dive site, and your goals. Being able to stay at a certain depth you’ve planned for is paramount to your success in the second part of the rule when it’s time to Dive your Plan! The last one should be a no brainer. You’re diving because you ENJOY it! There’s plenty of stress in the world above the waves. When you’re under the water you can enjoy yourself more if your buoyancy control is second nature.
At Red Alert Diving we strive for second nature buoyancy control in our students. It’s so important. We focus on this aspect from the beginning to create better habits in our divers. The first step to every skill is to become neutrally buoyant. We stress the importance of breath control buoyancy over using our power inflator, and do our best to highlight it’s advantages. We believe that you’re learning to dive because you enjoy diving, and it’s easier to enjoy when you keep your happy thoughts.