Foundations of the Best Possible Dive – Buoyancy and Trim
1. the ability or tendency to float in water or air or some other fluid
2. the power of supporting a body so that it floats; upward pressure exerted by the fluid in which a body is immersed
You have just achieved one of the most thrilling recreational sport-oriented certifications few people ever do, Open Water Scuba Diver. Congratulations! Now take the next step and become the best diver/dive buddy you can, by learning how to achieve the best buoyancy possible.
So, what is buoyancy and trim and why is it important? The plain truth is between good buoyancy and trim you can achieve longer dives, worry less about exceeding depth limitations and know that you will be less likely to bump into, damage or destroy the things which you submerged to see in the first place. Many newly minted divers are sent off with a set of gear, a certification card and a pat on the back and told, “go dive.” This is an excellent suggestion, but I offer a bit of a twist on that instruction: take a buoyancy course first.
The Perfect Buoyancy course teaches a host of skills, from proper weighting of your scuba kit and trim of gear to breathing techniques that help you maximize your time under water. These skills teach you how to properly kick, swim at odd angles or backwards and build the foundations for future underwater activities such as photography, videography, navigation, wreck diving and more.
What most new divers lack, aside from dives under their “weight belts,” is a true understanding and command of proper weighting and breathing. Weighting your scuba kit is extremely important. First, an overweight situation can be dangerous. You will also consume your air more rapidly. Neutral buoyancy is an art and achieving your “Neutral Zen” state not only takes repetitive dives, but the practice of skills and the knowledge and understanding of how to achieve that goal.
As with many skills in scuba there are parts of one that build on others, and trim is one. Learning how to trim your scuba kit is an important step in buoyancy. Knowing where to place weight optimally for you and your gear is key. Properly stowing your gauge cluster, Octo or SMB is also just as important for proper streamlining and achieving neutral buoyancy. Additionally, these tips and techniques assure you that when you are near sensitive reefs, wrecks or plant life you will not impact them or inadvertently do harm.
Learning proper breathing techniques and counts, along with using them to your buoyancy advantage is also important to achieving the Zen. I once had a diver tell me that an instructor said to breathe shallow and that will assist in conserving air. This is not true and ill-advised to be perfectly blunt. The art of breathing underwater is quite simple, breathe slow and deep and your body will respond accordingly. Slow, controlled movements through the water are desired. The fewer jerky maneuvers and rapid changes in breathing, the more constant your air consumption.
All told, you will learn many valuable lessons in a buoyancy class. Lessons that will stay with you wherever you dive or whenever you obtain a new piece of gear. Now that you have learned the basics of scuba diving, take the next step and become a “Neutral Zen” diver and explore a world few people ever see up close and personal.
Until next time, Fair Winds, Following Seas and Ultimate Visibility!