Successful control of buoyancy affects all aspects of diving safety. Divers with poor buoyancy control are more likely to struggle throughout a dive. Inefficient buoyancy control can affect air consumption, exertion and risk of injury. Experts in dive medicine, training and research provide valid reasons for developing and maintaining good buoyancy skills.
Buoyancy cannot be mastered once without practice and attention to detail. The physics of descending and ascending require conscious adjustment based on exposure protection, dive environment and choice of equipment.
Buoyancy control begins with proper weighting. The amount of weight you select should allow you to descend, not make you sink. Different exposure suits require different amounts of weight to attain proper buoyancy. In addition, whether your dive environment is freshwater or saltwater influences your waiting; freshwater is less buoyant than saltwater.
Understand your equipment
The buoyancy control device (BCD) is a complex piece of equipment. To master buoyancy, it is imperative to understand the workings of your personal BCD.
Know where the inflator and deflator mechanisms are on your BCD as well as on your dive buddy’s equipment. Be aware of how your BCD responds to the addition or venting of small amounts of air. Identify the location of your releases as well as on your buddy’s equipment and how to use them; you need to be able to access these in the event of an emergency.
Properly maintain and service your BCD.
It is not surprising that the most common injuries among divers are related to buoyancy issues; inefficient buoyancy control is also a noted contributor to diving fatalities. Improper buoyancy can cause a diver to descend deeper than planned, which changes the dive profile and can increase air consumption. Constant adjustments to buoyancy can also increase air consumption. The worst case scenario is an uncontrolled ascent, which is the number one harmful event associated with diving fatalities.
An uncontrolled ascent places the diver at risk for a lung overexpansion injury (pulmonary barotrauma) and substantially increases the risk for an arterial gas embolism.
Ear injuries are also commonly associated with ineffective buoyancy control. During descent, if a diver feels uncomfortable pressure in the middle ears or sinuses, he should stop his descent, ascend until the pressure resolves, attempt to equalize and, if successful, continue to descend.
If a diver experiences a reverse block on ascent, he should descend a bit and attempt to equalize. If successful, he can continue the ascent. These procedures are very difficult to execute without proper buoyancy control.
Most marine life injuries are the result of unintentional contact between a diver and the marine life. Proper buoyancy control is essential to protect ourselves and the environment. Anyone who has sustained a marine life injury or an ear injury will attest that both experiences are unpleasant and even painful. Regardless of your personal tolerance, pain is not conducive to logical thought processes and decision making. In a moment of stress or panic, poor choices can be made and accepted safe practices forgotten.
Mastering buoyancy requires ongoing practice and adjustments. The benefits of buoyancy control are definitely worth the investment of time, maintenance and practice to enhance your diving and