The second in a series of three excerpts from Simon’s new book: Scuba Exceptional…
Many people, especially those of a smaller build, are frustrated because they can’t find a BCD that fits them.
You often see smaller-framed individuals and teenagers on scuba try-dives and beginners courses, floating on the surface in a pool or the ocean, lost inside their inflated BCD with the shoulder straps hovering above their ears and their head partly submerged.
I have spoken to a number of people over the years, whose first experience of scuba diving was so unpleasant because of an over-sized BCD that they never dived again.
There is a solution and it is being adopted widely in Asia, where, many scuba divers are of smaller build. This solution is a harness that hugs the body, with straps over the shoulders, around the waist and between the legs, attached to a back mounted air cell. The common terminology for this style of BCD is a wing and harness. The air cell is the wing.
This is not a new style. It was developed by cave divers a couple of decades ago and then universally adopted by technical divers. Among other advantages, the design enables every diver, whatever their shape and size, to have a BCD that fits them perfectly, as all the straps can be lengthened or shortened to match the individual.
Why then are jacket-style BCD systems still more commonly seen?
A number of factors are responsible. First, in the past, jacket-style BCDs were much cheaper. Second, wing and harness systems usually had a solid aluminium or stainless steel backplate that was one-size-fits-all and uncomfortable to wear, unless your body contours matched the plate exactly or you wore plenty of neoprene.
Third, very little thought was given to creating wings for divers who were not diving with multiple cylinders. And last, despite the fact that, several years ago, scuba diving entered an era where the majority of new divers were women, smaller men or teenagers, few manufacturers responded with harness and wing designs that suited the body shapes of this new market.
In the last couple of years, this has changed. At a dive exhibition in Asia recently, I noticed a crowd around one of the stands and stopped to see what the excitement was all about. I saw a small teenage boy standing there, wearing a wing and harness system that fitted him perfectly. Most of the adults drawn to the stand were discussing how well the harness would fit them too and how unobtrusive and streamlined the wing was.
So nowadays, genuine BCD solutions for the slight do exist. Manufacturers such as Dive Rite (who have actually been making BCDs like this for a long time), Tecline, Audaxpro and others have a range of models for the smaller diver. If this is you and you have always found it hard to get the right BCD, check them out.
This piece is adapted from a chapter in Simon Pridmore’s new book Scuba Exceptional – Become the Best Diver You Can Be available now from Amazon, iTunes, Kobo and other online bookstores.