Whilst not the most glamorous sounding course in the PADI Specialty repertoire, Peak Performance Buoyancy is probably the key ingredient in the recipe for becoming a good diver.
If you can get your buoyancy fine-tuned then you are much more in control of your position in the water, i.e. you go where you intend to go. All too often you see new and even experienced divers yo yo’ing up and down in the water, heavy kicking and arms flapping. Not only is this saw-tooth profile not good for you (ask anyone who works in a recompression chamber) but it’s quite stressful for the diver and also their buddy.
A diver with good buoyancy appears to glide horizontally through the water effortlessly and it can almost appear as if they are flying through the water rather than swimming. They are more relaxed, more streamlined, they get to see more as they can hover closer to the action, and their air consumption is considerably better then someone with poor buoyancy skills.
Many divers will argue that air consumption is down to having big lungs or being a ‘bloke’. A small portion of this is true but I have seen some pretty big guys who can last over an hour on a 12ltr tank having completed a 30m dive. Many dive centres in Europe charge around 5 Euros per cylinder supplement for a 15ltr tank, so it doesn’t take many dives to recoup your money if you decided to complete your Peak Performance Buoyancy course. Plus, if you’ve ever had to carry round a 15ltr tank for a while you’ll have noticed that they weigh a fair bit too!
What are the top tips to being good at buoyancy? Well it starts with being correctly weighted and having the weights correctly positioned on your body. Too often I’ve been at a dive centre on holiday and watched their dive guides and instructors threading pounds upon pounds of lead on their customers’ weight-belts. For them it’s better for their clients to be over weighted then underweighted as they don’t want to keep dragging the boat back to grab some more weights and shove them in their pockets.
If you recall when you were learning dive there is 2 atmospheres of pressure at 10m and at 30m there is 4 atmospheres. This means if you have to add ½ litre of air to your BCD at 30m to get neutrally buoyant, that air will expand to 2 litres of air by the time it reaches the surface. Not only does the expanding air make you more buoyant, it also uses air from your tank. If you were correctly weighted then you may only need to add a tiny amount of air which means the volume of air expanding and contracting in your BCD is far less, making it much easier to control your buoyancy and avoiding runaway ascents.
The Peak Performance Buoyancy course teaches you how to be correctly weighted, how to be more streamlined, how to use your lungs to fine-tune your position in the water and how to adjust the air in your BCD correctly.
Being good with your buoyancy is also good for the environment. It means you are less likely to damage coral or damage your equipment on hard or sharp objects. Many good dive sites are visited by lots of boats, and a runaway ascent could also put you at risk of being hit by one of them.
Many people ask what the number one tip is for good photography, and I always answer good buoyancy. It helps you keep the camera still, helps you position yourself properly in the water and allows you to get close to the subject you are photographing without kicking coral etc with your fins.
Next month I will be writing about PADI’s Wreck Diver Specialty course.
Oyster Diving are offering a 10% discount for anyone who signs up to a Peak Performance Buoyancy course in April. Simply call 01273 384971 or e-mail email@example.com for more information or sign up to your course.
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