A stable platform is the most important skill in diving at any level and in any piece of dive equipment. It is probably the skill that takes the longest to learn, in the early days of learning to dive the most frustrating, particularly, if in a Drysuit. It is a skill that we relearn the most often.
Every time we change our equipment configuration, or the diving environment, or the skills we are learning and mastering, in fact, sometimes buoyancy control just needs a little fine-tuning, but when you change a lot of things, it can take a lot of time to perfect.
So, whether you are still getting it right for the first time or fine tuning your skills you should PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE
Compensating for poor buoyancy by wafting your arms or hands around, kicking your legs, constantly swimming to stay buoyant doesn’t hide that you are not in control, it just wastes air, takes effort and remember diving should be relaxing!
So practice and be brave. Keep trying to be still or moving slowly while controlling your position in the water. Make a mess of it, who cares, you are at least trying to do something about it and practise makes perfect after all.
So how to improve buoyancy, remember back to your open water dives, where you had to hover for a period of time, or if you did your Drysuit speciality you had to hover, while you were probably looking at some object. This is a visual reference, pick a spot, look at it and concentrate on not moving, trying to stay level with that spot
Then become less reliant on that reference and start to feel neutral / natural buoyancy. Take your eyes of the spot and continue to try and maintain position. Use your ears as a guide, they give you lots of clues, but more than that you can feel the water buoying you up and when you breath in and out you will feel the gentle rise and fall, once truly cracked there will be no movement at all!
Complete a Peak Performance Course - it does not matter if you have done one before! or have a Boost 121 session with a diving professional
Then is the time to practise with other pieces of equipment, such as a DSMB
Now importantly do not forget about balance. If your kit is well setup and your buoyancy is good, you should be able to move fairly easily even if in bulky technical kit.
Good buoyancy control allows you to pivot on your balance point, which is generally somewhere around your midpoint. This balance allows you to dive in a flat / skydiving position, but easily allow you to adjust your position if entering caves or caverns (subject to be qualified to do so).
Make adjustments slowly and methodically. So, if you do need to adjust your kit, make a note of what you are doing and what effect it has in the water. Don’t forget it can take a little time to relax into a new kit configuration and what felt difficult on the first dive may improve with time. Take baby steps. Add new equipment a little at a time.
IF you are changing to twins for the first time, it’s easier if the rest of your kit (Drysuit, baselayer etc.) is the same as normal and also if the environment you are diving in is familiar.
A new suit, new cylinder configuration plus DSMB’s, Reels, torches etc. maybe one step to far and always learn new skills with qualified professionals.
I remember the first time on my twinset, it was not a comfortable experience and until 2019 was one that I only did when I truly had to, but then I found an instructor and a buddy who wanted to learn more about the technical world and we spent time working together to resolve the issues, practising (as well as changing equipment!). but in the end we had a great week diving Scapa Flow, it was comfortable diving.
It just shows you need to keep practising and finding the RIGHT instructor is also part of the package and we are still on our technical journey - watch our social media.
As with buoyancy you need to practice and not just by swimming around. Practise skills, drills and using your new equipment until it is easy. Usually the skills you like the least are the ones you need to practise the most.
Take it slowly at first. The first step when doing a new skill, or a skill in new kit, is to think through and plan each step. Visualise what it is you are going to do.
Once underwater, TAKE YOUR TIME when practising new skills and work with your instructor to achieve if doing for the very first time. Check / correct your buoyancy and depth between each step. Once you have done it a few times you will find that you move much easier and the skill completion will be much quicker.
New equipment or new combinations of equipment can take time to master. Auxiliary equipment such as an DSMB you will not necessarily use on every dive, so always when possible take time to practise.
A recent publication of a new book called close calls by Stratis Kas has left me pondering about the subject of close calls and how all of us as divers no matter how much experience we have can all still have dangerous experiences from participation in the sport. After all, technically speaking humans should not be underwater. We rely on equipment to support us to achieve this and without this or on the chance that a piece of this equipment fails then problems arise which can ultimately lead to serious consequences if not addressed correctly and quickly. Although not as major as some of the close calls published in this book I thought I would share one of my own that I have experienced, what I learnt as a result of it and how moving forward I can prevent it from happening again.
What made this all the more terrifying for me and perhaps why it sticks with is, at the time that this close call happened I was on only my second dive after receiving my PADI open water certification when I was diving at Stoney cove with my younger brother as part of the Dive Rutland Club. It started off as a regular recreational dive along the 6metre shelf at Stoney, taking in the sights of the Nautilus and the cockpit whilst taking some photos on a Go Pro camera. As we hit our turn point for our dive we decided to start heading back towards the exit via Nessie. Whilst we were taking a look at Nessie and taking some pictures with a go pro, whichever way I moved to position myself caused my Octopus to start free flowing uncontrollably underwater. At the time this came as a bit of a shock and I could not seem to stop it from free flowing no matter what I tried to do. I was conscious that my air was depleting rapidly and I would have to do something to address the situation or get to the surface. This obviously panicked me slightly and along with the free flow, the rush of air started to stir silt and began to make visibility obscured.
After the initial panic for a few seconds, my training kicked in and I signalled my buddy to assist. I took hold of their octopus and began air sharing immediately as my own air was depleting rapidly. At this point I reached back to my pillar valve and turned off my cylinder to stop the continuous stream of air from pouring from my octopus. I attempted to turn it back on again to see if this would solve the problem but it did not and it continued to free flow. We then signalled to call the dive and return to the surface. This was completed whilst air sharing and on reaching the surface, instinctively I reached for my low-pressure inflator to add air to my BCD. Luckily my training again kicked in and I hadn’t got rid of my buddie’s octopus and was still breathing from it. I began to sink as I realised I had no air to do this due to having isolated my cylinder. I began finning to keep afloat and used my buddy as an aid and added air manually to my BCD. The whole incident probably only lasted about 2-3 minutes from the time of my octopus going into free flow to reaching the surface. During the ordeal my buddy lost his Go-Pro camera when he came to my aid. In the heat of the moment he dropped the camera he was holding to assist with passing me his octopus.
Although relatively new to the diving world at this time when this occurred it did not phase me too much as my training kicked in pretty much automatically. After an elaborate debrief with my buddy and the Dive Rutland instructors who were also on site that day which was a major benefit and one major reason I advocate joining a diving club that supports its members, I changed my regulators and cylinder and got back in for another dive. Thankfully this one was incident free and we got to see several large pike, unfortunately the only downside was we lost the camera and couldn’t get any photos.
I learnt a few different things from this and all have stayed with me to this day. Firstly I learnt that the training I had received was brilliant as in a time of panic and stress it just automatically kicked in. It was second nature to me to just air share and attempt to fix the problem. I was surprisingly calm considering how new to diving I was and the fact that I was on my own with my buddy who had also only just completed his open water course. We both had the confidence and calmness to deal with the situation almost effortlessly. I also learnt the importance of maintaining good buddy contact throughout the dive. Something which is stressed during Open water training and for good reason. By maintaining good buddy contact we were able to deal with the situation quickly and effectively even when our visibility was obscured to almost zero. Knowing where my buddy was made dealing with the situation much easier.
Finally moving forward, I have taken up a couple of practices to try and prevent this issue from arising again during a dive. I now before getting into the water make sure that my octopus sensitivity is turned down to a lower setting to try and prevent the flow of the water over the purge button causing this to activate. I also ensure that my octopus is positioned with the mouth piece facing in a downwards position, again to try and stop the flow of water directly against the purge button. Unfortunately both of these things I had not considered until after the incident occurred and perhaps if I had then it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. Regardless I learnt a lot from albeit a fairly minor incident in the grand scheme of things and it did not stop me from getting back in the water.
Written by Robert O'Rourke
Aqua Lung have brought out the ACD Series of regulators, but what is ACD? ACD Stands for Auto-Closure System
The ACD feature coupled with the environmental dry chamber, results in a first stage that is completed sealed off from the environment
Data from Aqua Lung website and Youtube channels
You can never know enough about Dive Equipment, so come and join us for a session on all things regulators - you never know what you might learn
When: Saturday 20th February
With: Dive Rutland and Aqualung's very own James Sanderson
Virtual Platform: Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89080844409...
Meeting ID: 890 8084 4409
Passcode: issued a little nearer the date..
During the session we will cover things like:-
We might even have a few prizes available!
We are really pleased to finally let you into a secret that Bridget and Tracey have been keeping along with Sam Adcock
PADI approached us during the early part of 2020 to be part of the BETA team to test a potentially new certification called PADI Junior Divemaster
A programme that will potentially make the mainstream certification list for those aged 15 - 17 who have completed PADI Junior Rescue and are wanting to progress and become a fully fledged PADI Divemaster but they need to wait until they are 18.
But if you are already 18 and Rescue then you can start your Divemaster course now.
The Junior Divemaster course is a subset of the PADI Divemaster course with some modifications to performance requirements
Included is skill development, stamina workshops, dive site set up and management training and much more, all conducted over a series of pool and open water sessions. Knowledge development forms a key part of the course and includes self-study through eLearning followed by a written exam. All the same as for the PADI Divemaster course
Sam completed the Search and Recovery speciality back in August at Rutland Water and not only gained and extra speciality but gained a a credit towards both the Junior and the next step of completing the mainstream Divemaster certification
This program has now moved out of BETA and into a fully fledged PILOT by by extending to PADI Youth Approved Training Centres, so we are now allowed to tell you and invite any junior diver to come and be part of the program. Not yet a Rescue Diver... lets get you started.
Choose Elearning or manual and DVD.?
Elearners can then arrange a time to suit to pop in and do the practical elements of the course or choose to join the others in our virtual classroom to complete.
We have a virtual classroom session on Saturday 23rd January and we guarantee you will learn lots (not all of it is in your materials as we pride ourselves in the added value aspects of our training) ?
Do not have a dive computer No worries.. we have an offer just for you... the enriched air speciality AND a computer.
Do not want that computer again No worries.. just get in touch, tell us which computer you want and we will see if there is a package offer we can put together just for you.? After all EVERY diver should have their own computer
Want to find out more about the Enriched Air Speciality?
If you want to book onto this course, or discuss this course, any diver training or anything to do with dive computers then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Dive Rutland is the trading name for Dive Rutland Limited, a company registered in England and Wales with company number 9433835.
Registered address: 8 Horn Close, Oakham, Rutland LE15 6FE