Perfecting your buoyancy & trim
Mastering buoyancy and trim is natural for some while others need a lot of practice and that’s absolutely ok. If you are someone who is new to diving and still struggle with this, we've got you!
Your main goal is to maintain a horizontal position (center) when swimming or hovering parallel to the surface or bottom, this is called a neutral trim. This is the most efficient way to swim as it creates the least amount of drag. Low drag means less effort and energy, which means better air consumption and longer dives. If you’re diagonally upward or downward, you end up creating a much higher drag, and...well, you do the math!
We have gathered top tips below based on our experience training novice divers and our tech diving journey, we are confident these will help identify the problems you may be facing and fix them. Here we go...
1. Weights are not just for weight belts
It may take a few dives before you get comfortably weighted with the right number of weight blocks but once you do stacking them all on your weight belt may not be the best approach. Pay attention to your body position when neutrally buoyant (ask your dive buddy to shoot a video) if you see your upper body is still diagonal with head above the leg then try integrating the weights with your BCD near shoulder or back. Wing/Donut BCDs come with weight pockets on the tank strap which will work best. But if your leg floats i.e. your leg is diagonal above your head, try wearing that weight belt lower almost touching the pelvic bone.
2. How you position your arms makes a difference
How you place your hands is one thing most instructors won't tell you but let you observe and learn that's because it is not a skill where you can remember steps and follow. It's something you feel and learn as you get comfortable with diving. But here at DiveCampus, we believe everything in diving is building muscle memory. Think about it, as a kid when we were mastering to walk/run we learned to balance our body weight to avoid toppling headfirst - it was the small adjustments and continuous practicing that helped.
It is the same for diving, start with stretching your arms out in front of you, with soft elbows and a relaxed shoulder. This position will make it much easier to achieve the perfect trim as your leg in the most natural way finds aligning to your torso. To keep your hand stretched out like that may feel unnatural in your first dive but from the second dive, you will notice you are more relaxed. It is very efficient as you don't need to keep moving your hands to keep an eye on the dive computer, almost the same way you do with a speedometer on your car dashboard while driving.
3. Every equipment has a role to play
Your choice of equipment also contributes to achieving the perfect trim. Let's start with BCD, almost all dive centers rent only jacket BCDs, but if you plan to buy your own we recommend you to try wing/donut BCDs instead. Jacket BCD inflates all around your body and your waist making it difficult to achieve the horizontal trim. Wing/Donut BCD inflates behind you in a donut bladder between you and the tank making it easier to float perfectly and do not obstruct your movements when fully inflated. Wing BCD also comes with integrated weight systems which means you can distribute your weights into BCD instead of carrying them around your waist.
Fin too, is an important factor in achieving the perfect trim, did you know some fins are neutrally or negative buoyant? Not sure, which one is right for you? Go back to that video and check if fixing your weight distribution helps your legs from floating, if they don't negatively buoyant fins will be perfect for you. Neutrally buoyant fins are the best for divers that are larger in body structure and help them balance the weight from the largest muscle of the body.
4. Your breathing technique
Your lung is the best BCD if you are perfectly weighted, you can control how you move in the water just by proper rhythmic breathing. Here's an insider's tip that works with all our new divers - achieve neutral buoyancy, stay calm in horizontal trim position, and do not fin now breathe-in 6 counts pause 2 counts and breathe out 3 counts, repeat and keep an eye on your watch for depth. You will observe that without moving your fins, you start to rise just with your breathing, now repeat this but switch the counts of breathing-in into 3 and out to 6, this makes you go lower with every breathe. Breathing is important to master so you can ascend and descend while staying trim.
5. Test, test and test
Of course, you won't be applying all the tips all at once, take your time and try one change at a time, observe how it impacts your trim, and keep making small adjustments from thereon. You may need to treat your buddy for all the videos he will end up taking of you instead of finding nudis but that ok he is just investing to have a great dive buddy. If you need our help or a second opinion, we are happy to review and work with you on skill conditioning and enhancing your buoyancy and trim with only one goal – to make you the best diver you can be. Whatsapp us on 050 770 DIVE (3483) to book your conditioning lessons.