What is neutral buoyancy? Scuba divers like to be neutrally buoyant so we neither sink nor float. It can be a tricky thing. Divers who’ve mastered the highest performance levels in buoyancy stand apart. You’ve seen them underwater. They glide effortlessly, use less weight, less air, and ascend, descend or hover, almost as if by thought. They interact gently with aquatic life and affect their surroundings minimally. The PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course refines the basic skills you learned as a PADI Open Water Diver and elevates them to the next level. Benefits include increased safety, improved air consumption, and even a better chance of seeing more wildlife because you won’t be bumping across the reef or silting up the environment.
Astronauts and scuba divers have a common trait, they are operating in a zero-gravity state. That is if the diver has achieved neutral buoyancy. Neutral buoyancy is a condition where you neither sink nor float and is as close to zero gravity as you can get on earth except for when you are “zero-G” aircraft rides and those only last a few minutes.
Astronauts train for Extravehicular Activity (EVA) on a mock-up of the International Space Station that is in a 40-foot deep swimming pool. Their carefully fitted and weighted space suits give them the perfect neutral buoyancy needed to mimic the conditions in space. It is less complicated but just as important for a diver to achieve neutral buoyancy.
A neutral buoyant diver might not be practicing a skill to make a repair in space, they are practicing a skill that will give them a longer and safer dive. The Peak Performance Buoyancy course will help you expand the knowledge and practice you need to master this skill.
The truth is that achieving neutral buoyancy will, indeed, make you a better diver overall. And, in becoming a better and stronger diver, you’ll be able to enjoy your dives more.
While a diver carries too much weight, they may be able to establish and maintain a neutral state, but they are doing so using a greater amount of air. Additional air to have the BCD counter the extra weight and additional air consumption due to the added resistance of the inflated BCD.
A diver even slightly underweighted will find themselves fighting to maintain a depth for a safety stop and from floating up when they do not want to. Divers who are appropriately weighted will find it easier to maintain neutral buoyancy and will use less air on a dive because they do not have the issues that divers have who take too many or fewer weights.
Having achieved a level of proper buoyancy control a.ka trim allows a diver to approach a reef without the risk of severely damaging the reef by contact.
If you want to make sure you are properly weighted you should enter the water in full gear with your BCD fully inflated. Now swim out a bit to just slightly deeper water where you are not able to stand up or touch the bottom. No deflate your BCD and hold your breath. If you are properly weighted, you should now float at eye level. When you exhale, you will descend at a reasonable pace.
If you do not float at eye level when you exhaled and your BCD is empty you might still need a few extra pounds to descent. On the other hand, if you sink like a rock before you exhaled you are overweighted and you should adjust the amount of weight accordingly.
Part of mastering buoyancy control is learning how to use your BCD and weight system effectively, plus maintaining streamlining. This makes the PADI Equipment Specialist course a natural companion because you learn more about these pieces of gear and how to make them suit your specific diving styles.