If you're anything like me when I first started diving it's probably too much!
When I first started SCUBA diving, I did not know I was over-weighted. It had never really dawned on me to check how much weight I needed. I was trained with 12 pounds of lead and that is what I dove with. That is until I got to my Instructor Training Program. My instructor stripped me down to four pounds and proceeded to tell me that I was diving with way more weight than I would ever need, although he was not so nice about it. Needless to say, I felt a little silly on that day. I wish someone would have told me something prior to sitting in a pool with a seasoned instructor trainer…I was red-faced with embarrassment on that day!
How much weight are you taking with you when you dive? Are you sure this is the right amount? If you’re not 100 percent sure that you’re using the correct weight, then you need to read on.
The only way to properly determine how much weight you need in the water is to perform a buoyancy check. A SCUBA diving buoyancy calculator may be a good idea in theory, but you will only know the right amount of weight by getting in the water and checking yourself. A buoyancy check is when you place yourself in the water and, through trial and error, find the right amount of weight which you need to SCUBA dive.
Having the correct amount of weight to act as ballast is super important. If you have too little weight, you will float towards the surface, especially at the end of the dive when your cylinder is lower on gas. If you have too much weight, you will work harder, possibly have your body in a poor position in the water column, and could even place yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.
The goal of being properly weighted is to end your dive perfectly neutral when you are at your reserve pressure, with little to no air in your BCD.
If you still need air in your scuba diving buoyancy control device (BCD) when you are at the reserve pressure at the end of the dive you need to ask yourself why? This extra weight simply caused you to exert more energy throughout the entire dive and likely caused your breathing rate to go be higher than it needed to be.
Before I begin to explain how you can perform a buoyancy check, you have to understand what can affect your buoyancy.
The Density of the Water.
Your Dive Gear
Because of all of these variables, especially the ones dealing with your body composition. The only way to figure out how much weight you will need when diving is to perform the buoyancy check.
The way I like to perform a buoyancy check is wearing whatever I will be using for exposure protection (i.e. wetsuit or drysuit) and in the same type of water I will be diving in (If you will be diving in the ocean, you need to do this in salt water, the amount of weight you use in a pool will be different than what you might use in the ocean).
I like doing the buoyancy check for just my body, and then a separate buoyancy check for just the gear. There are two reasons why I like doing it this way. First, it is easier in my opinion to balance in the water and find the right amount of weight for just yourself. Second, I tend to dive different gear configurations and different cylinders for different purposes. By separating the amount of weight I need for myself from the weight I need for my gear, I am able to easily adapt for different cylinders and gear. If you dive with different gear configurations, you may want to consider doing the same thing.
So how do you perform a buoyancy check? Below are the steps as well as a video showing you how to do a buoyancy check.
Once I know how much weight I need for myself, it’s now time to do the same for my gear. The gear is actually a bit simpler since there is no balancing required on your part.
The steps to doing a buoyancy check for your gear are as follows:
Putting it all together
Once you know the amount of weight that you need for yourself and the amount of weight that you need for your rig, all that is needed is to add the two numbers together to arrive at how much weight you should be carrying into the water.
Always keep in mind that the number you arrive at will change if you change cylinder types, exposure protection, move from salt to fresh water, or if you gain or lose weight yourself. Also, the amount of weight you arrive at with a buoyancy check is not a number set in stone it is simply a best starting point. Once you start diving, you may notice that you can actually use less weight, or maybe that you’ll need slightly more. If you decide to add or eliminate weight do so very slowly. Your goal should always be to be neutrally buoyant with no air in your BCD at the end of your dive with the cylinder at its reserve pressure.
How much weight are you using when you dive, and what type of exposure protection and rig are you using? Let me know in the comments below.