Peak Performance Buoyancy course Phuket
PADI PPB specialty course
Diving well is all about buoyancy. Once you master it everything else becomes easy. You use less air underwater, you get less tired, you find it easier to swim against the current, your underwater photos improve and you look cooler.
The peak performance buoyancy course is taught at a dive site with good visibility and minimal current so we can work on skills to make you a better diver.
- PADI PPB specialty course
1 day (3 boat dives)
PADI Peak Performance buoyancy course pre-requisites:
PADI Open water diver certified (or equivalent qualifying certification from another training organization)
Minimum 12 years of age.
Completed PADI medical statement.
The PADI Peak Performance buoyancy course can be done on a liveaboard.
How to use less air underwater
Want good value diving? The best way to get good value from a dive is to make each tank of air last longer.
Many divers suck too much air, particularly beginners. It’s a major frustration when you are enjoying a good dive only to be told by your divemaster to surface because you’re running low. It’s even more of a problem if your partner has much better air consumption than you, no one wants to surface with their buddy even though they themselves still have plenty of air. No diver wants to be responsible for cutting another diver’s dive short.
Some people use more air than others, that’s just the way it is, we are all different. It is to be expected that a small female has better air consumption than a large male because their lungs are smaller. Similarly, Asian divers tend to have very good air consumption because of their small lung size in comparison to larger Westerners. These are physical differences that cannot be changed but that doesn’t mean that air hogs can’t improve their consumption rate. There are several things that can be done to allow you to dive longer, other than just using a bigger tank.
The following are some ideas that I have split into categories but should ideally be considered together as they are all inter related. Master them all and you’ll still be blowing bubbles while all others are back on the boat. You’ll also do less damage to the underwater environment and look a lot cooler underwater.
The main reason for poor buoyancy is over-weighting. It is common for instructors to over-weight students on their dive courses, it’s safer to have the students anchored to the seabed rather than floating off all over the place. Being over weighted means that in order to become neutrally buoyant you must add a lot of air into your BCD to compensate for the weight. Adding that air at depth is a waste and the more air that you have in your BCD underwater, the more it expands and contracts due to pressure changes as you change depth. A small decrease in depth results in a large change in BCD air volume which starts an unwanted ascent. You then have to vent your BCD to descend. As you descend and the air volume reduces again you need to add air to your BCD again to stop from descending too far. It becomes a vicious circle of up and down and often results in divers keeping themselves over weighted and constantly finning to maintain buoyancy. This effort obviously uses a lot of energy and therefore air.Improve your weighting
By contrast, correctly weighted divers rarely need to use their BCD’s to adjust depth underwater, they simple use their lung volume. A breath in raises them up, a breath out sends them back down again. Big breaths move you further in the water column than little breaths. If you want to stay in one place you take smaller breaths, ignore for a moment what your instructor taught you about long slow deep breaths. Once you can maintain your buoyancy with just your breath control you will not need to fin as much. You will use less energy and less air. Dives will become more relaxed and you will find that you can swim slower over the reef or simply hover and drift in the current rather than racing along too fast to see anything. The coral should also benefit as you will no longer be bouncing off it.
So you need to reduce the weight on your belt. All you need is just what it takes to get you under water at the start of the dive and enough so that you can maintain safety stop depth at the end of the dive when your tank is lighter.
On a normal breath of you should be able to float on the surface at eye level with no air in your BCD. Then to descend all you have to do is breathe out and you’ll be under. If you need a full BCD of air to float at the surface before the dive you are over weighted.
Many divers struggle to descend at the beginning of the dive so they over weight themselves. Only to find that once underwater they are far too heavy.
Problems with initial descent can be due to mild anxiety. If your last dive was a while ago it’s normal to be a bit apprehensive. Also, you may be using rental equipment which is unfamiliar to you. Your divemaster may be rushing you to descend quickly before the current catches you. All these things add to the nerves. When we are nervous our heart rate rises and we breathe more heavily. Breaths become shallow and the lungs fill with air. This is all natural instinct taking over in the face of what is the very unnatural act of breathing underwater. The other natural instinct on the surface of the water is to kick the legs to stay afloat. I often see divers trying to descend while at the same time bicycle kicking with their legs. They don’t realize that they are doing it and of course they can’t get down.
Removing the stressors can be done in several ways. Having your own equipment which is all familiar to you will help a lot. So will diving regularly. How often have you looked at your pressure gauge just 5 minutes into the first dive of a dive vacation and been amazed that nearly half your air has gone already? You wonder if there is a leak somewhere and spend the rest of the dive stressing about it which probably uses even more air. Subsequent dives are better because you are back in the swing of diving again and not stressed at the start of the dive. This is one reason why DM’s have better air consumption, they dive every day and are relaxed from the second that they enter the water. Every time you dive in a new location you need at least one dive to sort your weighting out, especially if you are using a different thickness of wetsuit than usual.
Not kicking as you start to descend will obviously help you to get down. It’s easier to descend feet first. Stiffening the body and raising both arms above the head as you take a long breath out should get you under. Once you get about a metre below, the descent will become easier. Now that you are not over weighted you should find that you need to put little, if any, air in your BCD to achieve neutral buoyancy.
Equipment and Trim
I’ve already mentioned the benefit of having your own equipment that you are familiar with. It will mean that you have a good idea how much weight you should wear and it should mean that your gear is well maintained with no annoying little bubbles coming from inflator hoses or free flowing octopuses. A well serviced second stage will require less effort to suck in the air. A balanced regulator will have less resistance at depth.
Your BCD should fit correctly and you should have the necessary clips to keep gauges streamlined underwater. Dangling equipment causes resistance so only carry what you need.
Ideally you should swim horizontally through the water for less resistance. Your tank should be parallel to your spine so make sure that your BCD cummerbund or waist strap is tight so that the bottom of your tank doesn’t float up and pull your backside up with it (and bang the valve into the back of your head at the same time).
You may also be able to arrange your weights for better trim. This will take experimentation but many divers like to remove weights from their weight belt and move them to rear pockets on their BCD or onto the tank band to prevent their feet being pulled down. Different equipment has different buoyancy characteristics. Some fins are positively buoyant and others are negative. What works for you is a matter of preference.
When setting up your equipment before a dive check carefully for leaks. It is a good idea to carry spare o rings with you to replace worn ones.
Make sure that your mask isn’t leaking or fogging up constantly. Apart from the annoyance it will waste air every time you have to clear the mask and the stress will elevate your breathing rate and use up more valuable air.
You should also be warm in the water. Your body will burn energy to stay warm so make sure that you have suitable exposure protection.
Once you’ve mastered neutral buoyancy you may want to adjust your finning style. When you were taught to dive you were probably taught what PADI calls the flutter kick. That is, full up and down leg kicks from the hips. That’s a good powerful swimming kick and will move you through the water at a good speed. If performed correctly with the movement coming from the hips it is possible to kick and glide, kick and glide, in a very efficient manner. You should not kick from the knee, as if riding a bicycle as that will just push you upwards. Learn finning techniques from your divemaster
However, slowing down your finning speed will save you energy and therefore air.
More experienced divers soon adopt the more relaxed frog kick style of finning as used when swimming breast stroke. If you watch your divemaster you will rarely see them use the flutter kick in normal circumstances. Even in strong currents they can happily frog kick their way along the reef, moving slowly, pausing and hovering if they see something of interest. With a tiny reverse flip of their fins they can even fin backwards.
Frog kicking is an easy technique to master with a little practice and like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get. With the frog kick you can get closer to the bottom without kicking up sand or smashing coral behind you. This enables you to get closer to all those critters on the seabed, it is also important when swimming into a current.
It is much easier to swim into a current when you are low to the bottom. Struggling into a current is a sure way to suck down your air. So if turning around and drifting with the current is not an option, get as low as you can go. Watch where your DM is, they know the best place to be. I have often seen air hog divers swimming a couple of metres above their more air efficient buddy, in the belief that because they are a little shallower they will use less air. It is true that diving shallow uses less air than diving deep, that’s just basic physics, but it’s not always possible. Diving in mid water can be far more taxing than staying close to the bottom where the current is weaker.
The final point on finning technique is that you should not use your arms. They will not speed you up, they will just waste energy. Keep your arms tucked in to your sides or chest so that you are streamlined through the water.
When we learn to dive we are told to breathe slowly and deeply and to never hold our breath. This is, of course, perfectly correct advice. Slow breathing gets the maximum amount of oxygen to the lungs. Some divers advocate a slight pause between the inhalation and the exhalation to conserve air. I do not advocate that. I have just one simple rule that many new divers don’t seem to realize. It is that your exhalation should last about as long as your inhalation. Buoyancy Control CourseI often see (and hear) new divers take in a long slow deep breath just as they were taught, only to blast all the good air out in a torrent of bubbles. If the breath in is slow, the breath out should be slow. You will take less in breaths this way and you will also expel more carbon dioxide (dead air) so that more oxygen can reach your lungs on the next breath. I have seen this simple technique alone double some air hogs’ dive time.
In general, long slow breaths are the best approach to maximize oxygen intake. However, as I said earlier, not all breaths have to be long breaths. Sometimes small breaths are ok if you are trying to hover motionless, while taking a photo for example.
Never ever hold your breath while scuba diving.
Exercise, Relaxation and Visualization
Physical fitness will also help improve your air consumption. Diving is strenuous. A day diving is exhausting. Working on your aerobic fitness can only help. Again, the more you dive, the more your body will get used to the exertion.
Losing a few kilos will mean that you need less lead to get you under the water and that you present a more streamlined shape through the water. You will also look better in your one piece pink dive skin.
More and more divers are getting switched onto relaxation techniques. Meditation and Yoga can improve your mental and physical state and they certainly help free divers to keep a lung full of air for longer. Yoga will make your muscles more supple and flexible and your mind more centered.
Relaxation includes getting a good night’s sleep before a dive trip so that you are not tired in the morning, not being hung over and not rushing because you are late. All these stresses on your body will consume energy which is fuelled by oxygen. Sea sickness is another major stressor. If you are prone to sea sickness take appropriate medication to prevent it.
Visualization may help with that stressful start to a dive where so much air can be lost. A few minutes before the dive, going over in your mind the entry and descent procedures may help to calm any nerves.
Follow these techniques and your air consumption will improve over time. The more you dive the better you will become as a diver.