|"No performance requirement in SCUBA Diving is more poorly defined or less often achieved than___Buoyancy Control."|
WHO NEEDS EXCELLENT BUOYANCY CONTROL SKILLS?
ANSWER: EVERY DIVER NEEDS A FOUNDATION BEFORE SEEKING SPECTACULAR GOALS. DIVERS WHO MANAGE TO BECOME: INSTRUCTORS, TECH DIVERS OR PUBLIC SAFETY DIVERS WITHOUT "FIRST" ACHIEVING COMPETENT FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS___ ARE UNLIKELY TO REVISIT "FIRST BASE" TO ACQUIRE THAT TALENT.
WHO HAS EXCELLENT BUOYANCY CONTROL SKILLS?
ANSWER: MOST DIVERS DON'T EVEN RECOGNIZE SUPERIOR BUOYANCY SKILLS BECAUSE THE INSTRUCTORS THAT THEY LEARNED FROM WERE NOT IN THAT COMPANY. THINK ABOUT HOW MANY BICYCLE RIDERS YOU KNOW WHO CAN RIDE A UNICYCLE AND YOU WILL HAVE AN IDEA ABOUT THE PERCENTAGE OF ALL DIVERS WHO CAN DEMONSTRATE EXCEPTIONAL BUOYANCY SKILLS.
WHO WANTS EXCELLENT BUOYANCY CONTROL SKILLS?
ANSWER: NOT AS MANY DIVERS AS YOU MIGHT THINK!
Open Circuit SCUBA Diving has been around for 70 YEARS.
"That's how long most divers have ignored Buoyancy Skills!"
THAT'S RIGHT!....NOT AS MANY DIVERS AS YOU MIGHT THINK!
Read almost any essay on buoyancy control or read the postings and exchanges that take place on the many cyber message boards and you might think that only beginners have poor buoyancy skills. The impression, that you are likely to gain, is that it is; "only" novice divers ( the cyber divers call them newbies) who make up the largest percentage of divers who lack exceptional or even adequate Buoyancy Control Skills.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of divers with abysmal buoyancy skills and they can be found across the entire spectrum of certification & leadership levels.
Few if any authors dare to mention the abundance of leadership level divers (instructors and divemasters), so called “seasoned divers” ( club divers, cyber divers etc. with years of diving ) and even many cave divers who have less than remarkable buoyancy control skills.
"Professional Courtesy", be it on Wall Street or Santa Rosa Wall, is designed to protect the the incompetent professional from exposure and prevent transparency that might benefit or otherwise enlighten the consumer. "Professional Courtesy", in all walks of life, is practiced most often by colleagues who must protect their own baggage or shortcomings. The majority of the dive leadership community has plenty of baggage and little to brag about where fundamentals, especially buoyancy control skills, are concerned.
LEADERSHIP LEVEL DIVERS (Instructors)
There is almost no emphasis on water skills during an instructor development program.
Most instructor classes concentrate on selling more agency authored certification courses and more and more equipment, continuing education courses and travel for the agency’s “retail partners” i.e. the resorts and local retail dive centers. The focus is on classroom presentations and on selling! Cantidates who have elected to attend SCUBA instructor development because of a desire to share dive skills and mentor divers, suffer a rude awakening!
SALESMANSHIP is more important to the SCUBA business than WATERMANSHIP!
Instructors become instructors by passing a multiple choice written exam because it is objective. Because scrutiny of water skills is subjective, it is all but unheard of to fail an instructor exam because of substandard dive skills. Kneeling on the bottom requires “only” negative buoyancy. Mastery of neutral buoyancy is noticeably absent. The percentage of recreational dive instructors who have awful buoyancy control is huge and should come as no surprise. The argument that water skills get developed at the divemaster level is reasonable, if in fact that were the case. Unfortunately, that is usually not the case.
One training agency charges their instructor members a fee for each specialty instructor certification they hold except the buoyancy instructor specialty. They concede that all of their members deserve to be gifted with this title. This is incredible after conducting a training program with most of the emphasis on salesmanship...... punctuated by occasional diving. If these big agencies really valued Buoyancy Control Skills they would be more selective about who they allowed to teach them.
SEASONED DIVERS (lots of dives, lots of years & lots of cyber postings)
The mantra of the cyber diver, many of whom do their best dives online, is “just go dive” nature will do the rest.
Ah huh! That should mean that “seasoned divers”, the people who repeat that exact same dive over and over for years, sometimes wearing the exact same weight belt for years should have something to show all of us. These veterans with all of their years and all of their dives should be the example that we all want to imitate....so why aren’t they? Why does good buoyancy rank so low on the “old timer’s to do list”? We think it is because fundamentals are not spectacular enough..... unless they are offered with the tech diver "carrot" attached. Most divers think that buoyancy skills alone are nothing to brag about. Most divers think that their buoyancy skills are already “good enough!” So they concentrate their efforts on stuff that they think is worth bragging about. Deny this if you will but the role that ego plays in SCUBA is obvious! Bragging rites are what count. Distinguishing oneself from the pack is what counts only.... nobody really gets it....that exceptional buoyancy skills do that. So many divers and instructors just plain suck at buoyancy that a diver with exceptional skills stands out like a beacon.
What most divers do is keep the conversation on other subjects that distract the attention from fundamental skills to stuff like cool toys and spectacular theory. Scooters, dry suits, rebreathers and understanding partial pressures and mixed gas theory doesn’t help to improve fundamental skills but many divers hope that “IF” they acquire enough cool stuff or can participate in a technical diving discussion nobody will notice that they are substandard divers.
There is a big difference between exceptional buoyancy skills, adequate buoyancy skills and survivable buoyancy skills. Most "seasoned divers", in fact most divers, across the board, fall into the second and third skill groups.
CAVE DIVING AND CAVE DIVERS
A full cave diver course costs four figures and requires almost 20 dives in the most challenging and sustained overhead environment imaginable. It is dark. Totally dark during lights out drills. SO DARK that if you do not close your eyes, your pupils can hurt from straining to dilate. This is not some "Mickey Mouse" limited viz exercise..................................................... The absence of light is TOTAL!
"Darker than duct tape on an AGA mask!" ....sorry we couldn’t help that!
Handling lights, reels and performing valve drills while maintaining "touch contact" with both the guideline and buddies will require dexterity with the hands and buoyancy skills that are " second nature".
Let's repeat that...... Buoyancy that is Second Nature!!!!!Most of the cantidates who show up for a cave course cannot demonstrate remarkable buoyancy skills in a single tank set up, talent, that is a far cry from "second nature" in doubles. Many, a great many, of the cantidates who show up for cave diver training are already recognized dive leaders. Leaders who get by talking the talk and reading from agency standards and outlines without having any ability to support the rhetoric with any memorable visuals for their students or protegees. Cave Diving will require them to wear double tanks. Their hands that they have come to dependent upon for "sculling" will be needed elsewhere. Most of these unprepared but soon to be tech divers come from the ranks of the open water instructor corps. The rest are “seasoned” non leadership level divers.
Soon to be cave divers because the cave diving instructor, in all but the most egregious cases, cannot afford to turn away that amount of money. Instead he will avoid using decorated portions of the cave, he will attempt to instill better basics, at the same time as he is teaching a technical program and he will hold his nose and certify a cave diver that he is less than proud of and less than comfortable with. The cantidates will have collected another plastic credential that will enhance their resume......... and if he/she is lucky, they won’t die in a cave and nobody will notice that they still can’t demonstrate admirable fundamental skills. The proverbial cart, as usual, is in front of the horse and as incredible as it may seem, we get to include many cave divers among the number of divers who do not really think that buoyancy control is important.
SO the short answer is: If everything that you have ever read about buoyancy improvement was focused on new divers (beginners) you do not know the whole story and the people who advanced that theory have omitted “many of the facts". In doing so, they allowed you to believe that since they were "professionals" they could, therefore, not be in that company of substandard divers. They subtracted themselves from the problem. SO you copied them!
"If" we are telling it like it is, and we are, leadership level divers have little to brag about when it comes to buoyancy skills and veteran non leadership divers believe that because of their number of dives and years of diving they have accumulated buoyancy skills that are “good enough”. What sort of example do these divers offer to a novice?
If you believe in Buoyancy Skills, you belong to a very exclusive minority.
If you believe that these skills are readily available through the agents of the status quo, you may be gravely mistaken. More often than not, the people who currently control the dive industry and dive training are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Diving is equipment intensive and equipment dominated and it is in the best interests of the “Recreational Dive Business” to keep the focus on gear. They keep the emphasis on equipment because that's the origin of their PAY DAY!" As usual, you can, follow the money trail to the best answer.
The question now becomes; what defines you as a diver, toys, ego or skills?
IF you are one of the few who believe the answer should be skills..... try this!
1. Identify Buoyancy Control as your goal.
This may sound like an over simplification but one of the reasons that buoyancy control and other basic skills get ignored is that they involve hard work and lack glamor. Buoyancy lacks a perceived value that is equal to more spectacular pursuits such as technical diving or dive leadership. Buoyancy Skills and other fundamentals only enjoy a following when they are marketed in some sort of technical diver package. Not every diver is going to be a tech diver. Not every diver should be a tech diver....BUT...every diver needs good fundamentals. More often than not, this "tech diver carrot on a stick" only leads to more expensive equipment purchases and more over equipped/under skilled divers. Fundamental skills including buoyancy control skills should be “your personal prerequisite” even if continuing education programs seem to relax this requirement for enrollment in their courses. Don’t allow yourself to get the cart before the horse. Bring some scrutiny to bear on skills. Look for signals like “sculling with the hands” that betray substandard skills and identify impostors. Too much rhetoric or too much emphasis on equipment without the ability to demonstrate the level of proficiency that you wish to imitate, should be considered a red flag. Raise the bar! Expect more from your mentors! Learn to recognize remarkable buoyancy skills. Identify what you want to imitate! Believe almost nothing that you hear and half of what you see.
2. Find a Buoyancy Control Mentor.
There may be alternatives to finding better buoyancy control than those offered by the mainstream element of diver education. There are dive educators who hold that learning is the priority. They may be less well known and finding them could be challenging but not impossible. The buyer needs to be beware when seeking this training. If the emphasis seems to be on equipment rather than skills or the reward is just another plastic credential look elsewhere. You need to identify an instructor or mentor who can demonstrate the skill level that you seek to imitate. You need to see good buoyancy examples through the faceplate of your mask. Anyone can offer rhetoric about better fundamental dive skills, just as we are doing within these paragraphs but if you want to know how and what you should practice in order to get it right you need to find a role model. You're not going to improve your skills by "just listening" to us..or anyone else!
3. Recognize that your commitment to practice is paramount.
This is a sentiment that is often echoed on the scuba message boards. Just go dive is the mantra, as if nature will do the rest. Most of the information on the message boards is well intentioned banter. It is important to remember that almost every person who completes a certification course must resist the temptation to introduce their non-diving friends to what has become their passion.4. How much is enough Buoyancy Skills Training?
SCUBA Diving has no shortage of pseudo instructors within the ranks of the dive clubs, public safety dive teams and, of course, among the cyber divers. These self appointed tutors dispense advice with good intentions but more often than not they only share and promote bad habits and myths.
Practice and plenty of it is what pays big dividends. That much of the cyber diver’s message is on the mark provided that you practice the right stuff. Be sure that you know what and how to practice and then dive as much as you can and practice on every dive.
Most buoyancy improvement courses consist of some academics combined with a pool experience or a couple of open water dives followed by the customary plastic recognition card. This is probably not enough time to reverse the emphasis that has been placed on negative buoyancy. Kneeling on the bottom is nothing more than negative buoyancy. One reason that novice divers have been deprived of a quality introduction to buoyancy is deliberate overweighting by their instructor. The open water instructor introduces the non-diver to the underwater world through the demonstration of 18.... or so.... tasks that support the theory that divers do not need to return to the surface each time they need to make adjustments to their equipment or clear water from a flooded mask. Because control is important to the instructor, these skills are usually presented in a negative buoyancy format...i.e. kneeling. There is seldom enough time in a beginner course to provide for a subtraction of these extra pounds and a proper adjustment of attitude in favor of neutral buoyancy. Fin pivoting or fin tip pivoting...is presented as a skill when it is nothing more than a trick by which the instructor demonstrates the role that breathing plays in fine tuning buoyancy. Fin pivoting is negative buoyancy! Touching is touching! It doesn't matter if knees touch or fin tips touch.....it is still negative buoyancy. It is not a skill! It is an instructor tool. There are divers who still believe that they should begin each dive with a decent to the bottom and a fin pivot....preferably performed over a sandy spot. Good or great buoyancy, actually requires that you unlearn some of what you learned in your beginners course. Most divers are over weighted because that is how they started diving. Some divers believe that doing a fin pivot is a legitimate way to begin a dive because an instructor planted that seed. ONCE MORE....fin pivoting is not a buoyancy control skill! Fin tip pivoting is an instructor tool! It was your "potty training" for neutral buoyancy after you were allowed to practice negative buoyancy for far too long. Divers who really understand about buoyancy will understand that! Fin pivoting is NEGATIVE BUOYANCY. The prize we seek is control of NEUTRAL BUOYANCY!If your mentor is more than just talk they will be able to look good after water is added...
Adding insult to injury, some agencies, now allow "instructional assistants" (divemasters and assistant instructors) to conduct buoyancy control courses. This is only further evidence of the importance that they assign to this fundamental skill.
Perhaps the goal of buoyancy improvement is better served by more in water exposure, provided that the example is a mentor of some real worth. How it should look and how it should feel is more important than the theory of buoyancy. Proper weighting and breathing can best be explored during actual diving activities. Much of the theory that relates to tank values and changes in exposure protection (wet suits or dry suits ) and/or changes of environment; ( fresh or salt water ) may make more sense and be better understood and applied after investment in some quality underwater time.
...and you will be able to recognize that when you see it!Forget the theory and first find an example to copy.
Not one that sounds right.... but one that looks right.......
Not on paper or plastic or on a forum, BUT.......UNDERWATER!
When you're sure it looks like what you want......imitate it!
SEEING IS BELIEVING & WE MEAN "MOVING PICTURES"!
DON'T SELECT A MENTOR BECAUSE OF STILL PHOTOS OF HOVERING.
READ MORE ABOUT WHY MOVIES ARE BETTER.....
"BUT SEEING EXCEPTIONAL BUOYANCY THROUGH THE FACEPLATE OF YOUR MASK HAS NO EQUAL!"
Buoyancy Control Skills
"All divers need them......hardly any divers seek them!"Why not be that "RARE DIVER" who has good buoyancy skills when almost everyone else does not?
DO YOU LOOK AS GOOD UNDERWATER AS YOU LOOK ON PAPER OR PLASTIC?
"IF you don't resemble or can't live up to the dive credentials that you hold....
.... and you probably DON'T and/or CAN'T! "
"Whatever made you think that the "big shots" could live up to their endless list of credits?"
" Measure buoyancy mentors ( INCLUDING US ) by how we look underwater!"
"Don't judge dive professionals ( INCLUDING US ) by how they look on paper!"
DO YOU WANT TO BE GOOD AT A DIVE SKILL THAT ALMOST EVERY OTHER DIVER HAS NOT MASTERED?
LEARN....WE MEAN REALLY LEARN....TO BE A DIVER WITH EXCEPTIONAL BUOYANCY CONTROL
WE THINK FUNDAMENTALS ARE SO IMPORTANT....THAT'S ALL THAT WE MENTOR!
"We specialize in cleaning up the other guy's mess!"
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