It has taken me nearly 60 dives to get comfortable with my buoyancy, I am still not perfect but I am definitely much better than when I started. I found doing PPB at the beginning of my last trip to Malta a good idea. I have been using all the skills that I learnt on that course on every dive since then.
Friends of mine have asked me how they can learn to do “advanced” underwater skills such as take good photos or use a DPV or even explore a wreck. I always respond with “get your buoyancy under control.” Once you have that you can do anything underwater.
Good buoyancy, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects to a good dive. Why do I think this? Well it is down to the fact that everything becomes easier if you are able to control your buoyancy in the water. Try looking at a reef, if you can’t settle in the water you will miss all the exciting things to see. Having difficulty with your buoyancy will mean that your attention is focused else where, meaning that the dive is not as enjoyable as it could be.
But who’s responsibility is it to help these divers with their buoyancy? Should we expect that all students when they have completed their Open Water certification to be able to hover effectively, or do we expect them to not be able to? If we expect the later, what is the next step? Do all students know how important buoyancy is? Should PPB be part of the Open Water certification process, or do students need to have more experience diving before they can full appreciate the effectiveness of a course like PPB?
I don’t think there is an easy answer. Their is a famous proverb “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I think this is very poignant: people don’t like being told they are doing something wrong so it would be prudent to be careful when approaching someone who has a problem and discussing it with them. So all I can say is take care if you decide to intervene, it could be appreciated or it could be a big mistake.
On a recent dive trip I was discussing with some friends about buoyancy control. When I told them (reminded them, as this should have been taught on their OW course) that they have to remember to inflate their BCD as they descend, the look of shock and disbelief on their faces shocked me. From there we had a discussion about the physics involved and how they should slowly top up their BCD with air as they go deeper, and deflate it as they ascend. I also gave some pointers on body position and having seen them in the water after our talk they have definitely taken on board what I suggested.
But was it my responsibility to tell them and help them? No, it is not. I’m not an instructor. I am not the most experienced diver. Why did I intervene? I intervened because they were my friends and I want them to really enjoy diving. I don’t want them to cause silt outs or disturb wildlife due to their bad buoyancy. These are things that can upset other divers, including myself.
I think it is every diver’s responsibility to get their buoyancy sorted as fast as they are able to. I know there are a lot of exciting things to see and do underwater. This seems to cause people to rush towards doing things before they are ready, I know I am guilty of that. So take your time and do it right. You will definitely become better if you practice the skills on every dive.