The Bad Habit of Overweighting
Finally the day has arrived - your desired holidays start. After waiting for a long time you arrived in that tropical country preparing your diving gear.
The divemaster is taking care of you and asks you a simple question:
"How many weights do you need?" You check your logbook and answer: "Well, on my last dive I had 8kg." The divemaster answers: "Ok, then I will give you 10 and for the case you need more I will take 2kg spare with me."
It is sad, but true! Neutral buoyancy is one of the most misunderstood skills in diving.
Both, professionals and certified divers, often ignore that controlling your buoyancy is one of the most important skills everybody should master in perfection. Buoyancy control improves your safety, reduces fatigue and enhances the enjoyment of diving. It also enables you to avoid destroying delicate parts of the underwater environment.
WHY DO PROFESSIONALS OVERWEIGHT DIVERS?
Well, let’s face it. An over-weighted student is going to give the instructor less trouble underwater than a proper weighted student, in the meaning that they will not pop up to the surface. Teaching and understanding buoyancy needs time. Detailed explanation during the briefing, a lot of practice underwater and time for a debriefing to understand what went good or bad and what to improve.
Many professionals like to overweight divers. It can help during descending and ascending with a group, it might help to make sure your plan of the dive is going to work, it might avoid a lot of trouble during the safety stop and, why not, the professional doesn’t need to carry nasty extra weight and can hopefully also enjoy the dive.
SO, IF PROFESSIONALS CHOOSE TO OVERWEIGHT DIVERS…IT MUST BE THE BEST CHOICE?
Absolutely not! There are multiple bad consequences of diving over-weighted. Some are more important and some less, but in the end you will not find any advantages of diving over-weighted.
Here are some of the reasons why:
–It is a harm for the aquatic life: The biggest victims in this case are the corals. If corals could talk…the amount of corals i've seen breaking, because a diver was over-weighted is shocking. But not only corals pay for our bad buoyancy.
–It is dangerous: Many articles have been written about the hazards of being over-weighted. It increases the chances of DCS, heart attacks, uncontrolled descends or ascends, equalization issues etc.
Buoyancy control improves your safety, reduces fatigue and enhances the enjoyment of diving. It also enables you to avoid destroying delicate parts of the underwater environment.
–You don’ t learn anything: If you have done 100 dives over-weighted you lost 100 opportunities to improve as a diver. In my point of view, you are an experienced bad diver. We see many of those cases in our daily job.
–Your air consumption is massive: "I am a heavy breather, i need a lot of air", we hear this words every day. Automatically my answer is: "You need much less weight" even, if i never dove with this person before and i don't know how much weight he is using. Let's be clear: divers with good buoyancy never need "a lot" of air.
–You will miss one of the best parts of diving…being weightless: over-weighted means to feel the heavy weight on your hips, to feel the power of gravity. It means to miss the floating part. It means to stop swimming and sink like a huge rock. Isn't it sad? If you already enjoy diving, wait until you experience the incredible feeling of being weightless underwater and you will get addicted!
So, I hope, I convinced you to start working on your buoyancy. It is a long topic and many books have been written about it. There is a whole specialty, focussing on buoyancy only, which you can do to improve your skills. It is not something you learn in a couple of dives. It takes time, practice and experience. I like to tell my students: "I gave you the tools, now you need the experience."
More buoyancy tips are coming soon. Until then, I hope, you understood the most important skill: The will of the diver to improve and learn buoyancy control!