Incident data has shown that overweighting is one of the most common causes of diving accidents among new and experienced divers alike. An extra pound or two here and there may not send you to the bottom unexpectedly, but habitual overweighting is quite common, and many divers are unaware of how to properly check their weighting. Even if your weighting was perfect last year, you should take a moment to review the fundamentals and double check your weight before getting in the water this season – your dives will be safer, longer and more enjoyable for it.
By Reilly Fogarty
Back to the Fundamentals
In your open water course, you likely learned that proper weighting is the key to buoyancy control. This statement is truer than many divers realize. Knowing the amount of lead you need and where to place it can minimize your risk of overexertion, reduce on-gassing during a deep dive (exertion at depth increases on-gassing) and add conservatism you can use to aid yourself or your buddy in an emergency. Wearing the correct amount of weight and distributing it so that it’s possible for you to maintain horizontal trim during your dive will decrease the speed you drain your tank and make your dives safer and more enjoyable.
There are several popular ways to perform a weight check; one common method is to stand in chest-deep water and vent all the air from your BC. Then, with a normal breath in your lungs, allow yourself to sink down into the water a little; you should float at approximately eye level. Once you completely exhale you should sink to just below the water’s surface. If done properly, this technique will give you a reasonable estimate of the amount of lead required for your dive, but you may still have to fine tune that amount based on your buoyancy at the end of the dive.
Managing your trim in the water should be easy. If it’s not, you may need to adjust how you wear your lead. Most divers can maintain horizontal trim with just a weight belt or similarly placed quick-release system, a little practice and appropriate tank and fin choices. If you are too head- or foot-heavy in the water, you may want to consider relocating a small amount of lead. Just a pound or two relocated to a trim pocket higher up on a tank or on a shoulder strap is often enough to make horizontal trim effortless. Too much of a good thing, however, won’t help you in this department —adding too much lead up high or down low can make you cantilever up and down in the water and make managing your trim difficult or impossible.
For more information on proper weighting or other dive safety fundamentals, visit www.DAN.org.