Being able to hover, move smoothly and efficiently through the water and streamline your equipment is not just a matter of style and elegance but one of safety and protecting the environment
Being able to hover, move smoothly and efficiently through the water, and streamline your equipment is not just a matter of style and elegance but one of safety and protecting the environment.
As I swim low and glide gently over a reef, careful not to touch, I look up and catch a glimpse of a group of divers. All but the one, who is obviously the dive guide, are moving along rather awkwardly. Most propel themselves forward in various postures between upright and prone, but none are anywhere near being horizontal. As a result, their kicks are directed at a downward angle, resulting in a bobbing, up-and-down motion through the water. Several look like they are bicycling, and hoses are dangling all over the place. It is a right mess to behold and not an unusual sight at some dive destinations.
I get it that diving is a new set of motor skills to acquire and hone when you are first taught to dive and that some fumbling about, in the beginning, is only to be expected. Proper posture, finning technique and hovering take time to fine-tune and become second nature.
Practice makes perfect, so why isn’t it happening?
It just does not appear to be an integral part of entry-level dive course curriculums but is up to the discretion of the instructor to make that extra effort to teach and properly train new divers, so that they get well settled into good habits and techniques from the onset. It is a shame really, but I assume it is a question of time and money for dive operators as they are businesses.
The slack does not seem to be picked up at any later time, however, so many divers keep on flailing about as they get stuck in bad habits or just do not know any better.
It can go pretty far up the chain too. I recall from my own PADI IDC how about half of the instructor candidates in my group, which were minimum Dive Masters for starters, struggled to hover in the pool. To this day, I cannot get my head around how some divers can progress to that level of certification and still not easily hover. It is not that difficult!
Later, I conducted an Advanced Open Water course, and I started by revisiting the issue of correct weighting. Among seven students, a whopping 29kg of extraneous lead was removed and left on the jetty before we went on the first dive. Who knows for how long these folks would have continued to dive significantly overweighted if we had not revisited this simple basic exercise.
Being able to hover, move smoothly and efficiently through the water and streamline your equipment is not just a matter of style and elegance. It is also a matter of safety, because when you are relaxed underwater, you are not out of breath and have more mental and physical capacity to deal with any problems that may arise. You use less air, and you get less tired. The dive is also simply much more pleasant when you let the water support the whole of your body weight without any need for finning—what I sometimes refer to as “resting on an inverted waterbed.”
So why not make it easier for yourself?
In any case, since poor buoyancy control is a major cause of damage to both natural and artificial reefs and other habitats, that is the least you can do to protect the environment.
— Peter Symes
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief