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Proper descents when scuba diving.
Greg - 3/26/2009 5:00 PM
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Category: Educational
Comments: 7
Here are a few tips to remember when descending while scuba diving:

1. Start to slowly let your air out of your BCD until you start to descend, then stop letting air out. You don’t, and shouldn’t, dump all your air. You should just get neutral.
2. Keep your fins below you so you can kick up in the event you start to descend to quickly or if your ears start to hurt and you need to bump up slowing to equalize.
3. As you’re descending, be ready to tap some air back into the BCD if needed to keep neutral.

I’ve seen some students and new divers dump all their air as they start to descend. If you are heavily weighted, this means you’re going to sink quickly. And as you’re sinking you end up kicking harder than you should to maintain a slow ascent...your ears start to hurt...and you may start to panic. Plus, the extra kicking causes overexertion (refer to my last article) and uses up your air quicker.

So don’t dump all your air in your BCD, use it to keep neutral on the way down and keep your fins below you. Technically, there is no rule about how fast you should’s really up to your ears and your ability to equalize and whether your buddy can safely keep up. The best rule of thumb is to go slowly and make sure you’re in control the entire time.

Dive safe and often!


Greg Davis
Owner and Member #1


LatitudeAdjustment - 5/09/2009 7:10 AM

Wouldn’t having air in your BC at the beginning of the dive indicate that you are overweighted?

I need to dump all air and sometimes exhale to get below the surface before suit squeeze sets in. On shallow dives like Jersey beach dives where I would need a shovel to get deeper than 20’ I need to add two pounds.
fmichaelk - 5/07/2009 3:50 AM
I try to wean students from using the BC as an elevator. If you are properly weighted, you should still float, albeit at eye level. once you empty your BC. You sink when you exhale. Using your manner of breathing to compensate for a few pounds of misplaced weight is faster and more reliable than adding or subtracting air from your BC and both eliminates the risk of a run away ascent and conserves air to extend your bottom time.
muddiver - 4/22/2009 5:55 PM

Sometimes when one uses the elevator process, of letting the air out of ones BC, to decend it is because the diver is over weighted. You will find that when you get to depth you have to add more than one squirt of air to the BC to get neutral, and there ends up being a lot of use of the auto inflator when changing depths during the dive.

Ideally one should be neutrally buoyant for the depth one is planning to dive at. Then the amount of air added to ones BC should be minimul to maintain buoyancy if one exceeds the planned depth of dive.

When weighted such, a diver is usually neutrally buoyant at the surface and simply letting air out of ones BC will not cause one to sink.
ArchimedesPrinciple - 3/31/2009 11:21 AM

Point well taken Greg

Although I did get a chuckle on two occasions you mention being ’’neutral’’ on your way ’’down’’. Now what would Archimedes say about that? lol
NMGoose - 3/29/2009 12:34 PM
Thanks for the reminder, Greg. I am a relatively new diver and go on so few trips that when I hit the water I am so excited I have a tendency to want to get down there as fast as I can so to have as much bottom time as possible. Typically, I get down about 20 to 30 feet and my ears start hurting. Hence, I have to ascend and start all over again until my ears equalize. Why can’t I remember to take it slow and easy to start with? I don’t know. Maybe with more dives I might start to think before doing. I am just so anxious I don’t think. I know that is how you get into trouble. SO..... think, think, think and then enjoy. Yes, I know I am suppose to go down with my buddy and I do. I am watching her as I sink past her. Opps! That is not staying with your buddy, huh? Practice make perfect, right?
DiveBuddyChgo - 3/26/2009 7:28 PM
I go down to my usual 80 to 100 ft wrecks like a rock.. And its esp. fun to spirrel down head first when I am in those warm tropics without the drysuit.. That leaves me with more time at the bottom and then take my time coming up which I do very slowly.. Coming up slowly I’ll see the same stuff I missed going down very fast... I am glad you mentioned that everyone does thier own thing..
Mike B.
scubaclay - 3/26/2009 5:58 PM
Good suggestion Greg, I have used that method for quite a while. If I go down to fast I have problems with my ears. I also teach that to my students who need to slow down, SLOWER IS BETTER.