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Serious Chest Squeeze with wrap around BCD’s
ChrisCampana - 6/04/2009 12:58 PM
Category: Equipment
Replies: 7

I just wanted to share my experience with this issue, warn others of this potential problem, and start a discussion getting input from more experienced divers.

I had no problem with wrap-around BCD’s in certification, the one provided fit relatively well and I did not encounter significant currents or wave action during my certification dives. During my first dive trip to the BVI, on 2 of the 14 dives, I found myself on the surface in significant current (without enough air to dive and swim below the current) and in significant wind and wave action. I found myself getting exhausted at the surface due to these issues but in still in control. We are all taught when at the surface to inflate our BCD’s for good buoyancy, particularly if having trouble. However, with the wrap around BCD I had rented this produced some serious chest squeeze and restricted my breathing (I have to say it was almost like being wrapped up by a python with each successive breath being more restricted…for me it was a real phenomenon… I had sore ribs up to a week and a half after the trip). I was not too proud to tell my buddy I was having problems before I got into real trouble and he was kind enough to give me a tow to the boat for the last 30 to 40 yard (I still had trouble breathing during the tow due to the (over)inflation of the BCD). The second time I found myself in this situation I simply got out of the BCD, flipped it and swam on top of it without further problems. However, the more experienced divers in our group had never heard of the chest squeeze being a problem.

After the experience of renting poor fitting gear and having problems with chest squeeze on the wrap around BCD, I bought my own gear, back flotation only, an Aqualung/Seaquest Balance, it fits well, and with back flotation only, no chest squeeze whatsoever. Problem solved for me. I reflect on this experience and wonder what percentage of divers having problems at the surface might be experiencing this particular problem. I have not taken a rescue diver course but know from my open water certification to make sure a distressed or panicked diver has a fully inflated BCD….but what if the chest squeeze is actually creating the problem in the first place????? I wanted to warn others of this potential problem, and get feedback if possible, from more experienced divers and/or instructors on the issue.
Aqua_Nut_Angel - 6/04/2009 3:14 PM

...poor fitting gear... was more than likely the issue.

Dive Safe. 
LatitudeAdjustment - 6/04/2009 3:18 PM

That used to be a problem with early jacket style BC’s, Oceanic even advertised that theirs stretched on the outside but not on the inside to prevent the squeeze.

I’ve been using BackPlate & Wing’s so long I had forgotten about that issue.
seawolfdiving - 6/04/2009 7:28 PM

Many Jacket type (wrap around) BDC’s have this problem. Some manufacturers have attempted to compensate for this problen by using elastic waist bands, etc...

I dive with back plate and wings when I’m diving for fun, exploration, etc. but I use a Jacket Type BCD when I’m with Basic Open Water students. Here is what I’ve found through the years:

1) Make sure that you have the proper size BCD and that it is adjusted properly.

2) Make sure that you are properly weighted. If you must inflate the BCD completely in order to stay on the surface, then it is quite possible that you are wearing too much weight. The more air you put into the BCD, the more it expands, and the more it squeezes you...

3) Having taken care of the first two issues... select a BCD that is engineered to compensate for the "squeeze" effect. one that you are comfortable with, and then stick with it.

Just some suggestions...

Ron sends
Indiana - 6/04/2009 8:30 PM

I had something happen alot like that only with no current.It was my first dive in cold water.My jacket style bc put the the squeeze on me and had a hard time breathing on a long surface swim.I look back now on it and most of the problem was me.I just went to a dive rite transpack and wing.It was the best thing I ever did.Also if I found myself that far from the boat in a current I would signal the boat to come get me.Dive Safe.
DalelynnSims - 6/05/2009 10:56 AM
Please don’t get me wrong with this as all said is great information however there is something else that you can do. On the surface when laying back to kick your way to the boat loosen the BC to prevent the excess squeeze. Additionally when you rent any gear always take your time and ensure it is correct for you. The ocean will be there when you are ready.
When I first read this I also felt that I should say something about the squeeze that you felt. While I am glad that all worked out for you this could be a sign of something physical. You informed your buddy and got assistance which is great. For extra buoyancy please don’t forget lead is cheap. Loose it and dive another day.
My .02cf worth
Best Fishes!!!
Granitehawk - 6/06/2009 9:19 AM
This is an issue of the bcd being straped on to tight when you don it, remember to leave a little room for expantion in the straps. At least that was the solution when it was happening to me.
Scubadad2 - 6/10/2009 1:51 PM

I have not had that problem, but I believe it is two fold. One, I believe the main issue is poor fitting rental gear. (good reason to get your own stuff) The other is the over inflation thing. If we remember the neutral bouyancy training we find small amounts of air adjustment are smarter and will keep you on the surface. If you dump a great deal of air into an ill fitted BCD it seems like you would be over inflating to get a snug feeling. This could lead to a possible Third scenario.... BCD failure if it is older and not well maintained. I have used both types of BCD and have not had the problem you spoke of. Glad you got out of it in one piece. Your story is another example of why you should always dive with your buddy. Take care.