Dive Gear: Tips and Benefits of Streamlining
by: Dr. Thomas Powell:
Scuba diving is a sport we get into because we love the idea of venturing beneath the waves and seeing new and exciting things. Underwater, we want to be able to move about with ease and focus a large portion of our attention on the sites and activities. When our gear is not right, movement can be sluggish, we may burn through gas quickly, and our attention may focus on our frustrations rather than our adventures. One of the easiest ways to have a better experience underwater is by streamlining our gear and our bodies.
The first way to streamline ourselves is by making sure our equipment fits. If your buoyancy compensator is too loose, it may slide around, ride up, or otherwise make neutral buoyancy difficult to achieve. When you select your scuba gear, you should take the time to make sure your buoyancy compensator or harness is properly fitted or adjusted for you. This may take some time and may require an experienced diver or retailer to provide assistance. The truth of the matter is that you should not just jump into a purchase. Instead, look at what each item offers you for your future in diving. Can you stow or store the equipment you need? Does your rig fit in your hips, chest, and shoulders? Is there a crotch strap that helps secure your buoyancy compensator? Does the rig allow you to make changes or adaptations as needed? Is your wing the proper size for the type of diving you are doing or will it wrap around your cylinder and reduce your ease of movement? Once you enter the water, your rig should be comfortable, easy to use, and adjustable as needed. This will allow the rig to become part of your body as you move through the water.
Second, divers love toys. Most divers have made an impulse purchase for an item that seemed “cool” at the time but will never really be used. Do you really need three noise makers, four coiled bungies just in case you need to clip something off, and various other items on you at all times? Often, these items get purchased and a diver will place them on a buoyancy compensator. These items all create drag when a diver tries to move through the water. Over time, a diver realizes certain items may not be used and then these extra items will get pulled off and stowed away in a gear bag only to be seen during rare instances. When a diver eliminates extra items, drag is reduced and the diver will find it easier to move through the water with ease. Similarly, there are fewer items that can cause entanglement if a diver happens to encounter potential hazards. So take a moment and review your equipment. If there are items that you never use but always seem to carry around underwater, leave them in your gear bag.
In the same regard, some divers like the idea of keeping non-essential items stored in a buoyancy compensator. Items like this may include bottles of defog or other things that are normally kept in a gear bag. These types of items add bulk and possibly off-set weighting issues that could again disrupt easy movement. Items such as these should be left on the boat or at the beach. If the item is truly needed, end the dive, get prepared as needed once again, and start over. Similarly, a diver should make sure that clips, straps, and buckles are secured. Anything that dangles, flaps, or hangs open can create more drag or possible entanglement hazards. Often, a simple pre-dive check with a buddy can help a diver make sure that gear is properly donned and secured.
Once a diver determines what equipment is essential, the remaining items need to be tucked away and stowed so that nothing “dangles” or hangs free to create drag. Items should be kept close to the body. In certain cases, adding items like a butt plate to your buoyancy compensator will allow larger items such as reels, spools, or even canister systems to be stowed on the hips, which keeps them up and out of the way. Keeping items such as bungie, tape, or surgical tubing in your dive kit can also help a diver secure equipment. For instance, if a flashlight is clipped to a harness using a bolt snap, a loop of surgical tubing around the webbing can help keep the flashlight tight to the body when the barrel of the light is tucked under this makeshift flexible strap. Thinking through actions like this can help to tighten a diver’s profile underwater. Keeping your equipment streamlined also helps keep specific items easier to find and use since you know things are not shifting around on the body. Sometimes large items can even be replaced with smaller items. Do you really need a foot long short sword as a tool underwater? Instead, items like line cutters or sheers may meet all of your needs and create a smaller physical profile.
Finally, with time, most divers realize that they need less weight to remain neutrally buoyant. Because of this, taking time to do a weight check every once in a while may help a diver learn that he or she can reduce weight and essentially reduce the burden being carried underwater. Similarly, when the equipment carried by a diver is changed, a weight check should be performed to find a comfortable amount of weight to be carried. Once that sweet spot is found, a diver may find it easier to achieve neutral buoyancy and move about with comfort. Comfort will allow a diver to focus more on practicing kick styles, tucking arms away, and moving about with slow and methodical movements. The more a diver can practice simple fluid movements, the easier the diver will find it becomes to maintain neutrally stable buoyancy while performing skill sets, and with reduced movement comes reduced gas consumption.
One of the biggest actions any diver can take in regard to improving comfort and mobility in the water is streamlining both equipment and the body. Over time, adjustments may become only minor corrections rather than major gear reconfigurations. With improved comfort comes an overall improved experience and more time underwater focusing on the exciting factors that make a person return over and over again to the water.