As a PADI dive instructor I am often asked for my recommendation for the most beneficial adventure dive to complete while taking the PADI Advanced Open Water course(AOW). There are over twenty adventure dives to choose from, two of which are mandatory (Deep Dive and Underwater Navigation), and a further three to be elected by the student. Each dive teaches useful skills and applies practical knowledge to a given situation and each has its benefits for a given diver and their individual diving needs. But there is one adventure dive that I feel benefits every diver across the board, no matter what their diving ability or specific interests may be, and that is the Peak Performance Buoyancy Adventure Dive.
Peak Performance Buoyancy
The Peak Performance Buoyancy Adventure Dive (PPB) is designed to give divers an awareness and understanding of their position and movements in the water. It specifically focuses on minimizing unnecessary energy expenditure and allows the diver to maximize dive time through efficient air usage, but most importantly (in my opinion) it teaches the diver to avoid contact with the reef or respective substrate thereby reducing unnecessary damage to the marine environment.
Each instructor has their own techniques for conducting the PPB, but the main performance requirements include adjusting for proper weighting and trim (a skill that is often overlooked by many divers), efficient fin kicking and practising hovering in a variety of positions using breath control for minor buoyancy correction. The instructor will also often have the student complete a series of tasks designed to test buoyancy control, such as swimming through an underwater obstacle course or hovering close to a balanced object without knocking it over.
Why Is It Important?
The ability to hover in a neutrally buoyant position has many benefits for all types of divers, not least to allow the diver to get close to an animal or underwater feature without disturbing it. After all, the main reason people dive is to explore the underwater world and marvel at the natural beauty on display. And with the increasing availability and popularity of small handheld underwater cameras, there is a rise in numbers of divers trying to line up good shots that will often bring them into close proximity of the reef. Where underwater photography used to be the domain of more experienced divers, as the higher cost of the equipment required greater dedication to the hobby, it is becoming increasingly common to find entry level divers wanting to take their cameras along with them. A problem I’ve noticed with this is that the diver’s buoyancy control can often be lacking, meaning that not only do they find it difficult to get the shots they want, but there can also be a real risk of injury to the diver or damage to the environment if the diver loses control of their buoyancy and either drops onto the reef or shoots to the surface. Obviously in these circumstances the benefits of good buoyancy apply, not only to allow the diver to make the best use of their photographic equipment but also to ensure their own safety and that of the marine life.
Another perhaps more noticeable benefit of good buoyancy comes in the form of a decrease in air consumption. If a diver is able to hover in a relaxed and controlled horizontal position throughout the dive, using efficient fin techniques and with proper weighting, then they will often use far less air than a diver who has difficulty maintaining neutral buoyancy. The obvious advantage is that the diver gets longer dive times and exerts far less energy, making the experience more enjoyable. It’s not uncommon to see an immediate increase of 10-15min in dive time for a diver who has completed a PPB Adventure Dive, which translates to more value for money when paying for dives and a potential increase of popularity with your dive buddies if you’re no longer the one responsible for ending the dive early due to low air.
Continue Your Education
Continuing your dive education by completing a Peak Performance Buoyancy Adventure Dive or Specialty course will increase your diving enjoyment no matter what your current level of dive experience and regardless of your preferred dive environment. From shipwrecks to reef systems to fresh water lakes, the ability to maintain a comfortable, neutrally buoyant position without falling onto the substrate or kicking up sand and silt, will make your dive experience far more rewarding and will ensure protection of the environment in which you dive.