The Right BCD + Proper Weighting = The Perfect Diving Trim

The Right BCD + Proper Weighting = The Perfect Diving Trim

Scubapro dressed male diver and grouper near pillar on MG-111

Newer divers often struggle with their buoyancy, and until it’s mastered, every other aspect of diving will be harder than it needs to be. Divers who know how to control their buoyancy have better air consumption, don’t damage delicate reefs by crashing into them, are less inclined to injure themselves with runaway ascents, and don’t frighten away marine life.

With Goliath Groupers starting their aggregation this month, you definitely want the perfect trim! So, how do you achieve proper buoyancy? The right equipment and proper weighting. Jupiter Dive Center can help you with both! (And did we mention Goliath Season is upon us?)

A Buoyancy Compensator Device—BCD for short—is an integral part of a scuba diver’s kit. As its name implies, it helps the diver regulate his or her buoyancy by using air supplied by either the tank or the diver, who can manually inflate it (you do remember how to orally inflate, right?).

To that end, all BCDs have air bladders. How those bladders are positioned is the big difference between the three main styles—jacket, wing, or back-inflate jacket-style BCDs. 

Most recreational divers start out with a jacket-style BCD. As divers gain experience or specialize in certain types of diving, their needs change and they may decide it’s time for some new equipment. To help ensure you make the right choice, here are some things to consider.  

Jacket-Style BCDs

Jacket-style BCDs are comfortable, come in many sizes, and are made specifically to fit men AND women. Bonus! This was probably the style you rented when you obtained your certification. They are great all-purpose BCDs.

How they work

The air bladders in a jacket-style wrap around the diver’s waist and up the chest. Because little air wraps around the diver’s back, it is easy to stay upright on the surface, but a tad more difficult to achieve a true trim position in the water—an issue often combated by stashing a lightweight in the two trim pockets located on the back of many BCDs.

The Pros

Two things, in particular, stand out: Integrated weights and pockets. Integrated weights are easier to ditch in an emergency, and often more comfortable than a weight belt. Pockets are pretty self-explanatory. They carry gear (although, they can be hard to get things in and out of if the BCD is fully inflated.

The Cons

Jacket-style BCDs work best when they fit, so if you go up or down in size, buoyancy control may become harder to achieve (especially if the BCD is too large). The other drawback is the size of the BCD—especially if you travel and want to take your own gear. 

Recommendation: The Scubapro Glide (Shhhh! A new model is coming soon!)

The Glide is a front-adjustable BC with special design features to maximize comfort, fit, and performance.

Wing-Style BCDs

The BCD of choice for tech divers is becoming more popular for recreational divers as well. This is the most versatile style of BCD and many can be configured piece by piece with individual components. At its simplest, the BCD is a harness that attaches to a steel or aluminum backplate. The inflatable bladder is attached to the back plate and pillows the tank against the diver’s back.

Scubapro S Tek
How they work

You may have heard this style of BCD referred to as a donut or horseshoe BCD and that’s because of the shape of the bladder. Doughnuts are the most common.

The Pros

The BCD can be configured specifically to the dive and the number of tanks the diver is using. Also, because all the air is behind the diver, at depth, it is easier to stay horizontal.

Most wing-style BCDs have integrated weights with quick releases. Backplates come in different thicknesses—allowing you to go light for vacation or heavier to reduce the amount of weight you put in your weight pouches.

The Cons

There is a slight learning curve when you first use this style. The same bladder that helps you stay horizontal at depth, pitches you forward on the surface. The easy fix is to pull your legs up slightly while leaning your head back.

Recommendation: The S-TEK Series

The S-Tek Pro System's revolutionary design is built tough and loaded with features, helping to make your time at depth more comfortable and enjoyable. Designed for both utility and comfort, this system features a 3D-formed back plate with a harness that includes adjustable TEK LOC shoulders to ensure a snug fit and molded Monprene® pads that provide cushioning without creating bulk or inherent buoyancy. 

Back-Inflate Jacket-Style BCDs

This style is often simply referred to as a hybrid BCD, because really, who wants to rattle off such a long name? That said, this style combines the best of both jacket and wing-style BCDs and many manufacturers offer their own models. 

How they work

Beefier than a simple harness, this style fits like a jacket around the shoulders and waist, but the air bladder is still on the back.

The Pros

Because of the air bladder placement, it is easy to stay horizontal in the water. They also have pockets.

Because it is not a full jacket, it tends to be lighter and packs smaller than a regular jacket-style BCD, making it a popular travel choice.

The Cons

Again, the placement of the air bladder tends to pitch the diver forward while at the surface. 

Scubapro Hydro Pro on a tank
Recommendation: The Hydros Pro

HYDROS PRO is the world's first front-adjustable BCD to offer a fully injection molded Monprene® thermoplastic harness. This unique feature allows you to tailor the harness shape to perfectly fit your torso, creating superior comfort. Add the full-sized backpack and stainless steel Super Cinch tank band and you also get excellent stability both on the surface and at depth.

Proper Weighting

Think back to your open water class. You learned a general guideline for how to calculate the weight you needed that took into consideration the type of water you were diving in (fresh or salt), the thickness of your exposure suit, the type of tank you used, the weight of your gear, the buoyancy (or lack thereof) of your fins, and your body weight. From there, it was a matter of fine-tuning the amount by doing a weight check in the water. 

An easy rule of thumb is if wearing a 3 mm wetsuit, take about five percent of one’s body weight, and add four pounds for saltwater with an aluminum tank. That’s going to get you into the ballpark, weight-wise. Check out this useful guide

Goliath Grouper Dives!

With Goliath aggregation upon us, Jupiter Dive Center has plenty of Goliath Dives on the calendar. Diving with these gentle giants requires an advanced open-water certification due to depth and all our dives require enriched air certifications. 

Ready to splash? So are we! Book your dive online or call the shop at 561-745-7807 to reserve your spot today!

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