This is a review by one of our divers, Nick, who has recently completed the Scuba Leeds Essentials skill development sessions and the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy course.
"As a new diver I have spent a lot of time in the water following people who make diving look easy. I have at times struggled to keep under control and found myself using my hands to keep level and more air than anyone I have dived with. I also upped and shed weight without really getting the amount sorted.
I had heard about the Peak Performance Buoyancy course and had completed the adventure dive as part of my advanced open water certificate. After speaking to the gang at Scuba Leeds I decided that the next specialty certificate I should do was the PPB certificate. After speaking further with Ben he suggested that I could do the “bells and whistles” version. This comprised three pool sessions in addition to the two open water dives.
The three pool sessions concentrated on buoyancy, trim and finning over three weekly sessions. The aim being that I perfected being buoyant, just moving up and down with each breath, ensuring that my trim meant I was streamlined in the water and finally that I could fin without disturbing the bottom or wasting energy.
So week one, in my dry suit in the swimming pool I completed a proper weight check, and I started diving with 4kgs, significantly less than the last time I had dived. The training was great, two divers to one instructor we started with a controlled 5 metre descent to the bottom of the pool making sure that we were neutrally buoyant before getting to the bottom and without touching the floor. Once near the bottom we practiced staying level slowly rising and falling with each breath. That was the theory! The first time felt almost like the first time I had dived this was so difficult my hands were out my fins were moving and I was rolling and twisting. We went back to the surface and talked about what we had experienced, Ben explained how to address the concerns and what to do to prevent them. Then back down and practice again. We spent a lot of time going back up talking and tweaking according to what we experienced. The two hours flew past and at the end of the session I was able to maintain my buoyancy without using my hands of fins at any depth just by using my breath. The last dive of the evening was a slow controlled decent to 5 metres without touching the bottom and then hover for a few minutes and ascend a metre hover for a few minutes ascend a metre hover, ascend, hover you get the picture. Two hours earlier this felt nearly impossible but there I was hovering and ascending. I had also managed to drop two further kg’s.
Week two, we perfected my trim, getting my position in the adjusted with moving weight around. Understanding how my centre of buoyancy and centre of balance interact. Moving weight from BCD pockets to a weight belt enabled me to move the weight further forward. We also moved the tank higher up on my back. This moved my head down and feet up making me flatter in the water. We moved weight in to the trim pockets and looked at how that affected my trim. After each adjustment we went back down and practiced hovering until I was really comfortable and could stay level without even thinking about it. We then looked at how moving air would adjust my trim should I need to be head up or feet up. By stretching my arms out my head would come down and my feet would go up, the air in the dry suit would move to my feet and help to keep them higher. By the end of this session I could empty my BCD move into the hover position and breath out and descend sinking slowly down stopping if I wanted to by taking a deeper breath. Moving my head lower by reaching slightly forward. I possibly would have got here with more dives and trial and error but without the support of the instructor this would have taken a lot of practice and dive time.
Third week and finning, I have never laughed so much under water, at one stage I laughed so much I had to surface to clean my mask! The frog kick this was so hard to master
manage. Ben was kind, thoughtful and determined. Explain, descend, practice ascend explain again, descend, practice, ascend explain again this time with fins on hands to demonstrate, descend, practice, ascend, explain this time by moving my legs in the pattern. Then after I don’t know what “visualisation” I think I thought about how the fins should look in the water as I was moving and then bingo all the bit started to fit together and I could move forward. Sculling not finning, the frog kit is smoother not all action like finning. While I will not profess to have mastered this I can move forward using the frog kick. We did try to helicopter turn and also reverse frog-kicking lets say there is still more to learn. But what the three week have shown me is that will the support and repeated practice the penny drops and the skill becomes intuitive.
At the end of the three weeks I was able to swim (frog kick) around the pool, moving over and under other divers using breath control and without thinking about it or making wild uncontrolled movements.
If you are thinking about how to improve the time you spend under water my recommendation is two fold, if you are not bothered about the certificate but would like to dive better the pool sessions on their own will improve your diving in massive steps in a relatively short time period. If you want to complete the PPB certificate you will get more out of the course by completing these sessions first.
If you would like more information about either of these programs email firstname.lastname@example.org.