Buoyancy Control

How do your students learn?

If you’re a PADI Instructor or PADI Divemaster….

How do your students learn Buoyancy Control?

You’re probably used to teaching skills like mask clearing, regulator recovery and alternate air source while the student is on their knees.

However, by teaching these skills in a more natural way, students will be able to learn them more easily and apply them more effectively when they’re diving.

What is a more natural way to teach Buoyancy Control?

Let’s look at the way humans learn other things. 

If you’re a parent, you might be aware that you didn’t “Teach” your child to walk. 

You allowed them to learn, and then, you moved on to other things like:

Walking towards you for a hug, or 

Walking to fetch something.

In order to build their confidence, you allowed them to walk first before expanding their abilities. 

Building confidence

Now think about how you learned to ride a bicycle. 

Did you learn to turn left, or right before you had balance? 

Did you learn all the hand signals before you had balance? 

No! You first got confidence with being on the bicycle, before you learnt more things. 

What happens with other sports?

Now think of any other sport, and consider the first paths that people take to learn. 

There are probably hundreds of examples. Let’s take a look at a few. 


Do you learn to turn left or right before you can glide along? 

Do you learn to tack or gybe before you can sail in a straight line? 


Do you learn to manoeuvre before you can paddle in a straight line?  

The list is endless. 
So many examples come to mind.

Driving a car for one.

But I think that you get the idea! 

Why Scuba Diving?

Why on earth did we decide to teach people to clear their mask, or remove their regulators before they could simply move around in confined water with confidence?

Why are more and more PADI Instructors changing to the new system?

Over the past few years, more and more PADI Instructors are moving over this more natural way for their students to learn. 

Many of them, particularly the ones that have been teaching for many years have been astounded by the results.

Students get confident quicker, they learn quicker and they get much more fulfilment from the lessons. 

I’ve been teaching Scuba Diving for over 30 years now, and for the first 20 years, I also taught people to dive whilst on their knees.

Of course, my students did go on to be proficient divers, but the new way is much quicker, effective and enjoyable. 

Join us, if you’re not already teaching this way. 

Your students will love you for it. 

How do your students learn Buoyancy Control?

In the same way as they learn everything else in life. By spending a few moments getting used to their new environment. Swimming around in confined water. Building confidence every minute. With nothing else to think about, the excitement and thrill of being underwater lets them get comfortable with scuba.

Buoyancy Control - First things first

5 minutes? 10 minutes?
How long does it take a new Discover Scuba Diving student to swim happily around a swimming pool? 

How fast is it before they discover that they can have fun underwater, all without any mention of Buoyancy Control?

Excitement, frisbees and torpedoes, take up their conscious mind while they soon learn to move around in circles. 

These new divers  build confidence swiftly. Each circuit, informs their subconscious the consequence of every body movement. They learn fast.

When an instructor allows that person the time to get comfortable and familiar in their new environment, the foundation for all future skills are being set. 

Time to learn new skills.

It’s now time to introduce the first underwater skill of a PADI Open Water Course – Remove and replace a regulator.

How many of these new divers, do you think,  would be happy to take out their regulator, blow bubbles and then clear it while swimming around?

By  asking the student to stop diving, remove all air from the BCD and anchor themselves to the floor is unhelpful in so many ways.

The student is taking the course to learn to Scuba Dive, not to kneel on the bottom. 

The confident divers are being held back.
The ones lacking in confidence are not yet ready to perform the skill. They need more time to relax while underwater. Asking them to perform the skill while kneeling won’t help their progression.

Why is Trim Important to new Divers?

PADI Dive Theory - Physics

For new divers to be able to swim easily, they need to be balanced. 

If a diver is over-weighted, it’s difficult for them to get in a horizontal position. 

Too much weight on the weight belt is compensated with air in the BCD. This causes the diver to be upright in the water and with the legs down, the fins tend to be ineffective.

Divers are then often seen to be using their arms in an attempt to move forward. 
Divers wearing Shorty wetsuits also tend to be upright. 
It’s important for divers to be balanced right from the start. 

Student divers can be encouraged to get horizontal.

In chapter one of the open water course, the students will have already seen the importance of trim. As they swim around, they can be given some extra weights with clips on.

As buddy teams, they can clip the weights to each other moving the weight around until they feel comfortable.

Of course it’s seen to be their decision, but you’ll find that nearly always, a kilo or two attached to the top of the cylinder will help with balance.

After the first session, weights can be arranged accordingly. 
It’s so important that instructors concentrate on trim early in the development of new divers. 

More complex skills

Some skills are more complex than others. 
Let’s take Mask Clearing for an example. 
There’s a lot to take in here. Allowing water into the mask,  look upwards, breathe out from the nose, prevent air from escaping from the top of the mask. 

All while trying to remember the sequence of when and where they should be to perform the skill. 

Of course divers should be allowed to practice the whole sequence while on fin tips. 
When they’re ready, then they can put it all together while swimming around. 
Divers learn so fast when they’re allowed to learn! 

How you can be a better PADI Professional?

Sign up now for my online PADI IDC Preparation Course 
It’s full of new ideas about how to TEACH both theory and skills. 
Lot’s more information here: 

Or contact me to find out when and where I’ll be conducting a COACHING ACADEMY session in the UK. 

How divers learn - video.

Here’s a short video I made in 2015.

Last modified: 10th January 2023
Author: Steve Prior