Manufacturers and dealers build and stock a variety of BCs. The perfect one for you depends upon your basic body type and the type of diving you do. Here are some key areas to consider:
WARM WATER DIVERS: Lift, expressed in pounds, is the amount of buoyancy a BC has when full of air. (Lift figures are given in the chart at left.) Although this is useful for instructors, it has less value to the average diver. As you develop advanced and balanced buoyancy skills, you will find the amount of air you put in and vent from your BC is so little that one with five to six pounds of lift will take care of your U/W needs! BCs with more lift also produce more drag. Unless you spend a lot of time on the surface, teaching and talking, you don’t need a BC with lots of lift. Where the air is in the BC is more important, particularly in relation to your position in the water. Fin heavy folks, the majority, should have more air in the chest area of their BCs. Fin light folks will be better served with a BC that concentrates its air in the back.
COLD WATER DIVERS: While you might feel that strapping on a 20 pound weightbelt automatically qualifies you for a 40 pound lift BC, think twice, The total difference in warm water/cold water diving is the buoyancy your neoprene suit gives up as it compresses with depth. That’s the only change and, with practice, you’ll find your breathing will play an important part in cold water diving as well. On the average, a full farmer john and jacket, with hood and gloves, will add about 16 pounds of buoyancy (more when new, less when old, owing to long term compression of the material). This buoyancy must be taken into account when choosing a BC.
TRYING ON A BC: Fashion dictates aside, fit is very important. If you can’t test a BC U/W, make sure you at least try a tank with it before you buy it! Until the weight of the tank is brought into play, you won’t know how the straps and cummerbund will feel.
Sea Quest, the market leader in BC manufacturing, has also been a founding sponsor of the Buoyancy Control Workshops given in resorts and areas around the diving world. Their BCs are designed from a performance point of view and your local dealer will be happy to discuss the performance (profile, lift and where the air is in the BC while you are diving) benefits of the line.
While your BC plays an important role in buoyancy control, it is only part of the entire system of gear you wear. As you read on in Balanced Buoyancy Control, you’ll find that even small changes in how you wear the rest of your gear can play a big role in changing your natural, default, position U/W. Making sure that default position is effortlessly horizontal is a major step in acquiring advanced diving skills.