There is an instructor practice that we’ve all seen but I don’t think any of us has actually commented on it. The practice is using the bottom (pool, sea, training platform in quarry or lake) as a training assistant. This is actually the basis for exercises such as fin pivots and other exercises that do not teach proper buoyancy control. This practice is widespread and entrenched in teaching exercises starting at Introduction to Scuba on up.
By overweighting students, the instructor can “nail” them to the bottom and they don’t float away. In open water, Instructors are allowed to supervise up to eight students in training (more with certified assistants such as Divemasters) so they “nail” them to the bottom so they don’t float away.
I recently overheard a seemingly very competent instructor briefing his four students prior to an open water training dive. One of the exercises was to be an Emergency Swimming Ascent.
As he advised his students about the procedures to be used during the diving exercise, he counseled them to kneel in a line on the sandy bottom. He would summon each student over to his location at the base of an anchored buoy where they were to stand on the bottom next to him. He further advised that he would give them a signal to ascend and they should bend their knees and push off the bottom to initiate their ascent toward the surface.
Overweighting student divers and “nailing” them to the bottom like so many beanbags is a lazy and counterproductive form of control. As we’ve said way too many times, student divers should be taught to practice proper buoyancy control techniques from the beginning of their training.
If instructors require the use of the pool or sea bottom to control their students, perhaps they should reduce the instructor student ratio to something that they can handle properly and safely.
Your thoughts? — John Wall
John Wall has been a friend and mentor for a number of years. It was John who first turned me on to the fact buoyancy control should be taught as a habit and not as a “skill.” John and his wife Suzy ran an extremely successful dive store in the DC suburbs for a number of years before retiring to Bonaire. Today, their “retirement” consists of running Buddy Dive Digital Photo at Buddy Dive Resort in Bonaire.