Of Hula Hoops and Buoyancy Control


Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

 This is an electronic reprint of an article that appeared in NAUI NEWS (Nov/Dec. 1987, p. 35-36). This material is copyrighted and all rights retained by the author. This article is made available as a service to the diving community by the author and may be distributed for any non-commercial or Not-For-Profit use.  

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One of the most fundamental skills in scuba diving is the ability to control buoyancy. Hovering at depth  (forces of buoyancy and weight equal) provides the sensation of weightlessness; the freedom of movement that significantly contributes to that feeling of oneness of self and environment that is the diver's high. In contrast, being either too light or too heavy means that energy must be expended to stay at constant depth. This energy expenditure leads to both frustration and exhaustion. The inability to control buoyancy eliminates much of the fun for those who are just beginning to play in the underwater world. Since most divers are too heavy, those divers who cannot control their buoyancy usually end up on the bottom, generating silt and destroying the visibility for all in the vicinity. 

Most divers entering my 100-hour Master Diving course have not yet fine-tuned the art of buoyancy control. I utilize the exercise described below to allow divers to rapidly acquire the ability to control their buoyancy. The exercise requires an anchor line (marked at random intervals with duct tape), a hula-hoop, and a short piece of line with two eye-splices (one around the hula hoop and one to go over the anchor line). 

Since most divers are initially over-weighted, I prefer to establish "neutral buoyancy" (hovering) before the exercise begins. Using their snorkels, I have the divers totally deflate their b.c. and breathe in and out. In general, the diver should float at eye level and rise and sink with the breathing cycle. Divers who sink are too heavy and must remove weight. Divers who are too light will require weight to sink to eye level. 

The buoyancy control training exercise is conducted in the following manner: The hula-hoop is first centered on the anchor line, which is suspended in approximately 50 feet of water. The students are instructed to hold the hula-hoop level at the chest and maintain the hoop in a level position as they descend. Whenever a tape marker is encountered, the students must hold position until given the signal to proceed. The students then move the hoop down the line. Upon reaching the bottom, the students must then ascend while holding the loop level. After two or three complete trips, the students are then asked to move either up or down at the whim of the instructor.


 The Hula-Hoop Exercise (Artwork by Maureen Reilly) 

This exercise allows very rapid acquisition of necessary buoyancy control skills and begins building a teamwork approach to problem solving which is useful in any task oriented diving.


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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 100 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

Copyright 2001-2022 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

All rights reserved.

Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education