Ten Tips to Attain a Better Horizontal Hover – Scuba Diving Techniques

by Andy Davis, Scuba Tech Philippines

Scuba diving techniques to improve your comfort and capability underwater. In this article, I list ten simple techniques that will allow you to develop a better horizontal hover whilst scuba diving.

1. Get Your Weighting Right

Fine-tune & confirm your max weighting requirements. Any surplus weight will mean there is air in your BCD. As you attempt to hold trim, this air can migrate in the BCD and cause havoc with your trim. Jacket BCDs tend to exacerbate this, compared with BP&W designs, but the root problem is always the volume of air in the BCD. Be aware of how much air is actually in your BCD and where that air is resting. If you go ‘head-down’ then the air will migrate to the bottom (highest point) of your BCD. You’ll need to move it, if you are to re-gain horizontal trim. The less air, the less dramatic this issue is.

Scuba DivingTechniques

A stable hover position is very relaxing and helps reduce the stress load of a scuba diver in any circumstance.

2. Cylinder Positioning

Cylinder positioning makes a big difference. Experiment with fitting the cylinder higher/lower within the cam band. Be aware that this positioning will need to be changed, if different cylinders are used.

3. BCD Trim Weights

Re-consider the use of  trim weights in the upper pockets of the BCD. These trim pockets help bring your head down. If you are too much head down, then you may have too much weight in the pockets. If your torso is too upright, then trim weights can help bring you more horizontal.

4. Fit a Secondary Cam-Band

Fit a second (lower) cam-band to the BCD, if you can. This will help control the effect of a buoyant AL cylinder. Many BCDs have the option to fit a second band, but don’t come with one as standard.

Scuba diving techniques

The impact of over-weighting on scuba diver trim

5. Cam-Band Trim Weights

Fit add-on trim weight pockets to your  cam-band. You can buy pockets that fit onto the band with aloop. These allow you to fine-tune your trim by adding weight above or below your ‘balance point’, without the excessive re-distribution caused by using ankle weights.

6. Consider Your Integrated Weights

Be aware of problems caused using integrated weight systems. On jacket BCDs these tend to hold the weights further from your torso and there can be a lot of movement/swing in the weights. Weight belts offer a more snug storage, directly against your torso without ‘swing’.

7. Proper Body Positioning

Practice your body position for effective trim/hover. The shoulders, hips and knees should all be on the same level – requiring a back-arch (akin to ‘freefall parachutists’ posture). Typically, weakness in the stomach/hips tends to unravel this posture – leading to an ‘arse-up/knees-down’ body position that makes hovering much more problematic. It can take a while (multiple dives) for this position to start to feel natural – and to develop the muscles needed to hold it in a relaxed manner.

8. Head and Arm Positioning

Consider your head and arm position when hovering. The body tends to follow the head, with respect to orientation. When horizontal you need to look forwards (bent neck), otherwise if you are looking down, then your body will go head-down. Likewise, extending your arms forwards, or pulling them back, will impact upon your overall trim.

wreck diving techniques

Certain activities, like wreck diving and underwater photography demand stable trim and the control that comes from it.

9. Leg Positioning

If your shoulder-hip-knee positioning is stable and level, then the position of your lower-legs/fins allows you to fine-tune your balance. However, there’s no point getting focused on this aspect until your basic positioning is perfected. In horizontal trim, a good leg position is also critical.  Keeping the knees bent and holding the lower legs vertically does a lot to alter your balance point – this works great with advanced finning techniques such as frog kick or the modified flutter kick. It also allows techniques such as the ‘helicopter turn’ and ‘back/reverse kick’ to be utilised.

10. Feel versus Actual

Be aware that proper horizontal trim can actually feel like you are a little bit ‘head-down’. Most divers get very used to being, more or less, head-up – so proper horizontal positioning can feel quite alien at first. You should be able to tuck your chin and see behind/below you – that’s a weird sensation for many novice divers.

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Andy Davis is a PADI, SSI, BSAC and TecRec instructor based in the Philippines.  He has logged over 4500 dives in 24 countries and 3 continents.  Primarily teaching wreck and technical diving techniques, all of his training courses, from beginner to advanced, emphasize a very high standard of foundational skills.  www.scubatechphilippines.com

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