The Fin Pivot - Swim Like a Fish Using the Fin Pivot Scuba Certification Skill

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The Fin Pivot: Achieve Neutral Buoyancy the Fin Pivot

The fin pivot: A neutrally buoyant diver performs the fin pivot. 1. Diver begins by laying flat on the floor. 2. Diver breaths in and slowly rises. 3. Diver breaths out and falls to the floor. 4. Diver can now swim without floating up or sinking down. Natalie L Gibb

Swim Like a Fish: Get Neutrally Buoyant Using the Fin Pivot

Have you ever burned through your air because you were kicking to stay up off the ocean floor? Have you ever been distracted by some interesting creature and accidentally floated to the surface? You can have more control of yourself underwater.

Like fish, divers should be able to swim and float motionlessly without changing depth. This is called neutral buoyancy, and may be explained in layman’s terms as hovering in the water without rising to the surface or falling towards the bottom. Divers can achieve neutral buoyancy by adjusting their buoyancy compensators (BCs) and using their lungs.

Read about the wonderful feeling of neutral buoyancy.

The fin pivot is taught in basic scuba certification courses because proper buoyancy control is essential to safe diving. Diving becomes effortless when divers are not struggling to maintain a position in the water. Divers who have learned to achieve neutral buoyancy find they can last longer underwater on a single tank of air because they reduce their physical exertion. Mastery of neutral buoyancy techniques also helps divers avoid ascending too quickly, which is extremely dangerous in diving: it can cause lung overexpansion (popped lungs) and decompression illness (the bends).

The fin pivot is a basic technique from scuba certification courses that helps divers to master neutral buoyancy using their lungs and BCDs. The concept is that a diver who has the correct amount of air in his BCD to be neutrally buoyant can move up and down by inflating and deflating his lungs (breathing in and out). The fin pivot can be preformed immediately after descent or at any point during a dive when a diver feels that he or she is not neutrally buoyant.

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The Fin Pivot: Release Air From the BC

A diver releases air from her BC during the fin pivot scuba certification skill. Henry Watkins, Fisheye Photography 2009

Begin the fin pivot negatively buoyant. Release all the air from the buoyancy compensator (BC) as taught in most scuba certification courses: Kneel, stretch the BC deflation hose as high above your head as it will go, and lean back while pushing the deflate button.

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The Fin Pivot: Lay Flat on the Floor

A diver in the starting position for the fin pivot. Henry Watkins, Fisheye Photography 2009

To begin the fin pivot scuba certification skill, lay flat on the floor with your legs straight and fins spread apart. You should stay down with no effort. If not, consider adding extra weight.

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The Fin Pivot: Inhale to Test Your Buoyancy

A diver inhales to ascend during the fin pivot. Henry Watkins, Fisheye Photography 2009

To ascend during the fin pivot, inhale one long, slow, deep breath. This should take 8 to 10 seconds, and fill your lungs more than a normal breath. If you are neutrally buoyant, you will rise slowly. Don’t use your hands or elbows to push you up during the fin pivot.

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The Fin Pivot: Add Air to the BC if Necessary

A diver adds air to her BC while preforming the fin pivot. Henry Watkins, Fisheye Photography 2009

At this stage of the fin pivot, if you do not rise up, you are not neutrally buoyant. This means that you need to adjust your BCD. Add a very small burst of air to your BCD. Just press the inflate button once. You should not rise until you breathe in during the fin pivot.

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The Fin Pivot: Inhale and Ascend

A diver inhales and ascends during the fin pivot. Henry Watkins, Fisheye Photography 2009

Breathe in. This should cause you to ascend during the fin pivot scuba certification skill. If nothing happens, add more air and test your buoyancy again by breathing in. Keep doing this until you can rise up easily by inhaling. If you have to add more than 2 or 3 bursts of air, consider removing some weight before continuing with the fin pivot.

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The Fin Pivot: Exhale and Descend

A diver descends by exhaling during the fin pivot. Henry Watkins, Fisheye Photography 2009

Try breathing out to descend. It is important to be patient during the fin pivot. Breathe out for at least 8 to 10 seconds to allow time for your decreased lung volume to take effect. You can pivot either on the tips of your fins or on your knees when preforming this scuba certification exercise.

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The Fin Pivot: Keep Practicing

A diver has achieved neutral buoyancy using the fin pivot. Henry Watkins, Fisheye Photography 2009

Keep practicing. The goal of the fin pivot is ONE breath in to go up and ONE breath out to go down. By end of this exercise, you should be able to move up and down at least 3 feet/ 1 meter just using your lungs. When you find you can easily control your buoyancy using your breathe, you have achieved neutral buoyancy. If you are still having difficulty with the fin pivot, keep practicing or troubleshoot your fin pivot.

The fin pivot scuba certification skill can be used at the beginning of a dive to adjust for neutral buoyancy, or at any time during a dive when you feel that you need to tweak your buoyancy a little. The technique of controlling your buoyancy using your lungs can be used at anytime during the dive to make small adjustments to your level in the water with out using your BC.