Teaching new divers good buoyancy control and proper finning style takes a lot of effort from the instructor. It’s not always easy to give Open Water students the attention that they need, especially if you have a big group.


Recognize it

You can kinda guess wich divers need extra attention, even before you go down. Just watch what they do on the surface. Let your students swim a round through the pool, on their backs. The ones who constantly push their knees above the water are probably the ones that will be bicycle-kicking underwater as well. Watch what your students are doing when they are on the surface in deep water with fully inflated BCD. Are they constantly kicking? Even if they have plenty of air in their vest to float? A sign that they may have difficulties learning to hover.


Proper weighting

Divers with proper buoyancy control and finning style, stretch their legs and move from their hips. ‘Bicycle riding style’ swimming under water will push your lower body up. This gives divers the feeling that they are to light and they will ask for extra weights – that we will not give to them off course. Divers with too many weights will constantly move their legs to compensate for sinking. Even if they stay at the same place. It’s easy to damage coral this way and it can become dangerous too. Imagine what can happen if this guy descends to 30 meter deep and finds out he forgot to attach his LPI hose!

Fin pivot and hover

Fin pivot and hovering are great excercises to teach buoyancy control. Students learn to use their BCD in combination with using their breathing, to control their buoyancy. But some students just get lucky. They manage to ‘gently rise and fall’ without showing ANY control over their breathing. When I see this, I let my student sit on his or her knees and ask them to do the skill in this position.

Same thing with hovering. Like many instructors I like to give students not too many weights. Some students just get lucky and manage to float in mid-water for 30 seconds without showing any control over their breathing. These students probably need a bit more weight In the pool. I like to see some basic understanding of buoyancy control. Thumbs up – breath in – no bubbles. Thumbs down – breath out – bubbles!

If students really don’t seem to get the principle of –breath in, go up –breath out, go down, I put them in waist-deep water and ask them to sink (by breathing out). If they sink like a brick, I take some weights off or put some air in the BCD and let them try again. I found that even in a shorty, without weights, almost every person can sink if they breath out completely.


Doing skills neutrally buoyant

Some instructors pride themselves on doing ALL skills neutrally buoyant.

Really?? You want to teach somebody who is taking his first breaths under water to clear his regulator, and you want him or her to do this neutrally buoyant?? It makes no sense to me. Yes, I know… Experienced divers don’t need to sit on their knees to clear their mask. But you teach step by step so after you have done fin pivot and hover, maybe you can do some skills neutrally buoyant. Like ‘no mask swim’.



In my IDC’s I like to do more than getting you through the Instructor Exam. I like giving you tips and tricks on how to teach people scuba diving. I don’t claim to be a perfect dive instructor. I still teach courses every day and I learn with every course. An open mind makes you a good instructor.

If you want to know more about my IDC’s check out https://asiascubainstructors.com/idc-info/


Asia Scuba Instructors Blog is written by Course Director Marcel Jansen. Asia Scuba Instructors runs PADI Instructor Courses in multiple locations around Asia.