By default, wetsuits are very buoyant in the water as they made of neoprene which is basically foamed rubber and it has lots of air bubbles. If you dive into a water, then the natural tendency of your wetsuit is to float to the surface.
Needless to say this is very useful for personal protection however when it comes to water sports like diving or spearfishing, this is working against you. That is because your aim is to get underwater while you wetsuit’s buoyancy is forcing up to go upwards. If you’re not an expert diver then this can often be quite exerting.
How do we deal with it than? How do we ensure that the descent underwater is smooth and easy? That question can easily be answered by another question.
If you had to drown a piece of paper underwater, how would you do it? The easiest way perhaps would be to tie it to a stone and throw in the water. Similarly, to fight against extra buoyancy we use weight belts that are equipped with weights that let you to dive underwater easily.
Except that in this case, the idea is not to drown ourselves but just to give our body a little push to smoothen the descent into the water. In no scenario will a weight belt sink you or make getting back to the surface of the water difficult.
How do I choose the right weights for diving?
This choice is hardly ever the same for any two people as they might have different kinds of bodies’ and different kind of diving gear that they want to carry underwater.
There is no simple formula or a generic answer for this question. To determine the right amount of diving weight you will need to do a personal assessment yourself.
The first step of the process is to weigh yourself. A lot of home scales are not particularly accurate and can vary by a pound or two, so make sure to weigh yourself a few times and take an average of that.
Diving weight requirements are different for saltwater and freshwater as the former is much denser than the latter and you need more weight for that.
When it comes to freshwater a diver needs about 6 to 8% of their total body weight in diving weights to ensure a smooth decent. When it comes to saltwater however you would need about 8 to 10% of your whole body weight.
It is important to remember that if you’re wearing a full body wetsuit or a wetsuit that is thicker than normal, then you would need additional diving weights to compensate for that.
On the other hand if you’re diving wearing a shortie wetsuit and in a warmer climate, then you probably will not feel any need to put on extra diving weights. The same applies if you also plan to carry an oxygen tank underwater.
Using weights for diving
It’s a good idea to try out any diving weights in a swimming pool first before you take them out to the ocean or the river. This will allow you to get an idea of whether you have the right amount of diving weights for your needs and also allow your body to get familiar with wearing a diving weight belt.
If you choose a certain amount of diving weights and yet feel buoyant then obviously you need more weight, while if you keep sinking more than you would like to, then you clearly have more weights then you need. The only way to find the right amount of weight for you is by experimentation and calculation.
What are diving weights made of?
Most weighing systems are made from lead, as it is heavy enough to offset extra buoyancy even when it is used in small quantities. Weight belts made from lead come in many different styles like the regular weight belt, weight belt pouch, a weight harness and an integrated weight system. For most people the first two would suffice but feel free to try out different types to find one that you like more.
As you can see weight belts are much more than a gimmick and make the process of diving in the water and the eventual descent much easier. Before you go out and buy a weight belt do not forget to make the right calculation using the pointers given above.