Being Underweighted Makes for an Uncomfortable Dive

Case Report

I traveled for the first time with only my regulators, mask and booties for ease and less weight in transit. I typically use an integrated BCD and weight myself. I told the dive shop my desired weight for our first dive, and the belt I received appeared to be weighted properly. On the second dive I used the same pocketed belt but didn't look inside the pockets before calculating the total weight, which was definitely my mistake.

I struggled to descend and let the divemaster know about the weight issue. He added 6 pounds to my vest, but I was still underweight, which made my dive short and uncomfortable. There was no anchor line for the boat, so the safety stop was almost impossible. Fortunately, our ascent from the bottom was gradual, and I had several minutes to blow off at the end of the dive.


Traveling divers who choose to limit the amount of personal equipment they bring with them or divers who do not own all their own gear may rent or be provided with equipment with which they are unfamiliar. This can create a potentially problematic situation or, in the worst case, compromise safety. The diver above accepts responsibility for not confirming that the correct amount of weight was in the pockets of the belt prior to his dive. His personal account should emphasize the need to perform a predive check of all equipment.

It is ultimately the responsibility of the diver and his or her buddy to confirm that all equipment is in working order and configured properly to the best of their ability. When using unfamiliar equipment, a dive in a more controlled or confined environment may be helpful prior to diving in open water. A proper buoyancy check is essential. The most common recommendation is for a diver to be at the surface and completely deflate his BCD. While holding a normal breath, proper weighting will allow the diver to float at eye level in the water.

— Marty McCafferty, EMT-P, DMT, EMD-A