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Do Backplates Tip You Face Down on the Surface?

Backplates Tip You Face Down on the Surface?
by
Matthew Mandziuk

There is a common misconception in the world of scuba diving that backplates  and wings can push a diver facedown on the surface.  Those people are wrong.

In this blog we will outline with video evidence how a properly setup and weighted backplate does not push you facedown, but in actuality can be the most comfortable, efficient, most streamlined and safest buoyancy system available.

Misconceptions

Halcyon_infinity_bcd_for_sale_online_dans_dive_shop
Backplates keep things simple and streamlined above and below the water.

The false mindset that backplates tip you forward on the surface  has ultimately come from divers who were using an improperly balanced back floatation bc with a horseshoe wing shaped bladder that was wider/thicker on the bottom of the wing and narrower/thinner in shape closer to the top. Other causes could be that there are high capacity integrated weight pockets located horizontally across the waist area of the bcd causing the force of gravity to shift.  This is why we opt for a vertical pocket that sits back towards the hip area. Or they just plain have never tried it.

A back floatation bcd with an improperly shaped wing design as described above coupled with front loading weight pockets that put the weight pocket closer to the front of the body laying the pockets from the middle of the body to front of the body rather than how they should be oriented, which is from the back of the hip moving from the middle of the body to the back of the body towards the backplate can create a very troublesome scenario with respect to body orientation and tipping.  As a matter of fact, some jacket bcd’s will even push you facedown.

Halcyon Active Control Ballast positions weight from the hips backwards towards the plate, which helps sit the diver vertical on the surface
Halcyon Active Control Ballast positions weight from the hips back towards the plate, which helps sit the diver vertically on the surface

A backplate doesn’t generally have this problem because it is a more balanced rig offering a wing that generally allows for even air distribution around the bladder like a circle or a doughnut that allows the air to move unrestricted and doesn’t trap air. Some units even offer a weighted single tank adapter with up to 6lbs/2.2kg of lead placed inside the STA with little to no weight needed with even the thickest wetsuit in salt water.

Divers may experience a tipping sensation on the surface from any bcd due to the action of over inflating the wing or a jacket bcd, however on a backplate and wing style system like a Halcyon Infinity MC System you don’t generally have this issue as shown in the video below.

Join the Zero Weight Club

There's nothing more freeing than enjoying your backplate on a DDS dive trip to Mexico
There’s nothing more freeing than enjoying your backplate on a DDS dive trip to Mexico

Ideally You’ll want to get to a point where you aren’t wearing much/any weight with a wetsuit and have a balanced enough setup that you can simply just swim your gear up without having to kick hard to get there.  The more weight you have on the surface, could pull you facedown if the weight pockets are in the front of your harness and the wing is overinflated.

Explore shipwrecks with the right gear and comfort
Your Backplate can grow with you from singles to doubles, wet to drysuit, recreational or technical and rebreather diving. 1 bcd for everything.

If you’re using a drysuit you may need a little more weight, but a steel tank is also a suitable option or a set of doubles.  They balance you out even better and for diving locally offer redundancy in the event of a regulator failure.

How do you tell you’re overweighted?  Go up to 10 feet/3 meters with a 1000psi in your tank and see how much air is in your wing.  If you reach back and can feel a substantial amount air try venting the air out while laying horizontally and lifting your rear up, orienting your head slightly downwards to get the air to the highest point and use the back dump to vent the gas.  If you start going down quickly you’re overweighted, but this is another conversation to discuss in another blog post.  You should basically have no air in the wing and be able to hold a stop at 1000psi in an aluminum 80 at 10-15′.

To This
Hovering horizontally motionless underwater enjoying total diving freedom. No bulk, No clutter, No discomfort

The Unsung Hero

Backplates are the most streamlined, balanced, and versatile diving system for recreational divers, cave divers, technical divers and rebreather divers, offering you ONE uniformed diving system that grows with you throughout your diving career, making it the best option for a new scuba diver who doesn’t know where their diving will take them because they won’t outgrow their unit.  It can be dived with any exposure or tank configuration, in any environment, while offering the most streamlined swimming profile and neat and tidy equipment configuration when rigged properly for modern and progressive scuba diving activities.

Backplates allow for better buoyancy distribution and promote body position
Backplates allow for better buoyancy distribution and promote body position

A backplate can allow you to minimize bulk and clutter if you keep the harness clean, also streamlining your body if you are utilizing proper trim and posture, which should allow for you as a  scuba diver to maintain horizontal orientation in the water when swimming and when just sitting there hovering horizontally, even on ascent and descent, rather than being pushed or pulled vertical, which is the position a jacket or a bcd with the weights in the front of the harness generally do by pulling your body knees and fins down towards the bottom.

Backplates allow for motionless hovering keeping the diver within 10% midline of horizontal underwater but allowing you to lay perfectly flat and comfortable with head out of the water on the surface.

Simple and Streamlined

Backplates are more robust than a more traditional bcd, which are often ladened with excessive fabric, padding, straps, d-rings and breakable plastic buckles, whereas a Backplate simply has 1 release buckle if rigged properly, which is located just off to the right side of the waist and is right handed release like a weight belt buckle uses.  

Backplates and Wings are available in all different shapes and sizes including regular, short and even tall plate lengths
Backplates and Wings are available in all different shapes and sizes including regular, short and even tall plate lengths

Clips and Buckles on a jacket bcd can increase task loading and may prolong rescuer response in comparison to a  backplate, as you’ve got a minimum at least 3-4 clips and a cummerbund to free the diver from their gear in a jacket compared to a simple right hand release buckle on the waist followed by pushing the harness free of the divers body.

Since more clips create a delay in freeing the diver in an emergency divers may want to avoid a jacket style bcd with fancy clips, gadgets and clutter in favour of diving more simple and streamlined.

Some backplates offer adjustable cinch harnesses to allow for easier donning and doffing, while not compromising the structural integrity of the harness with breakable plastic clips. To operate the cinch you simply pull the waist straps to tighten shoulders or lift the shoulders up to loosen the harness. There is no sternum strap to compress your chest and inhibit breathing, so you aren’t starved for air on the surface, the backplate thanks to a crotch strap and a proper fit prevents the bcd from riding up on the surface, and there is no chance that the backplate can crush your stomach and ribs like a jacket bcd with a wraparound aircell can when fully inflated.

Progressive Dive Training

Many of our divers are mindblown when they begin their journey into scuba diving and they see the poor job that the vast majority of dive stores and instructors are doing with scuba diving certifications.

Training with a more progressive dive store is a great way to get solid diver training, however, they are few and far between.  

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Good Trim, Knees Up, Fins away from the reef. This is a great example of Progressive Diving.

At the time of this article Dan’s Dive Shop is the first and only dive store in Canada to be offering entry level training in a backplate system and a long hose/short hose regulator configuration at the Open Water Diver level.

Buoyancy and Trim and the most important skills a diver will learn and as such, those skills, along with air sharing, proper horizontal ascents and horizontal descents are things that need to be perfected.

Perfect Example of what not to do.
Perfect Example of what not to do.

Progressive Diving means to have the right skills, abilities, diver and team awareness, safe diving practices and understanding that they need to maintain their skills through practice and repetition on a regular basis.

In some circles this philosophy is known as Hogarthian, DIR, Doing it Right, NTEC and more. In all cases these methods have made diving safer, better and more enjoyable.

Buy it Once

If someone told you you could have 1 BCD to take you from singles to doubles, wet to dry, down south dives and on warm reefs and walls to the most beautiful cold water shipwrecks, cold water reef and walls or ice diving, would you listen?

Take a look on Kijiji or any of those used gear websites and you’ll see something that often states Jacket Bcd used only 6 times or 12 times.  When you talk to the owners a lot of the time you find out they upgraded to a backplate, or they bought a drysuit or a 7mm wetsuit and their original jacket doesn’t fit.

Not only is a backplate the most stable diving system, but it is also built to be the first and last bcd you ever need.  

The Proof is in the Pudding

If you have been told that backplates tip you face down please take the time to share this video with the source of this misinformation.  Not all back flotation bcd’s are innocent, some will push you facedown, but a properly shaped wing and proper weight distribution and pocket design will not.

Scuba Diving Courses

Scuba Diving Courses

Dan’s Dive Shop has shared the thrill and adventure of Scuba Diving through Progressive Scuba Diving Training Courses, Trips, Local Events and more throughout Niagara, Southern Ontario and surrounding areas for over forty years.  

Dan’s is the countries leading innovator of diver education.  We have set the trend and have lead the dive industry towards better diving skills and techniques that allow for a higher level of understanding, experience, philosophy and evolution in scuba dive training from recreational scuba courses through into cave diving courses and technical diving courses.

At Dan’s we’re fortunate enough to have taught and continue to teach students from all over Canada, the United States and different countries who visit us, fly or drive out to them to give them the scuba diving education they deserve. We are totally mobile, willing to travel and teach anywhere you need us.

There’s a lot more to scuba than just breathing underwater and we’re here to share the fun and learning, as well as help you overcome challenges and live the excitement of scuba diving.

As Canada’s Oldest PADI Scuba School, we are a PADI 5 Star Scuba Diving Facility and we offer all PADI Courses, from Open Water to Advanced Open Water courses, Rescue Diver, Divemaster, Master Scuba Diver Courses, PADI Assistant Instructor, Drysuit courses, Dive Speciality Dive Courses,  and so much more. 

For divers who want more of a challenge taught to the highest standard of learning, DDS specializes in Cave and  Technical Diving Courses offering the most in depth technical diving programs in the country, including Intro to Tech,  Decompression Procedures, Trimix, Cavern and Cave Diver Level 1 & 2, Wreck External Survey and Wreck Penetration, Ice Diving, Technical Wreck Penetration, Rebreather Courses, Deep Diving, Mixed gas diving, Specialty Diver Courses all of which keep the adventure of scuba diving thriving.

All of our cave & technical diving courses are taught through our affiliated training facility Divers Edge who provides all of our NAUI Technical Diving Courses, TDI (Technical Diving International) SDI (Scuba Diving International), PADI, IDREO (International Diving Research Exploration Organization) and many more.

Dive Different

Our training approach continues to pave the way in diving, utilizing the most modern “DIR/Hogarthian/Team Diving” philosophies and trends in the industry, utilizing the best technology and equipment to set us well ahead of the other dive shops who are still teaching outdated techniques in a less modular and more complicated and less streamlined equipment configuration.

Dive Better

We teach all courses with zero impact to the bottom, teaching you how to properly descend horizontally and ascend horizontally which is the most efficient and easiest way to go up or go down.

 You do not kneel on the bottom in our classes which is  a very bad habit that causes damage to the fragile aquatic life and impacts the visibility.  We streamline your body, your equipment and your posture in a way allows you to complete your skills perfectly horizontal and with proper airway control and weighting you will not be floating up or down out of control.

We teach you how to fin properly utilizing a modified frog kick, modified flutter and a full frog kick right in the open water course, as well as how to turn and back fining, so you never have to use your hands to skull or flail like the majority of the diving community does, you’ll never need to push off the fragile shipwreck, delicate coral reef or millions of years old fragile cenote.

Dive Right

Whether you are a new diver or a seasoned diver looking for more challenges or control in your diving, we offer the best dive training from the most experienced and accomplished scuba divers in the country.

We offer you the best selection and pricing on scuba diving equipment from all the best scuba diving brands.

We Take You diving offering both local diving trips, exotic dive travel, weekly local dives and more.

Have Fun Underwater

By diving smarter, not harder, you’re going to have a lot more fun underwater.  

You won’t be struggling to maintain proper buoyancy, trim or position and instead will have more breathing gas to explore.

Your tanks will last you longer with the right fin kicks and not flailing your hands and legs all over the place.

You’ll look better in pictures and videos than the majority of the divers around the world too, which is a great feeling when you can outperform Divemasters and Instructors.

Practice Makes Perfect

Diving is the most amazing sport in the world, but you need to keep active, maintain your skills, continue the learning and personal development and engage in the most amazing lifetime sport. 

You can dive anywhere, any time with the right skills, techniques and equipment.

Small Groups & Personal Attention To Detail

Have you ever felt like an activity was moving along too quickly or that you didn’t feel as though you had time to absorb the material or ask questions?  This is common in the sport of scuba diving where many dive stores overbook their classes because they believe discounting and sheer volume are the way to get people into the sport.

At DDS, we believe in small groups with our weekend classes being capped at a maximum of 8 participants with 2 staff members offering a 1:4 ratio.

This means we can move at a reasonable pace, while spending more time making you a good, solid, proficient diver, rather than herding you towards the next level of your open waters.

This semi-private instruction doesn’t really cost that much more than what the other shops are charging, yet gives you so much more value, confidence and awareness.

Cheaper courses are never better, especially comparing price vs quality.

No other store has the experience, or the personal commitment to delivering high quality training and service like Dan’s.