There are plenty of misconceptions about scuba diving and the rules that govern it. Among the first things you need to do if you want to become a certified diver and keep yourself safe on every dive is to do away with these misconceptions. Perhaps among the most common misconceptions are that you should never go faster than your bubbles and that you could just follow your bubbles when you go back up to the surface.
The first reason why you should ditch these concepts has to do with physics. Bubbles normally expand as they climb to the surface, and as they expand, their buoyancy is increased. If you paid attention in physics class, you’ll know that the increased buoyancy will make the bubbles travel faster towards the surface. You are therefore putting yourself at risk of ascending much faster than the recommended ascent rate of 60 feet per minute if you follow your bubbles.
The second reason why you should refrain from following your bubbles to the surface is that it is almost impossible to do so, especially if there’s poor visibility, a strong current, and several divers ascending at the same time. The third reason is that it’s very likely for you to inadvertently pass the bubble you planned to follow to the surface. When this happens, you’d know that you’re already going too fast even if you have weights with your diving gear, but it will be extremely difficult to slow down.
Finally, you’d do well to note that even the previously recommended ascent rate of 60 feet per minute is now deemed too fast and is only used in emergency situations. The ascent rate that’s now recommended by most dive instructors and dive masters is 30 feet per minute. Even if bubbles travel to the surface at an even 60 feet per minute (which they don’t, as discussed earlier), therefore, they’d still be going faster than the recommended ascent rate. This definitely makes it a bad idea to follow your bubbles to the surface.
Now here’s something very important for you to remember: The danger zone, where the greatest change in pressure occurs, is between 15 feet and the surface. When you reach this point, therefore, it is critical for you to ascend very slowly; it would be wise to go as slow as 10 feet per minute. It is also advisable to stop for 2 to 3 minutes at the 15-feet point before completing the ascent. So, forget the bubbles and focus on following your dive master’s instructions instead.