How To Improve Your Air Consumption
A Guide To Staying Under For Longer!
Have you ever wondered if your dive guide or Instructor has some sort of “Magic Tank” that never becomes empty? Do you dread getting back on the boat and being asked “How much air have you got left?” Do you just want to be able to make longer dives and go the full 60 minutes? If any of these apply to you then read on, we are about to advise you on how to make your air consumption so much better – just by following a few simple steps!
Step1 – Buoyancy – This is THE most important factor as it has a knock effect to so many other factors that affect your air usage. Imagine someone who is over-weighted – the excess weight pulls the lower half of their body down and puts them in a “standing” position rather than a horizontal swimming position. When this happens people kick 3 or 4 times as much as they would normally to stop themselves from sinking – this means they are using 3 to 4 times the air they would be if they carried less weight. More kicking = more air usage! The other option is to compensate for the extra weight by adding more air to your BCD – again using more air!
Lesson 1 – get your buoyancy sorted!
If you know that buoyancy is an issue consider taking the PADI Peak Performance Bouyancy course to get tip-top buoyancy control!
Step 2 – Look after your gear and if you are hiring gear make sure you check it thoroughly. Whilst a small leak from your inflator hose or small bubbles coming out of your gauges may not seem important – it is – and is it using your air! Get your kit serviced and make sure you listen for leaks before you dive.
Step 3 – Carry less and use less! Carrying lots of spare parts and accessories not only weighs you down (see point 1 above) but carrying bulky objects also makes you less streamlined and increases the amount of energy you need to move around.
Step 4 – Chill out! As soon as your stress levels increase underwater your breathing rate will also increase. Stay relaxed and try to keep your breathing in an easy relaxed rhythm. We are all taught to breathe deeply when we dive so that we get rid of carbon dioxide but this does not mean you need to do your best Darth Vader impression! Think about the way people breathe when they are sleeping – long slow breaths rather than sucking air in and out like a vacuum cleaner! Never hold your breath to try and make air last longer.
Step 5 – Wear the right wetsuit – You lose heat from your body around 20 times faster in water than in air, so make sure you wear adequate exposure protection to avoid getting too cold. As soon as you feel chilled you will really start using your air so much faster. If you get cold easily consider investing in a hood.
Step 6 – Fin and don’t paddle! Make sure you are not trying to swim with your arms – it won’t get you anywhere faster and it means you are doing more exercise / work than is necessary underwater – which means breathing harder and faster. Try to swim with just your fins and think about making slow deliberate kicks rather than “peddling” away and not going anywhere.
Step 7 – Positioning – Position yourself close to the reef if you are diving on a slope or wall site or close to the bottom if you are diving on at a flat site. The closer you are to the reef or the bottom the less current there will be which means less effort and ultimately less air! Look at where your dive guide is positioned and try to copy.
Step 8 – don’t dive deeper than your buddy or the rest of the group. As you go deeper the air you are breathing becomes more compressed which means you need more to fill your lungs than you would at a shallower depth.
Step 9 – Watch the currents – Keep an eye on what is going on around you, if the currents are picking up then shallow up to compensate.
Step 10 – Taking pictures uses air! Often people are surprised by how much more air they use when they have a camera – this is for a number of reasons – twisting and turning to line up your shot means moving more and therefore uses more air. Also photographers have a habit of zipping backwards and forwards trying to find photography subjects. If you want to take pictures then take a relaxed approach to it and don’t waste your air swimming in to the current because you really want to take a picture of the turtle – remember that there will be more turtles coming up later!
Safety First – These tips will help you to use less air but ALWAYS remember to exit the water with at least 50 bar in your tank!