For many beginner scuba divers you may find you go through your air tank pretty quickly. This is not uncommon on your first dives and is pretty much expected.
Why? It is normal for your heart rate to elevate during your dives and in turn you’ll be needing more oxygen. Not to mention the feeling of breathing through a regulator can make some people a little nervous. From these two things people tend to begin inhaling shorter, sharper breaths and thus go through their oxygen faster.
So how can you reduce the amount of air you go through? The following post will explore a few different tips I have learnt in my years of scuba diving. I also used to go through my tank pretty quickly during the beginning months of diving so have a few things to share. I hope you find these tips helpful and can extend your time underwater!
10 Tips to Save Air When Diving
1. Breathe Slowly and Deeply
First and foremost, the biggest tip. Take deep, slow breaths. This is the number 1 key thing to do to conserve your air underwater. While you may become distracted by the wonders under the sea if you notice your breathing has increased rapidly start to count as you breathe in and out. I recommend counting between five and seven while inhaling and six to eight while exhaling.
When taking short, sharp breaths the body can’t absorb enough oxygen, so essentially you will continue to take shorter, sharper breaths and possibly freak yourself out. It is vital to remain calm and the best way to do that is through your breath control.
If you are a rapid breather when you submerge then I would also recommend practising long, slow, deep breaths while above the surface. The more you train your mind to breath like that the more chance you have of doing so underwater.
Please do not hold your breath while underwater, it can be really damaging to your lungs to hold your breath at depth.
2. Buoyancy Control
Perfecting your buoyancy while underwater is going to reduce the amount of energy you use while trying to either stay in one place or move around. Knowing how much weight you need on your belt will take a little getting used.
Have you ever been or seen divers who are fighting the water to get down or really struggling to come back up? I have been in that position before and not only is it frustrating but you go through your oxygen incredibly fast.
Personally, if I was unsure or couldn’t remember how much weight I needed on my belt I would put an extra one on. I found it much easier to simply inflate my BCD a little more if i needed a lift. If you don’t have enough weight you will be continually pulled to the surface which is no fun at all. While inflating your BCD uses some oxygen, the amount it uses is going to be much less than if you were to fight the water and burn through the oxygen yourself.
Decreasing the amount of resistance and drag while moving through the water by streamlining your gear and suit. Nothing worse for this than kicking and moving your limbs everywhere. Try to mimic the fish and creatures around you.
Swim horizontally and head first where you want to go. Keep your arms tucked in and to the chest. I like to cross my arms in front of me. Tuck away any gauges attached and other gear. This will reduce your drag and air consumption.
4. Stay Warm
Make sure you are diving in the right gear for the conditions. Nothing worse than being freezing cold, teeth chattering and your body covered in goosebumps while diving. It is also going to cause you to take more of those sort, sharp breaths! Personally I’d rather be too hot than cold so my wetsuits are quite thick. If I start to overheat I can always flush water through the neckline.
5. Dive Shallower
From the theoretical dive training we know that the deeper we go the more pressure and therefore compression is on us and our dive tanks. We will go through air much faster if we dive to deeper depths. So if there is plenty to see and explore around the 16m mark then your air is going to last much longer than if you went to 25m. If you do go through your air quite fast then shallower dives will give you longer underwater.
6. Flow with the Current
Ever heard of drift diving? It is a really fun way to dive. A boat will drop you upstream of the current, you go down and just flow with the water coming up where you come up. It is a fantastic way to conserve energy and float by enjoying your dive.
Using the currents you will find you can dive for much longer as you barely have to use any energy at all. Swimming against the currents is not only going to be very tiresome and difficult but your air will run out very fast.
7. Reduce leaks
Ensure when you do your safety check before diving in that there aren’t any leaks. Check your o-rings, inflator hose and connection points to make sure they are all tight. It’s important to have your scuba diving gear serviced regularly and preferably by professionals.
8. Dive More!
Like most things in life the more you do it the more comfortable and better you will become. The more you can practise your buoyancy control and breath control the more easily it will come to you while underwater and extend your diving. Who doesn’t want an excuse to dive more?!
9. Scuba Diving Fins
While it may not seem like it directly relates to your air consumption it does. The more efficiently you can move underwater the less energy you’ll use and in turn less air. Investing in a good set of fins will improve your underwater time immensely.
10. Slow it down
Try to imagine doing everything in slow motion. If you have tried to run through water you’ll know how hard it is to do so. The same goes while underwater, don’t fight the water and just go slow. So think so, act slow – when you reach for you gauges do it slowly. Check your dive computer- do it slowly. This is going to be a great energy saver and therefore air saver.
The following video is a good exercise to reduce your air consumption.
Those are my 10 Tips to Save Air When Diving. I must add in here that checking your air gauge is also very important and knowing what to do if you run out of air is critical. Don’t ever push it while diving and be sure you have enough air for a safety stop.