Every scuba diver needs to do everything they can to conserve air. Here are some ways to do it:
At The Start Of A Trip
- Stop leaks! Every stream of bubbles, no matter how minor, adds up over the period of your dive leading to a substantial, and unnecessary, loss. It can also be a sign of trouble later, so fix it as soon as possible. A worn or dried out O-ring, for instance, should be replaced immediately.
- A poorly fitting mask is particularly wasteful; besides the leak itself you have to continually blow the water out from your mask as well. And it raises your stress level, which in turn increases your breathing rate, leading to further unnecessary loss of air. A 3 in 1 loss.
- Don’t over-weigh yourself. Too much lead requires more air in your buoyancy compensator to neutralise your weight. This makes it larger, thus requiring more effort to push it through the water, and also results in you constantly finning yourself up to counteract the extra weight. Distribute the lead to give you a naturally horizontal position while swimming. This keeps your body following the “hole” made by your front half, rather than pushing aside more water.
- And for the same reason, avoid carrying too much gear.
- Wear enough insulation to keep warm. When you are cold, you use up energy just keeping warm, which increases your oxygen intake.
In the water
- Once in the water, swim more slowly and evenly to extend your dive time. Jerky movements both cause more rapid breathing, and results in more resistance from the water, necessitating greater effort (and therefore breathing) on your part. Swimming twice as energetically uses up air at far more than twice the rate.
- Stay shallow where possible, for instance while just getting to the location where you actually want to go deep. A single breath at two atmospheres uses up twice as much air from your tank as the same breath at the surface.
- Practice slower, more even, breathing – maybe six seconds to inhale, and six or seven more on the exhale. And pausing just before exhaling keeps the air in your lungs a fraction longer, allowing your lungs to extract a little more oxygen. It isn’t the point we naturally pause at on dry land, but it is good practice in the water. This is something you can practice in the swimming pool at any time.
- Use short fin kicks; they are more efficient.
- Keep out of strong head currents that require more effort to swim against.
To judge how well you are doing, compare your air usage with others on the same dive. Many of these techniques can be practiced before leaving home. If you need training it will usually be cheaper to obtain that at home as well.
Finally, the more you dive on a regular basis, the more experienced you will become, and that will make you relax more and breathe less. Enjoying your sport more actually helps you alleviate the problem of air loss.
- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: https://pixabay.com/en/scuba-bubbles-underwater-787282/
Jeffrey Glenn is the founder of Go Pro Asia, one of Thailand’s most sort after professional dive training resorts. Jeffrey is a PADI Course Director and Technical Diving Instructor Trainer and has over 20 years’ experience in the dive industry