Are you one of those divers that find themselves running out of air faster than everyone else? Do you feel that you spend more of your time stressing about the length of your dive than experiencing your dive? Are you the person that ends their dive before everyone else? Well, not to worry, there are many ways in which you can safely extend your dive time. For many scuba divers, the dive ends when they are running low on air (minimum 50
PSI Bar), so the easiest way to extend your dive time is by focusing on your air consumption. Here are 8 top tips on how you can get the most out of your tank…
Check Your Equipment
The amount of air that you breathe throughout your dive may not be the only cause of your lack of air at the end of your dive. Even the smallest stream of bubbles from a faulty O-ring or a small hole in your regulator can limit your bottom time. You may not even be able to see a leak, so prior to your dive, make sure your buddy has a good look behind you to make sure there is no air loss. Even something as simple as a mask that does not seal properly can have a huge impact on your air consumption. Constantly having to breath into your mask to avoid water getting in, can affect the amount of air that you consume on your dive. Another thing to look out for is whether your octopus free-flows easily. If this does happen, then this can dump a lot of air in a short space of time. Not only does this affect your air consumption, it can also stress you out which in turn, increases the amount of air that you breathe. It is a vicious circle that can be easily avoided if you CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT prior to the dive.
When scuba diving or snorkeling, have you ever seen a fish with added bulk? No, that is because they are streamlined. It is simple physics that the lower your bulk in the water, the lower the resistance, the less energy that you use to move and therefore you will consume less air. When getting ready for your dive, go through every part of your gear and make sure that every feature is tucked away nicely, this way you will be creating the least resistance as you move through the water and therefore, not exerting any excess energy.
It is so easy for a diver to get swept up in the amazing technology that is sweeping the diving industry. Fledgling divers as well as experienced divers like to be prepared for every eventuality and with this thought in mind, tend to enter the water with every kind of instrument hanging off their BCD. Some believe that it is easier to just clip it on and use it in the case of an emergency and on the odd occasion, this works in their favor. However, hooking too many accessorize onto your gear can weigh you down, create more resistance, causing you to use more energy when diving and therefore increasing your air consumption. If you have to take various pieces of equipment, always ensure that they are well tucked in.
Stay Physically Fit
Even though scuba is not classed as a ‘sport,’ at times it can be surprisingly strenuous. All you need is a few minutes of swimming against a current and unfit divers can find themselves breathing rapidly and heavily. Due to the rate of breathing, this can lead to a waste of air, as there is little to no time for gas exchange to occur and before you know it, these divers have the minimum amount of air in their tanks (50
PSI Bar) and have to begin their ascent.
As well as having general overall fitness, divers should be aware of how much body fat they have. Body fat increases buoyancy, it also means that the individual will need more weights and a larger wetsuit, creating more drag and resistance whilst moving through the water. In addition, body fat (whilst mostly inert) uses oxygen to survive, which would normally be put to good use by the surrounding tissues and muscles.
A healthy and physically fit diver will exert less energy, requiring less oxygen throughout a dive, therefore reducing their air consumption.
Keep Well Hydrated And Well Rested
We all love the sense of comradery after being on a dive boat and making friends and going out in the evening to discuss our days dive and getting to know our fellow, like-minded divers is all part of the ‘diving experience’. However, this usually incurs alcohol and a pretty poor night sleep, which can hinder the next days dive. For sure, go out and enjoy sometime with your buddies however, if you are diving the next day, make sure not to consume alcohol or substances of any kind and have a good night sleep. You can still be the life and soul of the party and checkout before midnight. It is important to remember that fatigue = stress. If you start your dive being tired and hung-over, then this will mean that your body will have to work harder therefore increasing your air consumption. Your body is instructed by your mind so if you have a calmer mind, then your body will follow suit.
Hydration is important; if you are dehydrated then you will automatically breathe more to increase the amount of oxygen within your red blood cells. Additionally, even though you are underwater, your body will still sweat, so remaining hydrated throughout the day will help. Not only does dehydration mean that your body has to work harder, it has also been shown to increase your susceptibility of decompression sickness.
The shallower you are throughout your dive, the less air you consume so make sure to take full advantage of this, without missing anything. The usual rule of thumb is to start your dive deeper and ascend throughout to increase your dive time. If you tend to be the diver who finishes earlier than everyone else, a great way to help is to place yourself slightly higher up in the water column than the other divers. Your regulator has to deliver air at the same pressure of the surrounding water, so one breathe at 33 feet (10m) takes double the amount of air as one breathe at the surface and if you are 99 feet (30m) down, then it will take twice as much air as that at 10 meters. Unfortunately this is physics and means that there is nothing you can do about it, so if you find you are an ‘air-hog’ then make sure to spend less time in the depths and more time in the shallows.
Breathing deeply is not the same as taking a big breath. It is vital that you remember this whilst diving as it can make a huge difference in the amount of air you consume. Breathing deeply does not necessarily mean that your breath should be big. When breathing throughout the day (everyday) our breath tends to be shallow with only our chests moving. Whilst diving, you should try to breathe without moving your chest, but moving your stomach instead. As with every skill, practice makes perfect and once you become aware of your breathing, it is easily rectified. A great way to practice this is to lie on the floor or on a solid surface, placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Observe the way you breathe normally and if you find your chest moving only, simply change the way you are breathing. By breathing through your stomach, you are ensuring that the air reaches the bottom of your lungs. By taking deep breathes, you are ensuring that the air is getting to your entire respiratory system, thus increasing the amount of oxygen throughout your body.
Dive More Often
I know this is easier said than done with busy day to day lifestyles, however a really simple way to increase your dive time and reduce your air consumption is by practice and practice = more dives. Not only is diving regularly good practice, it can also help you to feel more at ease and comfortable in the water, meaning that you relax and in turn reduce your air consumption and extend your dives.