I have yet to meet a diver that has not at some stage or another commented on their air consumption, or to be more precise how much air they use in comparison to another diver. It can be a cause for embarrassment, a reason to brag or worthy of no comment.
The bottom-line (or should one say "the bottom time") is that we all as divers want to improve our air consumption. We like to consider that diving is a non-competitive sport, yet by merely raising the issue at the end of a dive – we have entered the world of competitive diving.
So how do you compete? How can you gain instant results with little effort on your part? Can you obtain a Pipin DNA strand and have it genetically encoded? Well the answer to the first two parts is easy and the answer to the DNA implant is "yes", it will be available at some stage in the future no doubt.
Breathing underwater is a skill, a simple skill that you as a diver must learn and keep practicing. The more you practice the better you will become.
Here are ten tips to improve your air consumption by up to 25%.
Tip #1: Before the dive RELAX
Yes, the minutes before the dive are when so many of us go into maximum stress and all our good habits and training go out of the window. Pulse rates are screaming and tensions are frayed. Kit up, get ready and then pause for the cause…take a minute to close your eyes and visualize the entry and descent. Deep divers have used this technique for years; it gives you a break after the tensions of kitting up – a chance to relax and get your thoughts together and your breathing back under control.
Tip #2: Hang on, before we descend
When you enter the water, again the adrenaline is pumping. Stop! Put your regulator in and take the mask off. Then put your face into the water and breath without the mask on, the shock of cold water or, if you are lucky, the pleasant sensation of warm tropical waters and the concentration of breathing without the mask once again steadies you down and drops your breathing and pulse rate. Doing this for a minute before you descend, can give you up to five more minutes bottom time. Why? Because you are relaxed and your body has had time to adjust to its new environment.
Tip #3: Adjust and get comfortable
Once you are on the bottom, if there is a clear area and you can kneel down without damaging the environment. Take a minute again to check your gear, adjust and orientated to your surroundings. This is when you and your buddy can establish how you really feel and if there are any problems, work them out.
Tip #4: Slow Down
I am not talking about your finning, that’s another tip, but your breathing. Slow deep breaths – fully exchange the gases and allow for denser gas due to depth and pressure. Concentrate on deep and slow breathing.
Tip #5: Finning for fun and profit
Sorry to disappoint you, but the profit comes not from hi a tech stock. However, as a diver we can obtain the best profit – more bottom time for less air. The next time you are out with someone who has an underwater video camera ask them to film you during the dive when you are unaware and watch the video with a professional to get an honest opinion, then correct the technique. Finning is from the hips and not the heart. Work on staying horizontal, use fins that are suitable – bigger is not always best. For a variation, try the frog (breaststroke) kick and glide. It is a far more placid way to travel.
Tip #6: Keep your hands to yourself buddy
No matter, what I say as an Instructor you still come across divers who insist on trying to swim with their hands. This is one of the most inefficient ways to move underwater, guaranteed to slow you down and drastically increase your air consumption as you chase your buddy. Clasp your hands together on your chest or in the small of your back. Think slowly and move deliberately.
Tip #7: Lifes a drag
Make sure that your equipment underwater is not slowing you down. Take a good look at how you can configure your gear, are you diving with the right gear for the conditions or are you trying to impress other divers by wearing stuff that is not necessary. There is a difference between safety and accessories. Like a Formula One racing car every little bit help, hoses tucked away, snorkel tucked into your knife straps and gauges clipped…not hanging.
Tip #8: As warm as toast
We all operate better when we are warm and comfortable and diving is no different. Suitable thermal protection for the environment ensures comfort and a sense of comfort in your mind. Emphasis should be on keeping your torso warm and extremities comfortable. Remember that water conducts heat away from you 25 times faster than air.
Tip #9: The key is knowledge and training
All Instructors and dive stores would like you to do more courses, it means more money to them, however, what about the diving myth that the more diving you do, the better you become. Wrong – compounding bad techniques and poor habits does not improve the diver or their air consumption. Training with an experienced Instructor is money well spent. Learning how to calculate your air consumption and keeping records makes you more aware of your rate and prompts you to improve your performance.
Tip #10: There is no discount for returning a tank half full
Diving is not a contest; there are no badges or certificates that proclaim you as a better diver because you breathe less than your buddy does. Car yards do not refund you when you trade in a car with a half a tank of gas and neither do dive shops. They are more concerned that you enjoyed yourself and dived safely. Diving is a sport to enjoy, take your time and learn to use your air efficiently.
Use these tips on your next dive trip and your air consumption will improve, the most important rule of air management is to learn to relax and start enjoying yourself.