Today we are going to look at some tips that could help you control your air consumption. Making your air last as long as you possibly can is important in scuba diving.
Having more air means longer dive times, it can also mean the difference between life and death if a diver were to become entangled while underwater.
- Get In Shape – If a diver is overweight or out of shape, they are naturally going to consume more air than a diver that is fit and trim. The more streamlined you are the easier it will be for you to move through the water using less effort.
- Relax & Breath Slowly – Relaxing while diving is one of the most important aspects of air conservation. Take slow, seep, re;axing breaths. The natural tendency is to breath much faster than when on land due to stress and the anxiety of being under water. This translates into faster air consumption and shorter dive times. Breath normally, as on land in a slow relaxed pace.
- Don’t Use Your Hands – Waving your hands around to move and control your position causes your body to use a lot of oxygen. The muscles in your arms a much smaller than those in your legs and consequently if you use them to maintain position and move around with they need a lot more oxygen than the muscles in your legs do. Learn to swim with your arms at your side to stay as streamlined as possible and let those big leg muscles do the work for you.
- Slow Down – Scuba diving is not a race or a competitive sport. Learn to slow down and make your movements graceful and relaxed.
- Buoyancy Control – One of the biggest things that new diver can work on that will help them to conserve air is their buoyancy control. Staying neutrally buoyant throughout the entire dive not only protects the fragile underwater environment, but it saves energy and air. Being neutrally buoyant keeps divers from accidentally bumping into delicate coral which can take hundreds of years to grow and become established. If bumped and a piece breaks off, it can take up to ten tears for every inch of regrowth. When a diver is neutrally buoyant they are able to stop finning and remain motionless off of the bottom. If they are negatively buoyant they will sink to the bottom if they stop finning and if they are positively buoyant they will rise up. Getting buoyancy and ballast weighting correct will do wonders for a divers air consumption.
- Watch Your Weight – We already discussed your body weight, now we are talking about the extra weights that you will be putting into your BCD or weight belt. The heavier the diver is the more air they will have to add in their BCD’s to compensate to achieve neutral buoyancy. Think of your BCD like a big balloon strapped onto your back. As a balloon is inflated it gets bigger, and the bigger something is the harder it is to move through the water. This is because it is less hydrodynamic and streamlined and causes a lot of resistance when being moved through the water. The more streamlined an object is the less resistance it causes, and the easier it glides through the water. You need air in your BCD to compensate for your ballast weight to achieve neutral buoyancy, but by being weighted too heavy you will need more air. The heavier you are the more air you will need to compensate. I recommend taking a class like the Buoyancy Specialty offered by PADI. This class was one of the best classes that I have taken since I started diving. I learned so much in such a short amount of time about buoyancy control that I was immediately able to drop eight pounds from my weights just in the class. I have dropped an additional four pounds since the class by remembering what I was taught in the class. This immediately made me feel lighter and more graceful and made moving easier through the water which translated into less air consumption and longer and more enjoyable dives.
- Trim Down – We already discussed the need for being streamlined in the water and how it saves your air consumption, this also applies to your gear. Strap all of your gear as close to your body as possible, or secure it in your BCD pockets. This will do a lot for making you more hydrodynamic which will make it easier to swim through the water with less resistance. As for equipment, if you don’t need it for the dive you are on, don’t carry it with you.
- Dive, Dive, Dive – Air conservation comes naturally with the more comfortable you are in the water and the best way to get more comfortable in the water is to dive. The more often you dive the more comfortable you will become and the less anxiety you will feel when diving. This translates to using less air and having more enjoyable dives.
Whether you are a seasoned diver or you are just learning how to dive, there’s a lot to learn and remember when it comes to diving. I am going to go over some handy tips that will help to keep you safe on your next dive.
- Get Certified – First and foremost, NEVER scuba dive unless you have been properly trained and are certified as a scuba diver by a recognized scuba training agency. Such training will make you aware of the more common problems you will face underwater, and how to reduce the likelihood of these problems occurring.
- Get A Checkup – Some medical conditions are not compatible with safe diving, while other conditions may allow you to dive safely with caution. Only a physician knowledgeable with scuba diving will be able to properly advise you as to your medical situation regarding scuba diving. Scuba diving requires a lot of strenuous physical activity and can be demanding on the body. A dive physical can help you identify any problems that you may not have even known about beforehand. Studies have shown that about ¼ to ⅓ of all scuba diving fatalities are from heart and/or circulatory problems.
- Relax – Being relaxed and comfortable underwater is key to a successful dive. If something happens:
The worst thing that you could do is to panic, it could make a manageable situation unmanageable very quickly.
- Never Hold Your Breath – Never holding your breath while scuba diving is the cardinal rule of diving. Always breathe as normally as possible to avoid the potential of lung over-expansion injuries. Delaying exhaling while ascending can cause damage to the alveoli in your lungs, and can therefore cause severe lung injury, and in extreme cases, death. Also remember to exchange carbon dioxide for good clean air by breathing deeply and slowly.
- Have Good Buoyancy and Secure Gear – Be sure your buoyancy skills are well honed before you go diving in any fragile environments. Coral takes hundreds of years to form and thrive, only growing about one inch each decade. Fragile sea fans and corals can be destroyed with the kick of a fin. Please make sure your feet are up and that you are always aware of your surroundings and your own placement in the water. Clip gauges, spare regulators, and other dangling equipment to your BC or secure it in pockets, so that you help save the environment and also to keep you from becoming entangled in fishing line or other objects underwater.
- Be Conservative – Dive tables or computer limits do not necessarily constitute a boundary between “bends” or “no-bends” and cannot guarantee that you will not suffer from Decompression Illness. The diving decisions you make should be based upon current suggested safety guidelines for diving and your own unique circumstances while diving.
- Keep to the limits — Stay well within the guidelines of the table or computer you’re using, and allow an appropriate surface interval between dives.
- Be Flexible – Be prepared to modify your dive plan for unanticipated factors such as exertion, cold or depth and personal physiological factors affected by your activities before, during and after diving.
- Be Prepared to Dive — Make sure you’re rested, healthy, well hydrated and well-nourished prior to your diving activities.
- Avoid Alcohol – Never drink alcohol before or between dives. Along with the inebriating effects that alcohol can cause including slowing down reaction times, it can also make the body dehydrated which can cause serious problems while diving.
- Equalize — Begin equalizing before your head submerges and continue to equalize frequently during descent.
- Descend feet first — This slows your descent some and makes it easier to equalize your ears.
- Ascend slowly — Always ascend at the rate of 30 feet / 9.1 meters per minute or slower.
- Make a safety stop — for three to five minutes at 10-15 feet / 3-4.5 meters on all dives.