This is the topic that especially beginners in scuba diving ask frequently. We dive, because we want to see underwater habitat and to feel the freedom. The more we stay underwater, more time we have for these. Having a good air usage underwater is a mixture of several parameters. And a diver should be patient in order to apply these parameters and start to take concrete results. I have listed 10 tips for using less air while diving.
Take notes and try to apply these in your next dive if you are complaining about your air usage. Read and understand each of these topics. Your air usage will never be like before.
1-Take a Course
A scuba diver should be using his/her BCD well. Scuba divers use air for breathing and also for their BCD. If you inflate your BCD much more than you need, you’ll start to ascend fast and deflate it. And if you deflate your BCD more than you need, you’ll start to fall like a stone underwater and re-inflate your BCD. This will go on like this, resulting air consumption.
In almost every diving system, there is a diving course for this topic. In PADI, it is called Peak Performance Buoyancy, in SSI it is Perfect Buoyancy. Consult to your dive center/resort and instructor for taking one of these courses that will hep you using less air while diving.
Burn some fat and get in shape. This won’t only make you look good, but also use less air.
If you are fit, your body is streamlined and you are hydrodynamic. Second, by having the condition, a fit diver will not get tired quickly. Think about a current underwater. We all face with currents. A fit diver will not get affacted that much compared to an un-fit diver. Thus, fit diver will use less air.
3-Rest Before Dives
You should party less on the night before your dives. I know that saying “just go to sleep at 09:00 pm on a dive night” is impossible of people like us. We like to have fun. But if you are decided on using less air while diving, you should have a little bit of party on the night before your dive days.
After a party, you mostly sleep late, drink alcohol and get tired while dancing, talking, and etc. All these activities will make you get tired more and more. Starting a dive when you are tired means that you ARE going to use air.
4-Move Slow Underwater
In every single move, you burn some air. Turning, tilting your head, even signalling for an okay. Ofcourse we’ll move and do whatever we want to do underwater. But you should do these slowly, not like you are in a rush. Doing something fast will accelerate your metabolism, resulting in using more air.
However, slow moves will slow down your metabolism, require less oxygen, use less air while diving.
Think about the planes. They move forward staying horizontally. That’s because they show small surface to the air. By this way, planes get affected from the air resistance less, resulting in using less fuel and shorten the travel time.
You may imagine scuba divers just like those planes. Our aim should be to show as small surface as possible to the water. By this way, we can get rid of the sea water resistance and burn less oxygen. We should be streamlined, swimming horizontally.
Our scuba gear should also be streamlined. Attach your hose to your body or your scuba unit. Your console and your alternate air source, for example should be attached.
6-Experience More Dives
Experience is the key for using less air while diving. Remember your very first dive and how nervous you were. Even if you have 5 logged dives today, you can clearly see the difference in terms of your stress level. Our hearts want to pump more blood when we are in a situation that we haven’t experienced before. This is because our body wants to accelerate our metabolism to be able to fight with this “unknown”. By making more dives, your experience and air saving will increase, resulting in more deep time.
A diver should be relaxed both on the surface and underwater. By gaining enough experience, your brain won’t try to “fight” with diving, instead it’ll start to say “Underwater? Ahhh, i know that, it is relaxing“. If you also tell yourself that this is a good activity and in fact, everything is going on cool and you like what you are doing, you’ll be reinforcing your brain in a positive way and start using less air while diving.
As you can remember from your Open Water Diver Course, when you go deeper, you use more air. In fact, this is because of the “holly” formula. When you go deeper, pressure increases, volume decreases and the density increases. Density increase means you inhale “denser”.
Let me give you one example. Assume that you are at the surface (0 meters, 1 atm/bar of pressure) and you are breathing from your tank. Let’s imagine that the air in your tank runs out in 1 hour. Re-fill that tank and dive to 20 meters (3 atm/bar of pressure). In 20 meters, that same tank will only supply air to you for 20 minutes if all the other parameters stay unchanged. So, staying “shallower” will help you on using less air while diving.
8-Take Deep and Slow Breaths
Underwater, a scuba diver should not breath like he/she does on land. We take deep and slow breaths each time. This is the only way to send enough oxygen to our tissues. Let’s look at this in details:
Our regulator’s second stage has a air space. When we exhale, air from our lungs go out which has carbon dioxide. And this carbondioxide stays in our regulator’s second stage each time we exhale. If we don’t inhale deep and slow, we mostly take the air that has been accumulated in our second stage. As you know, carbondioxide will make us tired and we will need more oxygen. This means to use more air.
Take deep and slow breaths that will help you using less air while diving.
As you know, scuba divers use weights to be able to sink. However, if you use more weight than you need, you’ll have to use more air for inflating your BCD. This will not be enough and you’ll instinctively try to use your arms to move which will do nothing but make you tired. You’ll try to get rid of touching the bottom every time and push your self. At the en of the dive, you’ll be deflating your BCD while ascending slowly. If you are overwieghted, this will be a high performance for you.
Best way to be sure about your weight is to gear up all your scuba unit and jump onto sea. Take your regulator to your mouth and deflate your BCD. Taka a normal breath while on the surface and hold it for a couple of seconds. If the sea-level is on your eye-level, then you got the fine tuning. If the sea-level is on your shoulders, you should take some extra weight. If you are starting to descent in this position, you should definitely remove some of your weights. Consult your certified scuba instructor for details.
10-Don’t Keep Up with the Joneses
Don’t compete with your buddy/instructor/dive leader or who you think he/she is using less air than you. Competing will result in stress and will make you consume more air.
If i sum up, using less air while diving is something that a diver should work on. It is not something that will happen over a night. Try to dive more and have a routine, take related courses, rest before your dives, swim low, stay shallow, check for proper weight, swim horizontally and streamlined, take deep and slow breaths, stop smoking and be fit and don’t compete with noone. You’ll see that you are using less air while diving by applying these steps.
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