Do you wish you could stay underwater longer? You’re not alone. No one wants to be an air hog. You know, the diver that makes everyone finish the dive early because he sucked down his tank in 20 minutes. Using less air while diving is a goal for scuba divers of all abilities. Though how our bodies are built play a large role in how much air we use, there are still many things we can do to make that tank of air last just a little longer. But how can you reduce air consumption while diving?
One of our goals at The Adventure Junkies is help make your scuba diving experience more enjoyable. In this article, we’ll show you everything you can do to use less air so you can get the most out your time underwater.
BEFORE JUMPING IN: LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR EQUIPMENT
TIP 1. CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT THOROUGHLY
Is your scuba diving equipment blowing bubbles or making a hissing noise? Then you might be losing more air than you think. Small leaks are normal and rarely amount to more than one breath per hour, but a larger leak could be dangerous or drain your tank at a quick rate. To decide whether your leak is serious enough to warrant fixing, check out Scuba Diving Magazine’s article on reasons why regulators leak and how to fix them.
TIP 2. PREPARE YOUR GEAR AHEAD OF TIME AND ARRIVE EARLY
If you’re rushed before your dive, you’ll likely carry that franticness underwater — meaning you’ll breath heavier than normal. Keep your cool by arriving to the dive site with enough time to check in for your dive briefing and arrange your equipment.
TIP 3. STREAMLINE YOUR EQUIPMENT
Do you really need that dive light, selfie stick, and spare snorkel for this dive? Pack any extras close to your body instead of hanging them from a carabiner. The fastest fish in the sea are streamlined, free of do-dads that will slow them down. Channel your inner marlin and pack your equipment as compact as you can. Remember, too many lead weights mean an overinflated BCD which of course leads to more drag.
TIP 4. INVEST IN YOUR FINS
Test and purchase a pair of fins that will allow you to kick further with less effort. To find out what fins are best for you, have a look at our buyer’s guide: Scuba Fins 101.
BEFORE JUMPING IN: PHYSICAL AND MENTAL FITNESS
TIP 5. PRACTICE MEDITATION TECHNIQUES
When we’re nervous or afraid, we tend take shorter, inefficient breaths. Obviously, this uses more air. One way to practice breathing techniques is to meditate. You can do this by spending just a few minutes a day by sitting in silence and focusing on your breath or by practicing yoga. Want to master meditation? Read more on Zen Habits’ guide to meditation.
TIP 6. WORK ON YOUR FITNESS
We all know the feeling of being out of shape, panting heavily after doing an activity that should be easy – like walking up a hill. When we’re out of shape, we take shallower, shorter breathes, decreasing the amount of oxygen that flows into our bloodstream. When we’re fit, our bodies are capable of handling physical activity more efficiently, allowing us to take deep, oxygen-rich breaths. Run, swim, dance, or do whatever activity is fun for you work out with at least thirty minutes per day.
DURING YOUR DIVE: TIPS FOR USING LESS AIR WHILE UNDERWATER
TIP 7. USE YOUR SNORKEL
Whether you’re waiting for your buddies or swimming to an anchor line, there’s likely to be a lot of time spent at the surface where you’ll want to breathe through your regulator. Use your snorkel instead.
TIP 8. WEAR THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF NEOPRENE
Cold bodies need more energy to stay warm. The more energy you need, the more oxygen you use. Invest in the right wetsuit for your dive to keep your precious energy from being wasted. Read our guide, Wetsuits 101 to find the best one for you.
TIP 9. BREATHE DEEPLY AND SLOWLY
Novice divers might assume that frequent, shallow breaths are better for diving. After all, it’s like taking little bites of a pie instead of feasting on it, right? Wrong. Long, deep breathes allow more oxygen to get to your lungs and therefore bloodstream. Shallow breathes also create fatigue, meaning that you’ll eventually breathe more to catch up.
TIP 10. SLOW DOWN YOUR SWIM SPEED
The faster you swim, the more air you’ll use. Interestingly, the Elements of Physical Oceanography notes that someone swimming twice as fast have four times as much drag and use up to eight times more energy! Slow down by minimizing movements, going with currents, and remaining calm.
TIP 11. MASTER NEUTRAL BUOYANCY
Neutral buoyancy is key to using less air. When we’re too heavy or too light, we often fiddle with our BCDs, kick, and flail around to get under control. Getting to neutral buoyancy should be a priority for every dive. The more you focus on it, the better you’ll become. To learn more, read Sport Diver’s tips for neutral buoyancy.
TIP 12. KEEP YOUR DIVE SHALLOW
Remember all those physics facts you learned during your open water course? The deeper you dive, the more air you use. Though this isn’t always possible to control depending on your dive site, if you have a sloping reef, stay towards the shallower end to use less air.
TIP 13. USE YOUR FINS, NOT YOUR ARMS
Look ma! No hands! When swimming, use your fins rather than your arms. This makes sense when we look at how small our hands are in comparison to our fins. Which has more surface volume and power? Kicking gets you further, using less energy. When kicking, pull your hands to your torso instead of letting them dangle behind or out to the side.
TIP 14. ABOVE ALL, DIVE MORE!
The best way to reduce air consumption while diving is by diving frequently. Experienced divers are generally calmer, more confident, and are more skilled at staying neutrally buoyant. Take an advanced course or make a pact with a dive buddy to go on a regular basis. The more practice you have, the less air you’ll use.