Ever wondered why your buddy comes up with a 100 bar while you are down to 50 bar even though you tried so hard not to run low on air before him as it happened many times before?
"I will need the biggest tank that you have, I'm a heavy breather!" is a sentence that we hear all too frequently in our dive centres. While this is not a problem and we do have plenty of 12 L tanks most of these people entirely miss the point. It is usually not the tank that is too small, but rather the air consumption of the person using it is too high.
We have all asked ourselves at some point during our diving life how to get more out of our SCUBA tanks.
It is the question any Instructor gets asked on a daily basis and the crucial factor that limits us in how long we can stay immersed in this stunningly different world.
Let’s start by taking a close look at the factors that determine how much air you use:
Man or woman
Generally speaking if you happen to be a man you’re having a disadvantage already. Your body has a higher percentage of muscle mass compared to your female’s buddy, and muscles happen to need a lot of oxygen.
So, a small advantage from mother nature for all the ladies out there.
Everyone knows that especially as a diver you should maintain good physical and psychological health.
So obviously being heavily overweight is affecting your air consumption in a negative way because your body finds it harder to supply all your tissues with Oxygen. On the other hand, if you’re a professional bike racer or swimmer you do have a much bigger lung volume than the average diver which in turn means you need more air to fill those big lungs all the way up.
As so often in life the golden middle is the right way to go!
Dive profile and conditions
The deeper you dive the more air you’ll use. This is due to the higher density that your air has at a greater depth.
As well swimming against even a slight current means your heart rate goes up as you do and your body again needs more oxygen to keep up with that.
Being aware of these factors is an important step in understanding how you reduce your air consumption.
Alright, we know why you are here so let's get one thing out first. There is no magic trick or secret formula we will tell you right here to become a turtle like diver. There are however a variety of small incremental steps one can take to slowly but gradually improve their air consumption.
Let’s have a look at 9 ways to reach this goal:
1. Breathe slowly and deeply
Breathe consciously as if you were doing yoga. Always fill your lungs all the way up and try to stretch the in-and-or exhaling process for as long as you can without it feeling uncomfortable or unnatural.
It helps to count the seconds while you exhale in your head: 1..2..3..4..5..6.. and then slowly inhale and fill your lungs all the way up. While you exhale your heart rate slows down and therefore your oxygen need as well.
You can already start on the boat while you do your Buddy Check and breathe consciously and slowly in and out.
Always remember the golden rule:
Don’t hold your breath! You might think you’ll use less air but the opposite happens and it is actually dangerous and can lead to serious lung overexpansion injuries
2. Stay physically fit
One approach would be to lower the creation of CO2. This can be achieved by mainly lowering our exertion levels underwater. When was the last time you worked out and went for a long run? By having a good basic fitness level you will automatically increase your body's tolerance levels to exercise. That small current on your next dive won't be noticeably to you when you are physically fit, but your beer drinking couch potato of a buddy will be out of breath soon.
3. Perfect your Buoyancy, Trim and streamlining
Constant struggle not to pop up or dragging over the bottom isn’t just bad for the environment and your body but also makes you use a lot of air. Are you still using your hands for moving around underwater, even though it's just a little bit sculling? You are using muscles unnecessarily, thus increasing your carbon dioxide levels.
Only if you have a good trim and streamlining (you are in a horizontal position and none of your gauges or equipment dangling) and know the right amount of weights you’ll be able to move around in an efficient and energy/air saving way.
4. Dive slowly
The slower you dive the longer your air will last you plus:
You are going to find much more cool stuff because you simply have more time to take your environment in.
The faster you move the more air you’ll need!
5. Stay shallow
At depth you’ll use more air. If there is no good reason to go deep don’t do it.
You are going to save air and have a more colourful dive in the shallows (red already disappears below 5m).
Plus, often the most beautiful coral is in the shallows anyway.
6. Propulsion technique and fins
A good propulsion technique goes a long way in increasing your air consumption as well. The flutter kick is one of the easiest methods to learn underwater, unfortunately it is not one of the most efficient kicking techniques. Unlike on land you can use your momentum to glide through the water instead of constantly kicking. A good technique for this is called the frog kick. Only occasionally kicking and gliding the rest of your dive will lower CO2 release greatly.
What helps with that, are a good pair of fins. If you want to find out more check our Blog about own fins
7. Go with the flow
If you can, go with the current and do a drift dive. It’ll save you loads of air.
If you can’t get around it use big and efficient but slow kicks and stay close to the bottom or topography to avoid breathing too fast or even overexerting yourself.
8. Watch for leaks
Even if it’s tiny, change it or get it fixed by a professional.
Divers often don’t realise that their equipment is leaking and it’s not only dangerous but can also cost you a considerable amount of air.
So, make sure your equipment is serviced regularly by someone qualified.
9. Dive as much as you can
If you only dive once every 3 years you probably won’t improve much.
Dive as often as you can and you’ll see that it’ll get easier and easier and one day you use just as little air as your Instructor or your female buddy.
We are happy to help you improve your air consumption, book your dives with us now!