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Ocean Divers

How to Improve Air Consumption

Divers sometimes ask each other, “How much air did you have left when you surfaced?” This is because they take pride in being able to stay underwater longer than others.

However, there is no fixed breathing rate for divers because each person requires a different amount of air to get enough oxygen for their body. Trying to use less air than another diver just to outdo them can lead to problems like accumulating carbon dioxide or not getting enough oxygen, which is risky for the diver’s health. Instead, divers should focus on taking slow, calm, and full breaths to properly fill their lungs with air, without competing to use the least amount of air.

Being skilled at breathing and managing air consumption is a sign of an experienced diver. Many factors can affect how much air we use underwater, and it varies from person to person.

Cave Diving – Ocean Divers

Minimize Your Movement Underwater

The more you move underwater, the more oxygen your body requires, which means you’ll need to breathe more, and that can shorten your dive time. To have a longer dive, try to minimize unnecessary movements. Keep your hands in front of you in a comfortable position. You usually don’t need to use your hands to swim, so try to move forward primarily using your fins. On a drift dive, you may not even need to use your fins.

Observe experienced divers and divemasters; you’ll notice that they float along with minimal movements. Aim for that kind of smooth and effortless movement. Pay attention to how you move underwater and try to reduce fidgeting or unnecessary motions. By doing so, you can improve your scuba air consumption and have a more enjoyable and extended dive.

Buoyancy Control

Having poor buoyancy, balance, and trim leads to excessive body movement and results in higher air consumption while diving. Out of these three factors, being overweighted is the most significant problem. Ideally, when diving, you should feel weightless and require minimal adjustments of air in and out of your BCD.If you constantly find yourself needing to add or release air from your BCD and don’t feel weightless underwater, it’s likely due to poor buoyancy, balance, or trim. Take out some of the extra weights or redistribute them on your body.

By taking the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy Course, you can work on improving your buoyancy, balance, and trim, which would help reduce your air consumption while diving.

Maintain a Horizontal Position

You can reduce resistance while swimming by keeping your body in a horizontal position. This helps you use less air during your dive. On the other hand, if you’re in a more vertical position, you’ll end up using more air. If you’re having trouble staying horizontal, try adjusting the positioning of your weights, tank, and BCD.

If you often find yourself in a vertical position, it’s essential to check if you’re carrying too much weight, which can cause your hips to sink. You can perform the weight check you learned during your Open Water Diver course. Another sign of being overweighted is if you still need to add air to your BCD when making your safety stop at 5 meters with only 500 psi (50 bar) of air left in your tank.

Dive More and Relax

If you want your dive to last longer, the key is to dive more frequently. The more you dive, the more comfortable you become underwater, which in turn improves your air consumption.

Stress has a significant impact on our breathing and heart rate. When we feel stressed, we tend to unconsciously increase our breathing and heart rate. This can create a cycle where our nervous system becomes more active, leading to decreased awareness and more anxiety. As a result, a stressed diver may end up breathing three times as much air as a relaxed diver.

If you find it difficult to relax while diving, try finding a strategic spot where you can stop moving and appreciate the beauty of the marine environment around you. Being captivated by the wonders of the deep sea can help you feel more relaxed, which, in turn, will reduce your air consumption.

Streamline Everything

One of the easiest ways to quickly improve how much air you use while diving is to reduce drag. This means reducing the resistance you encounter as you move through the water. If you become a more streamlined diver, you’ll use less effort and, as a result, consume less air.

To achieve a sleek and smooth underwater profile, secure all your accessory gear close to your body. Start by tucking in your gauges and octopus. There are various clips, loops, cords, and fasteners that you can use for this purpose. Additionally, you can store your slate, knife, reels, and surface marker buoy inside your BC or drysuit pockets.

It’s important to avoid having any gear dangling from your setup. Dangling equipment creates drag and increases your air consumption. So, get rid of any scuba accessories that you don’t use and make sure everything is securely clipped and close to your body. This not only helps your air consumption but also prevents your dangling gear from potentially damaging the marine environment.

Stay Warm

When you are cold, your body tries to protect you by raising your internal core temperature. The only way it can do that is by burning stored fuel, such as sugars and fatty acids, which requires oxygen for metabolism. Consequently, your heart rate and breathing rate increase to supply the necessary oxygen.

To address this, it’s crucial to wear the right exposure suit for the diving conditions. Choosing the appropriate suit helps regulate your body temperature and can also aid in improving your air consumption. This is particularly important when diving in cold water, like in Melbourne. Keeping warm underwater is essential to conserve air and ensure a safe and enjoyable diving experience.

Control Your Breathing

If you find yourself breathing rapidly even before the dive starts, ask your buddy or guide for a moment to relax. It’s crucial to begin the dive with a calm and relaxed breath. Starting the dive with heavy breathing makes it challenging to slow down your breath underwater.

Proper breathing technique is essential for improving your air consumption. The key is to breathe slowly, deeply, and steadily, as if you were asleep. Although it may feel strange at first, with practice, you’ll see positive results. A good starting point is to use a 4/6 ratio – inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 6 seconds. Why should the exhalation be longer than the inhalation? When you exhale completely and then take a deep breath in, rather than shallow breaths like sipping from your tank, you expel the “dead air” (high concentration of carbon dioxide) better and allow more oxygen into your lungs. This promotes quicker gas exchange and delays the urge to take another breath. High carbon dioxide concentration triggers the urge to breathe even before you need more oxygen. As a result, taking deeper breaths allows your tank to last longer because you need fewer of them. Additionally, it’s essential to learn how to breathe from your diaphragm instead of your chest.

Pier Diving – Ocean Divers

Mastering optimal air consumption is a journey filled with practice and perseverance. Embrace the occasional setbacks with a smile, for failure is our greatest teacher. Remember, every stumble along the way is just another step toward success! So, keep diving, keep learning, and soon you’ll be gliding through the water with the utmost efficiency. You’ve got this!

So are you ready to learn to dive in Melbourne with us? We’d love to be a part of your underwater adventures! If you’d like more information or to make a reservation, fill in our online contact form, or send us an email to: info@oceandivers.com.au  

Ocean Divers is a PADI Five Star Instructor Development Centre and a Scubapro Platinum Dealer. Established since 1972, Ocean Divers is the longest operating dive store in Melbourne.

We look forward to scuba diving in Melbourne with you soon!

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