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Slow Down and Enjoy Longer Dives

Enjoy Longer Dives: Tips on reducing air consumption rates.

New divers are often concerned that they breathe through the air in their tank faster than other divers. When a new diver compares his air consumption, and accordingly, his or dive time on a given size tank of air, they often find they consume air faster than other divers.

There are a lot of reason that is true. Variations among divers in gender, body size, body type, activity in the water, and experience as a diver all impact air consumption rates. As all divers know, people who breathe through their air quicker than their dive buddy, or other divers on a group dive, have a nickname no one really wants: air sucker.” Some divers wonder if they will always be an air sucker. The answer is, not so much as when you start out, but some people, by reason of their body size, particularly lung capacity, will breathe through their air faster than others, no matter how experienced they are. Not everyone uses up their air at the same rate. We get that. But some people are terrible and don’t need to be. Some air suckage is correctable. You can, through good diving practices, reduce your air consumption.

Here are some tips to help you do that and increase your bottom time.

  1. Check your weighting. If you go through air faster than everyone else, there is a real good chance you are over-weighted or under-weighted. Properly weighted, you will exert less effort during a dive, you will maintain neutral buoyancy with less adjustment of air in and out of your bcd or wing, and you will use less air.
  2. Trim your buoyancy often through adding or venting air from your bcd or wing. I often observe other divers and see that they cannot hover. To remain at a certain depth, they are kicking or moving their arms to maintain that depth. Those movements burn air. Use your low pressure inflater/ deflater- that is what it is there for. Maintain neutral buoyancy and you will use a lot less air. Remember that variations in depth during a dive will cause the air in your bcd or wing to compress or expand, impacting buoyancy. If you are over weighted and carrying a lot of air in your bcd or wing, then the effect is more pronounced. Once you are properly weighted, still trim your buoyancy often.
  3. Move less. You will move less if you are properly weighted and trim your buoyancy often. But you will still burn air if you are swimming from place to place and back again, chasing fish you will never catch, or lagging behind the group and speeding to catch up. This tip is simple: move less. Stop and smell the coral. Look for pretty little things under ledges. Don’t be in constant motion. The less you move, the more you will see, and the less air you will breathe.
  4. Monitor your depth regularly. Even depth variations of a couple of meters can impact air consumption substantially. Remember your training. If you are 10 meters deep, it takes twice as much air to fill your lungs as it does at the surface. If you are 20 meters down, it takes three times as much, and at 30 meters, four times as much. Dive planning involves planning a profile concerning depth and time at depth. Often divers are distracted by something they see and do not pay attention to their depth. A dive planned to 80 feet is shortened when the inattentive diver is suddenly at 95 feet or even deeper. Whether due to distraction or poor buoyancy control, descending deeper than planned will cause rapid air depletion. Monitor your depth and maintain the planned profile.
  5. Stay (or move to) a few meters above the rest of the group. If during a dive you notice that you are going through air quicker than the others on the dive, consider ascending a couple of meters. As noted above, it can make a measurable difference in your air consumption.

If you will do these five things, I am sure that you will improve your air consumption rate. Some of you will notice a dramatic improvement.

Happy diving, everyone.