Maybe you have experienced this before? The instructor has set 60 minutes as the maximum time for the upcoming dive, but you are already back on the surface after barely 40 minutes with less than 50 bar – while the other divers in your group are still enjoying the underwater world and diving much longer than you. Annoying, isn’t it?
As a rule, the air consumption automatically becomes more efficient with increasing diving experience – but of course, you can also actively work on the fact that you can dive longer on your dives.
Therefore, I have compiled my 10 best tips for less air consumption to increase your dive time in this guide.
Less Air Consumption is Not Everything
Before you start to work on conserving air while scuba diving, you should realize that the air consumption during diving also has to do with your physical fitness and the conditions you bring with you.
For example, if you are very muscular or have a few extra kilos on your hips, it is perfectly normal that your air consumption will be higher than that of an athletic, very slim person. The physical disposition also plays a certain role.
Therefore, it is important that you don’t see this task too doggedly. Above all, don’t engage in the “showdown” that some divers engage in after their dives – when they brag about how much air they have left in their tanks. They are…idiots – sorry!
Low air consumption is not necessarily an indication of a good and experienced diver. The most important thing is to enjoy your dive and not to see it as a sporting challenge.
One of the best divers I have ever met personally – was a Russian professional diver working on oil platforms in the Maldives a few years ago.
A man like a bear, with top-notch buoyancy control and perfectly calm on every dive. However, during a 60-minute dive with 30 meters maximum depth, he easily emptied his double 12 tanks…but he was not a worse diver because of it.
How To Use Less Air and Dive Longer – Top 10 Tips
If you now understand that less air consumption is not a competition among divers – then you can actively work on consuming less air for yourself and longer dives bit by bit with the following advice.
Most tips will quickly improve your air consumption and allow you to dive longer on your dives.
1. Do Not Frantically Try to Reduce Your Air Consumption
Under no circumstances should you specifically try to breathe less or even hold your breath at times. As you have hopefully learned in your diving courses, holding your breath is taboo in scuba diving anyway – but also any attempt to breathe slower, shallower or less will only cause you to get out of breath and consequently consume even more air.
Therefore, do not try to concentrate on your breath. Breathe as you would on land – subconsciously. If you don’t think about your breathing at all, your body will take exactly what it needs and you will have less air consumption than if you think about it all the time.
2. Save Energy and Move As Little As Possible While Diving
Sure, now and then you have to hit with the fins – to get ahead. But especially beginners in diving tend to paddle with their arms or to move the whole body “back & forth” during the dive. But all this wastes energy unnecessarily and causes higher air consumption.
3. Improve Your Fin Stroke and Use the Glide Phase Effectively
Don’t keep paddling with your fins, a dive is not a race. Also, it is inefficient because with each fin stroke you are slowing down the glide phase of the previous fin stroke. Only fin stroke when you feel that you are almost to the style stand – it is best to alternate between different techniques such as the “frog kick” and the fin stroke from the hip.
This way you will save a lot of energy, use less air and probably even experience a lot more during your dives. So, in a way, discover the “slowness” to be able to dive longer.
4. With the Optimal Amount of Lead You Will Conserve More Air
As a beginner in diving, you will always dive more or less “overloaded” at first – which is also ok for safety. However, you should – bit by bit – reduce your lead quantity so far that you can still safely maintain the depth at the safety stop with an almost empty scuba tank.
So if you do “easy” dives from shore – always take a bit less lead than usual. This way you will get used to the lower downforce and in time you will find your optimal amount of lead for the possible conditions.
5. Always Follow the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) With Your Diving Equipment
Maybe you’ve seen them before, the divers who look like they’re about to embark on a dangerous expedition into the depths of the ocean – like a Christmas tree with countless pieces of equipment dangling from them. This is exactly what you should avoid in order to consume less air.
Take only those items of diving equipment that you really need – keep it simple (KISS principle). Everything you take with you makes you heavier and worsens your streamlining underwater – thus increasing your air consumption.
This also applies to an underwater camera, which you should avoid as a beginner. With a UW camera, you have in any case a higher air consumption – even with professionals, this is the case. In addition, you should first be able to tear well enough so that you don’t break anything when taking pictures underwater or put yourself in danger.
6. Use Your Inflator Only Controlled and Very Dosed
Many divers with a high air consumption waste their breathing air by constantly filling and releasing air into their buoyancy compensator – all air that could have been used for a longer dive.
As a rule, on a common multilevel dive, you should only fill your jacket with air during the descent and slowly release air only when you start to ascend again. Use the inflator very carefully – the air needs some time to develop its full effect (buoyancy).
7. Perfect Your Buoyancy
A diver’s buoyancy control is the key to safer and longer diving. Of course, you will improve with every normal dive, but it is even more efficient if you do specific exercises from time to time to perfect your buoyancy and thereby reduce your air consumption.
For example, you can practice floating on a sandy surface at the end of a dive in the sea or try to maintain your exact altitude during a safety stop at 5 meters.
8. Complete Your Dives at Shallow Depths
As you know from your diving course, your air consumption automatically increases with increasing depth due to the ambient pressure, so you should not “rush” to the maximum depth allowed by your level of training on every dive – especially if you know that you generally tend to have a high air consumption.
Even if many divers do not actively feel it, the pressure load at depth is a challenge to which your body must get used to in peace. So increase your diving depth slowly and just do a very shallow dive often – the most interesting things are to be seen at a diving depth between 5 and 10 meters anyway.
9. Work on Your Physical Fitness and Endurance
You have probably heard that regular endurance training and good fitness will lower your resting heart rate. Therefore, you will also use significantly less air if you are physically fit.
You should do a “balance sport” like running, swimming or some other type of cardio training. Not only will you burn calories, you will be able to dive longer too.
That you also generally consume more air as a smoker is probably self-explanatory.
10. Dive Only in Conditions Where You Feel Comfortable
A very important factor in terms of air consumption is the stress factor you have during your dive. If you are excited, your heart will beat faster and your breathing rate will be much higher.
That’s why you should approach the bigger challenges of diving (currents, blue water, big fish, greater depths, etc.) very slowly in small steps – only do dives that you feel comfortable with.
Only if you are completely relaxed underwater – you will have less air consumption and enjoy your dives much more.