A diver’s peeve: over 10 metres deep in the big blue, chewing on a regulator and watching your air drop faster than a pin-pricked balloon. To help you combat this qualm, we bring you nine tank-stretching techniques to save air:
Scuba babies are famous for burning through their air supply: Like a lighted match to a gas hob, the supply is used at a furious rate. Why? Anxiety – limited experience, nervousness about diving into a new world. You may not be a new diver, but unless you dive almost every week it’s still an unnatural activity, and your body isn’t as happy as you are about putting its head underwater. Dive more, and your body will eventually get used to the idea. A lower metabolism, slower heart rate and calmer breathing mean less air wasted.
Fix the small leaks
Even a tiny stream of bubbles from an O-ring or an inflator swivel adds up over 40 minutes, and may be a sign of more serious trouble ahead anyway. Get your buddy to check for leaks, no matter what size. Look out for poorly sealed masks – clearing wastes oxygen.
Swim slowly and stay shallow
It’s simple physics: The energy cost of speed is even more than you might think. It’s why crocodiles stay still when they’re fasting… Why swim if you want to conserve energy? The faster you go, the more energy and air you use up.
Take another class
You’ll waste less air when you feel more accomplished and confident in your diving, by rising up the official ranks, until you’re considered a pseudo-water-mammal.
Minimise the load
Being overweighted – a very common problem for newbies – means you have to put more air into your BC to be neutral. An inflated BC is larger and requires more energy and oxygen to push it through the water.
Adjust your trim and seek neutral buoyancy
Keeping horizontal in the water, exactly neutral, means your legs and fins hide in the slipstream made by your head and shoulders. You’ll disturb less water and expend less energy.
Breathe deeply and slowly
Taking short, shallow breaths means oxygen is sucked from your tank but not absorbed into your bloodstream. It’s wasted. Inhale deeply, fill your lungs completely with each breath to use your air supply fully. Exhale fully too, to expel as much carbon dioxide as possible.
Streamline your gear and movements
Lose the drag, imitate those fast-swimming fish, with no loose attachments disturbing the flow of water past your body. Keep your arms close to your body, straighten your legs and keep them as close together as your fins will allow. Less drag equals less air wasted.
Get in shape and relax
Work out, then chill out. The better the shape you’re in, the more confident, relaxed and efficient you’ll be in the water. Save air, test out these techniques, and go and dive for longer.