How much air do you “drink”? A quick guide to saving air while diving

Here is a list of little tricks to stay under water for longer

2 September 2020 | by Redazione

One of the most important aspects for divers is certainly air consumption. After all, as divers we have a superpower: being able to breathe under water, just like as if we were fish. In reality though, the provisions of air contained in the tank are like the fuel tank in our car: once it is finished, we are going nowhere. And, in the case of diving, the consequences are much more unpleasant.

When, many years ago, I began diving, I was obsessed by consumption. “Drinking” or “sucking”, as we say, less air, meant being able to stay under water for longer, so I had to be able to do that at all costs, also because I was ashamed compared to more experienced divers. I was able to a bit, thanks to the experience and the tricks that they taught me.

Wanting to make a list now, I talked to friends of mine who are teachers, divers with much more experience than myself. This is the list that has come from our talks, it is absolutely not in order of importance and is probably not complete.

  1. Keep in good physical shape, trying not to gain too much weight and continuing to train. It is easy: if you go up the stairs and you are overweight and sedentary, you immediately start breathing more heavily. The same thing happens in the water. Also avoid drinking alcohol the night before diving.
  2. Dive more often: breathing underwater is an unnatural activity and by doing it more often, your body and mind will get used to the idea of breathing less.
  3. Swim slowly: except in extreme circumstances, there is never a need to make yourself breathless by swimming like crazy. Observe older divers, they are very slow when in the water: they have understood that they make less effort, consume less, and see many more things.
  4. Just like they taught you during your first course, remember that the deeper you go, the more you consume: this is simply a matter of physics. So, if you are an air drinker, stay a couple metres higher.
  5. Stress is the greatest nemesis for air provisions. Try and relax and enjoy the fantastic view. Keyword: relax.
  6. Besides keeping in shape and in good health, is there anything else I can do out of the water to improve consumption? Certainly. Take courses for meditation and yoga, these teach you how to regulate your breathing calmly and effectively, keeping it under control. They work, trust me.
  7. Be as hydrodynamic as possible, maintain correct posture and balance, so you don’t have to fight against the current.

And what about equipment? Can this contribute to reducing consumption? And how!

  1. It has to be comfortable. If it is yours and you know it well, even better.
  2. Choose the right regulator. This is a fundamental piece of equipment, it is what keeps you alive. So invest without hesitation as much as you can, then maintain it perfectly efficient. As far as I’m concerned, many years ago, after a number of tests, I bought one derived from the military, known for being hard to maintain and for supplying excessive amounts of air at any depth. In reality, I learned how to dose the right amount based on the needs of the moment, and, being able to have as much air as I needed, in case of emergency, on the contrary, makes me consume even less. I love it and will never change.
  3. The rest of the equipment must be appropriate for the water temperature and diving conditions: if your teeth are chattering from the cold, you use much more, just like when your fins aren’t right for the current.
  4. Try and find the right weight. It is clear that if you don’t put enough weights into the belt, you won’t be able to dive or will struggle to keep the decompression levels. But if you have too many, your BC will inflate like a balloon.
  5. Photo-video: unfortunately taking pictures or making videos underwater will make you use much more air. Breathe in, hold your breath, click, breathe out. What’s more, if you swim around with a sort of submarine like I do, you will have to continuously fight with the current and regulating the lights.
  6. Correct small losses. These also contribute to consumption over the 45 minutes you will spend under the surface. These can come from a mask that does not fit perfectly on your face, or from the BC, the o-ring of the regulator or the valves on the dry-suit. If, instead, you have a hole or the suit has unravelled this is much worse, especially in the winter or the lake where it is 7 degrees in the water (I have enjoyed both of these experiences!)

Remember, becoming a master of breathing will help you to successfully face any underwater environment, and you will fully enjoy every moment spent in the incredible underwater world.

Paolo Ponga



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