12 Tips and Tricks You Can Use to Conserve Your Air While Scuba Diving
#7 You Cannot Fight the Current!
Cozumel put the drift into drift diving. Love it or hate it, every diver who has been scuba diving in Cozumel knows that the current is impossible to avoid. Currents here can run fast and be unpredictable at times, too. I’ve seen many, many divers try to swim against the currents only to quickly tire quickly and have to tag out early.
You cannot fight the currents for very long but you can use them to your advantage!
Relax and go with the flow. If you stay behind the divemaster you are letting him or her do the hard work. He or she can spot interesting creatures out ahead and you’ll only have to change your direction just a little, maybe angling into the current only slightly to get where you really want to be. If you are close or in front of the divemaster, you will either miss an opportunity altogether or have to swim against or directly across the current.
Small adjustments against the current are easier and require much less energy.
Sometimes it’s better to shoot video on the move and stay with the group than trying to stop to get a photo and getting separated from the group.
If you must swim against the current, then try to get as low to the ground as you can without touching the bottom, holding onto the barrel sponges or dragging your gear over the wildlife; beautiful but fragile nudibranchs, pipehorses and pipefish crawl around on the bottom and are next to impossible to spot if you’re struggling.
The current runs slower closer to the ground or the reef and much faster in the water column or at the surface. If you find yourself way out in front of your group or dive buddy, the best choice is to get low and behind a reef, ledge or large barrel sponge – anything to break up the current. Oftentimes, you’ll even find a bit of an eddy current, a current that runs against the prevailing current, behind a large structure that will make it very easy to hang out and wait for everyone to catch up.
If you’re caught in a strong current, think of your dive like taking a train ride. Sit back, relax and watch the beautiful scenery go by without working too hard.
#8 Keep Diving and Dive Often!
Scuba diving is NOT like riding a bicycle. If it’s 6 months to a year between your dives, chances are you are never really reaching peak diving performance.
Of course, breathing is the easy part – you probably do it several times every day. Some may even go so far as to say that it’s hard to forget how to breathe… at least for very long. However, your body weight may have changed, which requires gear adjustments and you may just need to get used to being in the water again with all of that dive gear on. We easily forget the little tips and tricks we learn from our friends, divemasters, and instructors, too.
Buoyancy control is a skill that must be practiced in order to be maintained. Scuba diving is an activity that requires practice in order to develop scuba muscles, muscle memory and familiarity with your dive gear. Like any other sport, hobby or endeavor, scuba diving requires practice to get better. With a bit of time and practice, you’ll start to notice that you are indeed able to save more air and dive for a longer time. We usually see a massive improvement with most of our beginner to novice diving clients in as little as 3 or 4 consecutive days of diving!
Experience instills a confidence that replaces stress. A relaxed diver is a diver with great air consumption and maximum bottom time.
Yes, practice makes perfect. Luis and his team really want to see you more often, too. So dive with us more frequently and do it for no other reason than to develop a healthy addiction to compressed air.
#9 Maintain Your Scuba Gear
You should have your scuba gear serviced regularly by a professional to ensure that your gear is safe and operating correctly; your cylinder and regulator are, quite literally, your life support system while you’re underwater.
Major leaks and free-flowing regulators are dangerous. “Nuisance leaks” may be a small annoyance and not a cause for alarm, but they are waste of precious breaths and minutes underwater. Some instructors have said that a leaking second stage can equate to 6 minutes less bottom time. That’s 10% of the entire runtime for some divers.
Make sure that you carefully check and maintain connections between your cylinder, regulator stages, hoses and valves for leaks. At a minimum, carry spare O-rings in your “save-a-dive kit.”
Fix the leaks and gain 10% more bottom time!
#10 Use Your Snorkel When Appropriate
Yeah, I know. I’m recommending that you use a snorkel but I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here trying to get you the very best information possible. You cannot overlook your snorkel in some situations. For example, long surface swims or waiting for that diver who takes forever to get into the water might be the right time to use a snorkel.
It’s better to use the free air that the plants, reefs and the ocean provide for us rather than the air you’re paying to have crammed into a scuba cylinder.
If you’re at the surface and it’s safe to do so… use your snorkel.
#11 Be Scuba Fit and Dive Ready
Your overall physical health and readiness to dive is a major factor in your quest of maximum bottom time while scuba diving.
Being “scuba fit” means that you are free of physical issues that will affect your diving like being out of shape, having poor aerobic capacity, congestion, difficulty breathing, a sinus infection, weakness, etc.
Being “dive ready” means to be sober, free of drugs or medications that might have negative physical effects on you at depth, well-hydrated and prepared for exercise and FUN!
#12 Most Importantly: Stay Calm And Enjoy The Dive
Another reason we use more air while scuba diving is, without a doubt, anxiety. A little (or a lot) of stress tends to affect everyone, especially during the first couple of dives of a scuba vacation for new and novice divers.
It is completely normal!
Here is the key to managing your nerves: A breathing diver is a thinking diver.
What I mean is this: If you can control your breathing, which is a deliberate act while you’re under stress, you can think through and react quickly in the event of a difficulty, failure or emergency during your dive. Oftentimes, troubleshooting and fixing a minor issue will prevent a major problem that will cut your dive short. Identifying and reacting to a stuck low-pressure inflator valve on your BCD and avoiding an uncontrolled ascent is one very good example.
However, beyond the pre-dive jitters you might get, there is a more insidious type of stress that can snowball into a full-blown panic attack if not recognized early. Perhaps you’ve overexerted yourself, had a bit of a scare or you have that nagging feeling that something isn’t right. That doubt might begin to creep into your mind and your breathing will begin to get faster, maybe to the point where it is getting out of control. The faster and harder you breathe may make it feel like you cannot get enough air through your regulator. Fear sets in and you will start to think about swimming for the surface to catch your breath.
This is that moment you need to rely on your training and experience and start calming down or, soon, you’ll be looking at the surface more and more often. Longing to be at the surface with your mask off and regulator out of your mouth gulping glorious air!
It’s only a short matter of time before you’ll panic and bolt straight to the surface forgetting critical things like not to hold your breath, not venting your BCD, missing your safety stop or not having the time to send up an SMB so you don’t get run over by a boat.
(In the military, we called this symptomatic escalation of stress “Surface Escape Syndrome”.)
This is obviously extremely dangerous but it can be avoided.
Calm down and breath.
Stop overtaxing yourself and just focus on breathing. Deeply and deliberately.
You will soon regain your composure and make smart decisions.
Remember… a breathing diver is a thinking diver.