How to make your air last longer

Without feeling like you want to pass out.

23 November 2020

By Danel Wentzel

As Scuba divers we want to spend the longest amount of time underwater, doing what we love. We plan and execute our dives around gas and time constraints. But what if there is a way to stay down longer? Our Instructors and Dive Masters always seem to have “good air, consumption”, but how do they do it? And how can you make your air last longer when diving?

Be geared up.

Divers tend to lose air even before getting in the water for a dive. Through free-flowing octos and worn out O-rings we tend to lose air, before it is even in our lungs.

  • Keep your equipment well-maintained. Get your regulators serviced in accordance with manufacturer instructions by a trained technician. A small stream of bubbles might not look like a major issue, but over a span of 40 minutes it adds up. Not only can it be a sign of potential trouble in the future, but it can also cause unnecessary stress on a dive. Be safe and check your gear before every dive, do a pre-dive safety check and listen closely for any leaking air.

  • Only take what you need. Each accessory you have on your BCD adds weight and drag, making you less streamlined. As a consequence, you’re likely to use more energy moving through the water.

  • Stay warm. If you have bad air consumption you might want to opt for the thicker wetsuit choice. Although warmth and air consumption may seem unrelated, it might just make the difference between you missing out on the epic sighting at the end of a dive. Heat is energy. When our bodies lose heat, it spurs our metabolism into making more, using oxygen in the process.

Improve your knowledge and skills.

Take continuing education courses, listen to more-experienced divers and seek out advice.

  • Take a course and put the knowledge you gather into practice in the water. By taking up a speciality like Peak Preformance Bouyancy you will learn how to master neutral bouyancy, which is the cornerstone of good diving. By maintaining neutral bouyancy on a dive, you will reduce your amount of finning and subsequently use less energy.

  • Slow down. The dive is about the journey, not the destination. Just like driving a car, if you’re easy on the throttle, you’ll consume less fuel.

  • Stay shallower where possible. Think back to your open water training. Your gas consumption, all other things being equal, is a factor of the atmospheres and the pressure you’re under. Unless there’s a specific reason to go deeper, such as a wreck, stay a little shallower and enjoy a longer dive.

Be prepared.

A prepared diver is a less stressed diver. By being fit to dive, on time and well rested, you can be more relaxed in the water and have a longer dive.

  • Sleep more, party less. I know this is not something everybody would agree on since most of the time diving and drinking goes hand-in-hand, but fatigue adds stress to your body. By being tired on a dive, your body has to work harder. As dive instructor Jim Bruning puts it, "Your body does what your mind tells it to. If you had a good night of sleep, your body and mind are going to be much more relaxed, much calmer."

  • Fuel your body. Don't forget diving is a sport, if you dehydrated, hungry or didn't get a good night's sleep, you won't have the proper fuel to keep your body going.

  • Be on time for your dive. If you’re late or flustered before you enter the water, you’re much more likely to have a raised pulse and increased breathing. Try to give yourself enough time before a dive to relax and get stoked for the amazing experience ahead.

  • Plan your dive. A big part of a good dive comes down to preparation and confidence before you enter the water. Planning your dive helps you know what to expect, so you can be prepared for any challenges. Visualize the dive in your mind before you enter the water and discuss your plan with your buddy.

In a seashell.

As divers we want to make the best use out of the air we have. We want to stay down longer! There are a few simple things you can do in order to improve your air consumption and make your gas last longer.

  • Be geared up. Through leaking scuba gear you can lose precious air even before going on your dive. Service your gear regularly and make sure there are no leaks when doing your predive checks. Carrying less accessories as well as wearing a warmer wetsuit can help you stay down for longer.

  • Improve your knowledge and skills. By mastering your buoyancy, slowing down and staying shallow you can drastically improve your air consumption on dives.

  • Be prepared. Diving is all about having fun and being in the best possible mind set. When you are stressed or tired, your body will respond by using more oxygen, thus resulting in a shorter time underwater. Plan your dive and arrive on time to avoid extra stress during your dives.