All divers want their experience to last as long as possible when scuba diving. One of the most effective methods for making the air in your tank last for longer periods is practicing, and learning how to control, your scuba breathing technique.
But the ability to make that air last so you stay underwater longer isn’t the only ingredient in that recipe that cooks up the dessert that we call “sipping air.”
How you breathe has a major impact on how long that air lasts. You have a number of techniques available for your use when you strap on that scuba gear. Your challenge is choosing the method that works best for you, and your diving style. I experimented with techniques over the years, and ended up with a personal style that works well for me. It combines parts of three or four different breathing methods, as well as the use of the best inversion table I can find to expand my back for more capacity.
Once I designed a technique I felt comfortable with, and tried it on a few dives to make sure it worked for me, I practiced it on land every time it came to mind. Then I mentally eased my breathing into it before I jumped into the water. (I made a conscious effort every time I went diving to breathe that way until my technique became a habit.)
That’s how you do it. Find your right style. Practice it on land until you own it. Then consciously breathe that way until you automatically do so every time you strap on that equipment.
But like I said, scuba breathing technique is only one element that affects how long you stay underwater.
I won’t get into the obvious limitations that scuba diving puts on you depending on your diving depth. You can dive past those limits if you like, but you won’t do that very many times.
Those elements you do control, or not, depend on your skills as a scuba diver. You can practice, and sharpen your skills. It’s your choice.
These other dive-lengthening activities include the following:
- Your state of health.
- Mental preparation.
- Dive equipment.
- Gear trim.
- Your comfort in the underwater environment.
- Your fin cycle speed.
- Your dive style.
How you feel before any dive influences your dive length. A cold, congestion, or even a hangover distracts you from your diving skills. This type of distraction affects your breathing. You breathe faster, and your air won’t last long.
When you’re in a less than cheery mood, or you just don’t feel like diving, you don’t pay attention to your skills. Mentally preparing your attitude before each dive gets you into the frame of mind that keeps your attention sharp.
The more bulky your dive gear is the more you exert yourself moving through the water. The more you exert yourself, the faster you breathe. Adapt your equipment to the dive ahead of you. Don’t use a buoyancy control device with more lift capacity than you need. The more volume those bladders occupy the more friction against your progress. Small your equipment down so it doesn’t make you push too much water as you fin.
Improper gear trim attention adds to your exertion. All those tools and toys you hang around your body for enhancing your dive experience also shorten that experience. Those dive slates, lights, and gauge consoles increase drag when they hang loosely. Keep them strapped close to your body. Better yet, when you’re not using a particular item tuck it into a pocket. Or hide it inside your buoyancy control device.
Make sure you study your dive location, and normal conditions. Your comfort with the environment lends directly to whether you’re calm, or anxious. Staying calm makes for rewarding dive experiences. But if you grow anxious because of unexpected currents, or surprise visits from aquatic creatures you don’t expect, stress takes over, and you breathe faster.
Your fin cycle speed affects your breathing, just like a Honeywell SilentComfort air purifier does. The faster you kick through the water the more you exert yourself. Higher exertion both increases how fast you breathe, and tires you out so you don’t enjoy your dive as much.
I’ve seen many diving styles during my underwater excursions. Some people spend their whole dive over one small area of reef, entertained by all the colors and life in that area. Other divers try to visit every inch of reef on one dive. They flit here, rush there, and fly on to the next spot. The calmer your progress through the water the less you tire yourself. And, again, the less tired you become, the slower you breathe.
Scuba breathing technique is important to the length of your dive. But consider all of these other elements along with breathing. Practice them all, and hone your skills.
Then when you’re scuba diving you’ll enjoy longer dives, and a more rewarding underwater experience.