Stay Longer Underwater: Learning to Breathe

Stay Longer Underwater: Learning to Breathe

Nobody wants to have to cut a diving trip short because they run out of air more quickly than expected. What’s even worse is when you have to cut your buddy’s diving trip short too. Suffice is to say you’ll likely be buddy-less after a few of those episodes.

Time is generally the main thing needed to learn how to get better air consumption while diving but there is also a few other tips and tricks. Get more from a single tank of air by putting these tried and true practices to work.

Relax!

Jon Milnes

Jon Milnes

This is generally easier said than done while being underwater in a completely new and unfamiliar place - with your life is in the hands of a bunch of equipment. However, relaxing will definitely help your air go further.

The more you dive the more comfortable you will become being underwater and using the equipment.

You’ll notice that at the beginning of your scuba vacation you run out of air right away. As your trip continues, however, you’ll notice that your tank lasts longer and longer. That doesn’t mean that your tank is being filled with more air; it means that you are becoming a better and more relaxed diver.

Hold Still!

The more you move, kick, and squirm, the deeper you breathe, and the more air you will use. Find a comfortable position especially for your arms and try to maintain it throughout your dive.

Egyptian scuba diver swims in red sea

Jon Milnes

Relax your body and use your fins to move you forward. You don’t need to do a lot of moving; just float along and focus on breathing instead of moving!

Remember: Swim with your legs not your arms, use big slow fin kicks for the most energy efficient swim.

De-Accessorize

Extra stuff dangling from your gear just drags you down and increases the amount of air you consume. As an added inconvenience, they also tend to catch on coral and damage them plus your equipment.

All those fancy scuba accessories are entirely unnecessary and are actually hindering your dive a lot more than they are helping it.

Triple Check Your Gear

All it takes is the tiniest leak in the tiniest place to take up your air and bring your dive to an abrupt halt. Check your gear several times before a dive and have your buddy make a safety check. O-rings, inflator hoses, and connection points are generally the main culprits when you’ve got a leak.

An easy way of catching a leak is by listing, so put your ear to the O-rings and hoses. Otherwise you can put your equipment in the water and look for bubbles.

Get Into a Horizontal Groove

While the term “horizontal” has one meaning when you’re on dry land, it means something entirely different when you’re diving.

A vertical position means that you are creating greater resistance by trying to swim against the natural flow of the water. By remaining horizontal, you create less resistance and use less air. It's all about getting better buoyancy while diving.

If you find yourself struggling with verticality, adjust your BC, weights, and tank; they may be pulling you upright.

Stay Shallow

Diver in shallow water

Rostislav Ageev

The deeper you go, the more air you use, so if you already struggle with maintaining your air it may be a good idea to swim above the rest of the group. As you learn to make better use of your air, you can slowly start going to more depth, but for now, remain shallow so that you don’t have to be the one who cuts the trip short.

These tips and a whole lot of practice will have you breathing like a pro in no time. Bet you never thought breathing would take so much practice and effort, did you?

Do you have any tips for better air consumption? Leave a comment below!

About The Author

Torben Lonne

Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand - and dived most of his life in most of the world. He is also the co-founder and chief-editor of DIVE.in you can always catch him here [email protected]

7 Comments

  1. Zeke Neville

    Thank you so much. I am averaging about 50 – 65 mins on an average tank of Air. I will be puuting these practices into action on my next dive as I really need to up my dive time. Will let you know how it goes. Thanks

    Reply
    • Torben Lonne

      hi Zeke, thanks for sharing. Yes do please let us know. I hope you succeed!

  2. Bob Lawrence

    I have started reading everything I can on extending my underwater time as the best I have done to date is only 30-35 minutes. One dive master taught me to hum and this has given me an extra 10-12 minutes (depending on what tune). I think the hardest part for me is relaxing but I am working on it.
    Cheers .,. Bob

    Reply
  3. Torben Lonne

    Hi Bob, it takes time. I’ve never heard the one about humming, but great if it works. By best advise is to relax and try not to think about using less air, this will only make you use more air. I found that every time I was trying to use less and really was focused on it I ended up using way more air.
    It takes time learning to relax underwater, but it will come with the experience.

    Good luck with it! It is time well spend researching, less air consumption mens more diving :)

    Reply
  4. Tim

    I have two tips that I’ve used to extend my time underwater as well as one warning to heed.

    The first thing I did was take up apnea exercises. There’s iPhone and Android apps that will help with this, and 15 minutes a few times a week has taught me to push through contractions, use O2 more efficiently and exhale much more slowly. Dealing with contractions is important because sometimes I exert myself underwater and get a CO2 build-up and being able to take slow and steady breaths to slowly resolve the problem uses a lot less air than the more intuitive hyperventilating that we do naturally when we want to catch our breath.

    The second tip is just a way of thinking about air consumption, but it helped me immensely. I used to be concerned with inhaling, thinking that that was how I was using my air. But I switched to thinking about air consumption as exhaling, and I’m now able to use air much more slowly. This makes sense since the air is still providing you a benefit while it’s in your lungs and only stops being valuable once it leaves your mouth. It’s also somewhat hard to inhale slowly when you need air, but it’s much easier to exhale slowly. As mentioned above, learning to exhale slowly (over 10+ seconds), even when you’ve got contractions, will ensure that you never really blow through your tank all that quickly.

    But one thing to watch out for is CO2 headaches. There’s no substitute for acclimatizing your body to breathing less and if you apply the above techniques too quickly, you can get headaches that will ruin your day of diving. If you go directly from 3 second exhales to 10 second exhales, you’ll get headaches that will make you want to skip subsequent dives.

    Reply
  5. doug

    Your tip about leaks is very important. I am a beginner (80 dives) and I average around 50-60 minutes at about 20-25 meters. On a recent diving holiday, I suddenly went to 30 minutes and was struggling with buoyancy. I was doing strong current drift diving so I slowed down and went higher – no change. I checked and double checked my gear – regulator, weights, O rings,…no change. I was only after I got back home after the trip and was rinsing my BCD for packing away, that I found two tiny holes in it. They were high up on the back and would have have looked like normal bubbles to a dive buddy but I was loosing all my BCD air in a minute at sea level. I normally dive with very little air in my BCD so I had not noticed the BCD was “flat”. At 25 meters? Well, it was a disaster. A lesson learnt. Check the BCD can hold air. I now take my BCD back to my room every night, blow it up and it must have the same “feel” the next morning.
    btw like Tim, I also figured out one of the keys to air use was to hold 5 or so seconds and then exhale sloooowly.
    Good website. Good tips. Thanks.

    Reply
  6. Lex

    Hi folks! I have just been diving for a short year. I’m in a diving club and we do swimming excercises weekly and dive regularly. I just wanted to add that I’ve been taught that diving is all about forming the right habits. And I am not sure holding your breath is one of them, even if it is for just 5 seconds. Problem is that if you run into an emergency and rise (slightly) faster that you ought to, you may end up still holding your breath out of sheer habit. But during your ascent that’s the last thing you want to do. So I think its best to always keep breathing continuously, but focussing on that slow exhalation is certainly a good habit to keep your breathing calm. Have fun!

    Reply

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You should also read