Novice Divers – How to Help Air Consumption

As a novice diver, you might regularly find yourself being the one having to ‘call the dive’ because you have run low on your air. Believe me there is nothing wrong with it and we will all have different rates of air usage no matter what we do but there are some tips and tricks to help.

Change Your Mindset

Diving is about being relaxed and enjoying yourself. If you worry about air, talk it over with whoever you are diving with, explaining that it might be something you need to think of in planning. Don’t suggest it ‘might be an issue’ because that is already psychologically creating a little stressor in your head.

Don’t Be Embarrassed

It is nothing to be embarrassed about. Be honest on the dive and tell people when you get to your turnaround pressure and 70 bar. If you try to push it another 10 bar, it can create all sorts of issues as anxiety levels in the whole group increase, resulting in quicker air use and getting properly ‘low-on-air’ or even worse – out!

Plan the Kit for Dive

Think about the dive you are doing and try to use a cylinder which will allow you to match the others with you. So, if you know you do go through you air a bit quicker than your comrades, find out what size cylinder they are using and upsize. Maybe think about using a 12l, 15L or maybe something like a 300 bar cylinder. That way you know you’ll be better matched and relax a bit about using it.

Consider switching to a wing based system which makes holding a horizontal position easier than a standard BCD. The More streamlined – the less air you will go through.

I have recently switched to an XDeep Zen wing and they are an awesome bit of kit

We do sell them at Diveshack 🙂

Weighting Guidelines

There are various weighting guideline calculations around you can use to give you an estimate but that’s all it is. Nothing can take away from doing a proper buoyancy check. And you need to do one whenever you change kit. Even a different pair of fins will have an affect on buoyancy. Try to work this out before your boat pulls over the dive site. Sometimes it’s critical you can get in and down quickly and efficiently otherwise you’ll drift off the wreck or reef. On our trip to South Africa next year this is extremely important, or you’ll be swimming around in the blue off the reef with no reference!

Buoyancy Check

When you were on your entry level course you will have been taught how to do a buoyancy check:

Air out of suit and BCD, holding a breath and floating at eye level. Breathe out and you sink.

The reason is two-fold. To make sure you have enough weight to get down (Durr!) but also to make sure you are not wearing too much. If you have too much you might even struggle to be positively buoyant on the surface and once you deflate to descend, you’ll sink like the Titanic and struggle to control the rate you descend. Then to get neutrally buoyant your position in the water will be horrendous and make it very inefficient to move – ergo greater air consumption from not being relaxed and in control coming down and using vast amount of air added to BCD or Drysuit.

Fitness For Diving

The fitter you are, the more efficiently your body will metabolise Oxygen. So, it stands to reason if your body is a more efficient machine, it’ll need to work less to do the work and so go through less air. This can be especially important if you have a current and you have to fin harder. I’m not saying you have to be an Olympian but a moderate fitness level will definitely help.

Practice Trim and Position

It’s only by messing around with your kit and moving things about that you realise how much difference a small change can make. Consider paying for pool and instructor time to fine-tune where you want weights, arm position, cylinder position and visualise what you want to look like. Maybe even get some photos taken so you can see first-hand what you look like.  This way you hit the open water confident and relaxed in your head that you’ll be looking as graceful as a manta-ray.

Underwater Meditation

The more relaxed you are, the less air you’ll use. Fact. So, if you go through a few of the tips above, you’ll find yourself so chilled out, hanging weightless using nothing but your breath  control to move effortlessly along and before you know it, you’ll be passing on that 18L torpedo and picking up the 10L steel 😊

Oh and thank you Garry Dallas for the picture of Craig and me – it was a great day out

Tim Yarrow

Director at Diveshack UK.


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