Recently, a customer stopped in to inquire about purchasing a 120cuft tank for her husband. She explained that she and her husband were newly certified divers and that her husband consumed his air so much faster than her. In their travels to area dive shops, they had been advised that he could even up his air time to match hers by getting a bigger tank. While this definitely a solution, it is not the one I would have suggested.
Poor air consumption can be tracked to poor fitness, physical problems or lack of streamlining. All of these issues need to be addressed to increase a diver’s air time, but once issues are addressed, before I would suggest a bigger tank, I would challenge the diver to address an even bigger cause of poor air consumption: poor buoyancy.
|Good buoyancy leads to better air consumption and more comfortable diving.|
We’ve all observed this in action; one diver bicycling along in the water and another flailing his arms like a windmill. Look for these two to be back on the boat long before the rest of the group. The quickest exercise for a new diver to do that will give immediate feedback as to their buoyancy is to dive in a horizontal position with arms crossed in front. If the diver cannot maintain his depth in this position, then some adjustment must be made.
If they are sinking add air. Wait a bit for the added air to equilibrate to the surrounding temperature, then reposition: horizontal, arms crossed. Repeat this process until the diver can maintain the desired depth with minimal movement. Of course, if the diver is too positive, air should be dumped, but remember that it is possible to dump a small amount of air. After venting a small amount of air, the diver should exhale, then reposition, etc.
I look at things like getting ankle weights if feet are too buoyant or bigger tanks when air consumption is a problem as masks merely covering the underlying problem. Scuba is like any other skill or hobby. To be good at it, one needs to practice and continuously learn better technique. Walter Elliott said, “Perseverance is not a long race: it is many short races one after another.” I think this describes the journey that all of us take to good buoyancy. We persevere though out fin pivots and hovering exercises in class and then, after earning our certification, we continue on that course to perfection.
If you want a bit of coaching on your buoyancy, we suggest the Peak Perfomance Buoyancy course, or participation in this winter’s buoyancy clinic. You may also want to check out this month’s Dive Training magazine and read their pointers for good buoyancy.