Friday, 23 March 2007

Increase your Dive Time on Fiji’s Stunning Reefs: a discussion on diving and air consumption: Part 1

Fiji’s reefs are known worldwide as being some of the richest in the world teeming with life and colour. For the purposes of this discussion, the key elements of this ‘life and colour’ are that they occur in tropical waters – generally warm and clear - and also at relatively shallow depths.

Yes, of course, Fiji has abyssal walls and drop offs and pelagic action to suit anyone’s taste but the fact of the matter is the most abundant life on coral reefs is at less than 20 metres. This is great news for those wishing to spend their time under water rather than sitting on the dive boat. We do not have the extreme physiological impact of cold water and rarely are dives limited by no-decompression times but rather by air consumption. Therefore there is a real opportunity to max out on your underwater time.

For many, however, short dives are the reality and there is the frustration of having to do your safety stop and end the dive whilst other divers are still enjoying being underwater with plenty of air still in the tank. Inevitably, when those other divers return to the boat they are asked ‘how do you do that – what is your secret’. This always prompts the macho ‘how much air do you have left’ discussion between everyone on the dive boat – (there obviously has to be some competitiveness to diving!) – But what are the underlying reasons for the disparities.

It is well documented that there are physiological differences between men and women! In terms of diving, women statistically fare better than men with regards to air consumption. Lung capacity is generally smaller as is muscle mass – both are air consumption relevant. It’s not a golden rule, but you can assume that someone 5 ft tall and 110 lbs will consume less air at rest than someone 6 foot 4 inches and weighing 200 lbs.

So, can we do something about our own air consumption underwater or do we have to put up with what we are given by nature? As a dive resort owner who has completed over 1500 dives in the last 5 years in Fiji (mostly as a guide or instructor) I have some personal opinions and observations on this subject. Some you may agree with – others not – let me know. Before I continue, let me state the obvious. All of us learned on our first ever dive course (whichever agency sanctioned) that it is essential we breathe continuously underwater. That is not to say that we might not pause now and again however breath holding, withholding breathing, skip breathing or whatever you want to call it can lead to serious problems.

See what you think of my 13 Part suggestions , try them out and then see if your breathing is even the real issue at stake.