It’s the problem that almost every new diver wrestles with, If you’re in this group I once also felt your pain. You look around at the other divers in the water with their great air consumption rates, nice hour long dives surfacing with a comfortable amount of reserve air and just looking chilled out under water. So you question why you aren’t that diver. Well, friends and neighbors, the answer to that is you’re new…you’re expected to suck a tank dry in 15 minutes, heck the underwater world is new and amazing to you and the excitement just cannot be contained! It’s nothing to be ashamed about, we all had our first times putting on a BCD and sinking below the surface. I know, I know…you want longer dives right now but the answer to how to get longer dives lies in experience along with comfort and not simply strapping on a bigger cylinder.
I have seen it time and time again in my experience diving around the globe, the new diver opts for a large steel cylinder in order to be able to match their air sipping buddy with their small aluminum one. Is this a wise move? Well, I can see why it seems to be…your buddy and you can enjoy a nice long dive without it being cut short by one of you running your air supply low early in the game. With this concept there are a couple of things to consider.
First, with a larger cylinder comes more weight and drag, you are working harder to maintain neutral buoyancy along with having to move that water heater sized object on your back through the water as you make your way along the beautiful coral reef. This act of increased exertion forces your body to use more oxygen. Bam! Your air consumption rises even more. So with that in mind, you negate carrying around that extra air.
Secondly, quite a few divers forget the whole purpose of buddy diving. That is, your buddy is your safety net if something were to go wrong during the course of the dive. So let’s take a close look at that…your buddy also happens to carry your emergency air supply. So what good is it for you to have a huge steel cylinder when your buddy is carrying your “get home” gas in that tiny aluminum cylinder. Without going into the hard math of this scenario, it is easy to say with confidence that your chances of having enough air to get you both to safety are severely reduced here.
With these considerations in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense for the buddy with a higher air consumption rate to carry a smaller cylinder? Think about it, you will have a more enjoyable dive by being able to cruise along the reef without the cumbersome large cylinder on your back. Also, in the event of an emergency you can be assured that you will have the benefit of your buddy carrying enough air to get you both to the surface. While your dive may be a little shorter, it will be safer and most likely more enjoyable. Trust me, if you keep diving and practicing your skills the possibility of being that air sipper who enjoys long relaxing dives will come in time!