Swimming freely underwater for the very first time can be exhilarating, but also potentially unnerving and even frightening. Learning and perfecting good breathing techniques allows the novice diver to become calm and relaxed in this new environment.
Learning to Relax
The sheer thrill of your very first dive will cause your heart rate to increase and make you breathe faster than normal. You may be alarmed at how quickly your air supply runs out, but after a few dives, you will learn to be calmer and more relaxed, and your air consumption will decrease. When you feel comfortable underwater, take a few moments to concentrate on your breathing and remind yourself of the dos and don’ts of underwater breathing.
First, and most important never hold your breath underwater, because you will run the risk of bursting a lung. Inhale and exhale more deeply than you would normally do on land. Try to maintain neutral buoyancy, since this will decrease your need for leg and arm movements to maintain a constant position, and thus reduce air consumption, furthermore, avoid swimming unnecessarily against currents-it is better to go with the flow than to waste your air by overexertion.
Always be aware of where your buddy is and what he or she is doing; many novice divers lose sight of their buddy and rapidly become anxious. If there is a problem, stop, breathe, and think before taking action. Acting too quickly and without thought could lead to panic and further problems.
Make sure that you are familiar with your equipment and fully understand how it works. You must know exactly where each item is stored to avoid panic if things go wrong during a dive for example, if you lose your regulator or your mask begins to fill up. Regularly practice emergency procedure drills, either in the pool or in open water, to ensure confidence in a real crisis.
Planning Your Air Consumption
On an open-water, fairly shallow dive, rule of air consumption is to plan your dive so that you can carry out your descent, exploration, and ascent, and surface with a reserve of 725 psi (50 bar). If you have to come back to a given point to exit, such as a guideline or anchor line, start your return when you have 1,500 psi (100 bar) left. If there is a current, swim out against it and swim back with it, so that the return is never longer than the outward trip. It is also wise to swim back to your point of entry or shotline at a shallower depth than on the outward journey, since this reduces air consumption. In difficult environments, follow the “Rule of Thirds”.
The Rule of Thirds
When planning a dive in an environment that is covered overhead-such as a wreck, cave, or under ice-or when making deeper dives, always apply the Rule of Thirds. The rule states that you should use a third of your air for descent and exploration, and a third returning to your guideline or point of entry and for ascent. The remaining third is an emergency reserve.