Have You Ever Lied About Your Air?

Come on, have you? Well, if not, you might be surprised by the number of divers that have.

As divers, we can sometimes be very focused on the numbers of the sport. “How deep did you go?” “How long was your dive?” “How much air did you come back with?” In addition to the normal chit chat about what you saw or who peed in their wetsuits, these semi-competitive comments are pretty common.

1500psi on a Suunto gauge

We all like to be the one who found the coolest critter, got the best photo, dived the longest dive, had the best air consumption. And sorry guys, but your female dive buddies will almost always ace you on air!

As a dive instructor, I have had the experience of divers lying to me about their air. I might ask them how much they have and while they’re telling me, I glimpse their gauge. Hmmmm…1500 psi, better head back, I think to myself. Imagine my surprise when the diver signals 1800! What??! I glance at the gauge again and maintain my plan to head towards shore, all the while wondering what’s going on.

As we cruise along and I continue to point out cool critters and ensure that my divers are safe and comfy, I puzzle over what has just happened. Maybe it was just the angle I was viewing the gauge from? Maybe the diver can’t read the gauge? From a customer service stand point, I don’t want to “shame” the diver in any way. From an instructor standpoint, I am concerned about whether the customer knows how to read their gauge, knows how to communicate properly, and I am motivated to help this diver when we have a private moment after the dive. By the way, this can also be resolved by pointing at the diver’s gauge and signaling back to them what they actually have, but the first time this happened to me, I was a bit flustered by what was happening.

I know I keep saying this, but imagine my surprise when, during a post dive chat, this particular diver confides in me that he just didn’t want to be the lowest on air! The good thing about this was that it lead us into a whole new conversation, and one I hadn’t been anticipating.

If you have ever lied about your air or thought about doing it, then I am talking to YOU right now. When you lie about your air, you are potentially endangering yourself AND everyone else you are diving with. Yep, that’s right.

Almost Out!!!

If you are with a guide who takes you at your word when you communicate your air, they will continue the dive plan based on that. If you have less than you say you do, you could find yourself deeper or farther from the boat or shore than you want to be once your air gets very low. If you are a diver who only checks your gauge when asked, you could find yourself completely out of air. And this is just the beginning of your new “situation”.

Now you’re low on or out of air and not where you should be. Does your buddy share air with you? How much air do they have left? Can you continue on your buddy’s air or should you go up? What are conditions like at the surface? Will you have to pop up far from shore or from where the boat captain expects you to be? Do you have a surface signaling device? Does the entire group now have to surface and deal with this together? The answer to that last one is probably yes.

As divers, we all can get caught up in the excitement—and yes, even competition—of a dive…but sometimes we get caught up to the point where we forget the basics we learned back in our Open Water certification classes. Remember, these aren’t just hints; the following points are part of your responsibility as a certified diver:

1800psi on Suunto gauge
  • Monitor your gauges frequently
  • Make sure your dive plan covers what to do in a low or out-of-air situation
  • Always wear a surface signaling device
  • Be aware of how your actions affect everyone else
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a larger tank

And finally, we all know about the two kinds of divers, right? There are those who pee in their wetsuits and those how lie about it.

Aloha, Rachel

p.s. To my fellow dive guides, I say when checking air, it can never hurt to “trust but verify”!