It all started about five years ago. I was working in advertising at the time and after all those long days at the office I wanted something new. It was time to change course and I did so drastically, grabbed my bag and jumped on a plane to go diving. Nowadays I jokingly call myself a professional holidaymaker and no I don’t lie on my ass all day, although I can enjoy it immensely. What do I do? Well what else than; diving, diving and more diving, as a guide on safari boats. You probably know them, one of those luxurious floating hotels that takes you to distant dive sites for a wonderful diving adventure. And so I visit quite a few countries, from Egypt to Indonesia and from the Maldives to the Bahamas, as long as it’s slightly warm and the diving is fantastic, then I’m up for a trip. And so one day I set out from Hamata on my way to the deep south of Egypt. We had a British BSAC diving club on board and the atmosphere was great from the start. On the first day we did some check dives , check the equipment, make buddy pairs, go through procedures and most of all relax and enjoy. It is, after all, a holiday for our British guests.
On that first day I had a man of about 35 in my group, let me call him Roy and he was on a diving holiday for the first time. Roy was very enthusiastic about the diving, the boat, the food and the use of his air. Actually, he emptied a tank like a man possessed and managed to empty a 15 liter tank in 20 minutes. As you can understand, Roy was not very happy about that and it quickly became the subject of conversation with anyone who wanted to hear it. After our two dives near Hamata, it was time to drop anchor and start the engines, before descending to the deep south of the Red Sea.
The diving on day two was fantastic, the reefs in the deep south are known for the beautiful hard coral gardens. We saw everything from different shark species, to turtles and dolphins. We dived into the blue, around pillars, along deeply falling walls and into caverns and the atmosphere in the group only got better. The diving inconveniences of the first day disappeared like snow in the sun for most, but there was one exception and that was Roy. His air consumption remained very high and his displeasure was no less. Fortunately, he was in the company of club members, who all had great tips on how Roy could improve his air consumption, but no matter what Rooij tried, his problem didn’t go away but his frustration did.
When the whole club was enjoying the sun deck after dinner, Roy’s problem became the subject of a group discussion. Afterwards I sat with a cup of tea and listened to all the wise advice a bit aloof. Roy got all kinds of tips about skip breathing , less deep breathing and all sorts of other things to improve his technique. Now I wasn’t really excited to join this conversation as many of my guests were instructors and I don’t want to get involved in the dynamics of a dive club, but I wouldn’t escape this dance. At one point one of the young instructors, with Roy next to him, asked me for my opinion and especially what I thought of all the tips. Oops, I didn’t want to have that conversation, because I didn’t agree at all with the advice given. Hmmm I can’t ignore it either, I’m the professional guide after all and Roy still has an air problem. Okay… okay… I know what. “Look, Roy, I can have a long conversation about how you might work this out. But I think it’s a much better idea that I just show it to you.’ Roy looked at me wide-eyed and according to his club members it was impossible to let Roy dive for more than 30 minutes with a 15L tank. Look, that’s nonsense, of course, so I decided to go the extra mile. “Hey Roy how about we use a 12L tank instead of 15L?” Well that made the necessary instructors laugh, according to them it was impossible and they asked me directly how I thought I was going to do that. “Very simply,” I said, “all he has to do is follow my instructions.” Of course my guests did not let me go easily and wanted to know everything exactly. In the end I promised to take Roy on a dive of at least an hour first, and then explain everything. And everyone agreed, although they all wanted to see what tricks I could pull off my sleeve, because according to them 1 hour of diving with Roy was impossible. She tried to lure me out, but I kept my jaws tight and didn’t lift a single corner of the veil because if I show them they will believe me and that includes Roy. You should know that Roy was a big guy and new to diving. He had just completed his Advanced and like any new diver he was still struggling with his technique. Things like skip breathing , regardless of whether you want to at all, Roy is still way above his cap at the moment. It’s a matter of relaxing and improving the basic technique and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Day three came early when the alarm went off at 5:30 in the morning. I jumped out of bed, quickly put on my clothes and knocked on all the bedroom doors. We were going to do four dives that day, so we planned our first dive before breakfast and I started the briefing at 6:00 AM. We were parked at Paradise, my favorite dive site in the deep south of the Red Sea. Paradise is a reef on a plateau that drops from 25 meters into the blue water with drop-offs . On the plateau a beautiful hard coral garden and large pillars that are all suffused with life. The main reef has a cavern in the southeast , which lets the light dance in through the cracks in the ceiling. And if that wasn’t enough, the reef has a lagoon and hidden lagoons in that lagoon. A place to get lost in the beauty of the sea that is so beautiful that you forget everything else for a while and that is why it is called Paradise. After the briefing we went to the dive deck to get ready. I took Roy aside to explain how we are going to do this dive. He immediately started telling me that he didn’t want to go too deep, in order to save air. ‘Don’t worry Roy, I’ll make sure we go diving for an hour and when you come up you have 50 Bar in your bottle. But I can only do that if you follow my instructions carefully. First, we’ll change your 15L to a 12L bottle, then we’ll change and get ready to jump off the boat. In the water I want you to go no deeper than me and dive next to me. You keep an eye on your meters and as soon as you have 150, 100 or 50 Bar, you let me know immediately. For the rest I just want you to enjoy the dive, after all it’s about the quality and not the quantity.’ No sooner said than done. We jumped off the boat into the beautiful blue waters of Paradise, descended over the coral garden and took the drop off to 29 m. When Roy told me he had 150 bar, we gradually ascended to a depth of 15 m. From that point on we didn’t go any deeper, until Roy told me he had 100 bar and we headed for the 10 m on the way. We meandered between the pillars, slowly making our way to the main reef, where you could spot an anemone at a depth of 6 m. city can be found. Just behind it you see a crack in the wall and that is the entrance to the cavern . Together we went in and dove through the many corridors to the west, where the first lagoon is the start. Now I had intended to dive for at least an hour and we had already been on the road for 50 minutes, but luckily Roy was still in his air and so I decided to continue until Roy had 50 Bar left. And I can only say that Roy did a great job, because our dive time was not 60 minutes, but 85 minutes, the best! Once we got to the top, right behind our boat, the other members of the dive club were already waiting for us. As soon as we put our noses above water they asked us for our dive time. ’85 minutes’ Rooij shouted proudly and his club members joined forces and gave us a round of applause. I wasn’t even out of the water when everyone, including Roy, asked me what I’d done now, because Roy went into the water with 20% less air, but dived 4 times as long.
Let me start by noting that this technique of improving your air consumption doesn’t work for everyone. But Roy was an inexperienced diver and a very big guy. So if he’s restless, physically or mentally me, chances are he needs a lot more air. We often see on these submersibles that people use a lot of air for the first day or two, but after that it usually gets much better. Not because they have learned so much, but because they don’t think as much anymore and that their buoyancy is a bit better again. I can’t recommend things like skip-breathing or shallow breathing to anyone. What I always recommend is get good and stable buoyancy, relax physically and mentally and use something I call air management. Keep breathing naturally as much as possible, don’t squeeze or miss anything. The problem is not in the breathing, but in that you breathe more than usual. And you do that when you are stressed, carry out an assignment, think more or just have to swim a bit more or struggle with something. So by relaxing, your breathing becomes calmer and your consumption of air goes down. In Roy’s case, I assured him I would take care of everything. So he didn’t have to think much and during the dive I was his reference for depth and speed. So I took it super easy. In addition, I use a technique that I call air management and that means as much as the air in your tank determines your maximum depth at that moment. You start with the maximum planned dive depth, depending on your certification, but once you have 150 bar go no deeper than 15 meters, at 100 Bar it is 10 and at 50 Bar it is 5 meters. Once you do that you will see that most of us can dive for an hour or more with this technique and a 12L tank. It’s that simple.
After I explained the technique to Roy and his club members, the discussion was closed. Roy had shown that it is possible, even though no one believed he could and that included Roy himself. The rest of that week we made beautiful dives and Roy enjoyed all subsequent dives. It was a great week on the Red Sea and to this day Roy keeps in touch about his diving adventures and like so many of us he is addicted to this fantastic sport.
Love life… blow bubbles .. Anke