Out of Air: The 5 Most Common Reasons Divers Run Out


Hopefully, you’ve never experienced an out-of-air situation while scuba diving. However, it can happen to anyone. More often than not, it’s diver error, not an equipment failure.

Even if you don’t drown, you may develop decompression sickness if you have to surface too quickly in an out-of-air emergency, which can also be fatal.

Let’s explore the most common reasons divers run out of air while diving:

#1) Deep Diving: We consume significantly more air on deep dives compared to shallow, and deep dives also require more decompression stops. Running out of air on a deep dive can lead to dangerous emergency assent.

#2) Diving for Too Long: It’s easy to get distracted by the spectacular underwater scenery — that’s why we dive in the first place! However, even if you feel you must get that perfect photo of the spotted eagle ray you’ve been following around, pay attention to your air pressure gauge. No photo is worth your health or your life.

#3) Exertion or Anxiety: If you’re fighting a strong current or feeling anxious during the dive, you’ll consume air more quickly. You breathe harder in both situations but may not realize it, so check your air and your buddy’s air regularly.

#4) Buoyancy Problems: If you constantly have to add and release air from your BCD, you’ll chew through your air faster. Practice neutral buoyancy and test your weight on your safety stop. Click to learn more about controlling buoyancy.

#5) Less Than a Full Tank: While it seems like a no-brainer to check your tank to ensure it’s full before you submerge, sometimes we forget. Or we drop something when we surface and head back down to get it with an almost empty tank and then spend too much time looking for it.

Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

All of the situations above can be prevented by being a conscientious diver and a responsible dive buddy.

Discuss your dive plan with your buddy prior to each dive. Part of our responsibility as a dive buddy is to keep an eye on our buddy — if you know it’s nearing the time you need to ascend and your buddy seems oblivious or refuses to, don’t take no for an answer.

While equipment failures such as a broken O-ring or hose, leaky BCD, faulty regulators or gauges do cause out-of-air situations, these can often be prevented. If you own your gear, make sure you have it serviced regularly, even if you haven’t been using it.

Take the few moments to go over a pre-dive checklist before you enter the water and check:

  1. Your tank – is it full and the valve fully open?
  2. Your BCD – does it inflate properly and not leak?
  3. Your regulator – can you breathe easily?
  4. Do any of the hoses have a leak?

Make sure you do an in-water gear check before you descend. Gear problems are usually evident prior to descending underwater.

Need your gear serviced? At Scuba Toys, we can repair or overhaul your regulator! If you don’t live in the Dallas area, you can ship it to us and we’ll repair and send it back. Learn more about our repair services.

Need new gear? We have a great selection of every type of scuba gear you might need. We also have a huge online inventory!

Have you ever experienced an out-of-air situation? Let us know what happened in the comments section below.

Article Name
Out of Air: The 5 Most Common Reasons Divers Run Out
No scuba diver wants to run out of air. Fortunately, most reasons are preventable. These are are the most common reasons why it happens and how to prevent it from happening to you and your dive buddy.

3 responses to “Out of Air: The 5 Most Common Reasons Divers Run Out”

  1. Tyler says:

    I’ve never run out but I’ve heard some horror stories. This is why I make every effort to stay near my diving buddies…just in case!

  2. Seth says:

    I came close once. Luckily it was on my way to the surface when it became more difficult to breath.

  3. Darren says:

    My buddy ran out and ended up with decompression sickness because he surfaced too quickly. In talking to him, he said that panic set in, which made the whole situation even worse. He still dives but is extra cautious.

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