Dealing with Fears in the Water
SCUBA diving gets some reactions that cover the spectrum ranging from “I’m in! How deep can I go? Will I get to see a shark?!” to “Oh, no way. I’m scared of the deep water! What if I see a shark? What if a shark sees me?!”
Let’s get something out of the way: it’s normal to have anxiety about SCUBA diving. And you should never feel peer pressure to do it. That said, IF-IF you really want to, you can work through your fears. I’m serious.
Here are some common fears people have about SCUBA diving and hopefully we can help you work through them.
Common Fears About SCUBA Diving
- “What if I can’t breathe underwater?” Easy peasy. For starters, we offer a Try Scuba class for those who are concerned about this. It’s in a pool and you can practice breathing underwater while standing up. In addition, in an Open Water class, you start out in the pool. We are not going to just toss you off a boat and say “Sink or swim!” (Anybody got taught to swim this way?)
- “What if I get lost?” This is a super common fear and so very avoidable. You will learn in your class how important you and your dive buddy are to each other. If you and your buddy are hanging with one another, you’ll not be alone. You'll also learn about the importance of the SMB (Surface Marker Buoy). And, if you are traveling, regardless of your stellar navigational skills, dive with the guide. They know where all the cool stuff is! Those dive sites are the guide’s backyard, and that dive guide is definitely motivated to get you back to the boat safely!
- “What if I get attacked by a shark?”. Or “stung by a stingray” or “attacked by a barracuda”? (RIP Nemo’s mom). Ok. Listen here. We can use actual statistics to work through this. (Warning: I might get caps happy here in a second. It’s called passion.) According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, in 2020 there were 73 unprovoked shark “attacks” in the world. IN.THE.WHOLE.ENTIRE.SPHERE.OF.THE.EARTH. A whopping 47 of those were in the US and a full sum of zero of those were SCUBA divers. Here’s the deal: I have so many pictures of the tail-end of a shark. When they see divers, they typically start swimming away. They aren’t usually very interested in us. Incidentally, it is good diver etiquette to keep a distance so that the other divers can get their photos, too. Don’t scare them away! Anyway, just do a little research on the thing you are afraid of. I think you’ll be happy you did. (I’m coming back to this.)
Now, rays of all kinds are usually swimming away as well, but the barracudas? Those jokers are lurkers. They are typically just off to the side, sometimes hanging under the boat and all they want to do is give you the stink-eye. They aren’t necessarily the cutest critters but don’t mess with them and they won’t mess with you.
What if I Run Out of Air? This is just the most avoidable thing. Diving is set up with so many safety and redundancy procedures, that there is absolutely no reason—or excuse, honestly—to mismanage your air and get below 500psi in your tank.
- What if I Damage my Ears? Let me say this to you, friend: You are not a baby for not wanting permanent damage to your ears or even for wanting to avoid ear pain. That junk hurts! A couple of things: If you have chronic ear issues or deafness, this does not exclude you from diving; just go to the Divers Alert Network (DAN) for their Physician Referrals. This will rest your mind tremendously.
- For the rest of us, the key is clearing your ears early and often. I don’t mean try to blow brain particles out of your ears or anything, just a gentle clearing. This starts on the boat and continues throughout the dive. You’ll get better and better at this the more you dive. Pinky promise.
A few more things to help move past some anxiety and fears you have:
- Focus on what is REAL. I’m not saying your concerns aren’t real, but our brains can make them bigger than they need to be. Focus on what you know to be true: “I’m ok. I’m breathing. Thousands of people do this every day.” “I have training. I know what to do. I have a buddy. I have a group here.” The anxiety about a thing is for sure worse than the actual thing. Remember this: Stop. Think. Breathe. Then, do it again. Stop. Think. Breathe.
- Learn about the thing you fear. This is huge. Jump all into it. Learn all about sharks. Seriously. (Good Lord, not from Jaws. That is absolute nonsense.) Read, watch the Discovery Channel, or whatever. You are not on the menu for shark lunch. Find out how many people in the world get actually stung by a ray. (I know about the famous one, but respectfully, let’s just look at statistics here.) Whatever it is, just jump in with both feet (HA!) and get educated on it. It will empower you.
- You don’t have to dive. You don’t. I mean it. you don’t have to dive to be an awesome person and have amazing adventures. There is no pressure to work under pressure- when it comes to diving! This is supposed to be fun!
What about you? What are some fears you have about diving and have you overcome them?
We’d love to hear from you!
Living the Dream!