If you are an aspiring scuba diver, you probably have a few concerns about your first diving experience. Although you must feel excited to embark on a diving adventure, you may still feel a tiny bit uneasy. Experienced divers will tell you not to worry, and for good reason. Fears are fuelled by the unknown. Most common scuba diving fears are easily overcome by acquiring proper knowledge and a bit of practice.
It is true that scuba diving, like any other sport, involves a certain level of risk. However, just like in any other sport, scuba diving risks can be substantially reduced, if not completely eliminated, by applying proper knowledge, acquiring necessary skills, carefully selecting and maintaining equipment, and gaining practical experience.
So what are a few of the most common fears that aspiring scuba divers have?
The potential of experiencing ear pain is probably the number one fear of beginner scuba divers. If you tried diving underwater with a mask and a snorkel before, you probably felt quite a bit of pressure in your ears as you went deeper and felt a sense of relief upon ascent.
The feeling of discomfort or pain is caused by the pressure differential between the air spaces inside your ear and the outside environment as you descend (outside pressure increases with depth and pushes the ear drum inwards). However, any discomfort, let alone pain, can be easily avoided by simply pinching your nose and blowing slightly through it (never too hard), effectively equalizing the pressure between the inside of your ear and the outside environment.
There are many equalization techniques that can be used (your dive professional will explain them to you before you enter the water), but this is probably the easiest and the most commonly used one. Start equalizing well before any feeling of discomfort appears and continue equalizing until you level off at your target depth. Never force yourself, relax and take as much time as you need. As long as you remember to equalize and concentrate on your comfort and enjoyment, you will not only avoid pain, you will also avoid any unpleasant sensations.
Sharks and Harmful Marine Life
Another common fear is the fear of sharks or other potentially harmful marine inhabitants, such as sea urchins and moray eels. These fears, especially the fear of sharks, are largely fuelled by media coverage which presents these rare incidents as common occurrences. However, statistics suggests that the likelihood of being attacked by a shark is extremely small. To alleviate unfounded fears, trust the facts, not the media who love a good story. Movies like the famous “Jaws” attract undue attention to marine animals that statistically do little harm to humans. Did you know that mosquitoes cause the largest number of human fatalities in the world per year as opposed to any other creature belonging to the animal kingdom? Or that you are much more likely to be injured or die in a car accident than from a shark attack?
According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 47 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks in Europe, of which 27 were fatal, for the period from 1847 to 2013 i.e. over the period of 166 years! Of course, today more cases are documented than 200 years ago but there are also many more scuba divers and swimmers in the water today. In Cyprus only one unprovoked shark attack was reported, it was fatal, and that was in 1901. In Europe, the last unprovoked fatal shark attack was reported in 1974. If you wish to find out more, check out this link: International Shark Attack File
Of course, sharks and other marine inhabitants present a potential danger for scuba divers. However, by following simple rules and common sense, it is easy to avoid injuries. Whether you are a swimmer or a diver, respect the marine environment, do not touch anything, do not provoke marine animals, wear protective clothing and be a passive observer. The majority of marine inhabitants are not interested in humans and those that are, are usually simply curious. Marine ecosystems took a very long time to develop; as humans we are no more than visitors in this environment. Let’s admire it without interfering with it.
Running Out of Air
Not surprisingly, given that an air-filled cylinder is an essential part of our life support equipment under water, running out of air is a common fear among aspiring scuba divers. Believe it or not, but this fear is also largely unfounded. To put it bluntly, there is no excuse for running out of air.
Every experienced diver will tell you that running out of air is not an option. If you plan your dive properly, if you use high-quality well maintained equipment, perform the necessary equipment checks for yourself and your buddy before you enter the water, honestly assess your and your buddy’s physical and mental condition before the dive, and monitor your air regularly throughout the dive, you will never run out of air. Running out of air is due to preventable causes. This is why experienced divers believe that there is no excuse for running out of it.
Moreover, even if you, for whatever reason, do run out of air at the maximum allowable recreational diving depth of 40 meters, you may still have enough air in your cylinder to make an emergency ascent to the surface, although you should always have your buddy by your side ready to share air with you.
A Few Conclusions
As we have seen, it is easy to be lead astray by common perceptions which are not necessarily based on facts. Knowledge and skills help dissipate unnecessary fears. When you enroll in a scuba diving course, you will learn a lot of interesting things about scuba diving, including diver safety and dive planning, the effects of the underwater environment on the human body, marine life, and more. Scuba diving is first and foremost a fun and enjoyable activity. Have fun learning and dive into a whole new world equipped with knowledge!