I currently have 77 dives logged in my diving book. But before the very first one, I was so scared that I even had a panic attack on the boat.
You know something? The more I dived, the more I realised: it’s perfectly normal to be scared before your very first dive!
1. It’s a survival instinct
Guess what? We were not made to survive underwater. How long can you hold your breath? My bath tub record is somewhere around 45 seconds. That’s about the time I expect to last if I were sinking.
And even if I kept at the surface: in waters colder than 21°C, the survival rate drops drastically after an hour.
So what is our body’s natural reaction when it understands that you intent to submerge it willingly into deep, open water? That’s right! It thinks you’re committing suicide, for sure. Why else would you be so careless?
Fear is a desperate response from the brain, trying to stop you from doing something stupid or dangerous. Water is a hostile environment for a human being, so of course, your brain is going to do whatever it takes to keep you AWAY from it. That includes scaring the shit out of you.
2. It goes against every natural instinct you have
Let’s say you hijack your brain, and decide to go on with your crazy idea to go underwater, because you think that for some reason, you’ll be able to breathe down there — you crazy monkey!
You’re going to have to fight every natural response your brain will trigger, if you intent to stay down there and come out alive.
If you hold your breath down there, you risk tearing apart your lungs in case you ascend too much with air trapped inside. Don’t hold your breath.UNDER WATER. INSANE!!!
If you overexert yourself and feel like you’re running out of air, your brain will tell you to open wide your mouth and get rid of that thing that’s preventing you from breathing properly!
Yes, it wants you to drop your regulator, and take a mouthful of WATER. As if that would help…
3. No gravity, no balance
Of course there’s gravity underwater, we’re still on Planet Earth (although it does feel like a totally different world, I give you that), still revolving around the sun and so on.
But there’s another force down there, it’s the upward push of Archimede’s Principle! And since the whole point of scuba diving is to be buoyant under water, we are actually actively trying to balance out the pull from gravity, so we can’t feel it anymore (and we don’t drown by sinking to the bottom of the ocean, by the way.)
Zero gravity feels great, eerie, light… And inconvenient in many ways. You have no balance. Nothing to hold on to. You can’t stay in a vertical position, you want to be horizontal so you can kick forward.
Believe me, that can be really scary, especially if you’ve never experienced it before.
4. No speech, no hearing, and hindered sight
Among the many things that humans cannot do under water (like, BREATHE LOL), we must give up all the senses we so dearly rely upon at the surface: speech, hearing & sight.
Forget speech: you need your mouth to breathe. Period.
Of course you can still see (what would be the point?!), but you only see through the glass of your mask. It’s about 120°C, and take my word for it, it feels so much less than the 270°C we are used to by a quick twist of the neck.
Hearing is impaired too: through water, sound waves moves up to 4 times faster than through the air. Consequently, your ears can’t tell where a sound is coming from: they get the signal simultaneously.
Imagine a world in which you cannot tell where a sound is coming from. Anything you hear surrounds you. All the time.
Now doesn’t that sound scary? I thought so.
5. Scuba diving kills. You knew that.
Maybe you’ve never tried scuba diving, but you’ve heard of it. And most likely, you’ve heard about the gruesome stories of freak accidents involving drowning, missing divers, decompression sickness, burst lungs and heart attacks.
Yes, diving is a dangerous sport, because it has risks. The risk of accident is low when all safety procedures are being scrupulously followed, but accidents can still happen. And a scuba diving accident can be quite severe, even fatal.
You know that. And your brain is doing a fine job at keeping you away from potential harm by pulling these facts out of your memory, at the convenient moment that you’re considering trying out scuba.
It’s all a trick, you know. Once you get past your fears and dare to try it, the highest risk involved is addiction!
Because before being a crazy, exciting, adventurous challenge, scuba diving can be a life-changing experience.
I should know: scuba diving changed my life.