Why diving is NOT scary – Halloween Special

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Why diving is NOT scary – Halloween Special

Zombies, spiders, creepy clowns – all these things can be quite scary, but luckily we usually only have to deal with them during the Halloween season… In fact, it is rather unlikely that you’ll encounter one of these creatures during your next dive, yet scuba diving seems to terrify a lot of people…

Is diving scary? Not at all!

We’ve asked around the team to collect the most common ‘preconceptions’ and ‘concerns’ that our Instructors regularly have to deal with. Of course, in the next step we are going to debunk every single one of them! Because there are actually quite a few points that came up during our research, this blog post turned somewhat into a monster (how appropriate for our Halloween theme) – make sure to bookmark it so that you can get back to it later…

Are you ready for our ultimate list of why diving is totally NOT scary at all? Let’s do this!

Sharks, jellyfish and other ‘dangerous’ marine life in general

You probably watched ‘Jaws’ at some point during your childhood and now you are part of a generation that has to deal with an irrational fear of sharks?

Want to hear something really scary? You have a higher chance of being killed by a falling coconut than a shark! The chances of you actually being attacked by a shark is only 1 in 11.5 million. This is because of two reasons: Firstly, of the 500 plus species of sharks, only a small percent of them are actually large enough to cause any real harm to humans. Secondly, sharks are far smarter then we give them credit for and do not go on blood thirsty rampages. Instead sharks are shy and intelligent creatures. If humans really were on the menu then attacks would be happening every single day. And yet thousands upon thousands of people go swimming at the beach, or go diving to known shark hotspots. The truth is, they simply want nothing to do with us.

Jordan Williams, Marine Biologist

In fact, if you are lucky enough to see a shark while diving on Koh Tao, most likely it’ll be a whale shark which – as a filter feeder – is not even a little bit interested in ‘taking a bite’. You can learn more about sharks and why they desperately need more protection (rather than any more negative media attention) in the Shark Guardian Diver programme – send us a message to find out more.

Photo credit: Elisabeth Lauwerys, Oceans Below.

There are some other marine animals that can be scary: sea urchins, jellyfish or trigger fish being just some examples. However, with a little bit of general environmental awareness under water and proper buoyancy techniques, it’s easy to avoid contact with anything you’ll come across during your dives. And even if you end up getting bitten or stung, the majority of injuries through marine life is completely harmless and any reaction will fade within a few hours or days at max.

If you want to read more, you can check out our blog post about Marine Life Injuries!

Below the surface is an alien environment

Even though they cover roughly 70% of the Earth’s surface, we still don’t know much about our oceans at all. Hence it’s no surprise that being out on the open ocean or even the idea of being under water can create a sensation of nervousness (or even panic) in some people. When you take your very first breaths under water, your brain might be telling you that this is weird and that you shouldn’t be here or be able to breathe at all. Don’t worry, that’s a very common and absolutely natural reaction that many new divers experience in the beginning. In fact, acknowledging a (healthy level) of fear can be the first step in overcoming it.


Every beginner diving course will start in shallow water and at any point during the first part of your training you will be able to stand up and immediately your head will be out of the water. You will only start moving deeper, once you are comfortable to do so. It also helps to understand, that you can end the dive at any given point:

In recreational diving we follow ‘no-stop dive profiles’. This means that at any point during your dive, you could directly go up to the surface – as long as your ascent is controlled and done at a safe speed. Of course, we stick with the recommendation and never skip our safety stop (at 5m for 3 minutes), but it helps to understand that the stop is not mandatory (so you could miss it if you had to).

Jason Matthews, Master Divers Head Instructor

But what about the pressure under water? Maybe you tried to duck dive in a swimming pool before which made your ears hurt at the time and this makes you worried that you can’t equalize? Again, this a very common concern that we hear from new divers. While, of course you shouldn’t dive when you are congested (or sick or hung over – for that matter), the good news is that equalizing is actually a simple technique that you will learn quite easily. It takes a little bit of time in the beginning and some divers will always have to take it slow (or slower than others), but you will have plenty of time. At the end of the day you are carrying around more than 2,000l of fresh air in your scuba tank with you as opposed to only having that ‘one breath’ when you tried duck diving in the swimming pool.

The unfamiliarity of your scuba gear and equipment malfunction

One of the most important principles in recreational diving is that we never dive on our own, but always with a buddy! Not only is so much more fun to share all those great discoveries (who else is going to believe the story of that huge turtle you saw?) but also does diving in a buddy team add a tremendous amount of safety to your dive.

Dive equipment is continually improved by the manufacturers and new safety features are added to improve our equipment even more. We are now at a point where a (properly serviced!) set of scuba equipment should not fail during a dive – and even in the unlikely event it would, you still have your buddy (and their gear) as a backup.

Luckily our gear is a lot more advanced today than this uber-creepy diving suit designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo credit: Tama66/Public Domain.

If you’re following these principles, you should never have to worry about running out of air on your dive:

  • Buddy check – Complete your buddy check. Every. Single. Time. This way you’ll know where your buddy’s alternate air source is located and that they are diving with a full tank which is also fully turned on.
  • Air check – Regularly check how much air you have left and dive within an arm’s length reach of your buddy – you never know when you need each other’s help.
  • Air sharing ascent – If for whatever reason you run low on air under water, stay calm. Share air with your buddy and make sure to hold on to each other while you slowly ascend to the surface. Never continue a dive while breathing of each other’s alternate air source.

Of course you will learn all of this during your PADI Open Water Diver course. Your Instructor will teach you a lot of skills for the ‘worst case scenario’ and you will hardly ever have to use them during your fun dives afterwards. Mask removal & replacement (which is quite scary for many new divers) is a good example: There are not many reasons why you would have to remove your mask under water, but what if someone accidentally knocks it off your face? You could now safely swim towards your buddy and ask them to hold on to you while you put your mask back in place.

Mask removal & replacement practice with a diving instructor.

You get the idea: your buddy doesn’t just make your dive a lot more enjoyable, but also a LOT safer. Then again, never only rely on your diving buddy, but always trust your own feelings too: If for whatever reason you don’t want to dive it’s always ok to cancel a dive.

Being on a boat, the fear of peer pressure or looking like a fool – there are many other things that cause nervousness

You only signed up for a diving course, because your significant other really wanted you to? And now the whole idea of being out in the ocean and having to learn how to breathe under water makes you want to quit already? Being pressured into something that you don’t want to do in the first place, is never a good starting point, so let’s take a second and look at it rationally:

First of all, you should remember that the diving programs we teach are designed for complete beginners and you can (and should!) always ask questions to avoid any confusion. Remember, it’s always ok to cancel the dive and maybe try again another day… If you’re not quite sure yet if the 3.5 day PADI Open Water Diver course is right for you, you could also sign up for the PADI Discover Scuba Diving program to find out first if you actually like diving.

Don’t be afraid of imperfect performance or making a fool out of yourself – we’ve all been there at one point and our experienced Instructors will take you through the course step by step. You’ll quickly learn how to communicate under water and show your instructor when you don’t feel comfortable about something that’s happening at this stage.

Most importantly (and you’ll notice that we will repeat this like a mantra): Stop, breathe, think & act! Panic under water can be dangerous, but is hardly ever caused by a single incident. Usually a chain of many little things that happen will ultimately result in panic. For the majority of times, when we manage to remain calm and keep our breathing under control, panic (and the possibility of an accident) can be completely avoided.

The Gulf of Thailand is relatively sheltered and we’re blessed with calm conditions for the majority of the year and even in monsoon season we can usually find a protected bay. This means that if you learn how to dive on Koh Tao, you normally don’t have to worry about dealing with high waves or extremely strong currents. While you do need to be a safe swimmer of course, you don’t have to worry that you’ll have to be a strong swimmer in order to be able to learn how to dive.

Of course you don’t have to hold hands under water – but you totally can if that’s your thing…

Have you watched the movie where two divers get left behind in Open Water by their dive boat? While this is sadly based on true events, at the same time it’s a thing that is so easy to avoid: For example here at Master Divers, we perform a roll call for every person at the beginning of the trip and before the boat leaves the dive site which leaves absolutely no room for errors and makes it impossible to leave anyone behind.

But there are some other factors that make people nervous about being on a boat and these are just a few examples:

  • Sea sickness – This definitely shouldn’t hold you back from diving as there are many different solutions available from natural remedies to non-drowsy sea sickness tablets that you can find in your local pharmacy.
  • Being out in the sun – Our boats do have sun shades but there will be times when you’ll be out in the direct sun. Remember to put on some reef-friendly (!) sunscreen or invest in a rash vest with UV protection to keep your skin from burning.
  • Getting into your wetsuit – For a lot of people who are conscious about their body, this really can be a major stress factor. Wetsuits are a lot stretchier these days with different cuts for different body shapes and in the tropics you might even feel that leggings and a rash vest are sufficient for you. If you really can’t get into your suit, put a plastic bag over your hands & feet and the wetsuit will slide on with ease!
  • Knotted hair – If you are worried that your hair gets damaged by saltwater, apply some coconut oil to your hair before the dive and make sure to check out our blog post on our top tips for pre- and post-dive hair care.

Is there anything we missed? Please let us know in the comment section!

P.S.: We hope you found some good ideas in the post that will help you overcome your fear of Scuba Diving. If you need some more input, go and check out this inspirational talk:

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