Maybe it was your best friend, your girlfriend, your soon-to-be ex-husband or your mom who warned you about the dangers of scuba diving, filling your head with a variety of “facts.” The media also likes to hype events, turning every rare event into fodder for the morning talk shows.
TRUTH: It is very uncommon for divers to see sharks, especially the types of sharks considered more aggressive (bull, great white and tiger). Sharks and stingrays usually take off when they see divers, not wanting to be near the strange bubbles and sounds. Barracudas are curious about divers but have no interest in getting too close, and eels hide in their holes – just don’t wave your hand in front of them!
Shark attacks are extremely rare, even rarer for divers (who usually dive in clear conditions) than for swimmers and surfers who are splashing in murky water. You’re far more likely to be hit by lightning or killed in a car wreck on your way to your dive than be attacked by a shark while diving.
TRUTH: Modern scuba instruction has made learning to dive relatively simple and enjoyable, unlike the more rigid military-based instruction of years ago. Learn at your own pace with a private instructor or take classes at a dive center. Once you develop your knowledge (online or in class) and get comfortable with your gear in a pool, you only need four supervised dives in open water (a lake or ocean) to earn the first level of certification.
TRUTH: You obviously need to know how to swim and feel comfortable in deep water, but you don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer to dive. Like any physical activity, you also need to be in reasonably fit shape, able to walk for several minutes without getting winded. Even people with physical disabilities have learned to dive.
TRUTH: While it can feel a little intimidating for some at first, most people get used to being underwater quickly once they see how many fascinating things there are to see! And some of the best dives are in water less than 40’- 50’ deep because we can still see most colors. After about 50’, anything colored red, orange or yellow tends to look gray because the water absorbs the color waves. In addition, an enormous variety of plants and animals need light to survive, so they live in shallower water.
TRUTH: Just like flying, you do have to equalize the pressure inside your ears or they will hurt. You’ll learn how to safely and quickly equalize that pressure during your dive instruction.
TRUTH: Diving has a very high safety record, especially as instruction, dive operations and equipment have improved. More often than not, when things do go wrong underwater, it’s not one thing – it’s usually a series of events that if handled differently, could have reduced the severity of the outcome.
Practice and experience go a long way to preventing accidents. Poor health and procedural errors such as failing to monitor air supply, making rapid ascents, or failing to check equipment thoroughly account for the majority of diving injuries and fatalities.
In summary, like many exhilarating and physical activities, diving has risks, but most of those risks can be minimized by common sense and preparation. Compared to many sports, diving has a pretty solid safety record!
Did you believe something about diving and later find out it wasn’t true? Let us know in the comments section!