SCUBA diving can be an intimidating sport for some people. There are many stories, anecdotes, and misinformed news articles about the sport. This is especially true it in age of social media in which some stories (true or not) can become viral. For many people it is an irrational fear of the wildlife under water, primarily sharks. For others it is as simple as a fear of water and being uncomfortable in water too deep to stand. For now, we (as long-experienced SCUBA professionals and LOVERS of the sport ourselves) will address and dispel some of these common myths.
Myth #1 – You have to be a great swimmer to be a SCUBA diver
It is an undeniable truth that the more comfortable you are in the water, the easier this sport is for you. It is also true that you must demonstrate you do not panic if you are in water too deep to stand. Can you at least swim in a circle in deep water? Can you keep your head above water for a few minutes? These are skills all SCUBA divers must have because the sport does involve going to water too deep to stand. You do not have to be an amazing swimmer. No tests are timed so that you must complete pool swimming laps in certain times. We just want to ensure you are able to remain calm and therefore be safe. You do NOT have to be an amazing swimmer to SCUBA.
If you know you are not comfortable in deep water, we highly recommend you go to a local dive shop or swimming instruction location and ask for a basic watermanship course. Just get to the point you are calm in deep water. Then, please come join us in the sport!
Myth #2 – SCUBA diving takes a long time to learn and it is difficult
This is completely false. In recent years SCUBA courses have become streamlined and have greatly cut down on the amount of time you must spend in the classroom. Years ago the process did take weeks with classroom lectures on weekends, some pool training, then the open water. Now you are able to take all the classroom theory on your own time online and complete all the tests online. All the instructors do is have you take a quick quiz to review that exam to make sure you remember important safety information.
Once you are done with your theory, you do pool work and open water dives. The pool work can be done in 1 or 2 days depending on your ability to safely master the skills. The open water dives take another 2 days (total of 4 dives is required). The pool work is essential and every single skill your instructor teaches you is critical to your safety. There are no shortcuts in this process as over the years the skills have refined to a specific set which nearly EVERY dive certification organization agrees are the basic skills. Nothing is superfluous or “just to make it hard on you.” We teach what you need to know to enjoy the sport and most importantly, be a safe diver. No instructor worth your time would ever haze you or make things difficult on you on purpose. Also, no instructor worth your time would let you skip skills or would not make sure you master every safety skill.
As for difficulty, in our careers as dive professionals we have certified people ranging in ages from 12 to their 70’s. The material is the same for all these age ranges: there is not a kid version of diving knowledge and there is not a more difficult version for adults. The material and knowledge is approachable and can be mastered by anyone willing to put in the effort.
Myth #3 – SCUBA diving is dangerous in itself or because of dangerous sharks
When we see this myth, most often it is because someone has a fear of the wildlife in the ocean and usually that is a fear of sharks or other predators. The truth is SCUBA is an extreme sport. As a human we need special gear and special training to go into an environment we are not naturally equipped to enter. Just like skiing, snowboarding, skydiving, or any other adventure sport we need equipment and training to enjoy the sport safely. When it comes to wildlife such as sharks, it is exceedingly rare that any predator attacks a SCUBA diver. In fact, most divers consider themselves LUCKY to see a shark in the wild (if the shark was not baited to come close). Sharks generally do not like SCUBA divers. We are loud (lots of bubbles), we are big, and we scare all their food away. They generally have no interest being near us because there is no food. Humans are generally about the same size as a shark that is found on a reef. Sharks do not want to pick a fight with anything, especially if that thing is as big as them. They just want to eat and that means something smaller than them.
Fear of the unknown is a real fear and we can empathize. However, remaining calm and reframing the fear as a chance to see a part of the planet most people never see except on TV is a really cool thing!
Myth #4 – SCUBA tanks are Oxygen tanks
False. This mistake is most often created by news reporters who don’t bother to fact check with an expert. Recreational SCUBA tanks (with no special training) contain AIR. That means they contain exactly the same stuff you are breathing right now which is about 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. So, it is hardly true a SCUBA tank contains entirely Oxygen when the air we breath now is barely one-fifth Oxygen.
The reason we address this myth is because this is an important safety point and not just us SCUBA-nerds being picky about terminology. The truth is that Oxygen can be toxic to humans under pressure. Recreational SCUBA divers can take a course to dive with “enriched air” or “Nitrox” which is usually 31% to 36% Oxygen and the rest is Nitrogen. Diving with enriched air requires a separate training class which is only a few hours of theory and lectures and, of course, a test. The reason you may be interested in this class is that enriched air diving can let you stay at certain depths longer because there is less Nitrogen built up in your system. However special training is required because more Oxygen can also mean other limits you need to be aware of and there are other advance courses such as TecRec Diving you can take to learn even more about to respect high concentrations of Oxygen while deep under water
Myth #5 – SCUBA diving is expensive
The cost to get your open water certification is similar to what you may spend on many other outdoor activities or sports. The cost for a SCUBA certification, including the pool sessions, is about the same as a weekend of fly-fishing, or rock climbing, or a camping trip with all the gear. Also, the SCUBA certification lasts a lifetime!
Myth #6 – SCUBA diving is only for younger people who in great shape
SCUBA diving does require a moderate amount of physical fitness, but it is not only for very fit or very young people. People of all ages and physical abilities can enjoy the sport with proper training and preparation. Even people who do not have use of their legs can enjoy SCUBA! We have instructed and certified people from 12 years old to over 80! Don’t let this myth keep you away from trying it out. It’s never too late!
Myth #7 – The only good diving is in the tropics
You can dive almost anywhere there is water. Inland locations with lakes, quarries, mines, caverns, and caves (with proper training!!!) are great locations for diving. Some of the worlds best diving is in cold water such as the continental divide in Iceland! Tropical diving is our business so we are biased, but both owners of Kiwidivers instructed together in Monterey, California where the water was quite cold compared to the tropics. Even in the cold water there was amazing diversity of marine life!
Myth #8 – You have to dive really deep to see anything interesting
Not true at all. Many reefs are between 12 and 18 meters (40 – 60 feet). One of the lessons you learn in your course is the deeper you go, the more of the color spectrum is absorbed by the water so the colors become a bit more muted the deeper you go. For me, personally, going super deep is not a goal when I dive. I love to see the fish and bright colors, which means I like to stay at this ideal depth. Some ship wrecks may be quite deep, but these are special cases and not the typical dive depth for a reef dive.
Myth #9 – You can’t SCUBA dive if you experience claustrophobia
While it is true that some people with claustrophobia may find the confined space of SCUBA equipment to be uncomfortable, it does not mean they cannot enjoy the sport. Wit proper training and preparation, many people with this condition have successfully learned to dive and enjoy the sport. The equipment such as masks and wetsuits can be fit properly to the individual’s needs and comforts. It is important that divers communicate their concerns with any dive professional when they get into the sport or if they are on the boat. Remaining silent about any concern is never good. All dive professionals will listen and work with you to determine how to help you.
Myth #10 – SCUBA is only for thrill seekers or extreme sports fanatics
Not true. While it is true you can have some amazing adventures SCUBA diving, these adventures are more akin to exploration and seeing things you’ve never seen before. SCUBA is noting like doing a triple backflip off your motocross motorcycle 13 meters in the air! Most SCUBA divers enjoy the serenity and slow pace and just love to watch the marine life. It is a peaceful sport!