Whether you are a seasoned diver or just starting out, we're sure you've heard some myths about diving. People exploding, being eaten by sharks, general horror stories about drowning, running out of air, etc. We've heard most of them as well. We asked our very own scuba diving instructors about common scuba diving myths they've heard and given in-depth answers below.
Ok, let's talk about sharks. This is the most common fear people have about diving. Let us assure you that sharks are not interested in us. We are not part of their diet, and to be honest, we don’t taste good to them (the iron & copper in our blood is repulsive to sharks). When we dive, we are not diving in their hunting territories, and we don’t dive where they do feed. We are very loud most of the time (breathing and bubbles), we are larger than you think with tanks & fins (about a foot taller with fins on), and we smell bad (nature calls you know). The only time ANY of us have ever seen a shark take interest in a diver is if they have food or they are antagonizing the shark (see Darwin's law). They are magnificent creatures that really want to expend as little energy as possible. Movies & TV show give them a bad rap. The first time you ever swim with a shark (we dive with them quite often off the NC coast), you'll be awestruck.
I'm afraid of the ocean
That's awesome... because if you didn't have a little we'd have doubts you've ever been in one. It's large, there's no road signs and pretty much every organism there has evolved to thrive in that environment.. and we are just visiting. Every dive shop has knowledge of the local conditions, the recommended experience level a diver needs for particular locations, and the diver has certification ratings that keep them, generally, out of trouble. Most divers, especially new divers, go out with a dive operation, instructor or dive master who briefs them on the location, the dive plan & any particulars to keep in mind. Essentially, the entire process is designed to give you all the tools to have a safe & enjoyable dive. Every diver I've gone in to the Ocean with has come back not with fear, but a healthy respect of the ocean and wanting to know when they can go back.
Won't I get the bends?
Ahh.. the bends. Known to divers as DCI/DCS (Decompression Illness/Sickness), the bends are a very serious complication where usually a whole heck of a lot had to go wrong to even be a concern. DCS is usually caused by a rapid ascent from depth after you've been down for a while. Without going into the technical details, when you're underwater the pressure is greater than when on the surface. As our lungs work by volume, it means each breth you take you're breathing in MORE air at depth then you would at the surface (twice as much air @ 33" than at the surface). The effect of this is Nitrogen is absorbed into our tissues and blood. Divers are trained to make slow, controlled ascents from depth so this excess Nitrogen has a chance to safely leave our tissues and be exhaled. When you ascend too quickly, the Nitrogen leaves your tissues and forms bubbles in your blood. It's not pleasant. In most cases divers ascend on lines so you not only have your buoyancy control device (BCD), you can always grab the line as well. Furthermore, your dive computer (or written dive tables if you are hardcore) tell you the allowable "bottom time" you can have at a particular depth. Divers are trained to not exceed those limits which lowers the chances of getting the bends even further. So while there is always a chance, tens of thousands of dives happen every day with no complications. I always equate it to getting into a wreck while driving. If you are a safe, conscious driver, you're chances of getting into an accident are very, very low.
Scuba is known as the “lazy person’s sport”. The gear is heavy, but once you get into the water, you become weightless and the gear almost disappears. In fact, the less you move in diving, the better diver you tend to be. The training is designed to be straightforward and the skills needed to dive are explained and demonstrated by your instructor right before you attempt it. Certified scuba instructors are exhaustively trained to not only show you how to perform the skill properly, but how to catch mistakes and make corrections.
I need to be able to hold my breath a long time
The #1 rule in scuba diving is never hold your breath – always keep breathing! We have more than ample supply of air with us, we learn to breathe normally when we go on dives. No breath holds necessary! Breath holding does not conserve gas, it makes us breathe even faster with our body trying to purge the built up carbon dioxide. So no, we don't hold our breaths. In fact, spending an extended amount of time focusing on your breathing is very similar to yoga.
I have to be a great swimmer
No you do not. You do, however, have to be able to swim and float and meet the minimum requirements of your certification. It does not have to be pretty, but you are required to float for 10-15 minutes (or tread water), and swim continuously for 200 – 300 meters/yards, without stopping, but with no time limit or required swim style. These tests aren't about your swimming prowess, but about your comfort in the water.
I'm too old
There is no upper age limit to be able to scuba dive. Every diver must fill out a medical questionnaire, and if there are any concerns their doctor should be able to indicate if a person is fit to dive. We often see divers in their late 70’s – 90’s still diving with the best of us! Don’t let age hold you back; it’s never too late to get started!
I'm not in good shape
Diving is a sport, but it's not an extreme one. Yes, the gear is heavy (usually 40-50lbs) but you generally only need to walk a short distance before you can kiss gravity goodbye for a while. We do recommend being in having good physical fitness but, if I'm being honest, you don't see a lot of people at the peak of their physical prowess on a dive boat. The medical questionnaire covers a lot of different areas but, if you are still concerned, pay a visit to your doctor to get checked out before starting scuba lessons.
I don't live near the ocean
Ocean diving is amazing, won't even try to say otherwise. However, there are lots of options in-shore such as local quarries, rivers, and lakes. There are people who dive abandoned missile silos, flooded mine shafts and pretty much any other water filled area. Please note, diving in enclosed spaces or in man made structures requires a LOT of training to do safely. So while diving an abandoned missile silo sounds awesome, be sure to seek out your LDS (Local Dive Shop) to find options near you and get the required prerequisite training!
Did we miss one? Give us a shout if you have a myth you've heard and would like us to write about it.
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