Is It Normal To Have Fear When Diving?

Diving in South Africa, whether shark diving, wreck diving, or diving during the sardine run, you probably already know that our waters are not for the inexperienced.

So, would you say that it is normal to have some fear when diving? And if you find yourself sitting on the edge of a boat filled with anxiety, would you know how to overcome it?

Diving is one of the most exhilarating, fun experiences you are bound to ever have. But like with any new experience, there are sure to be more than a few jitters in those early days of your new hobby. But once you have overcome these fears, you will find pure enjoyment from each location, each sighting and each moment you spend beneath the waves. And while we talk about the excitement that diving offers, the one emotion that we don’t often touch on is fear.

Whether it is fear among those new to diving or fear based on diving in a new location, it would be wrong to dismiss any diver who mentions their fears, just as it would be wrong to dismiss your own fears.

The Different Types of Fears

When you first start diving, and the fear sets in, it can be reassuring to know that you are far from the first diver to experience this kind of anxiety. There are many different fears that you can expect when you first start diving, some of which include a fear of the wide open oceans, the power of the water surrounding you, not being able to clearly communicate with those around you, the fear of not being able to breath, a fear of the marine life such as sharks around you, and even the fear of the depths of the ocean.

While all of these fears are quite common and are quite commonly felt by the great majority of first-time divers, it is possible to have very specific fears which can feel very personal. One of the best things that you can do is have a chat about what you are feeling with those around you. It doesn’t have to be a deeply emotional chat or one that makes you feel vulnerable. A light-hearted talk can leave you with a lighter heart and a more prepared state of mind that will leave you more comfortable when diving.

Those who you dive alongside can actually make or break your entire experience. The best people to dive with are generally those who have some experience and who can alleviate your fears but it can also have the opposite influence on your fears. While in the company of other divers, keep in mind that they are still just people and there is no assurance that they will be kind or open to your fears.

One thing that might help to ease your fears is that all diving companies that we work with are utterly committed to safe diving practices. So while you may have certain fears, know that you will be diving with the best.

Fighting the Fear

When you overcome your fears, you will find that the diving experience is vastly improved and you can truly relax and enjoy every moment. The problem with divers who leave their fear uncontrolled is that eventually, the fear turns into complete panic, and there is no room for panic when you are submerged. A clear head is much needed and even if right now you are worried that you will never conquer your fears, know that even the most fearful of dives can become accomplished with the right mindset.

What you need to do is learn how to respond to your fears so that they don’t overwhelm.

There are a few things that you can do to overcome the fear, including:

  • Practising your breathing every day. When underwater you will be hearing every breath you take and it can leave you feeling weird and even unnerved. But after days spent practising your breathing, and allowing your breaths to come as naturally as possible, you will feel less spooked. Calm breathing makes for the best diving.
  • Find a diving buddy. Any diving is generally better experienced with a friend by your side. Having a diving buddy can help you feel less nervous.
  • Learn the basic hand signals. If communicating is your biggest worry, you should take the time to learn the right diving hand signals. Remember the most important ones and you will be just fine.
  • Rest up! Diving is actually a lot more physical work that you’d imagine, so it is all the more important to make sure that you have enough rest before you hit the water. You will be calmer for it once you start your dive.

If at first your dive doesn’t go the way you intended and your fears take over, know that you can always try again.

Dive the Big 5 is one of South Africa's oldest and best known diving companies.

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