Overcoming Pre Dive Nerves
Pre dive nerves can kick in for a variety of reasons, and almost all divers will be effected at some point over their diving career. Trainee divers who may be worried about their first time at depth, or a particular skill they must perform are most likely to be effected, but even really experienced divers may sometimes feel a bit uneasy about a dive. As an instructor I have regularly dealt with nervous students, but watching them develop into confident, competent divers is one of the most rewarding things about teaching scuba.
Here are a few of my top tips to help you overcome any pre dive nerves that you might have in the future:
Talk about your worries.
Personally I believe that this is the best way to sort out any pre dive nerves. Take some time before the dive to chat to your buddy or dive leader and get any issues out in the open. Most of the time our concerns feel much worse than they really are, and other divers in the group can help you overcome your fears. If you do not tell anyone then you can feel very alone, and are more likely to panic while on the dive.
Before any dive that I lead I will ask the group if they have any issues that they would like to raise. If a diver is nervous about anything but they still want to dive, I will either buddy them with myself, or with the next most qualified person in the group. 99% of the time they will be absolutely fine on the dive, and if they do have any troubles while underwater it is very reassuring to know that help is only an arm’s reach away.
Get help with your equipment.
One of the biggest worries new divers, or those who have not been underwater in a long time have is that they feel the equipment might fail whilst underwater. This could be because they do not understand how it works, or they might believe they did not set it up correctly. Although you should never ask someone else to set your equipment up for you, asking someone more qualified to watch you do it can reassure you that it has been done properly.
To a new diver, even using a BCD with a different inflator to what you are used to can create anxiety. If you are using equipment that feels alien to you, your dive leader can help run you through how to use it properly.
Do your pre dive safety checks.
Most equipment related issues occur underwater because the diver omitted the buddy check. They are an important safety check that should be done before every dive. This not only confirms that your equipment is all working and set up correctly, it also gives your buddy a chance to look at your configuration so in the event of any emergency they can help you out, and vice-versa.
Do a buoyancy check.
The idea of helplessly sinking to the bottom of the ocean can put fear into the heart of any diver. Many divers do a quick buoyancy check before a day’s diving to make sure that doesn’t happen. It only takes a minute to do, and it will actually help you become a better diver. If you are worried about being underweighted towards the end of the dive, ask your dive guide to carry an extra weight or two. Most dive guides are used to diving overweighed for this very reason.
Make sure you have enough gas.
Some divers never seem to use their gas in their cylinder, and some seem to drink though it like a milkshake. The fact is, someone is always going to reach low on air first, but if you breathe considerably faster than most other divers, you could be worried that you will ruin everyone else’s dive. And of course, that worry will further increase your air consumption. Many dive operators offer multiple cylinder sizes so those who need more air on a dive can carry more. 12 Litres is the standard size, but it is common to see cylinders ranging from 7 litres to 18 litres.
And the most important thing to remember…… You can always opt out of the dive.
Sometimes, no matter what we do, nerves still get the better of us. A good diver understands that having the right mental state is as important to diver safety as having the necessary equipment. If you still don’t feel right about the dive, then say you don’t want to go. It is your safety you need to think about, and it is only you who can make this decision.
Do not succumb to peer pressure, and likewise, never put pressure on another diver to dive. There will always be another chance to dive, and some alone time may help you reflect on what was troubling you.
A take home message.
Just by completing a couple of scuba courses does not mean that you have finished learning. Scuba diving is a life long journey, and we never truly stop learning. Over time you will conquer any fears that you may have, and you will be a better diver because of it. By being humble and accepting that although your fears may not be logical or real; they can still have very real consequences, you will become a role model for other divers, and you may find yourself helping out others in the not too distant future.
‘Overcoming Pre Dive Nerves’ was written by Mike
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I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.
After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.
With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!
PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician
Dream Dive Locations:
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia