You had been saving up for it for many months, have upgraded your gear, may have travelled overseas, and finally made it to the dive site you’ve been dreaming of.
Yet, with the big wide ocean now in front of you, and your dive buddies all excited and gearing up next to you on the boat, all of a sudden you start feeling funny. Butterflies in your stomach? Sweaty hands? Having a little difficulty breathing, perhaps? You’re not alone. Many divers experience this once in a while, from beginners to old-timers — especially those who haven’t gone underwater for a long time. So you wonder how others deal with pre-dive jitters and still manage to enjoy a great dive.
One can easily recognize a diver who is uncomfortable or nervous before a dive:
A friendly or sociable person suddenly becomes withdrawn;
One who’s quiet becomes too talkative;
Somebody normally upbeat and enthusiastic becomes negative about the dive;
One who’s relaxed and easygoing stiffens up and starts to turn pale; and
The person keeps going to the loo too often.
These are just some of the outward indications of pre-dive jitters. But much of the problem lies internally, within the person’s mind. He or she may have had problems in the past that he hasn’t overcome yet. Mishaps like getting entangled, getting lost or trapped while doing a wreck penetration, getting separated from one’s buddy and going out of air, being swept by a strong current or being hit by a boat, perhaps. Others may have had traumatic experiences outside of diving – such as drowning while on a regular swimming trip.
What can we do to reduce the pre-dive nerves, and get the most amount of joy and satisfaction from each plunge?
Keep your mind focused on the joy of diving and not on any possible problem. Most fears are psychological in nature – drowning or being eaten by a shark tops the list. To prepare yourself mentally, it would help to do these things:
Watch underwater videos like those of the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery. Try to recall and think about the positive underwater experiences you yourself have had in the past. By keeping your mind focused on the good things, you won’t be dwelling on the roughness of the sea in front of you or whatever dangers you perceive to be lurking in the water. If you’re feeling some shortness of breath, take a deep breath and just imagine all the good stuff you will be seeing during the dive.
Before the trip, read about the exciting marine life or wreck you will be exploring. During the trip itself, talk to your guide, the boat crew or any of the locals who live, swim, sail and dive in the area. Find out as much as you can about the terrain. Knowledge is power, and with power comes much confidence.
Share some of your apprehensions with other — more experienced — divers. They can give you tips on how they’ve overcome their own fears, reassure you about the concerns you have, and even quell any unfounded fears.
Buoyancy is crucial. Most divers are over weighted. You need to make sure you are neutrally buoyant at the surface. That means your weights are enough to make you float at eye level with an empty tank and no air in your BC and drysuit. Doing so will allow you to move comfortably underwater, consume less air and, most of all, you will be certain of your equipment’s ability to keep you afloat.
Make sure your regulator is properly serviced — it will give you the added assurance that your gear will always function properly during the dive.
Above all else, be excited! You have been waiting for this for a long time, so relax and just DIVE!