Who, What & Why Dive?
If you don’t dive yet, some of what you “know” about diving might actually be wrong. A lot of these “myths” are perpetuated in the media and movies, and you might be surprised at what is right and what myths are “busted!” Which one of these myths have you been believing all along?
MYTH: You have to be in top physical condition to dive.
TRUTH: Like any active sport, diving is more enjoyable if you’re physically fit. And you do need some basic swimming skills in order to learn. But it’s nothing extreme; if you’re comfortable in the deep end of a pool, can swim, and you can walk for several minutes without getting winded, you can probably learn to dive.
MYTH: Learning to dive/becoming a certified diver takes too long.
TRUTH: You can become a certified diver in a very short period of time, or you can take your time and learn at your own pace. Retail dive centers and instructors can be very flexible to fit your schedule, or you can sign up for a class that has set meeting dates and times. Times can be shortened by the diver by reading ahead or taking private instructor time for confined water or open water learning. You’ll be diving in less time than you think!
MYTH: Diving is complicated and difficult to learn.
TRUTH: Learning to dive is easy today. Professional diving instructors use all the learning materials and proven strategies to make it simple and fun to learn. Before you know it you’ll be breathing underwater and using all the cool “toys” that make diving easier than ever before to learn and participate regularly.
MYTH: I don’t have the time to learn to dive, or there’s not enough time for me to learn before I leave on my tropical vacation.
TRUTH: With some dive centers, if you can take enough time for a long weekend, you can become a certified diver. Thanks to the online training and learning you can do at home offered by many diver training organizations, you might be able to do your coursework online during lunch hours or coffee breaks. You’d be surprised at how little time it actually takes now to turn even a rank beginner into a competent, safe and capable scuba diver.
MYTH: I’m too old to learn.
TRUTH: We regularly hear about people diving, and learning to dive, well into their eighties. In fact one of the most active “groups” of divers is in the age range from 38 to 53. On the whole, this group dives more regularly, travels more to dive, and even takes more classes than most other “groups.”
MYTH: I have no one to dive with.
TRUTH: Diving is an exciting and unique experience that many people take up while on vacation or as a life-long activity. Finding buddies with which to dive is as easy as visiting your local dive retailer and signing up for one of their local or destination dive trips. You’ll probably have ready-to-dive buddies that you’ll meet during your scuba certification course. Chances are you’ll find that you have lots in common with these other divers, usually more than the diving experience itself!
MYTH: When you dive you are breathing pure oxygen.
TRUTH: Certified “open water divers” breathe the same air that we breathe on the surface. The air is filtered, the moisture is removed and the air is then compressed into a scuba tank for use by the diver. On television and in the movies, when you hear that the diver is grabbing his “oxygen tanks,” you’ll automatically know the movie dialog is way off base!
By the way, divers CAN easily be trained in the use of breathing gasses other than air, but this involves different training and equipment than you’ll have in your open water scuba course.
MYTH: When you dive you breathe differently than you do on land.
TRUTH: Breathing naturally while underwater is one of the most terrific sensations you’ll ever experience, and one of the first things you’ll learn in your certification course. You will find that about the only difference between breathing air on land and underwater is that you must breathe through the regulator in your mouth – and since today’s regulators are so well made that breathing is made very simple and natural, even this part is easy.
MYTH: Dives are usually between 50 and 200 feet deep.
TRUTH: The limit for most recreational dives is 100 feet of depth, but most dives are far shallower. With most of the light and most of the critters living in less than 50 feet of water, this is the best depth to see the majority of things you’ll want to see while underwater. Divers CAN be trained to go deeper in an advanced-level course, and many find this a rewarding experience once their initial certification experience is completed.
MYTH: It’s dark and murky underwater and difficult to see.
TRUTH: Most dives do not require a light since sunlight penetrates far deeper than the depth to which most divers go. Even when diving in very deep water, beyond 100 feet, divers can see quite well without any artificial light. Interestingly, colors are absorbed by the water, so while it may be very easy to see, most of the color begins to be absorbed beyond 30 to 50 feet of depth, rendering most everything blue.
Most divers do not dive in water with limited visibility unless they are looking for something special, like a lost wedding ring or an outboard motor from a neighbor’s boat. Some of these locations can give the diver the opportunity to see wrecks or find treasures, and with the proper training, limited visibility is not a significant diving obstacle. Diving in your local lake or quarry, as well as diving in the clear waters of Hawaii, can each provide their own brand of fun!
MYTH: The ocean is full of dangerous animals like sharks and barracudas.
TRUTH: Most divers actually consider a shark sighting to be a special and memorable occasion, since it is rare to see them. While such critters as sharks and barracudas should be respected and treated as wild animals, the vast majority subsist on a diet of things considerably smaller than a scuba diver. In fact, most sharks and barracuda are somewhat intimidated by divers; with our long fins and other equipment, we appear big to them … something they don’t want to mess with! Besides, it’s a myth that sharks are perpetually hungry or are always on the attack. It’s not uncommon at all for a shark to go two weeks without hunting, and in one documented case, a healthy shark did not eat for better than a year.
MYTH: It’s very cold underwater.
TRUTH: Many divers choose only to dive in warm water in Florida, the Caribbean, Hawaii or in the South Pacific, where water temperatures may soar to more than 80 degrees F (27 degrees C). But with the proper thermal protection a diver can do plenty of diving in cooler northern climates, exploring shipwrecks, clear lakes and many locations that might be off limits to an unprotected swimmer. Click here for more information about your options for exposure protection.
MYTH: You cannot see anything underwater if you normally wear contact lenses or corrective eye glasses.
TRUTH: Many divers use gas-permeable contact lenses when they dive allowing them to see quite normally. To prevent the accidental loss of contacts, (or for those who don’t normally use contact lenses) many divers use a mask with prescription lenses built right in. There are even high quality dive masks available from your local professional dive retailer with corrective “readers” built in for close-up viewing of tiny critters (or the settings on your digital underwater camera)!
MYTH: It’s expensive.
TRUTH: When you put it up against other leisure activities, such as owning a quality mountain bike, golfing, boating, or skiing, diving compares very favorably. And the more you dive, the more true that becomes. Dive gear, for instance, is very durable and can last for years and years; after a short while, the cost of your gear can work out to just a few pennies per dive.
MYTH: Diving is a very dangerous activity.
TRUTH: When done within the guidelines you’ll learn about in your open water certification course, diving has an extraordinary safety record. Diving is an exciting activity that combines all the thrills of exploration and adventure, with a safety record that compares favorably to sports such as bowling.
MYTH: I live too far inland, there’s no place to dive around here.
TRUTH: There are dive sites in every state in the United States – even the ones in the heart of the country. Not all diving is done in the ocean. Lakes, rivers, and even reclaimed quarries are all regularly used by divers as places where they can enjoy their sport and keep their skills up. Your professional dive retailer can help you find great locations to dive locally, and you could find yourself diving every weekend, or even during an extended lunch time!
MYTH: All that equipment is going to weigh me down and I won’t be able to get back to the surface.
TRUTH: Actually, scuba divers are usually dealing with the opposite issue – how to make the gear heavy enough to go comfortably underwater. Most divers need ballast, in the form of lead weights, in order to comfortably submerge and stay submerged. And if floatation is ever necessary, this weight is designed to be instantly droppable at the pull of a buckle or a release.
MYTH: I tried going underwater and I can’t, it hurts my ears.
TRUTH: Most likely you were experiencing discomfort because you hadn’t been taught how to equalize the pressure in your inner ear with that of the surrounding water (a procedure similar to making your ears “pop” on an airliner). This is a very easy-to-learn technique that will be taught early on in your open-water scuba course.
MYTH: I’m physically challenged, so diving is something I will never be able to do.
TRUTH: Many dive instructors are very proficient at teaching people with physical restrictions. It’s no longer unusual to see a person in a wheelchair boarding a dive boat. In fact, diving is so accessible a sport that it is sometimes used as a therapeutic activity for people who’ve lost limbs during their active duty in military service.
For those with physical challenges, any individual who can meet the performance requirements for the course can qualify for certification as a scuba diver. Check with your professional instructor or retail dive center for additional information if needed.
MYTH: I’m very petite, the dive gear will never fit me.
TRUTH: Dive gear is available now to fit individuals as small as pre-adolescent children. The piece of gear that smaller people view as a potential obstacle is the tank, but since people of smaller stature generally don’t consume as much air, they can comfortably dive with the smaller tanks that many dive centers have on hand.
MYTH: I have a medical condition that precludes diving.
TRUTH: While it’s true that there are some medical issues that are incompatible with scuba diving, the list is shorter that you might think. Ask your local dive center for a set of guidelines that you can take to your family doctor so he or she can evaluate your fitness for diving. You might find out that what you’ve believed all along isn’t actually the case.