Conquering your fears
There are millions of scuba divers out there. Everyone was a beginner once, and although some people are naturally more comfortable with doing “crazy” things than others, we’ve all faced the same challenges while going through the skills that are required to become a scuba diver.
The fast and the hesitant
I’ve had students fly through the course without blinking (figuratively speaking of course, try a mask clear without blinking 😉 ).
I’ve had students abort the course because they simply couldn’t overcome the fear of putting your life in the hands of a mechanical device in your mouth and a tank of air on your back.
I’ve had people wanting to do the scuba course without even being able to swim (of course that we don’t allow 😉 ).
I always tell my students that scuba diving is supposed to be a fun thing. It’s something you’re supposed to enjoy, because if you don’t, and you force yourself down with the constant fear of something going wrong, there is no fun in it.
I won’t lie. We are dealing with man-made, mechanical devices, that can fail. That can break. But we a have back-up, and a back-up for the back-up.
In the end most of the times we realize that it’s not the fear of equipment failure, but one of the most primordial instincts we have: we can’t, and aren’t, supposed to breathe under water.
Taking it slow
Getting used to equipment is as important, if not more important, than all those skills that we teach you.
Taking it slow with your students, and being patient with the tempo they progress in (because progressing they will, if they take that first step), is the basis of a successful course.
I’ve heard horror-stories about students being dragged down by their feet, because their instructor thought they were going too slow. I’ve heard horror-stories about students being taken on their first open water dive into a current that requires holding on to a line on the bottom for dear life and still having to do your skills there.
You want to ruin that first experience for a new diver? That’s how to do it.
Breathing under water
We just finished a course with two guests, of which one struggled greatly in the beginning.
It was exactly that fear of being under water and thinking that you can’t get enough air. I set him down in the shallow water with his head above the water and breathing from the regulator for as long as he needed. Then I had him slowly put his mouth and nose in the water, but his eyes still above the water (with mask, of course). For as long as he needed. And slowly but surely he overcame that fear, because he realized that there was enough air for him to breathe and because he got properly acquainted with and used to his equipment.
His road of progress was a fantastic thing to observe and it’s exactly why I became a dive instructor. PADI has a couple of really cheesy slogans: “turn anticipation into passion”, “turn fear into courage”, “turn faintheartedness into accomplishment”, “turn timidity into confidence”… But when you actually SEE this happening, when you’re part of basically changing someone’s life (because that’s what scuba diving does, I think), it’s one of the best experiences you can have as an instructor.
This guy went from “I’m not sure if I can do this” to “I don’t want to go home yet, I want to dive some more!”. During the open water dives of the course we could see already a massive improvement in how he handled himself in the water, and in the fun dives after the course he went from apprehensive in the water to a comfortability level you wouldn’t have believed had you seen him during the first confined water sessions.
He didn’t give up. He told himself that it was something he could do, would do, and he did. He conquered his fear.
The importance of a good buddy
But let’s not forget his dive buddy. His dive buddy had no such problems. He was one of those naturals.
But one of the most important things with dive buddies is that you realize that your buddy may not be as fast as you in picking up things, and accept this. And to allow your buddy the time needed to get accustomed without feeling pressured. He was absolutely great with that. He gave his buddy -and me- all the time needed, and was patient with the tempo we progressed in. Not once did he show any frustration or nuisance with the pace in which we continued the course, and that makes him a great dive buddy to have.
Consideration and patience are the things that keep you safe underwater.
With him we continued straight on with the Advanced course after the Open Water course was finished, and also that went super smooth.
And also he didn’t really want to leave, yet.
There is still too much diving to do.
And there’s too little time!