10 Tips for the Nervous New Diver

Don’t you just… hate, those who take to scuba diving like fish to water? As much as I love scuba diving, I can get a serious case of the nerves before that first dip underwater. A couple of years into diving, and I still get a bit nervous.

Here are some tried-and-tested tips that helped me hella a lot to overcome those initial pesky nerves.

  1. No Caffeine!

Ditch. The. Morning. Coffee. Or tea. Whatever your caffeinated poison. This has single-handedly improved my diving the most.

On one of my dives, I realize for some reason my heart was beating particularly fast, which in turn was making me take in more breaths than usual. It was hard to relax underwater when you notice your air is running out so quickly.

When I resurfaced (earlier than then rest of my dive group), the first thing my dive guide asked was “What happened, are you ok?” And I looked at him perplexed and said very honestly, “I don’t know? I feel perfectly fine.”

It was only after some intense discussing about my weird air intake on the boat that I realize the only thing I did different that day was… I drank two cups of coffee before the dive. I woke up extra early that morning and I had time. So. Anyway, cut the caffeine.

My last dive trip, I completely skipped on the morning coffee and had the most relaxing dives ever.

  1. Communication is KEY

I’m a big advocate of the “fake it till you make it” adage, but this is one time I do not apply this. Right at the beginning of the dive, as we’re making the necessary intros and briefings, tell your dive master everything. No such thing as TMI here. I tell them how I’m feeling that day, how I fared in my past dives, how my buoyancy was – everything short of my childhood drama and boy problems. We leave that for after the dive.

There’s also no such thing as too many questions here.

  1. Lower Expectations

I always make it a point to lower my dive master’s expectations of my skills. Even though I’ve clocked about 30 dives by now, I would still tell my dive master that I’m only reaching 20 dives. This is to make it abundantly clear that I’m a total noob. And to take it really slow in the beginning.

You do three things here: 1. The dive guide will take it really slow in the beginning. No coral landings, no terrible currents, etc. 2. Your dive master will look out for you at the beginning of the dive, thus making you feel a little more assured. 3. When you realize you got this shit, your scuba confidence immediately goes up, and you start enjoying yourself.

  1. Talk to your dive buddy or boat mates about it

Guess what? Nerves are not unique.

And nothing negative has ever come out of telling people that you’re nervous because 1. they are also nervous, and then you will feel better that you’re not alone. 2. they will support and encourage and tell you “heyyy don’t worry it’ll be fun YEAAHH”. All divers are crazy cool and nice. Something about the scuba tank oxygen, I don’t know, I’m not a scientist.

Either way you’ll feel good.

  1. Practice Mouth-Breathing

On a more practical note… practice mouth-breathing.

When scuba diving, you breathe exclusively through the mouth. Breathing through the mouth is unnatural and very awkward. What I tend to do is breathe in through the mouth and exhale out my nose. This little annoyance would flood my mask and I kept having to clear it – not the most fun thing to do when you’re nervous.

What helped me a lot was to begin mouth-breathing while I was still on shore.

  1. Ignore all breathing advice.

One of the most annoying piece of “advice” I get was people telling me how to breathe. As a newbie and a nervous diver, I would then get so stuck in these instructions on how to best breathe underwater.

“Use your diaphragm”, “breathe in fully, pause, breathe out fully”, “inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds”… Forget all that.

The only breathing technique you need to master is: don’t stop breathing.

This seems obvious, but I’ve heard of a couple of new divers who hold their breath to conserve air. Also because sometimes they get instructions like “pause your breath” which actually does not mean holding your breath. It’s some confusing directions for the newly certified. Ignore. Your breathing will only get shallower. You will also get a splitting headache afterwards.

Listen, I’m not saying these are not sound. I’m just saying that these will only overwhelm you as a new diver. As you get better and more comfortable underwater, you’d realize that you’ll be able to control breathing easier. There’s also really not one set way to breathe underwater. Some people breathe better with diaphragms, others with lungs. You eventually figure out the way that’s best for you.

  1. Think SLOW.

Everything underwater is slowed down. Take that thinking above water before your dive.

I find that I’m the most cumbersome when I’m rushing to put on my fins, my BCD, my mask, because I feel like I’m slowing everyone down otherwise. No such thing. Your friends who are already in the water? They actually enjoy just bobbing still waiting for you. Highly probably they appreciate the time to pee while you get ready to join them. Trust.

Relax, slowly put on your gear, do the necessary checks, before jumping/rolling into the waters.

  1. Do a quick refresher.

You can arrange for a full refresher, but personally I found it equally helpful to practice with your divemaster before getting on the dive boat.

While trying on scuba suits and BCDs for example. Shoot a casual: “This is how I inflate and deflate the BCD right? How do I read how much air I have left again?”

And then you realize that yeah, you know all of this stuff. You are mentally equipped and prepared.

If you really don’t know though… I suggest taking up the refresher course.

  1. Remember that IT IS FUN.

Recall why you chose to learn diving in the first place. It is FUN.

My favourite thing about diving is how light you feel. It’s the closest feeling to flying that you can get. My friend loves spotting macro animals. My other friend loves staying still at a spot with a camera to capture an awesome shot of a pygmy seahorse. Another friend loves the idea of swimming close to sea turtles (ok this is me, turtles are bae.)

Remember WHY you’re diving in the first place.

  1. Finally, it’s ok to not go underwater

Remember that ultimately it’s all up to you whether you want to dive or not. If your nerves are too much, it’s perfectly ok to skip the dive.

Don’t be pressured by a schedule or a dive buddy. If you choose to not dive, your buddy will have the full attention of the dive master anyway, so all good.

I hope these tips help! Are you a nervous diver too? What helped you the most? 

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