Some people say that scuba diving is not for everyone.
Dangerous, expensive, so much to learn, you need to be trained, lots of equipment, you need to travel, why bother? Scuba diving is not a novelty sport but, unlike any other (recently introduced) extreme activities, has failed to become mainstream. It’s still elite, still niche and younger people don’t seem to take to it easily. As someone who’s been a diver for almost 20 years I wonder why, given how much I love it and how enjoyable the process to become a diver is...I'm talking about awesome days out in the sunshine, meeting lots of friendly people and a great sense of achievement.
I’m starting to think that what is stopping a lot of people from experiencing the ocean properly is not that they can’t be bothered with training, equipment or even the cost, it might actually just be a more general fear of water. Just the other day I found an article in the news that 1 in 5 adults in the UK can’t swim. Some never had the opportunity to learn, some had traumatic experiences in horrible pools with shouting teachers and some I guess grew up with a secret fear of water they never had the chance to overcome.
I had a work colleague once who told me he never even dipped his feat into the sea in fear that some fish would come and touch him. My best friend hardly wets her feet too because she got thrown into a pool as child and nearly drowned. My nephew until a while ago had a fear that Great White sharks could migrate and attack people in the Adriatic Sea in Italy. I even had an ex boyfriend who always feared water and died of secondary drowning trying to rescue someone...so tragic and not as rare as we might think. Then I have a diver friend whose first stage clogged up and she found herself at 28 m with no more air. She did the right thing, surfaced unharmed but put an end to her diving days. All of this is more common that we think and generally speaking water can be dangerous.
As divers, what would we say to friends & relatives who are afraid of water? Would we try and help them overcome their fear?
The first step would be to find a good pool with good trainers. Some of them are even trained to deal specifically with fear of water, not just to give swimming lessons. They would be able to help people overcome the fear of putting their faces in the water or taking their feet off the bottom and learn how to float. It's not a coincidence that these two exercises are part of any diving course and it's not a mystery that taking the mask off and putting it back on is possibly the most daunting task for a lot of people.
I came across a really good article on the Guardian newspaper by Jade Greene Petterson, one of these enlightened swimming trainers who deal with fear of water. She says that being a swimming trainer taught her so much about fear itself, that whilst "fear keep us safe it also prevents from moving forward". We have to trust the fact that water can hold us and let go. Interestingly Jane also talks about one of her new swimmers who by overcoming fear of water also overcame fear of dogs - just as an example of how conquering our fears can set us free to move forward and enjoy other experiences.
Maybe as divers we should all try and inspire a friend, a relative who's afraid of water to conquer their fears? Of course not everyone will take up diving, that would be too much to expect, it's unrealistic. Still to give in to fear and miss out on the awesome experience of the ocean is a rather sad prospect.
It would take a lot of determination and courage to overcome fear of water but it certainly would be worth the effort!
Enjoy water safely,