The scuba diving community is one of the most communicative, constantly sharing information that may help others, however, scuba diving myths seem to haunt every diver. As a scuba dive center ourselves, you can’t imagine the number of doubts and questions we get day in and day out. Some of them make sense, while others not so much. We gathered our top eight scuba diving myths to fact check and debunk.
Why are there so many scuba diving myths?
Recreational scuba diving has been going on for a while now, but there are ancient misconceptions still rolling around. This is probably because diving, and the ocean in general, have been somewhat sensationalized in movies (thanks Hollywood!) leading to some erroneous beliefs regarding this sport. Many people know about scuba diving, but this doesn’t mean they actually know about scuba diving. Then add to that the fact that scuba diving is not exactly the easiest sport and you’ve got yourself some “Perfect Storm” level of misinformation leading to countless myths; some make sense others not so much, but in this article, we’ll review eight of the top myths around scuba diving.
Check out our previous scuba diving myths article where we busted misconceptions about gear, snorkeling…and sharks. You can read it here.
Myth #1: the best dive sites are exclusively in the tropics
Scuba diving has been made ever so popular thanks to the stunning underwater landscapes featured in Hollywood flicks and wildlife documentaries, most of which take place in tropical locations. There is some truth to this myth in the sense that there are some AMAZING dive spots splattered all across the tropics, like the Bahamas, Egypt, and Cozumel; it also makes sense when you stop and think that the hotter the weather, the more you crave a refreshing plunge.
However, the notion that there’s no point in diving anywhere else is just ridiculous. No matter where you are, chances are there’s a popular dive site somewhere nearby. Let’s take ice diving off the Arctic Circle, for instance; not your typical diving spot AT ALL, yet it is becoming increasingly popular thanks to its beauty. You can even have some incredible dives out of the ocean, like cavern diving in a cenote. Not every dive site is for every diver, but that’s the beauty of scuba diving.
Myth #2: Divers use oxygen tanks when diving
Often the term “oxygen tanks” is used when non-divers (and even qualified divers) refer to the cylinders we all carry on our backs. Most cylinders, however, contain ordinary surface air, which is just 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen.
At about 8-10 meters, pure oxygen becomes toxic, so diving on oxygen would imply you can only do very shallow dives or risking your safety. Some divers use Nitrox, an enriched type of air, where extra oxygen is added to the mix, but even these rarely exceed 40 percent oxygen.
Myth #3: Only top-performing swimmers can become good divers
This myth is most likely fueled by the fact that there is a basic swim test at the start of scuba lessons, namely swim about 200 yards nonstop. It’s worth mentioning that there’s no time limit for this test and the diver may use any stroke he/she is comfortable with. The goal of this test is to let your instructor know that you have basic water skills and are comfortable submerging your face in the water. That’s it.
Sure, ultra-fit, competitive swimmers make great divers; after all, diving is an active sport and the better shape you’re in, the easier it will be, but any healthy individual with at least an average fitness level can do it. Try to stay healthy and maintain at least an average fitness level to get the most of scuba.
Myth #4: You have to dive very deep to see anything interesting
Let’s cut to the chase here: this is simply not true.
You can find some awesome wrecks at a respectable depth, but research has actually proven that around 90% of marine life is found in shallow water near coastlines. Moreover, even very experienced divers admit that their best dives were at about 35-50 feet (10-15 meters) deep. In fact, one of Cancun’s top attractions, the Underwater Museum of Art, lies just 28 feet (9 meters) deep.
So if you want to enjoy the beauty of vibrant reefs and colorful shoals of fish, there is no need to descend into the abysmal depths. Sure, some divers like the adrenaline of pushing the limits seeking to go further with every dive, but that´s an entirely different thing and an actual sport in itself.
Myth #5: Diving will make my ears hurt
This one’s true — but only if you don’t equalize the pressure in your ears as you descend. That’s one of the first things they teach you to do in scuba lessons. The most commonly used equalization technique is the Valsalva maneuver (pinch your nose and blow gently against your nostrils until you feel a pop in your ears). However, most people have trouble doing this maneuver effectively. If this is your case, don’t despair! There are more equalizing techniques and tips you can try.
Myth #6: Only the rich are able to become certified divers
This is one of the saddest misconceptions out there because it prevents a lot of people from even trying out scuba diving. Of course, this is not a cheap sport but it not as unattainable as some people believe. Let’s do a quick comparison: check the price for a decent dinner, movie tickets for two, throw in some popcorn, after-movie coffees and you’ll drop $100 — easily — assuming, of course, there was no drive-through involved in ordering dinner. So, how does that compare to scuba?
The cost of a scuba certification would equal to a few of those dinner-and-a-movie dates. For example, Aquaworld’s Open Water certification (PADI or SDI) runs at about $480; sounds hefty at first, but when you put it in the great scope of things it’s not that much. In return, you get an all-access pass to a world of aquatic adventure, not to mention a great new lifestyle you can brag about at the office. Go on: Compare the cost of scuba lessons to almost anything and you’ll see it’s a bargain.
Myth #7: Your guide/instructor/buddy is responsible for your safety
While it is true, that you and your dive buddy or guide are supposed to help each other and look out for each other, subsequently, you are the one responsible for your own safety. It is important for you to be a self-sufficient, skilled and sensible diver.
It’s amazing how often divers follow their guides or more experienced companions without even asking where they are going or how long they plan to stay. Before going into the water, make sure you have done proper dive planning, discussed it with your buddy and know your dive objective, time, emergency procedures, etc.
Once again, in most cases your fellow divers, guides and boat crew will do everything to keep all divers out of danger and comfortable, however, the ultimate responsibility for your own safety is on you.
Myth #8: It’s time-consuming
Many people assume that learning something skilled like diving takes a long time. This myth can definitely be debunked because the diving part of a PADI Open Water Dive Course takes as little as 3 days!
The majority of your course work can now be done online at your own pace so your theory is almost all out of the way before you even do the practical work. You could be diving in just a few days!