Are you nervous about scuba diving? Ask yourself, what about the experience gives you these feelings? Is it being underwater? The feeling of the gear? Low visibility and getting lost? A certain amount of worry is healthy. It’s what motivates us to be mindful of our gear, and what we need to prioritize before and during our dive.

Divers get ready to jump in off the gorgeous coast of Big Island, Hawaii with Kona Honu Divers

In scouts their motto is to “be prepared.” This is important because it can help you feel ready to take control of your nervousness about scuba diving.

About the Author

I’m Byron Kay, owner of Kona Honu Divers in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. I’ve been breath hold diving since I was 1 year old and scuba diving since I was 18. Yet I still know what it’s like to be nervous about scuba diving having done plenty of deep, dark, high-current, shark and low-visibility dives. I am a freediving, and scuba instructor since 2006. I have seen many divers go through courses and go diving from shore and off boats. I’ve been through some interesting circumstances myself and witnessed it in others. Here’s how I can help.

How to Tackle Nervousness About Scuba Diving

Recognize the Source

What is it exactly that is causing the source of your anxiety? Let’s try to identify the cause so we can better understand why we are nervous about scuba diving.

Reasons People are Nervous about Scuba Diving

Underwater Discomfort

Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve been submerged. Maybe you grew up without swimming skills and learned later in life. Whatever the reason you’re uncomfortable, make sure you recognize that. It’s okay. It’s natural. So many people feel the same way! If you’re aware of it you can better manage it. Most people who struggle with this get through these issues just fine.

Now that you are aware of your discomfort, let’s dig in. Has it been a while since you’ve had a chance to dive or get underwater? Is there a dive shop nearby where you can book a pool refresher? This is a great way to get reacquainted with being underwater while also remembering all of the odd gear strapped to your body and in your mouth.

Did you have a bad experience in the water or are you just not feeling confident in your abilities? Either way, practice makes perfect, and when you have a good time in the water you will see that it is fun and you will gain more confidence!

If you’ve already booked a dive and feel like you might still be apprehensive when you arrive, let your dive guide know! They are trained to help you, and they can make sure you feel safe and confident in the water. See the seek help section below.

Mask Discomfort

Are you freaked out by wearing a dive mask? Try wearing a mask on land (defog it first) and practice breathing through your mouth. Do it while watching TV to distract you and soon you’ll be used to it. Start by doing it for just a few minutes and build from there until it feels normal.

A clear mask is better if you feel claustrophobic. Try a mask like this one (for wider faces) or this one for most faces as they have side panels which make the mask feel more expansive with peripheral vision.

Lack of Control

Some people like to be in control of their situations and environments. Most people don’t like the feeling of being unable to control what’s happening to them. It’s a safety thing. Humans naturally like to feel safe. What’s wrong with that?

The underwater world is certainly different from what we experience on a daily basis. The longer it’s been since we’ve used our aquatic abilities the less confident we feel with them. This is where getting a refresher can make a big difference. Feeling in control of your gear, and your skills, will help make a much more comfortable experience.

Like riding a bike, skiing, or lots of other things diving skills will come back to you. but if it’s been more than 5 years, it’s time to get reacquainted with diving before going for it.

Equipment Issues

Sometimes we forget how our equipment works. This could be a simple matter of how to set up your gear or how to use it once it’s put together. This is where reviewing your eLearning will help. YouTube is also filled with lots of educational videos on dive gear setup! If you’re already on the boat and blanking on how your gear should be put together, you can always ask your friendly crew or divemaster to re-explain things for you. It won’t take long.

The important part here is to seek help. If you do that you can get educated and this will be good for everyone. It’s okay not to know. Don’t let a little thing like gear ruin your diving experience. Never be afraid to ask your dive staff any questions!

Education Issues

You may have taken a dive course and gotten certified but that doesn’t mean you feel good about what’s ahead of you. Whatever the reason that’s okay. If it’s simply been a while get a refresher. Things change, like safety standards, gear upgrades, and other standards change. A refresher will get you back on track.

Buddy Issues

There are two main types of buddy issues that can lead to us feeling nervous about scuba diving. The first one is someone who you don’t feel confident diving with and the second is someone that is not helpful about your nervousness and makes you feel bad about it.

Bad Buddy Type 1

If your buddy lacks skill or abandons you underwater they aren’t good buddies, are they? Before this happens, have a discussion with them about why you’re nervous before gearing up for your next scuba dive. If they lack skill you can tell them that you are not a confident diver and you’d prefer to be buddied up with someone that is much more experienced. This is a good opportunity to dive with a reputable operator that can provide a divemaster. You and your buddy can dive together, still share a dive experience, but with the overlooking eyes and experience of a divemaster that will make sure you are safe, having fun, and seeing cool critters underwater!

Bad Buddy Type 2

This might be a spouse who doesn’t want to recognize that their partner has a problem, or isn’t interested in the first place. They assume everything will be fine (it often is) but doesn’t recognize the damage they are doing by trying to force their partner into diving when they don’t feel good about it.

The problem with this type of scenario is all the diver needs is some emotional and technical support. It’s simply a matter of having a conversation and keeping in mind that diving is optional. It doesn’t HAVE to happen. If they get their spouse to dive at the detriment of their relationship is it really worth it? DIVING SHOULD BE FUN! You are always allowed to sit a dive out. No one should ever berate you for that. You could just be having “ear issues”, right? No one knows if your ears are equalizing, or not, but you! Dive professionals will not force you to continue diving, ever, if you’re not having fun, and a buddy shouldn’t either!

Seek Help

Now that we know what makes us nervous we are ready to tackle it to the ground and take control of our body and our emotions. Remember, it’s normal and okay to be nervous. It happens to almost every diver from time to time. Being nervous is not the factor it’s how we deal with it that truly matters.

Tell Your Buddy

Before you go diving is the best time to reach out. depending on what makes you nervous you’ll probably want to seek out a different kind of help. If you aren’t already out on a dive trip you’ll want to let your partner or dive buddy know you’re nervous. If you don’t tell them they won’t be prepared for some of the things that may come up on the day of the dive when it really matters.

If your buddy is aware of your anxiety they can help you through it if they are a good buddy. If not, find another one! On the day of you can ask around and see if there’s another diver who can buddy up with you. Try to find someone with a similar experience level if possible. Let them know you are nervous.

Get a Refresher

If you have time before your dive trip book a refresher with your local dive shop. This is a great way to get comfortable while an instructor is nearby to help. Since you will be in a controlled environment with an instructor whose job is to ensure you’re safety you will be free to focus your worries on feeling comfy diving.

2 divers sit on the bottom of the ocean in clear water with reef and fish in the background
A diver goes through some of the skills needed to be a confident open water diver.

Brush Up

Is your nervousness about diving due to not having been in the water for a while? If it’s been longer than 2 years since you’ve dove we and DAN recommend you get a refresher. Has it been longer than 5 years? Time to get a re-activate. 10 years? You’ll need to take the open water diver course again which only takes 3 days to complete.

If you’ve been diving within the last 2 years it never hurts to go over what you learned in class. Get out your old manual or e-learning materials and go over a few things. Here’s what’s good to focus on.

  • Buddy Check (BWRAF)
  • Hand Signals
  • Diving best practices
  • Setting up your dive gear
  • Neutral buoyancy practice and techniques (using your BCD and lungs underwater)

Get Educated

Are you nervous about the depth or lack of visibility? This is fine and you can get some training to help you overcome your anxiety by giving you the knowledge and building your confidence. Deeper dives are much like shallower dives only shorter. Take a deep diver specialty course in beautiful clear warm Kona waters and you’ll learn all you need to know to do a deeper dive with ease.

Are you fearful of the night or low visibility? The Advanced Open Water diver course covers these aspects of diving. Some of the best dives in the world are only available at night. Our world famous manta ray night dive is only available at night and it’s crazy popular!

Dive with Confidence

Now that we’ve covered all of the potential reasons we might feel nervous before scuba diving we can confidently overcome them with a proactive attitude. Take control of your diving to overcome nervousness and enjoy the experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it common to be nervous before scuba diving?

Yes. Many divers suffer from anxiety or fear about going diving. That’s okay. Don’t try to mask it, and don’t run away from it. Get control back. You are probably not the only person on the boat that is nervous!

How to not be nervous scuba diving in low visibility

Visibility can change from day to day and even moment to moment. It’s possible to lose visibility very quickly in a confined space when divers kick up the substrate underneath with improper kicking technique. The best way to overcome anxiety or nervousness about diving in low visibility is to be prepared!

Imagine being in a room when someone turns out the lights. Is that a problem? We can overcome it with a bit of resourcefulness.

  1. Don’t panic! Panicking will only make the situation worse. You will be fine. Just think about these next steps.
  2. Where are you? Remember where you are and where you want to be. We must use our immediate surroundings to help navigate. Do you recognize any of the nearby features? Sloped ground can help. If you truly get lost there’s always the surface to go to.
  3. If there’s current you can use that to know which way to go. Also, a compass can be a huge help. If you know which way is north or which general direction the shore or boat is you can swim that way. Use the compass to ensure you’re swimming in a straight line in one direction.
  4. If you lost your buddy make some noise. They might know where you are and help you navigate. We like rattlers like this one.

If you aren’t Advanced certified already, take an advanced certification course with us at Kona Honu Divers! You will learn better buoyancy and calming techniques, navigation and night diving. This will help you move about a dive site regardless of visibility, with a new set of skills to boost your confidence!