Updated: Aug 12, 2022
When you start to think about it the ocean is terrifying. It is deep, dark, and undiscovered. I would say some of the things that scare me the most about the ocean are also the things that I love the most about it. I think that because of the stories I share and the job I have some people assume that I am never scared when I am in the ocean. That absolutely isn’t true. There are still times I find the ocean pretty freaky but whenever I have decided to face those fears often the reward is so worth that little bit of fear.
Growing up I always loved the ocean but I definitely wasn’t the bravest kid in the world. Whenever I think about how much of a chicken I was I laugh a little bit. For the longest time I wouldn’t go any more than knee deep without my dad by my side. As I got older my dad was replaced by siblings and friends but I would hardly ever get in the ocean alone. To be clear I grew up in Florida, and with the exception of maybe a few beaches, the majority of the ocean water I grew up in was murky as hell. I swear you were lucky if you could see more than five feet below you. To this day bad vis is still one of the things that spooks me the most and really discourages me from enjoying a dive. However, this fear I had of the ocean as a young kid was only because of a misunderstanding of what might come lurking out of the depths.
The unknown was what scared me the most and as an adult I’ve found that to be one of the things I enjoy most about the ocean.
I think the unknown is what brings a lot of fear in diving. I have found that the more I learn or understand something the more I feel comfortable experiencing it. When I first came to Oahu I had a small understanding of freediving but I had never done any sort of cave or swim through diving. I hadn’t ever had the opportunity to try it and had only ever heard horrible things about divers blacking out in caves and never returning to the surface. I think that is the trouble with a lot of “scary” things. A lot of fear, at least for me, came from hearing an overwhelming number of horror stories about when everything went wrong. I doubt I would’ve been anywhere as nervous had I not heard about people’s negative experiences. I will never forget the first time I went to go dive with a bunch of people I had just met and we were about to enter the water through a cave. As the waves rushed in and out I stood there, trying to look chill on the outside, freaking out on the inside because I was scared. Peer pressure is bad, but in this case I let it get the best of me and turns out it was for the best. Now I dive that spot all the time and I love swimming through the caves and lava tubes. (Video up on YouTube if you want to see.) If I had given into the fear or nervousness I felt about diving caves I would’ve missed out some of the great dive experiences.
I felt the same way about night diving that I did about cave diving except times a million. One of my irrational fears is the dark. I know that most people don’t see well at night, duh, but I feel really blind in the dark. Not sure if I am over-exaggerating but I swear my night vision is worst than the average person. Anyway, night diving has always scared the crap out of me. Prior to this year I had done a night dive back at home in Florida, but we were in a spring, which is basically a fancy lake, and something about that made it way less scary. Maybe it was because there are no spooky animals to creep up on you or maybe just because it was an enclosed body of water. Either way it was fine, definitely freezing, but fine. Recently I decided to go on my first nighttime ocean freedive. The fact that there were a lot of us definitely eased some of my nerves but I was still a bit anxious before hoping in. However, once in the water all the fear melted away. I was diving in a spot I’ve been to thousands of times so I think that helped but it was amazing. There were so many cool animals and I surprisingly found the darkness to be really calming. (Video on YouTube if you want to check it out).
The moral of all these stories is that I’ve found that facing fears while diving has always brought me some of the coolest experiences.
While I think it is definitely still important to respect the ocean and all its capabilities, I don’t think we should fear it as much as we do. It can be scary taking that first dive into the water or trying something new, but I have only ever been rewarded by new experiences in the ocean. The build up to that “scary” moment will always be worse than the actual experience. I see that with people and sharks all the time. I think as humans we choose to focus so much on the negative or horror stories we hear from people because we find them entertaining or thrilling. In reality that same negative experience is probably far outweighed by positive ones.
Don’t get me wrong, I am far from fearless. However, I don’t think fear should be a reason you don’t try something. When I talk to people about sharks I always like to emphasize that they are still apex predators and deserve to be respected as such. I think that is where the balance comes in. Just because something might scare you at first doesn’t mean it is actually scary. It might just be something you need to approach with a greater understanding and respect than other experiences.
Read about my freediving journey.
photo credits: @whotippedmycow