Five Things Diving Has Taught Me

Years of diving has brought me not only amazing underwater experiences, but life lessons as well

As with most new sports or hobbies, diving is a learning experience. After we initially learn to dive we increase our skills, learning the tips and tricks that come with experience. And of course, diving also teaches us about the ocean and its inhabitants. But diving can teach us so much more, and some of these lessons reach far beyond our time underwater; some of them extend to everything we do.

1. Trust other people (sometimes with your life)

When diving, we literally put our lives in the hands of others — our buddies, our instructors and our guides. You may someday be in a situation where theses people are the only things standing between you and a catastrophic accident. Our buddies are our life-support backup system, should our own fail. We depend on them. Sometimes these buddies are people we’ve known for years; sometimes they’re people we’ve only just met, the so-called “insta-buddies” that most divers will have at one point or another. That’s a lot of faith to put in a stranger. That diving is as safe a sport as it is shows that this faith is more often than not rewarded.

2. Rely on yourself

With that being said, you should always rely on buddy as backup as a last resort. Ideally, you should be able to take of yourself and handle any problems, either by preventing or solving them. This way you can also help your buddy, should he or she need it.

3. There must be such a thing as aliens

If nothing else, diving brings us in contact with alien life forms. Once, in Iceland, I saw a shellfish that lives in underwater thermic fountains, one of the least hospitable environments in the world. The water spewing out of these fountains is essentially boiling hot acid, almost completely devoid of oxygen. Yet small forms of life have made it their home, and thrive there. I’ve seen too many different variations on the concept of life, that to me, it is unfathomable that other planets cannot support life in some form. Maybe not intelligent life that travels in space, but some form of life nonetheless.

4. We create (most of) our own problems

Teaching other people to dive in entry-level courses, the most common problem I’ve seen people face is simply submerging and reaching the bottom, especially in shallow water. Many diver trainees struggle to sink and float at the surface, which typically leads them to request more (and too many) weights to help them sink. But often the real reason they can’t submerge is because of uncertainty and tension created by being in a foreign element. A tense body, flailing arms and legs and deep breathing all prevent people from descending. And the more they try to sink, the less likely it is that they will. The best thing to do is to relax and let it happen.

This, I think, translates to many areas of diving, and of life. More often than not, our attempt to avoid solving a problem makes finding a solution that much harder. We can help ourselves quite a bit by just stepping out of own way and letting a solution present itself.

5. Grab shell, dude

And speaking of, this final lesson was made all the more profound by Crunch, the surfer dude-turtle from Finding Nemo. As the turtles are zooming along the East Australian Current, Crunch tells Marvin to let go and jump, to whom the concerned dad asks, “how do we know we’ll be alright?” The answer, of course, is “you don’t.” Diving is about minimizing and managing risk, but in diving as with many other things in life, we can’t eliminate risk altogether; we can’t always know we’ll be alright. So while we shouldn’t be careless, and should always do everything in the safest way possible, we must let ourselves accept the insecurity of our inability to eliminate all risk. Sometimes, you just have to do all you can and go with the flow. And grab shell, dude.