We Asked 5 Diving Instructors to Reveal Their Scariest Moments Underwater – Don’t Read if You Have a Weak Constitution

First and foremost, any dive instructor would tell you exactly what I am about to – diving is not scary. I am more at ease under the water than on the surface. The soothing in and out Darth Vader sound of the breath, and effortlessness of moving in three dimensions … pure magic.

However, I do remind my students that breathing underwater is not natural. In fact, it is very unnatural; we (unfortunately) are not fish. Therefore, we need a bulky set of equipment as life support. The maintenance and setting up of our equipment should be taken very seriously. Most dive accidents are due to carelessness, such as forgetting to do buddy checks or not being prepared for certain dive conditions. We are also stepping, or giant-striding, into an alien world which can be unpredictable. The ocean is powerful and we need to have huge respect for it and all the creatures within it. By sharing our stories we hope to prevent you from making the same mistakes.

Out of air on a night dive – Emma

I guess I should start with my own scariest moment and I suppose it’s not entirely mine to tell. I was diving with my dad in Komodo National Park (best diving of my life!) on a liveaboard. We were preparing for a night dive and we got lazy. We checked our BCDs, weight belt, tank band and took some breaths from our regulators to check we had air. All good. We jumped in and descended in the pitch black. It was a free descent (no reference line) so I sank down towards the reef. Then, before we hit the reef, my dad sped out of the inkiness and signalled ‘out of air’. I was confused in the rush and the dark, so he grabbed my alternate for himself. We got our dive leader’s attention and ascended slowly to the surface. It turns out his tank was only slightly turned on (half a turn on instead of half a turn back). This means that at the surface he had air, but as we descended the pressure closed the valve. This is why you should always check that your buddy has their air turned all the way on and not a half-turn back, as was previously recommended. I also always stay within close reach of my buddy throughout the dive. If you try to take a breath and find no air, you need to be able to get your buddy’s attention as fast as possible.

Losing the resort owner in a strong current – Ron

Orca Scuba Rescue Diver Training
Ron was on a deep dive and was told to stay in one spot with a customer – just the owner of Rawa Island Resort, no biggie. They were about to do a straight-line reciprocal – navigating in one direction and then straight back again. However, there was a misunderstanding and Ron turned around to find his customer was gone! He had started navigating on his own instead of waiting and there was a strong current, which makes navigation particularly difficult. He waited, but his customer didn’t return. He looked for him for a minute – nothing. So the whole group followed procedure and slowly ascended to the surface after one minute. During the safety stop, they saw bubbles and found him, safe and unharmed. Lesson learned? Always make sure the skills are briefed clearly before the dive.

Surfacing in a storm and trying to get back on the boat – Gabe

As Gabe giant-strided into the blue, the conditions were ideal. The dive went well, but it got considerably darker throughout. As his group ascended, his suspicions were confirmed and a storm was raging. They got back to the boat, which was close by, but the real challenge was getting back on. The boat was rocking up and down on the waves, meaning the ladder was moving a good two metres up and down. There was no other way to get back on shore, so they took their time. They had to keep a distance from the boat and be patient with getting the correct timing to grab the ladder and start climbing. People started to panic and rush, but Gabe made sure to calm them down and encourage them to move slowly. Everyone got onto the boat unharmed and relieved. Many hazardous situations can be dealt with with enough patience and care.

Diving against a down current and surfacing away from the boat – Sim and Kevin

Sim and Kevin were leading a dive at a new dive site in the Maldives – it was their first time diving there and they suspected the current was going to be strong. During the dive, a down current started pulling them down so that they needed to kick forcefully to stop themselves from being dragged deeper. The current also started pulling them out away from the reef into the blue. They were too deep to deploy their SMB because their reel was only 15 metres. Once they could swim shallower they deployed the SMB and ascended only to see that the boat was far away. They waved their SMB for a good 15 minutes as they drifted further away from the boat. A different boat passed by and saw them, alerting their driver who then picked them up. This story shows us just how powerful the ocean can be. There are many ways to predict currents; in this case, it would have been wise for Kevin and Sim to have become familiar with the site before taking out customers.