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Thinking of Learning to Scuba? Nothing to Fear!

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/27/2007 | Sports

Scuba diving is a marvelous adventure. The weightlessness of the water, the surreal world of life, shape and color, and the amazing discoveries that can be had beneath the surface of the water are unequaled anywhere else on the earth. And with 71% of our planet covered with water, there is truly much to explore.

As with all sports, scuba diving does require some preparation, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Maybe you have been one of those who have thought of learning to scuba, but have been kept from even trying because of hesitations and fears of one sort or another. This phenomenon is fairly common, and also easily remedied.

One of the most common fears is of being close to marine creatures. If you have been one of those feeling hesitant about this, some simple education can help. Many fears of being in close proximity with creatures from below the surface of the sea have come from years of misinformation from television and movies. These fears are usually unwarranted.

For example, a few of the oceans' inhabitants such as the shy octopus, the giant squid, and the gentle orca, have each been portrayed at different times as terrible monsters. In reality, none of these creatures are a real threat to human beings at all.

Even the shark, commonly considered to be the most dreaded of all of the ocean's predators, is not the terror that Hollywood has made it out to be. In fact, your chances of dying from a bee sting are far greater than from being attacked by a shark!

Sharks have often mistaken a surfer or a swimmer for a seal or an injured fish, and then easily follow nature's instincts and bite, thinking they have a meal. Interestingly, humans don't even taste that good to sharks, so they usually let go after biting. As a diver, when you are down in the same water with the shark, they are more likely to perceive you as a neighbor, rather than dinner.

Another type of fish that has been the cause of fear is the barracuda. Simply remember that barracudas are attracted to shiny things, and remove all your jewelry before diving. You will then discover that the barracuda is just another curious fish. As a diver, you will be more likely to receive a peck from the miniscule damselfish than a bite from a barracuda.

Some varieties of marine creatures can be hazardous to your health, such as the jellyfish, the Portuguese Man-O-War, the lionfish, scorpionfish, and the rockfish. Learn to identify these creatures so you can keep your distance, and they will gladly avoid you. Then be watchful so you don't happen to get caught up in jellyfish tendrils (with painful, though not fatal, stinging cells), and avoid brushing up against a rockfish with its poisonous spines.

Getting qualified diving instruction will go a long way to allaying any fears. A good instructor will assist you in preparing physically and mentally for an enjoyable diving experience. Then, as you dive more often, you will find yourself getting more comfortable in the water, your air consumption rate will drop because your breathing will relax more and more, and you will find yourself wondering what took you so long to start!