Throughout my career I have been asked often: “which is the biggest danger of Scuba Diving?”. Curiously, one of the main reasons why people do not try diving is the illogical fear of sharks (check 15 scuba diving facts you most probably don’t know). Far from what my students expect, my answer to that question is very simple. EGO. Ego is a disease that infects divers deep inside their bones, drives them away from safety and provokes various accidents every year.
As instructors, we experience situations with a overdoses of diver’s ego on a daily basis. There are Scuba divers with 4 dives that believe to have a lot of experience; as well as divers that seriously state to have seen the entire underwater world and marine life in only 20 dives. It continues in the level of professionals. Some divemasters pretend to be experienced instructors or newly certified instructors believe to have the same knowledge and experience as somebody being active in business since a decade.
As you can imagine, throughout all levels of diving, the list is never-ending. Diving hosts some of the biggest egos I’ve ever seen. Why do so many divers overestimate their skills and level of experience?
SCUBA DIVING HAS NO DIRECT MEASUREMENT
While in other sports there is a scale to measure who is “the best”, in diving there isn’t.While it’s true that there are different certification levels, in recreational diving, that doesn’t mean something. We cannot classify divers or professionals by a score and put them into different leagues. Some divers think they are the best due to their skills. Others because of the longest bottom time or depth, many because of a wallet full of certification cards. While supervising different groups of divers there is usually at least one who believes to be better than the rest of the group, has a lot of experience or wide knowledge.
Once you are infected with the virus of ego, the overdose pushes your limits and this very important rule becomes useless: Never go beyond your limits!
SCUBA DIVING IS NOT A COMPETITION
Well, at least, it shouldn’t be! Scuba diving should not be a contest of who has done the deepest or longest dive, who has more certifications, the fullest logbook or the most expensive equipment. Scuba diving should simply be about sharing a passion. It should be about enjoying and admiring all the incredible underwater wonders.
If you are on the top of the pyramid of experience, you should not feel as the winner. You can better share your experience and guide others on their way of becoming better divers. If you just started diving, accept yourself as a beginner. There is no need to be the best. Experience needs time and practice. Competition might push you to go beyond your personal limits and to do things you are not prepared for.
SCUBA DIVING IS A ‘SHOW OFF’ SPORT
Some divers value the quality of a dive on depth only, and almost ignore the amazing marine life or underwater landscape. Others only enjoy diving as long as they see something special such as huge sharks so they can talk about it all day long.
If you haven’t met people like this yet, don’t worry, it is just a matter of time. You will identify them easily during the dive briefing or latest while logging your dives with your group. Let’s face it, unfortunately for many people diving is about being better, looking cool, pretending a lifetime of experience and showing off.
THE DANGER OF EGO
One of the main reasons of scuba diving accidents is human error. Many accidents are caused by poor judgement such as underestimating dive conditions, overestimating personal skills or exceeding the limits. Probably a overdoses of ego is included in most of this fatal decisions.
Let’s have a look at a sad, but very famous example:
In August 2015, Dr. Guy Garman, known also as Dr. Deep, died while attempting to achieve a new deep world record. Dr. Deep had been diving for 4 years only. At the time of his attempt he had a total of 600+ dives, with 1/3 of those below 60m and only 35 dives were below 150m. Dr. Deep was absolutely not experienced enough for attempting the deepest dive ever. Actually, even as a technical diver, he couldn’t be considered experienced at all. His ego blinded him, made him believe that he was the best within thousands of more experienced technical divers. Therefore, unfortunately, the ocean claimed his price.
There are countless similar examples in the anthologies of scuba diving. Ego destroys one of the most important rules of diving: Never go beyond your limits! Once you are infected with the virus of ego, the overdoses pushes your limits away and this very important rule becomes useless.
Unfortunately, neither instructors nor students learn how to prevent ego and its fatalities. No dive course teaches you how to deal with big egos. Though, from the very beginning every diver learns to be conservative and use common sense. Underwater or on land, Ego has no cure. That is the reason why ego is so dangerous. Because only the waters put you in place, but unfortunately, for many divers, when they learn the lesson it is already too late.