I dislike A, does it follow I'll also dislike B?
February 14, 2017 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Snorkeling is my least favorite activity, and on that basis I'm refusing to even consider going scuba diving. But is my logic sound?

I've tried snorkeling many, many times. I should love it! I love swimming, I love being in the ocean, I love looking at stuff. But no, something about having to breath through my mouth while wearing fins and goggles freaks me out. I start to panic while I'm getting ready, and in the water I become an uncoordinated mess. I can't ever remember getting water down the snorkel, but I feel like that must have happened at some point. Eventually my flailing/panic drives me out of the water, and I sit on the beach for the next hour or so feeling shaky and unhappy.

Up to this point I've ruled out ever going scuba diving. But I'd got an upcoming vacation to Maui with a lot of people who love to dive and I kind of want to share the amazing experience they keep talking about.

So anyone who has gone snorkeling and scuba diving, are the two different enough I should give scuba a try? Do you dislike one and like the other? Should I just start googling cool Maui hikes to go on while the rest of the group goes diving?
posted by lepus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Scuba is totally different. That anxiety inducing lung/chest tightness is not there.

Please be really really careful going scuba diving without getting proper scuba certification.
posted by gregr at 2:47 PM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

Fins and goggles are used in both so if they freak you out while snorkeling, they'll still be there while scuba diving.

However, scuba is really different. You don't need to keep your head in a certain position to ensure water stays out of the snorkel, you can just breathe more easily. It's easier to just be in the water without worrying about your position, if that makes sense. it's more relaxing.

Having said that, you absolutely should look into a local scuba class to get certified before diving in Maui. That way, you will have practice and know how much more comfortable it is.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 2:50 PM on February 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

You could try snuba as a gentle introduction and to build confidence. There are a bunch of operators in Maui.

The nice thing with snuba/scuba is that you can rely on your regulator to provide breathing gas, and not worry too much about accidentally inhaling water like with the snorkel. You'll learn how to clear a flooded regulator.

And you will get to do something fun in Maui and see some cool tropical fish and reefs.
posted by metaseeker at 2:52 PM on February 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I love scuba, but would sound a note of caution: the regulator through which you breathe in scuba diving appropriately enough regulates the amount of air that you are able to inhale. If you're anxious, your instinct is to hyperventilate but your regulator more or less won't (or shouldn't) let you. This can be further anxiety-inducing, and beginners are sometimes affected by a reptilian urge to rip their regulators out of their mouths -- which, needless to say, is suboptimal underwater.

I hasten to add that for most people this passes after a couple of dives, and I absolutely adore scuba diving and think that you should try it. But the issue of having to breathe through your mouth while wearing fins and goggles is certainly still present, and for some people the equipment also has the additional effect described above.
posted by eugenen at 2:53 PM on February 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

No it's pretty different - you just breathe in and out normally through the regulator. The fins and goggles are the same, but the fact that you are weightless in midwater instead of bobbing about on the surface makes you feel much more in control too.

Do a try-dive in the hotel pool. If you are calm sitting at the bottom of the deep end breathing in and out, you'll be fine with diving. If you don't like it, you are in a pool and can climb out. Don't start with open water (even off a shallow beach), that's a far less controlled place for a panic attack.

And google Maui hikes too! Maui is beautiful, that isn't a second-rate option!
posted by tinkletown at 2:53 PM on February 14, 2017

something about having to breath [sic] through my mouth while wearing fins and goggles freaks me out. I start to panic while I'm getting ready, and in the water I become an uncoordinated mess.

It seems to me that if you panic before snorkeling, you will also panic before SCUBA. In SCUBA you're breathing through your mouth while wearing fins and goggles, right?

So, seconding gregr, take a full-length, thorough certification course before attempting either.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:54 PM on February 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

I've tried both and find SCUBA to be much MUCH more challenging than snorkeling. The weight of the equipment, the distance from the air, the dependence on the equipment... I find it requires levels of coordination I find hard to muster. I'd be surprised if you like it, if you find snorkeling challenging. But, no way to know.

If you do want to try it (why not, after all?) find a local course to teach you - your local dive shop will have a recommendation - so that if you like it, you get to Maui ready to do it with your friends; and if you don't like it, you haven't wasted your precious vacation time on something stressful and sucky.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:56 PM on February 14, 2017 [13 favorites]

I like snorkeling (and free diving) and dislike scuba, fwiw. It is weird to breathe underwater, if you forget to breathe normally it screws up your buoyancy and you're suddenly ten feet above/below everyone else (and cue worry about ascending/descending too fast), canned air gives me a headache. Having large fish zipping by me in three dimensions is also unnerving. You may still spend a fair amount of time snorkeling out to sites / back to the boat depending on the dives you do and how much air you use. You'll have to get comfortable clearing your mask underwater. Having a heavy tank screwing up your balance as you get in/out may also bother you.

There are probably scuba certification classes at a nearby university/community pool, that way you can safely try it out before your vacation. You can do a lot of the classroom work online with some providers.
posted by momus_window at 2:58 PM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I never knew I was claustrophobic until I went diving. It doesn't prevent me from diving, but being deep down under all that water, wearing constrictive gear, and breathing through a device where air doesn't flow 100% freely is a bit of a mind-over-matter trick to keep from panicking. YMMV, but I think if you hate snorkeling, SCUBA won't provoke a vastly positive response.
posted by egeanin at 3:04 PM on February 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

It's hard for me to imagine that if you dislike snorkeling that much you'd really like scuba. Scuba has its own anxiety inducing aspects, even though mid-dive is more relaxing and peaceful than mid-snork. It's also quite a bit harder in terms of preparation, and for obvious reasons, safety is a bigger concern than with snorkeling. However, it's not rocket science by any means, and when you've gotten through all the difficult preparation, the actual dive can be pretty low effort.

Anyway, I wouldn't waste valuable vacation time seeing if you like it at this point, though definitely try a local class if you're curious.
posted by skewed at 3:06 PM on February 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

One thing I like about SCUBA is the masks are bigger than goggles. For a random example, this one blocks almost no vision http://www.joediveramerica.com/Merchant2/graphics/00000001/SM5800_triview_mask.jpg

Personally, snorkeling isn't much fun for me... I worry about my air flow. With SCUBA I was always able to just breathe in and out of my mouth, which I got the hang of pretty quickly.
posted by Jacen at 3:06 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know, snorkelling has always seemed really pointless to me - you can't freedive any deeper, you can't breath normally, you have to stay at the top to avoid flooding your snorkel... if I can't scuba dive and there is stuff I want to see underwater I tend to freedive because it's just less of a faff. You can't exactly relax into snorkelling, you always have to be conscious of where the top of your bloody snorkel is. It's a huge pain in the arse for very little extra reward over just, you know, swimming.

In contrast, you can completely forget that you are scuba diving, and just swim about underwater and breathe. I find it very relaxing and meditative. The focus is on long, slow, deep breaths to conserve air, and I find the lack of noise aside from the rhythm of my own breathing to be very calming. I have known people to nap (while waiting to be 'found' on search and rescue drills, and clipped onto fixed lines during long deco stops - not while swimming about). So I can imagine the OP might be fine diving when they aren't ok snorkelling. They might not be, but it's worth trying.
posted by tinkletown at 3:18 PM on February 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're getting lots of good answers here. They are varying quite a bit based on the individual personalities/sensitivities of the responders, which is good.

For me, I scuba just great, but can't snorkel. But it's because of the "water down the snorkel" problem. (Or these days, ping pong ball style snorkel that randomly locks closed).

For scuba, my problem (and I learned to dive in Southern California, which is a cold, dark, low visibility place to learn) was claustrophobia. Hood, wetsuit, things wrapped tightly around my neck, etc, were very difficult. But I powered through it and grew to love diving in SoCal. Your body will get used to those sorts of things, if you really have a desire to do it. It kind of sounds like you don't have a natural desire to do it though, so there's that.

Also, think twice about getting fully certified locally. Certification involves two segments - (1) class and pool, and (2) open water dives. Unless you live somewhere with 80 degree water, those open water dives with your local dive shop are going to be a real test. You can do a "referral" course where you do the classroom and pool sessions at home, and then do the open water dives in Maui (within 6 months I think) - that's what I'd recommend.
posted by bluesky78987 at 3:18 PM on February 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I find snorkeling uncomfortable and difficult (I have thick long frizzy hair that is hard to clear out of the way to get a good seal on the mask; I don't wear contacts so my vision is reduced; I have a very sensitive gag reflex to the point I'm feeling a little sick even thinking about putting a mouthpiece in my mouth) but I like being able to see cool fish enough that I was able to really enjoy it.

I did the try dive in the hotel pool for scuba and kept spitting out the regulator while underwater. It convinced me that scuba is something I wouldn't ever try unless I was willing to put in a LOT of work to get over my issues. When you're snorkeling, it's unpleasant but ultimately no big deal to have a panic attack; if you're scuba diving, it could be life-threatening.
posted by phoenixy at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2017

I think if you are panicky while getting snorkel gear on, you will absolutely freak out putting on a wet suit, tank and all the other gear for scuba. I love to snorkel but am too anxious to scuba and I think you are too.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 4:58 PM on February 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I dislike snorkeling, mostly because of the water down the snorkel issue, but also because I don't much like the feeling of being stuck on the surface bobbing in the waves. In contrast, I loved scuba, because I could move easily in three dimensions instead of stuck on the surface. I didn't find breathing through the regulator to be a big deal at all, much nicer than a snorkel anyway.

So I'd say it is at least worth a try, though there's no guarantee you will like it.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:06 PM on February 14, 2017

I love scuba but it took my until my ~15th dive to feel that way, which was well after my Open Water certification. The bulkiness of equipment diminished especially if you use your own equipment. Equipment is expensive, and I bought my BC first; this made me a lot more comfortable under water since it was something I adjusted throughout the dive profile.

Getting certified is expensive but you can either drop some money on a class with a pool module before you try a larger body of water, or do those exploration scuba experiences often offered at resorts. It's ok if you don't like it, and you could instead practice free diving, which is much less bulky. When you're "good" at scuba its very low inpact to just be swimming long, versus the agility and endurance associated with freediving. With scuba, the goal is to keep your breathing calm.
posted by Drosera at 5:17 PM on February 14, 2017

I don't think it's that different, and for those inclined to panic, the risk-reward ratio of scuba is not good.

I say this as super duper I love the ocean so much avid diver. It's not for everyone, and that's okay.

I did have a small freak-out when I was learning to dive (not properly trained, this was one of those handholding "try diving" experiences, which I emphatically do NOT recommend, at least not from a boat in the middle of the ocean), because I started to inhale through my nose. I had my "oh my god, I'm going to die" thoughts, went to take giant breath through my mouth (even though I expected it to be water, because my body was just reacting). Of course, the regulator worked, and then everything was fine, and I was all "great, this equipment is magic, let's look at fish!". I think that's likely atypical.

If you want to try diving, absolutely start with the pool training, no question.
posted by ktkt at 6:05 PM on February 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Before you haul off and do a whole course, do a "discovery dive" in a pool -- it's just you and an instructor, and will let you see if breathing with a regulator is ok with you or not. No need to shell out cash for a whole certification if you might not enjoy it!
posted by ananci at 6:39 PM on February 14, 2017

I was scuba certified in high school. I hate swimming. But like you, many of the problems I had were coordinating my breathing with the situation. Since then, I've done a bit of yoga which helped me learn breathing techniques. I'd like to try diving again. It is crazy and I don't regret the dives I did, though I was terrified the whole time. I don't think you should be allowed to dive without certification, but you need to dive in a pool first because if you panic, you'll be nine feet deep versus 30 feet, which is a dangerous difference in water pressure.
posted by aralymn at 6:46 PM on February 14, 2017

You all have no idea how helpful you've been, thanks to everyone who responded. I really expected a chorus of "You'll definitely hate it, don't even think about it" which is probably because that's what I was thinking.

Instead the very reasonable suggestion that I try in a pool before the trip has won out, I'm signing up for an intro class at a pool nearby. No clue if I'll like it but I now think it's worth trying!
posted by lepus at 7:25 PM on February 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

There are snuba options at Molokini crater -- we took the Four Winds trip and it was a wonderful experience. Highly recommended.

Full disclosure: I love snorkeling but absolutely hated snuba (the Four Winds also has plenty of time for snorkeling, whether you snuba or not). I wasn't anxious about it beforehand at all -- I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. But I had a bit of a freakout in the water. On top of what everyone has mentioned above about scuba, with snuba you also have an air line connecting you to your oxygen source on the surface, which easily gets tangled up with other people.
posted by imalaowai at 9:15 PM on February 14, 2017

I've been snorkeling and scuba diving and I'd be surprised if you enjoyed scuba diving. I found the idea of being trapped below the water (there are lots of warnings about how you have to ascend slowing to avoid getting the bends) panic inducing. What if I gagged, what if I coughed, what if I sneezed? I did it but I didn't enjoy it and won't go again.
posted by victoriab at 6:04 AM on February 15, 2017

My experience was similar to ktkt's in terms of being in the water -- minor panic getting started, but I managed to push past it to get in some slow, steady, deep breaths that "proved" to me that I could trust the regulator, enough to enjoy the experience. I also did a non-certified "resort dive," but unlike ktkt's experience we got a couple hours of training in a pool first. Getting fully certified just to try out a shallow dive when you're already rightfully skeptical about whether you'll enjoy it is super overkill IMO.

Actually being underwater, moving freely amongst schools of fish and such was, I must admit, really freaking cool and otherworldly in way that I didn't expect. I don't think I would ever take up diving as a hobby, but it was a valuable experience.

As for snorkeling, meh. I find snorkels kind of pointless and uncomfortable. I am much happier just...swimming...perhaps with goggles on if it's necessary...rather than being constantly distracted by the fiddliness of using a mouthpiece and keeping the snorkel above the water and anxiety over the threat of surprise! breathing water. I don't adore fins, but if I carry them into the water and put them on once I'm swimming, it helps a lot. The awkwardness of wearing them even a few steps on dry land/shallows bothers me at some visceral level to the extent that it totally sours my mood. Brains are weird.
posted by desuetude at 8:10 AM on February 15, 2017

I also hate snorkeling, but I don't mind scuba (I don't love how it feels, but it's worth how I feel for what I get to see).

One very important thing to know: if you are prone to seasickness, scuba will very likely trigger it... because you'll take a tiny boat out to anchor over a reef, both factors which involve tons of wave action, and the thick tight wet-suit presses in on your stomach, which intensifies any nausea, and then when the boat starts really lurching around over the reef, and your inner ears beg you to orient them by looking at the horizon, you instead have to calibrate all the gear thingies by looking down at your lap, which makes your inner ears freak out even more, and then the regulator thing kind of holds your mouth a little bit too far open and tastes like seawater, which is super gross when you're already nauseous. I'm having an unpleasant sensory memory just typing this, sorry to be so vivid.

If you've ever felt seasick before, or if you're at all prone to other kinds of motion sickness from cars, rollercoasters, elevator weightlessness, or airplanes, I really strongly suggest that you just take a seasickness pill as a preventative (dramamine or whatever). And don't eat strong-flavoured foods before you go.

Source: I was a mildly carsick person who discovered I am an excruciatingly seasick person by eating smoked salmon for breakfast, then heading out to my first-ever scubadive with no dramamine on the boat. It made me so violently seasick that I was actually unable to scubadive and simply lay in a moaning, barfing heap for 4 hours. It was absolutely horrible and also a waste of money. By contrast, the next day I ate a bland breakfast and took a dramamine and scuba was totally fun.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:02 AM on February 15, 2017

I love scuba diving now, but it was a rough start. I'm claustrophobic, and during the first practice dives in a pool I was the person standing up gasping for air in 5' water because I started to panic. I went through more of my oxygen tank than anyone else and I was constantly super shaky.

When we got to the actual open water dives though, it was a windy, choppy day with water so rough that two people threw up on the boat. Everything above the surface of the water was rough and awful, but the moment we went underwater everything was so peaceful and calm I fell in love with scuba diving on the spot and never wanted to come back up. It's so peaceful to just hover in the water, and you need so little motion to get anywhere - you can change so much of your position just with your breathing. Even the really tight wetsuit and huge mask became awesome because you're so protected against everything (this was in the tropics and I am super sensitive to jellyfish bits in water).

I was not sure I would make it to the open water dives, but I'm glad I did. I'll still snorkel but it totally sucks in comparison and I constantly breathe in water and choke. And I get stung by jellyfish all the goddamn time.
posted by autolykos at 10:20 AM on February 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Scuba instructor here: I definitely think you're doing the right thing by trying it out in the pool first. I find snorkeling and scuba diving two very different activities, i have over 1500 dives and probably as many hours snorkeling. I have taught hundreds of people to scuba dive including folks who had near-drowning events and other major water fears. All i can tell you is everyone is different. I know scuba divers who cannot stand to be in the surface, and snorkelers who will never be scuba divers as much as they want to be. Give it a shot, try not to go into it with any preconceived anything, cross your fingers that you get a patient instructor, and TELL THEM YOUR RESERVATIONS. We are professionals and know lots of tricks to help potential divers feel more at ease, but if we don't know where students are coming from it makes it so much harder to create a positive experience. And we just want people to love diving.

Feel free to MeMail me if you want to chat more! Good luck!
posted by danapiper at 8:06 PM on February 15, 2017

So an update: I got certified before I went to Hawaii to be 40ft deep with an instructor. I did the manta ray night dive and one swam right over my head, it was unreal.

And that will be my last dive, because even while I had a giant beautiful sea creature swimming so close I could touch I was thinking “can I please get out of the water now?”. Turns out that nothing could overcome how miserable having to breath through my mouth makes me. I was able to do the training dives not really enjoying myself but tolerating it thinking “when I’m doing this for real it will be great!” but it turns out 40 minuets of breathing through my mouth takes away any enjoyment from how cool being underwater is. I had to keep constant attention on my breathing because if something cool happened, say a manta ray doing a flip, I’d get excited, forget to breath through my mouth, and suffocate as I breathed in my mask. Or inhaled any water in my mask. Let’s just say I never had to clear my mask. It’s weird because every other part of diving was almost natural, and I felt completely safe and comfortable.

If I can get a hold of a full face mask I’m trying this again, until then though I picked up a full face snorkel and had a much better time with that.
posted by lepus at 2:57 PM on October 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

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