You Can't Breathe Water

by Natalie Novak Perez (August 2013)

Well, I do not know you personally, but I have never met a person who can breathe water, though I would love to. Assuming that you, like me, cannot breathe water, if you go underwater, this needs to taken into account whenever you do.

If you are scuba diving, you need to remember three things at all times. These are very important, but not very difficult questions. If ever you feel nervous underwater, and you are not sure if you are OK, ask yourself these three air-related questions. If you do not know the answers to these three questions, you are not safe, and thus you are not OK. And you were right to be nervous!

Question 1: Am I breathing?

When people start thinking, they often stop breathing. When I am driving my car and looking for an address, I feel a need to turn the radio down, and I often find myself holding my breath as I search. The music from the radio does not block my vision, but it disturbs my concentration. When I want to concentrate, I want to stop multitasking. That is a normal response.

Underwater, because we can not breathe water, the human default setting is to hold our breath. Breathing continuously while scuba diving is an unnatural learned ability to multitask. It can be interrupted, especially when we are concentrating on something else. When you ask yourself if you are breathing, you will bring your concentration back to your breathing.

At all times you should either be inhaling or exhaling, with no pause in between. If you are doing this, and thus not holding your breath, then your airway is open. That means that if you do not notice that you are going up, the expanding air in your lungs will be able to escape. Continuously breathing is how you stay safe when breathing compressed air underwater.

Question 2: How much air do I have?

All the time you are underwater, you should know roughly how much air you have in your tank. This is because responsible divers checks their air often. Experienced divers (if they are in the habit of checking their air often) get a feel for how quickly they go through their air at d