The 3 C’s of Handling In-Water Difficulties.

The 3 C’s of Handling In-Water Difficulties.

Diving is seen as an extreme sport with inherent risks involved, however, divers choose to participate in the activity as it offers them an opportunity to explore a new and exciting world. When faced with in-water difficulties divers make use of a number of strategies in order to handle these situations. They would choose to manage the situation and dive, work with a buddy to overcome the challenge or end the dive.

The way a diver chooses to handle an in-water situation depends largely on the individual, how serious they perceive the problem to be, their in-water experience and the characteristics of that particular dive.

Here are the Three C’s of how divers handle in-water difficulties:


When faced with an uncomfortable or problem situation in the water divers first try so use, what researchers Kay Dimmok and Erica Wilson calls, consolidation. They would choose to take their attention away from the problem situation and rather focus on more enjoyable elements of the dive. They tend to either choose to just accept the situation or to use positive self-talk to encourage themselves to stay calm and to remind themselves that they are safe. By consolidating the situation divers remain autonomous and are able to identify problem situations and thus handle these challenges better.


In some cases divers would turn to their buddies for assistance – that’s what buddies are for! By accepting the support of their buddies divers gain calmness in uncomfortable situations which provide them the confidence to carry on with a dive when they might have cancelled it otherwise. Physical contact from a buddy is especially effective in helping a stressed diver relax and continue their dive. Debriefings are also used as a form of social support where divers can share their experiences and speak about the problem situations that they encounters during the dive. This encourages learning and fosters a safe environment for divers to raise their concerns.


In extreme situations like equipment malfunctions or running low or out of air divers would choose to cancel their dive. This usually happens in situations when staying in the water poses a great personal risk. It has to be said, though that cancelling a dive should not only be done in ‘extreme’ cases, but any time when a diver does not feel comfortable doing or completing the dive. This relates to what the researchers call ‘environmental load’. This is an individual’s threshold of how much they can handle in a given situation. When their threshold is reached they tend to remove themselves from the environment. When divers face serious situations they shift their focus from other parts of the dive to the problem situation. They evaluate and negotiate whether to cancel the dive or not- this gives them a sense of control as they realise that their safety is most important.

The risks and uncertainty relating to scuba diving is part of what attracts divers to the sport, it challenges them and offers them an opportunity to have new and unique experiences. This fascination, however becomes less important if a situation becomes extreme, where divers might experience high anxiety levels or in situations that could become life-threatening. With skill and experience divers are able to control and improve problem situation. While consolidating and co-operating could work to handle problem situations, it is always an option to cancel a dive if you do not feel comfortable.

*A version of this article first appeared at

Juanita Pienaar

Juanita Pienaar is a citizen of the world, recently settled back down in her home country, South Africa, after spending time traveling and living in Asia and Africa. She has a passionate love affair with the ocean and loves to share that passion by teaching scuba diving. She is a yoga teacher and fully believe in finding the balance in life. She has recently discovered the joy and freedom of wearing yoga pants ‘out-and-about’. Juanita loses herself in the written and spoken word.

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