Tuesday, 20 March 2012

“If you tick yes – you can't scuba dive”

We had a very rough boat trip from Koh Samui to Koh Tao in Thailand. Almost everyone on the boat got sick and those who didn't were hanging on for their dear lives on the upper level trying not to get thrown over board.

Ningaloo Reef dive, Australia
I didn't get sick – but I was shook up when we pulled into the glorious scuba diving island of Koh Tao. My partner however did get sick, at one stage he contemplated jumping over board just to stop the horrible motion – but land was in sight so he clung on. When we walked into the the Easy Divers center, he was still yellow, still clinging to his belongings like someone off a ship wreck.
The lovely lady told us to fill out some forms quickly before we collapsed into our beach hut.

As he could not speak, grunt or even stand straight I took over the form filling duty.
To help me hasten she told me “If you tick yes to any of the questions, we can't let you scuba dive.”
I wanted to scuba dive – so did he.
So I ticked No all the way down both sheets, filled out names, address, numbers, emails and set off to across the white beach to settle for the night.

For the next two days we did theory classes, passed out tests and then set off into the water.
In those perfect tranquil turquoise waters we passed our 18m scuba diving lessons and received our licenses. The fish, the coral, the sharks – it was all amazing and despite our quarrellings on dry land – in the silent under water we made the perfect partners. This was our couple hobby.

Ningaloo Reef dive, Australia
It was another six months before we got the opportunity to scuba dive again. This time it was on the Great Barrier Reef – off the coast of Cairns, Australia. We booked on to an overnight ship and were prepping to earn our 36m scuba diving license. We were terribly excited about the night time dive.

There were no rough waters to contend with – so once on the ship, we had to fill out the obligatory forms again and this time he was well able to sort out his own. Except on this occasion there was no kind advice on offer.
In the box saying Asthma – he ticked yes.

The instructor nearly lost his life. He told us “you can't scuba dive if you have asthma.”
My partner replied “I can, because I have a license for 18m.”
“But you need to breathe – you could die down there” came the chilling response.

I wanted to help, but all I could think was what if he did die – his mother would kill me!
In the end the instructor agreed, but not before a test dive and a new form where the No box was ticked beside Asthma query.

During the first dive, I have never been so nervous, I was all over the place. I never concentrated on my own process at all, I kept watching him, every two minutes I signaled ok? And he responded. I was up and down in the water because I could not keep myself steady.

Is everything OK???
Before we went down the 36m, the instructor warned us “You will feel a lot more pressure down there, if anything goes wrong – we know nothing about your asthma ok?”
Never mind him – I was crazy with nerves.

About 5m on the descent, I felt a tug on my hand as I watched him ascend.
Heart in mouth – what was going wrong – could he not breathe – was he dying???

He just had to equalize.
We did pass the 36m license and everything went according to plan – but we have not been scuba diving since. He is mad to do it – but he needs a partner.
And this partner needs time to breathe!

Sharks were the least of my worries scuba diving!


  1. Wow! As a Master Scuba Diver Trainer with 20 plus years in the dive industry this is frightening! Your friend put his life in danger because of his desire to dive. Diving is amazing I absolutely love it, but it is not worth dying for. Think how frighting a bad asthma attack is on the surface, now imagine how bad it would be underwater with the additional resistance and pressure. PLEASE have your friend check with a doctor that is familiar with dive medicine before he dives again. Having asthma does not necessarily mean that he can not dive (I am not a doctor!) if the doctor clears him for scuba he will be given a form that states he is fit to dive and that should allow him to continue to dive, just remember to have a copy of that paperwork with him when he travels and dives. Be sure that the Dr. is familiar with dive medicine, in the US there is an organization called DAN that can make recommendations if out side of the US check with your local dive store. If the Dr is not familiar they will almost always say no, so check their familiarity with dive medicine.
    Be safe!
    Great photos by the way, I hope everything works out with your friend.

  2. Greg - thanks so much for your advice. I was very nervous diving with him, but he was confident his asthma was non existent at that stage. Before we go again I will make him get a clearance from a doctor!

  3. It was terrifying that he still went on with it, but then again, it was good that the scuba staff was informed about his asthma so that they would at least know how to react in case he did have an attack underwater. Besides that, those are really great underwater pictures. I really like the one with the turtle swimming by, minding his own business.


  4. Thank you so much for posting these for global use!
    You are making the world a better place!

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