Our terrestrial instinct and the need for training

Why do we need to train to go on diving? Why are there so many specialties in diving?

Why should we go back to training whenever we face underwater environments different from what we use to enjoy?

Why it’s dangerous to train in an informal manner without following the protocols of the international diver certification agencies?

Despite what some people wants to believe, we are terrestrial animals, we have evolved in a terrestrial environment and according to scientists like Daniel Lieberman. We are not only terrestrial animals but our capacity to move in an upright position allowed us to become one of the most dominant species to cover big distances both walking and running. Our feet and legs evolved to run upright, our hands got free to develop complex movements that allow us to use all type of tools and finally with the capacity to hunt big animals even before having weapons, our brains evolved to what we know now as the modern human brain.

We are vertical creatures, we have evolved to be vertical, our verticality gave us the advantage over the other species. Erase from your minds that the human being has a weak body and that our survival was thanks to our brains, the human brain was evolving slowly, the human body evolved first and before the brain reached the size that has now the “human being” was already a dominant animal in its environment.

But what happens if we take the human being, with all the big terrestrial attributes, and we put them in an underwater environment?

Our vertical position that so much we love underwater is useless. Look at all the mammal species that have evolve to live in an underwater environment, underwater their position is horizontal and not vertical, their bodies have evolve to be hydrodynamic, their bodies have adapted to an environment where the oxygen is scarce and their bodies don’t loose heat in an excessive way when they are in contact with the water.

We instead have bodies that are not hydrodynamic, our underwater propulsion is slow and awkward no matter how good we are, our bodies have evolved to survive in an environment where we always have oxygen available and we can vent our excess of CO2, in fact the flexibility of our hips and the shape of our diaphragm allow us to run for hours without losing the ability to breathe as hard as we want.

In our evolution we have developed a response to danger called fight or flight responsebefore a situation that our brain catalogs as dangerous we can react fleeing the place, fighting with who threatens us or in the case of collapse we can stay in an state of immobility. None of the three possibilities are good underwater, when one of these responses designed to survive on land gets activated, the only thing we do is worsen the situation underwater.

Is important to understand that our survival instincts that we have inherited through human evolution do not help us underwater. We must learn to handle the different situations that we can find underwater in order that our survival instincts don’t get activated. Our brain catalogs as dangerous situations that are unknown and underwater many times the answer can be within reach, but if we don’t know the answer our terrestrial survival instincts might get activated and that is dangerous.

According to the Dunning-Kruger Effect we can get to think that we have enough capacities to confront a given underwater environment, when in reality we have not, we can over estimate our capacities and think that we don’t need training. Is usual to see technical divers that believe that for the fact of having the necessary training to do decompression, they can go inside confined environments without requiring specific training for those environments. It doesn’t matter how much experience we have diving and what certifications we have, we cannot omit the specific certifications for the environments where we want to dive and we are not certified.

The same way, according the Dunning-Kruger Effect divers with the sufficient training for a specific environment might get to under estimate their capacities and might encourage divers without the necessary experience to execute dives that are beyond their capacities.

The fundamental priority when entering an underwater environment is return home safely.

You might need to replace or repair your dive equipment at some period of time, but training will be with you forever.