How to Survive Waterboarding by Outsmarting Your Captor(s)

Imagine being completely incapacitated on a table with your head lower than the rest of your body. A cloth is placed over your face, you can’t see, and what comes next are the things nightmares are made of.

You don’t know when it’s coming until you feel the cold water splashing over your face. You try to hold your breath, but the water starts to fill your nose and you begin to gag, convulse, and feel like you will drown at any moment.

A former Navy aircrewman described the feeling as very intense, mentally violent, and an experience he will never forget.

Of course, that navy officer was only being trained to better resist torture. Just think of the terror and helplessness that would overwhelm you if you were being waterboarded by actual captors. They would just keep pouring water over your face until you broke.

So, is there a way to survive waterboarding? Is there anything you can do to increase your odds of ending the torture?

There are three basic tactics you can employ to increase your odds of surviving waterboarding: Prepare yourself mentally, exhale sharply once the water stops, and give up some information during the interrogation.

However, you need to completely understand what is involved with waterboarding to best utilize these strategies.

What Happens When You’re Waterboarded?

Once you are restrained, in an inverted position, and with a cloth covering your face, you’re captors will start to pour water over your mouth and nose. Since your head is lower, the water will begin to seep into your sinus cavities and eventually into your throat.

This will cause an immediate gag reflex and you will feel an intense drowning sensation. You actually are drowning, just in a slow controlled manner. Before you die from asphyxiation, the captors will sit you up so you can clear your nose and throat.

The whole purpose is to get information from you that they are seeking. So if you try to resist, the whole process starts again.

The captors will most likely change the intervals and amount of water they pour over your face. With no way to guess the interval, you won’t be able to always hold your breath.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be released after you give up the information your captors are after. However, you will most likely have trauma.

According to Wikipedia, you may have to deal with lung damage, brain damage from lack of oxygen, broken bones from fighting against your restraints, and psychological damage that could last for months or even years.

There truly isn’t a way to fully prepare for being waterboarded. Once you start feeling the drowning sensation, all your preparation will most likely be thrown to the wind just to be able to breathe again.

With that said, there are three good strategies you can use to help you survive being waterboarded.

Mentally Prepare Yourself

According to Dr. Paul Chabot, an Intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserves, preparing your mind before you’re tortured is the best thing you can do.

You need to steel yourself for the mental anguish you will be facing once you’re strapped down and at the mercy of your captors.

Keep in mind your captors’ primary goal is not to kill you, but to extract information out of you. So, they will stop pouring water over your face and you’ll get a chance to breathe. Of course, it’s hard to do when you feel like you’re moments away from drowning.

Exhale Sharply Before Breathing In

This technique comes from a former Navy Seal, Michael Jaco. He was able to get a little air while still restrained by sharply exhaling after his captors stopped pouring the water over his face.

This technique pushes a lot of the water that is trapped by the rag away from your face long enough for you to get a quick breath of air. You will still breathe in a bit of water, but at least you will get a chance to take a breath while being tortured.

Of course, this strategy works best if you can keep from panicking while your captors are pouring water over your airways.

You also should keep in mind that this strategy is situational. Michael’s captors had to go get more water each time they ran out, providing Michael an opportunity to exhale sharply to get a quick breath of air. This may not work well if your captor has more water ready to go.

Your captors may also catch on to what you’re doing and start to pour water on your face after you forcibly exhale.

However, it is a good method to keep in mind to help you survive waterboarding.

Give Some Information During the Interrogation

Former Navy seal, Brandon Webb, suggests giving up just enough information to string along your captors without giving away the information you don’t want them to find out. In other words, while you are being interrogated after the waterboarding, you should answer the questions your captors are asking without giving up the most valuable details.

This technique has a twofold purpose: it shows your captors you are willing to corporate, and it buys you time away from being waterboarded.

If you were to immediately tell your captors to go jump off a cliff, they are just going to take you immediately back to the table and start the waterboarding process again. So, you need to give your captors something, even if it’s a half-truth, in order to get a chance to breathe.

This strategy also requires you to focus and not go into a complete panic. So, mentally preparing yourself beforehand is key for this to best work.

Although these three strategies aren’t guaranteed to help you survive waterboarding, they will increase your chances of being able to make it through the torture. Unfortunately, trying to prepare for this type of torture is nearly impossible, you simply don’t know how you will react once that feeling of drowning hits you.

Take Preventative Measures

The absolute best thing you can do to survive waterboarding is to not be taken captive in the first place.

Self-defense training and being aware of your surroundings will help you evade capture. Aside from self-defense training, you can practice these four tips to stay under the radar:

Be Mindful of what you share on social media. Don’t make yourself a target by flaunting everything your own and do on social media platforms like Facebook. Your friends are not the only ones that can see this information about you.

Don’t be predictable. The worst thing you can do is have a daily routine of places you go and routes you take. That makes taking you captive immensely easier. You need to be more spontaneous, try different places to eat, and take different routes.

Secure your home. Good locks, alarm systems, and a good exit strategy will go a long way to keeping you safe while you are at home.

Invest in mace or a stun gun. Both of these devices will give you an edge if someone tries to take you captive. You will be able to incapacitate whoever is trying to attack, which will give you time to escape.

Being well prepared, staying aware of what or who is around you, and having a plan of action in case someone tries to attack you should be what you focus on the most.

If you can keep from being captured in the first place, you won’t have to worry about figuring out what to do if your captors decide to torture you, especially with waterboarding.