How to Survive Waterboarding

First, a couple blog notes. I haven’t been posting as much because my free time has been filled with writing my new book. More info and the cover are in the forums. Also, lots of people have been linking to me recently. I really appreciate it!

Ahem… waterboarding.

For those who don’t know, waterboarding is a controversial subject these days. It’s an torture method which is used to interrogate suspects and designed to simulate drowning. Supposedly it’s so bad that the average marine can only handle it for 15 seconds.

It’s done by having the detainee lie on his back with his head lower than his body. A rag is then stretched across his face and water is poured on it. If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking “What? How bad could that be? 15 seconds? These marines are sisses.”

If you’re exactly like me, then you decided to test it. A couple friends came over and we set up a piece of plywood in a declined position. To add to the effect we added some ropes to tie down the victim’s hands. I was dying to go first.

I lay down and got my hands tied. The rag was pulled across my face and cold water was poured from a bucket. It was a lot worse than I thought.

What happens is water seeps through the cloth and runs down the nostrils straight into the sinuses. Nothing you can do will stop this. The effect of having ones sinuses fill with water triggers that “Holy god I’m drowning” reaction that causes panic. After 15 seconds or so I tapped out and they removed the rag. I pushed the water out of my sinuses and waited for my turn again.

My two friends went and lasted similar times. It was harder than we thought – unpleasant but not painful. It was getting cold, but I tried again. This time I tried methods to breathe that didn’t work, but I did notice something. When my sinuses completely filled with water, the drowning sensation ceased to get worse. I can hold my breath for 3 minutes on a good day, so all I’d have to do was put up with the weird water in the sinus feeling.

My last try lasted over 20 seconds and was cut short by the bucket running out of water. Just knowing that it was going to be ok once my sinuses filled made it much easier. I wanted to try again but I was full of water and it was getting cold.

If I ever get taken hostage my plan is to flail after 10 seconds so that they think I hate it (even though I don’t), and hopefully they will let me out before it really becomes a problem. Just practicing a few times really made it a bearable torture. Here are some videos :

In the first one it’s easier to see what’s going on. In the second one I last a bit longer.

Oh, and in case you’re trying this at home – for three days when I sneezed it smelled like tap water, and I got a wicked fever a couple nights after.



  1. I wonder why the average marine doesn’t know about that trick. Maybe it’s the psychological fear tactic to tell everybody “even hardened MARINES only last 15 seconds”

    It’s awesome that when you’re curious about something (even something traumatic), you’ll put yourself through that situation to experience what it’s like.

    Please don’t get curious about anything which automatically results in fatality. I like reading your stories too much.

  2. Somehow I doubt that whomever our government employs to torture people with this method will fall for the flail-and-hold-your-breath trick. Anyway, torture is sick.

  3. I dunno about it being the fundamental difference between men and women. When I told my sister about it, she was like “Aw man, I wish I could have tried that.”

  4. Wow you are one brave, brave guy.

    Now I wanna try this.

    Too bad my friends arent crazy enough to try it with me 🙁 Hell I dont even have freinds crazy enough to help me try it lol.

  5. For practice, hit up a Walgreens and grab some Sinucleanse. You can barely feel the water when the water’s lukewarm (RO-filtered helps) & there’s some pure salt mixed in.
    Ironically, doing this prevents getting sick by flushing the nasal sinuses; nose bugs don’t like saltwater.

  6. wonderful! has anyone suggested this to rush limbaugh? love to hear his reaction. nah, i forgot about that boil on his backside (hey-it kept him out of vietnam.)

  7. Those last two comments was the perfect capper to this thread…especially considering i linked from Andrew Sullivan

  8. Another thing that you probably have to think about is that it’s a lot different being waterboarded by friends than being captured and being waterboarded by members of the government. It might be a bit tougher to concentrate. 🙂

  9. In all seriousness, while I admire your courage to submit yourself to such an ordeal, this really doesn’t offer anything substantiative to the debate on the use of this and other torture techniques. Given that you know the technique, know the outcome, and know the people involved, you have removed all of the psychological elements of torture from the equation.

    I just hope this isn’t used as an example for the pro-torture throng to show how waterboarding is more like an intense water balloon fight, than a Khmer Rouge/Gulag technique….just like those frat house pranks at Abu Ghraib.

  10. “After 15 seconds or so I tapped out and they removed the rag. I pushed the water out of my sinuses and waited for my turn again.

    My last try lasted over 20 seconds and was cut short by the bucket running out of water. Just knowing that it was going to be ok once my sinuses filled made it much easier. I wanted to try again but I was full of water and it was getting cold.”

    Exactly how it happens in Gitmo, I’m sure.

  11. Dude, who’d a thunk it?

    Waterboarding, ironically, seems to be catching on as the new teen craze!

    How phat! Keep it on the low-down, or down-low, whatever.

  12. it’s not at all of any value since you can end it whenever you’d like and you have the assistance you need just in case.

  13. I just found a blog that links to secret web pages

    Enter the Secret Amazon Web Pages:
    Bargains Hunter

    This is where you’re going to find the “latest sales, rebates, and limited-time offers” from
    Amazon, and you can score some pretty deep discounts if you’re a savvy shopper.

    Next, there’s the special Sale link. This is open every Friday, and ONLY on Fridays.

    You can find the same good discounts here as you would in hidden Deals, although some
    Fridays you can really get lucky and make off like an Amazon bandit – I’ve seen discounts
    there as low as 75% off sticker price.

  14. I wouldn’t say that the experiment had no merit at all. After all, military folks go through training to prepare them for possible torture, all while being aware that it’s just training.

    Of course, that’s not to say that such training can ever fully prepare one for being tortured. And although he was able to tap out with his friends and real torturers wouldn’t let you, they most likely will stop before you’re dead, if they truly want info from you. So keeping that in mind and already knowing what it feels like I would think could potentially prepare someone slightly better for being waterboarded than someone who has no idea what it entails.

    Not the best training in the world, but not totally without value.

  15. Pretty stupid article, man.

    The title should be ‘how to not choke before the bucket of water your friends are pouring over you runs out.’

  16. Interesting! I had the same thoughts as you guys (i.e., how bad could it be!?) which prompted you guys to actually try it and find out.

    I had thought of making funny shapes with my lips to try and direct the water away. You say you had no success in trying to breath? Perhaps i’ll have to give it a go one day and see! hehe

  17. What about holding ones breath as the towel is drawn across ones face & then pushing the top lip up against the nostrils to close them off? I can push my top lip up to close off my nostrils, not sure though if that’s just one of those things only some people can do.

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