"I Used To Be A Diver"

by

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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A number of years ago, I was looking for another type of exercise program. I had stress-fractured my lower leg from high impact aerobics, and, as the orthopedic surgeon had said to me, "You are not as young as you used to be!"  He advised me to seek something less stressful.  So, I pulled out my not-ridden-in-20-years 10-speed bike and started riding with a local bicycle touring group. Whenever I rode, I always wore a shirt from my extensive collection of diving related T-shirts. Upon seeing my dive shirts, fellow riders would often say to me,  "I used to be a diver," I heard it so often, I started asking why they were a "used-to-be" diver. Although the individual answers varied a bit, they all boiled down to three things:

1. "I was cold".    ("Cost-effective training" in this region means that students are often trained from April to November in rental wet-suits. Surface water in the early spring and late fall can be in the 40-50 oF range. This makes the ever so important first experience in scuba diving an exercise in surviving hypothermia.)

2. "I was not-comfortable"  (This is most often described as either being too heavy, working too hard, being too cold, or some combination of these factors.)

3. "All they wanted was my money."  (The most vehement statement I heard about this was from an attorney (sitting atop a new Titanium bike) who then added, "I am a person, not a walking wallet!")

Being cold is a potent stressor ( Not Being Cold ) Basic training that places students at hypothermia risk is not an effective way of demonstrating how wonderful this sport can be. (Remember that you do NOT have to be in frigid Northern waters to lose heat to the environment.) People tend to repeat behaviors that are enjoyable while avoiding unpleasantness. A frigid few moments during the initial training stage may be enough to terminate all future interest in recreational diving.

Being heavy (the "sinking feeling" or "too much work" to keep from sinking ) is a common complaint among novice divers. I believe this is a direct result of lower-standards/shortened training times that form the so-called "modern class." People are simply not being given the in-water training time it takes to develop the absolutely necessary skill of buoyancy control. This is a physical skill and requires time to master. ( The Primitive Brain ) There is no substitute for in-water time to develop an in-water skill. Being heavy is NOT fun!  However, controlling buoyancy leads to the addictive "diver's high" that, in turn, leads to an impulse to repeat the diving experience.

There is no question that greed now controls our sport  The love of money is simply NOT the same as love of diving or the ocean realm. Furthermore, no one loves a Scrooge. So, being perceived as Scrooge does NOT portray our sport in a favorable light. I could spend hours recalling incidents where some one else's greed driven decisions have placed myself or students at an unacceptable (to me) risk. Instead, I will recall my first major expenditure in the sport of cycling.

After riding my old 10 speed bike a bit, I decided to upgrade to a modern touring cycle. I knew there would be a learning curve involved with a conversion to the feet-locked-into-pedals common to the touring bicycle, so I went to a local cycle shop to buy the new style locking-pedals and shoes. My intent was to put the newer pedals on the old bike, such that the inevitable falls (which did occur (g))  that result from when momentum goes to zero and the shoes are still locked into the bike would not scratch a new machine. The owner of the cycle shop explained to me that the newer pedals would not fit an older bike 'cause of different shaft sizes. At that moment, I decided to buy an new bike (about a $1200 purchase.). The bike shop owner said to me, "I don't want to sell you the bike today (I was shocked) because, if you wait 3 days there will be a manufacturer's promotion giving away a free bike computer (about a $60.00 value) with your bicycle  purchase. So, I went back a few days later and bought the bike. (a Bianchi San Remo),  as well as the customized pedals, shoes, a Camel-Bak, a car carrier,  and assorted accessories for an over $2000 out-the-door spending spree. (Bike stuff, as with diving gear, is like Barbie dolls in that everything is sold separately).  At the time of purchase I remarked to the owner about how refreshing I found his attitude. The reason I was so shocked by his behavior was 'cause in my more than two decades of diving experience there have very few dive shops that would treat me in such a manner. I am still his customer. (Thankfully,  some (seems to be fewer with time as the greed-cancer spreads) customer service oriented dive shops still exist!  They are the ones that get my business 'cause I avoid Scrooges like the plague.)

Shortly after my new cycle purchase, on a pleasant spring day about 20 miles west of Ann Arbor, I realized as I looked around the group of riders that I could spot more than $20, 000 in new bike toys being ridden by "used-to-be" divers. (My new bike was in place of an annual dive trip.)  In other words, money that USED TO BE spent on diving was going to another recreational activity.

Bottom Line: As long as diving students are treated as nothing more than consumers or widgets (and are denied the time it takes for them to overcome their natural, most human instincts), the more they will  leave their training feeling uncomfortable and the more those selling non-diving recreational equipment will hear their customers say, "I used to be a diver!"

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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 100 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2005 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

All rights reserved.

Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education