I’m assuming that I’m going to get called on this by some of our local dive family, so I’m going to try and get out in front of it, before I get called a hypocrite. (For the record, I am a hypocrite, but I feel I deserve a pass in this particular situation). Pull up a chair…
This January, we had a bunch of friends from around North America come up for some fun diving and a GUE Technical Diver 1 class. It was a blast. The weather was insane. Like, we tried to over-exaggerate how extreme the weather was going to be when advertising the trip, while telling each other how mild the last three January’s were. Annnnnd, then we had a day where we couldn’t see well enough to drive to the dive site, let alone dive it. And because misery loves misery, we wrapped it all up with an ice diving course. Everyone flew home last week in good spirits.
Good times, good times. “Diving as an extension of sadomasochism.”
Anyway, following the trip, I personally felt called to return to our roots: “Just. Go. Diving.” A lot of the core staff here, myself foremost, have been doing a lot of really fun diving the last couple months. Exploration dives on deeper sites, technical scooter dives, decompression dives, etc. Real hero stuff. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
We’ve also had a lot of relatively new divers telling us, “Those dives seem so cool.” or “Man, I wish I could do that!” Which is great. Having diving aspirations is awesome, and how most of us ended up where we are.
What isn’t great is the implications we heard in some of those statements, and it’s something that’s been an ongoing staff discussion for a couple months. “Those dives seem so cool (and I don’t have the tools to do them).” “Man, I wish I could do that (but I can’t).”
Everybody starts somewhere. Really, no kidding. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed I was doing the dives I was doing with the people I was doing them with. Especially considering I was living on a beach in Thailand, and very, very content to stay put. If you had proposed doing a 170 ft, scooter-dependent dive, on an unexplored pinnacle in the middle of the Alaskan ocean, in sub-zero surface conditions… I would have laughed, grabbed a beer, and told you to lay off the hallucinogens. I didn’t need all that stuff to go diving; I could just grab a tank and walk into the water. Easy-peasy.
One thing led to another, and last month, I did that dive. And it was incredible. I got to share it with two great dive buddies. But I didn’t get there by watching other people dive. I started the exact same as anyone; I just went diving. And the more I just went diving, the more I realized that Alaska has an insane amount of diving to offer. So I went a little farther. I went a little deeper. I stayed a little longer. I realized I needed tools I didn’t have, and because I was surrounded by a supportive group of humans who had something resembling a roadmap, I started plotting a course that allowed me to grow the tools available to help facilitate the type of diving that got me excited.
But at the end of the day, that diving is only an extension of Alaskan water, compressed gas in a single cylinder, and a sense of adventure. Worked for Mike Nelson, works for Ron.
It’s been a blast to get to this point, but this January, while I was watching world-renowned technical divers and instructors hanging out, laughing, and sharing stories with brand-new open water students, I realized that we had all started in the same place. It was a shared passion for diving. Everybody had the same “MAN, THIS SCUBA STUFF IS AWESOME”-moment. And having a dive instructor like Guy Shockey, who trains dive instructors how to instruct classes I don’t even have the prerequisites to be a student in, pull me aside, and earnestly ask me, “How can I help make your open water students more excited about diving and exploring?”… that’s something special.
That’s the whole point of “Just. Go. Diving.”
And so I resolved in February, I wouldn’t tech dive. I wasn’t even going to dive in doubles. I was only going to dive in single-tank setups, diving the same exact profiles our open water students dive, in the same gear configuration. I even kicked around the idea of going to a jacket-style BC and a different regulator configuration, just to be true to the ethic of “No Tech Dive” February.
Frankly, I was very excited. I told a number of people about my intentions. In retrospect, too many people, which is why I’m writing this.
The best laid lines of mice and men can always get tangled up, and now I’m going to Seattle in March for a class that I am very excited and woefully unprepared for. It was entirely unexpected, and I’m confident I’m getting taken to the cleaners. The max depth rating for those who complete the class is “The Bottom.”
Suffice to say, as of yesterday, I can’t afford to carry out “No Tech Dive” February, without getting completely slaughtered in my class in March, and dragging the mean performance of the rest of my buddies so far below the mud, it ceases to be a “scuba diving” class, and becomes a “underwater mining and mineral extraction” class.
So, if you see me or any of my dive buddies this next month carrying piles of tanks to the water line, or tweaking and adjusting decompression bottles, or filming each other doing drills at the bottom of the Smitty’s boat ramp like a bunch of dummies… sorry. I promise that in the next couple months, I will happily spend a consecutive, 30 days, diving a single-tank, recreational, dive setup. That’s how I fell in love with diving, and if that was the only diving I could ever do, I would enjoy diving in Alaska every bit as much as I currently do. I would be as happy diving a single tank in 40 ft. of Alaskan water, as I would doing a four-hour dive in 400 ft. of water.
But, gotta take the opportunities available in the moment (especially when taking this class in March opens more opportunities for dive buddies in September). So, “No Tech Dive” February is on the shelf.
That said, I promise you’ll catch me with one of my cartoonishly- long, single HP120’s on my back sometime in the next couple weeks. Because no matter how much dive gear you have, how many tanks you haul from your truck to the water, how many classes you take, it’ll always be pretty damn easy to “Just. Go. Diving.”