Get three dive instructors in a room and ask for an opinion: you’ll get seven rabidly, violently opposing views. It’s an old joke that, depressingly, holds true. Because divers tend to be god’s own misfits and weirdos to begin with; the people that make diving a “career” are the ones who were never going to survive a normie life. Dive professionals, almost by design, are the strangest, silliest motherfuckers possible who are only happy when they are all by themselves in a hostile, alien environment. We’re like astronauts… but dumb as box of wet hammers. Despite the posturing at rugged individualism people have a tendency toward community. Humans are, after all, a social animal. Sometimes it manifests as scuba tribalism; us against them. “Everyone from that shop is an asshole,” “Don’t dive off that boat unless you want to be left out at sea,” “They teach shit completely wrong,” “We’re the only ones who know how things really work.” It can get ugly. Sometime it’s something more positive. And every once in a very rare while it can be spectacularly positive. I honestly think what is happening within the community here in the Riviera Maya is that once in a very rare while. Dive pros are coming together, working together, helping each other, and growing stronger in their common purpose. It is a wondrously building wave to ride. There’s a bit of an ugly history among the dive community here. There was a lot of animosity between different sects of diving philosophy/ideology/shops for a long time. There was a lot of animosity between immigrants and Mexicans. Some people were painted as The Boogeyman. Some people actually were The Boogeyman. It was an insane, logical extension of having three dive instructors in a room. It was 100 technical/cave diving instructors with egos the size of the Macy’s Snoopy float. All from various parts of the world and bringing their own cultural idiosyncrasies to the rumble. That is not how it feels here now. At all. It started before we got here, a momentum building towards unification. A proper, positive change that local instructors and guides have been applying themselves towards and putting in the work to come together. I’m sure we can all recognise that sometimes it’s hard to open up to people (I am not claiming immunity to this as I am an emotionally chilly introvert who lives behind a wall lined with concertina wire)… but opening up is what’s been happening here, generally. The community is coming together. Part of that culmination is an organisation called CREER (Comité Regional de Espeleobuceo, Ecología y Regulación - also “to believe” in Spanish, which I think is just marvellous). It is, loosely defined, the moderation of the community, democratically sifting through what should happen and/or what needs to happen and working towards making it happen. Safety, Conservation, Education, and Public/Landowner relations… the oldest ideologies of cave diving are still as important now as they ever have been. And CREER, with the majority support of the local guides and instructors, is moving to take point on them. Two days ago, when that line broke in my hand… I reported it to CREER. Tomorrow that entire line in Tajma Ha is getting replaced.
I am a cynical, atheistic, nihilistic asshole. But I do believe in positive change. I believe communities can work together when the people within that community share a common passion and can look past their differences. I believe in groundswell, or grass-roots, or whateverthefuck when everyone figures out that we’re stronger together than we are within our own little cliques and cults. I believe that things can actually get better. I could not be happier that there is a practical demonstration happening in this corner and facet of the world while I’m here.