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Extemporise

Today we’ll be pointed at a section of cave which, if you can even find it, the likelihood of having enough gas to actually make it there is uncertain at best. It is a very long way from home. And so well-hidden that unless you know exactly where to turn you wind up floating very alone in a room so very big and dark room it can lead to an existential crisis that has you questioning major life decisions. The payoff is worth it. The room we’re headed to is enormous, white, wildly decorated with all manner of delicate, fancy-pants cave formations and generally jaw-droopingly beautiful. After the creepy, questionable entryway, one can’t help but marvel at both the dichotomy and the ancient majesty of such a place. I’m glad we’ll get to go. It is a rare treat. But, truth be told, every week I manage to find delight with our guests. Some local pros prefer to guide. Some prefer to teach. (Some of the more misanthropic sorts prefer to be left the hell alone to go do their own thing.) As for me… I’m glad for the diversity. An intro class this week. A week of staged/scootered guiding next. A stage cave class the week after. A deco class the next. Variety and spice of life and whatnot. And beyond that, I’m grateful for the diversity of the students even within the various levels of training/diving. I was once introduced (somewhat against my will) to a term which made me bristle from start to finish: Prescriptive Teaching. First off - fun fact - it’s actually misapplied. True prescriptive teaching sees each student as individuals. Within dive applications it is generally used to mean “scripted;” that is, exact same approach for every single student. There is one particular agency that goes so far as to ensure that the exact same terms and ideas are on all presented on the same pages across the global translations of their material. That is just how scripted we’re talking. Aside from a couple of short plays and screenplays I’ve written over the years, I don’t have much use for scripts myself. And anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m not much of a “stick to the script” sort of a person. (I am, in point of fact, more of a “light the script on fire and roast vegan marshmallows over it” sort of a person.) I find the idea that every single person is going to learn the exact same things in the exact same method misguided at best, offensive at worst. Some people need to read. Some need to do. Some people need to hear something once, some need to hear it 347 times. Sometimes a concept needs to be presented in a very particular way - very literally or through everyday analogy. As divers some people are really excited about tinkering with gear while others may hamfistedly prefer that things just get set up once and work goddamn it. More than a few divers love to geek out about physiology and gradient factors and deco theory. Some will spend days planning dives, while others will just jump in the water and do what their computer says. Different people don’t just learn differently - they dive differently. And that’s OK. Because it’s diving. We’re not marines on the beaches of Normandy where if our cohesion and uniformity break down there’s going to be a 1000 year reich of mass-murdering fuckwits run amok. We’re puttering around in the water and looking at pretty stuff because it’s fun. The idea of uniformity of thought, theory, or practice is useful in its way. Team diving, for example, is arguably both safer and more fun. But I would claw my own eyes out if I still had to teach according to “On dive one we do this, on dive two we do that, on dive three we do the other…” Which is, in large part, why I was determined not to have to start working for another dive shop when we moved down here; I no longer wanted to be answerable to some manager saying, “You can’t issue a c-card until you have sold them gloves and hose protectors” ever again. I like being able to cater my teaching methods - and, within a certain amount of leeway, the content - to the student. I like being able to cause as minor or major a series of failures and events to take place over their training dives to be able to help them flourish as the best diver they, personally, can be. Here’s an example: I have a stage class coming up shortly. Usually, when I teach stage, it’s pretty math heavy. Consistent recalculation of gas usage over the course of a dive is an ongoing theme a few days into class. However, the student has made abundantly clear that they are not terribly mathematically minded… they don’t trust themselves to recalculate over and over again. The point, they feel, of having a stage is to increase their range in a single, linear penetration with gas planning carefully calculated, clear-headed, on the surface. Drop pressure, turn pressure, go home. This, to me, demonstrates a level of maturity and temperament to be a safe diver within that scope. So why the hell not? Why try and force a bunch of math into someone’s unreceptive mind? Especially when there is absolutely no requirement to do so. NOTE: No, student is ever getting an easy class just because math is hard. But different people learn differently. There's a word I far prefer over "prescriptive." Bespoke. Tailoring every week(s) to the person or group who has come to visit. Instead of putting everyone in a box and doing the same shit week after week year after year, joining each and every guests' every day as the exciting, little miracle it can be. Fuck the script. Extemporise! I especially like being in a corner of the universe where there is such a mad myriad of dive sites to choose from there is no shortage of shite to make people go, “Holy crap that’s amazing!” Doesn’t matter if they’re a newer diver who has not yet achieved the fine control that they’re working up towards or is, perhaps, not yet grown terribly efficient with their gas usage such that our site is going to be only a 10 minute swim in. Or, like today, a pair of divers whose breathing rates nearly match my own (one diver having an even better consumption rate than me) and have a mastery of fine control that we can nimbly swim through even the most delicate areas without so much as a mote of silt disturbed. So that we can go pretty nearly anywhere. Enough typing. I’m going to go pack the truck. And go anywhere.

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