Obviously there are different philosophies and cultures in various dive destinations. What works on the wrecks of the Red Sea doesn’t work in Scapa Flow. The techniques used in the placid waters of Roatan aren’t appropriate for the surge off the west coast of Hawaii in Winter. Cave diving and wreck diving are different things. Moored diving and drift diving are different things. Furthermore, even single facets of the diverse forms of our diversion can be peculiar to one’s place in the world. Variables make the world rich and interesting. To that end, it is generally acknowledged that there are broad differences between the two most popular cave diving locales: here in the Riviera Maya and North Florida. I have absolutely no intention of listing them all out. For they are legion. I will say that it always surprises me when people from one place think that their knowledge, or even mastery, of the philosophies and practices of their home turf equips them to tackle the other without any guidance whatsoever. Because, for reals, speaking as someone with not-insignificant experience in both, they are different enough that they are almost different “sports.” Well… perhaps not completely different sports… maybe it’s more like Finnish-rules vs. Canadian-rules bobsledding (NOTE: I am completely ignorant about bobsledding… so don’t bother fact-checking it, it’s probably wrong. It’s just a narrative device.) The one difference I’m interested in today is about getting gear into the water. We have some busy-ass cenotes here. Mayan Blue, for example. It’s a site divers can access without a guide. It’s easy to find. Most anyone who has ever dived here knows where it is and how to get in, because it’s fucking awesome and a “must-dive” cave they have certainly been shown at some point. So on any given day there may be 4 or 6 or even 10 teams of divers with differently-leveled agendas there (I tend to go somewhere else when there’s 10 because I’m misanthropic). Because it’s Mexico and there’s this lingering theory that if you dive here you HAVE TO be on sidemount, everyone brings their tanks down to the water, staging them on a small, near-water-level dock for ease of donning. The politeness of this always pleases me. On busy days everyone chooses a little corner and tries to leave room for everyone else. Tanks get laid down as teams get in; and, in the event of multiple teams entering together, everyone makes a best effort to leave room or clear off quickly. Sometimes there are sunbathers or snorkelers or other-such day-trippers who sprawl there, but a polite word to them about how a bunch of people need to move heavy gear around the area to them tends to get an apology as they gather their things and move. There are also a few loops of line for things like stage bottles or scooters hanging on the entry stairs and, similarly, divers use them judiciously. That’s the norm here. Ginnie Springs in High Springs, Florida is another of the most commonly dived caves in the world. The landowners at Ginnie do not make most of their money from divers. The vast majority of their income comes from… shall we say… revellers? (That’s a polite way of saying “drunken, hillbilly stoners and college kids who are fucking hammered by 9AM, all wanting to raft down a shit-brown river full of alligators over and over for some incomprehensible reason.) Granted, these folks are not as polite or as obliging when a diver loaded to bear says, “Excuse me.” Which can be frustrating. I suppose that’s why a common practice there is to move your tanks to the water and instead of walking them down the steps and choosing a placement for them, you fucking fling them into the spring run like the monkey at the beginning of 2001. Sorry/Not Sorry, but I do have a strong preference for common Mexican vs. Floridian approach for a litany of reasons. One day Nelly was getting rigged up for a dive at Ginnie. The run was high and Nelly, if you haven’t met her, is not very tall. So she’s trying to get her bailout bottles on in water that is far too deep for her to stand. “Fuck it,” she figures, sticks the rebreather mouthpiece in her gob, submerges, and takes up the rest of the chore underwater. And that’s about when a rigged LP50 dropped like a depth charge only inches from her head. Because some jackass had lobbed it into the water without a goddamn care in the world. So, danger to life and limb aside… Why the fuck would you be so reckless with your expensive equipment? Why would you risk hurling a critical tank into the water where it might free-flow and empty itself long before you can get to it? Or land in the wrong place and slip down into Little Devil’s in Florida (or, at site like Naharon here, into that silty, shithole siphon right under the stairs)? Or land just wrong a smash a pressure gauge or crack a hose fitting? Do you think it makes you cool? Like all the other cool kids? Is there some air of being so world-weary that you have so very much gear that you just can’t be bothered? Or when you are in a spot that is so populous with swimmers and divers alike, are you just trying to convey the message, “Your lives and safety are all meaningless to me. I and I alone matter in this world?” Pretty frequently I get divers from Florida who ask, “Can I just throw my tanks in the water?” No. You can’t.
Thoughtfully pick a spot that is out of the way and doesn’t impact anyone else and put them there. Like a fucking grown-up.