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Learning to Fly

People frequently bring the wrong wing.

Whether it’s a horseshoe wing from the early 90s. Or something with double inflators. Or something wrapped in bungees like a bondage aficionado. Or something with 3 times the lift that’s actually needed for any dive ever. Or oddly shaped. Or a sidemount harness that looks like it's been designed by non-diving 3D animators who are being subsidised by a d-ring factory.

A wing isn’t just a wing.

This is something I’ve known for ages. It's a conversation I’ve had a zillion times and one that has occasionally presented a challenge during various training weeks.

It always reminds me of working in a dive shop, trying to explain to new Open Water students why it is worthwhile to spend $80 on a mask when you can get one for $10 at Sports Authority. But the wing conversation frequently has the complexity of the person having spent substantial more than $10 (even secondhand) and/or been told "This is the right thing," by someone they respect.

Recently we purchased a wing specifically to rent out to people who checked in at XOC-Ha with something wildly wrong. Public service and all that.

I’ve had… I dunno… a half dozen doubles wings over the years. I had a favourite that I sold ages ago when I moved over the CCR, foolishly thinking “I’ll never need this again.” Over the last few years I’ve been using another that I’ve always liked.

A few weeks ago our new rental wing shows up and I rig it up for a dive. I want to test it out; see if there are any differences, how it feels, whether it’s as good as my own wing… all to decide whether it’s worthwhile to order two more for those occasions when three people all show up for class with something that’s not fit for purpose.

Within about 30 seconds of being underwater I was furious.

A few days previous a couple of friends were trying to convince me to buy a particular wing and I’d rankled about how they were being brand-whores, that my own wing was perfectly fine. And now I was furious because I suddenly realised, floating in 5 feet of water under this rental wing - that it wasn’t a rental, that this was my new wing. And that my asshole friends had been absolutely right.

Over the course of the dive things got worse. Things that I had never even noticed were annoyances about my wing didn’t exist with this new one. Controlling where the air was in the cell didn’t require any attention. Dumping air didn’t require any substantial changes in body position. But even peculiar body positions (like swimming on one side or upsidedown) were effortless.

What I’d always thought of as perfectly balanced with the wing I’d been using for years suddenly seemed like a plate perfectly balanced on a stick compared to the balance of a book on a table of this one; solid, flat, motionless. Truly stable.

Then Nelly tried it and things only went downhill from there.

“I want one, too,” she said.

Cave divers always think that having a cave diving spouse is awesome, in part because you never have to explain or justify the purchase of expensive dive gear to them. The shortcoming, however, is that you need to buy two of everything.

(Having a cave diving spouse IS the awesomest, though.)

So now we need more wings. For rental and for us.

Because even though we had both felt very happy with what we had... because, to risk immodesty, we both know a thing or two about dive gear... because we have both had the “wrong wing” conversation with people often enough… turns out, all that time, we both had the wrong wings ourselves.

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