No, I’m not going to bring you to the super-amazingest cave that you read about and saw that awesome video of that is going to take two stages, a scooter, and a half mile walk through the jungle getting attacked by paper wasps and all the mosquitoes in the Yucatan. At least, not the first time we’re diving together. And certainly not the first time you’re visiting Mexico. There are plenty of cenotes where we can damn near giant stride out of the back of the car. And in each of those there are plenty of dives to be done. This is not to say that I’ve got some sort of mental or physical checklist of dives that need to be done as prerequisites for other dives. There isn’t really much of a metric I use besides capability, training, and gear configuration. Honestly, the way I pick sites is based on what our guests seem to like best and what I’m either in the mood for or places I haven’t been in a while. But it’s really easy, as professionals, to get “bored” with certain dives. And, consequently, people can fall into the trap of being motivated to bring the folks they’re guiding to places that impress themselves. When, in truth, a person first visiting this area is going to be overwhelmingly impressed by damn near everything and anything. I very nearly fell into that predicament this last week. But first, of course, a rambling tangent... Years ago I decided, on one random day, that I was going to start logging dives again. Unfortunately, I didn’t know where to start. Literally no idea. Then I remembered that my trusty Suunto Cobra had a total dives function that reported about ~1980 dives. I got all excited, thinking I was going to know exactly when my two thousandth dive was. That excitement was short-lived when I remembered that I only got that computer after more than a year of diving (and I’d gotten about 100 dives in my first year). So I started, arbitrarily, at 2000. But then my dive log started to look a lot like this:
So… yeah… that didn’t last long. In so many ways it was delightful to be so familiar with a site that you could identify if a rock was out of place (which usually indicated it wasn’t a rock - it was a frogfish). But in just as many, familiarity breeds contempt. There’s some part of you that starts thinking, “Well, if I’m this bored here… mustn’t everyone be? Golly, how can my divers be enjoying themselves at all in this terribly boring place? I wish I could bring them to XXXXXX which would really blow them away because it blows me away!” And, sure, it almost certainly would blow their minds. But one has forgotten that where you are right now is already blowing their minds. Because they don’t have hundreds of dives at this site. This is their very first time seeing this little corner of the universe; all the beauty and intrigue is new and fresh to them. This last week I’ve been diving with a fella who is still a relatively new cave diver. Super-solid, well-trained, great team-mate. But still new. And hadn’t been in a cave for a while. And had never been to the Mexican caves before. When people are here for their very first visit, as I mentioned the other day, not only do I pick an “easy” passage for dive one to allow people time to shake-down… I’m also watching them to determine what the week is going to be like. That done, I’ll try to give guests a little “sampler-pack” of the local caves. There is a ton of diversity and I like to give divers a little spectrum of what’s available so that the next time they come down they can have some idea of what they’re looking forward to seeing and, perhaps, even start to build preferences. Well, with this guy, on that first dive it was clear that we had pretty much anything accessible by backmount open to us. And therein lies the rub. Is the definition of what’s accessible wearing doubles. Last dive of the last day we get to a little restriction which I know has some of the most astonishingly dense areas of formation in the whole system we were in. But it is a little restriction. I’ve never tried it on backmount before, but have wiggled through restrictions of about the same size before. And I wanted to show him (or… almost certainly more precisely… I just wanted to go visit myself). And so I’m floating there looking at this restriction when, basically, the entire contents of this post rush into my head all at once. To say nothing of the damage of all the contact with the cave my trying to scrape my way through this little hole. To say nothing of the poor example it sets for this relatively new diver. Why on Earth was I trying to impress him when he had explicitly said, day after day, dive after dive, how impressed he already was? I turned around to see this look in the eyes behind his mask that hinted at, “You try and make me go through that tiny-ass hole and I’m calling the dive." We turned around. Went back to our last jump, recalculated thirds, and went to a different part of the system. And he loved it. All about perspective, I suppose. And a focused effort, on our part as professionals, to maintain that perspective. To remember what things were like when they were all new - instead of growing jaded and callous to what we once held in such reverential wonderment. One of my favourite conversations continues to be with people who are still new to diving this area, who ask about, “Can we go to XXXXXXX cave where we might get eaten by jaguars on the way?” And I answer, “Sure. We could. OR we can go to YYYYYYYY instead, where we can park right next to the water, where you’re already familiar with the first 15 minutes or so of passage, but I can bring you on a hidden jump you’ve swum past a dozen times and the cave is even prettier than XXXXXXX?” Most people choose the later option. Most, not all. But what can you do? Some people are thill-seekers. Most don’t mind waiting until after we’ve dived together a bunch and they’ve seen a good array of the more unpretentious caves before wanting to venture off the beaten path. During our debrief of the dive, Cuz brought up that moment at the restriction. He thought it was pretty funny. We talked about it a bit, which inspired some of the content above and generally gave us both some things to think about. I didn’t realise just how much he continued to think about it, though. Because, on checking out in the pre-dawn hours this morning, he left a cartoon for us on the whiteboard we keep on the doors to each house.
We figured the whiteboards would be useful for things like, well… like the littler note in the lower right-hand corner. But they seem to be much more popular for cartoons. Should probably get a full color marker set for each house.