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Pursuit of Happiness

Why do you dive? Beyond the obvious “It’s fun,” that is. There’s a candy-store assortment of reasons. Some overlap; some are at odds with one another. But it’s all a question of WHY you think it’s fun. Which of the bounty of facets do you find exciting and make the cost and the time and the effort all worthwhile?

Some people enjoy the challenge of it.

And there is a spectrum of ways that manifests. From the early days of taking a bunch of classes and focusing hard on getting better. To the shipwreck hunters who spend an entire season pouring over sidescan data and historical shipping records at the library. To the cave explorers who go tramping through the forrest trying to avoid ticks and hornets, carrying mountains of gear two miles each way to sort out whether a mud puddle some hunter told them about might go somewhere. Some people are photographers. There are the people who specialise in ultra-macro, spending an hour trying to get the eyeball of a post-larval mantis shrimp in focus. There is the recent trend of photogrammetry, constructing incredibly detailed records of shipwrecks, especially. Or the folks who paint with light, color, and shapes to compose these fantastical visions of the places we visit.

There are the wildlife people.

The ones who keep a detailed catalog of all the nudibranchs they spotted on each dive. By latin names. Or the shell collectors, for whom the highlight of their diving career is getting to name a species. The fish nerds who make sketches of the markings of something they haven’t seen so they can rush to their well-worn copy of Humann and DeLoach the moment they dry off. Or the folks who plan their vacations around coral spawning events.

Some people are gear geeks. Whether it’s the new computer with a heart-rate monitor and moon-phase built in. Or a room full of every piece of kit on the market in an assortment of colours. Some folks get excited about carefully overhauling their own regulators. Sidemount is fussy and fun to constantly adjust and tweak and get your geek on over. Some folks just go whole hog and buy a rebreather or five. And there are scooters. And there are different tanks. And reels and lights and all the little stainless steel doodads you could dream of. Some folks are into the social bit of it. Yeah, they dive, but they are just as frequently stationed in front of the grill, ready with a burger or a dog for the rest of the group. These are the folks who volunteer first to organise clubs or group vacations. The ones who you can always count on for a lift to the dive site, because they enjoy the conversation on the way out just as much as they will enjoy the dive.

Some have a vocation to education.

Whether it’s joy in seeing the eyes of an OW student light up that first time they successfully clear their mask. Watching someone return from a complex cave dive with a gleeful realisation that all the planning makes perfect sense. Or helping sooth the anxiety of someone about to do their first long drift deco. Some genuinely enjoy helping people build a foundation towards finding their own way into either beginner or advanced aspects of a sport and an environment. Helping them find their fun and passion. Some people hunt. Lobsters. Lionfish. Scallops. Parrotfish. I think it’s gross, myself. But… you know… vegan. But it’s what they think is fun and makes the sport worthwhile for them. It would be naive to ignore the fact that some folks are in it to be bad-ass. They know more than you. They’re better at it than you. Their instructor was the best in the world and why on earth did you even bother getting trained if you weren’t going to get trained by the best. They’ve been to every dive site in the world. Twice. And started going way before it was cool. Their gear is better than yours. Their diving is better than yours. They have assessed and judged everything about you and concluded you should thank your lucky star-signs to be in the same water as them. How often have you seen or heard, “You’re not a real diver unless..” It’s fucking bollocks. Down here, in the Mexican cave diving scene, it’s the explorers who are elevated to rock-star status. Many of them deserve it. They work very hard to do what they do, putting more hours a week into their projects than a lawyer trying to make partner at a corporate firm. I know many folks who have more dives in a single cave than most divers in the world have total career dives. Some of the maps these folks produce are absolute artwork. There’s one or two who seem to be able to smell new caves on the air. But you know what? No one I know does it BECAUSE it gives them rock-star status. They do it because it’s what they genuinely enjoy. In working those projects they find their zen and their joy. The thrill of being places no one has ever been before fills their head with endorphins more than anything else. I’ve done some modest exploration. You know what my reaction usually is? “That’s pretty cool.” That’s about it. I feel no more of a thrill at brand new cave than I do at well-traveled cave. My sense of adventure is no more activated by someplace that human eyes have never seen than by finally checking out a jump I’ve swum past a dozen times. And surveying is the goddamn boringest thing in the entire world; I’d rather watch my cat play with a stray piece of floof on the carpet for four hours than meticulously note data on a slate. Yet I’ve had people tell me, “You need get more involved in exploration.” Why? So I can be a rock-star? Seems like an awful lot of bother doing something I don’t enjoy to achieve a status I don’t want. “You need to dive a dry suit.” “You need to dive sidemount.” “You need to shore dive." “You need to go to this one site.” “You need to dive rebreather.” “You need to get deco trained.” "You need to get cave trained." “You need to take a class from….” You don’t need to do shit. It’s diving. Have fun. Doing whatever you find fun about it. Back when I used to be a wreck diver people were always confused as to why I didn’t come back on the boat with a bunch of artefacts or a bunch of fish. “I just like floating around and looking at stuff,” I’d explain to uncomprehending faces. The same has held true whether I’m on the reef or in a cave. I like to sightsee and think daffy shit about humanity’s place in time and space and how it all relates to the beauty in front of me. There are other facets which contribute to my love for the activity… but that’s the main component for me.

I don’t care why you love diving. I mean, I care in so far as I’m glad that it gives you joy; but I don’t have any agenda about it.

Well, I confess that I do find the “being badass” and the hunting objectionable… but if that’s the way you’re going to find your happiness, I’d ask that you just do it over there somewhere.

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