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Through Stormy Seas

You ever try to change an entire culture?

It’s like trying to turn one of those 1,300 foot container ships. On which every container has its own unique and loudly presented ideas of where the ship ought to be turning.

Some years ago I got to enjoy that very task. Charged with getting a diverse community of divers to comply with binders full of rigid SOPs when the traditional mores of the group were much more lax about safety than they ever should have been. It was challenging, to say the least. Interesting, informative, educational… mostly hard, but well-worth the eventual payoff of seeing the horizon start to shift.

I am certain that is in no small part my experience with this challenge that I so closely follow the utopian efforts of Gareth.* He wrote something them ok ooo on look ooool lol

lompoooo lo lo other day that's been rattling around the back of my head like a dip tube that's come loose in a tank as I’ve had several different conversations with others over the past week or so. Post mo inolo

Lh op

Ok o O lakm lo ok lo LLP mm lo LLP ok o mm amok o k

m ooh o

m lol mMay ok loolooks lolHERE NJ no I’m ooo ooo and ooo l lol

Ignoring the fact that the source material (“It shouldn’t have to happen to you to matter to you”) is taken somewhat out of the context of the fractious, modern political landscape, Gareth shifts the lens through which we can see the idea so it is focused on the behaviour of both looo lomo oo lo oon ppoor okk no olmmoooo poop ooo o oook individual divers and the dive community. o I km mino lo mol

I’ve written lo o before about how we’ve all got that one friend, or onetime dive buddy, or person who keeps showing up on the boat, or whomever… they are very, very obviously batshit insane. Seem to have no concept of fear. Get back to the dive bench and, every goddamn time, cavalierly talk about how on that dive they did something that is objectively the stupidest fucking thing a diver could ever do. All their remaining buddies have talked to them about how they have to take it easy, but “our hero” always just laughs it off. Everyone is pretty sure this person is going to die underwater

my , but there seems to be no apparent way to keep

ooo ooo oo ooo mm ooo poop them from diving other than stealing all their gear. O

How do you change this person’s mind? Oh

Most divers (I’d venture to say: all of us) have hit that point where it all starts to seem easy. I’m not talking about that 25-dive certainty where you’re first capable of noticing something other than “HOLY SHIT I’M UNDERWATER!” and are starting to feel so comfortable and confident in your skills that you OBVIOUSLY know more than this dumb Divemaster who is telling you what you can and cannot do. A little bit after that.

more ooool

When you’ve been diving a while and your gear is as comfortable as that pair of jeans you refuse to throw away.

You’ve got all your little pre-dive routines down.

You’ve got a bunch of dive sites you’ve been to a bunch of times, and now longtime friends you first met on dive holidays.

Maybe you’ve gone into more advanced levels of diving, grown just as comfortable there, and do it all the time.

Maybe you never went past AOW and are content to take a point-and-shoot camera on your 30-50’ reef bimbles a couple of times a year.

In whatever case… diving is your happy place. Where your every trip is planned and you can barely wait for the next one. The thing you can close your eyes and daydream about on little mini-vacations throughout a workday. Where all is well in the world.

Ever do a body recovery?

Yeah. That was abrupt as shit, wasn’t it?

There is an absolute that is almost unanimously ignored at every single level of the the sport and across all demographics of the community: When things go wrong underwater, they go wrong big and they go wrong fast.

I do not expect (nor want) you to answer the recovery question. Certainly not in “public” anyway.

I have. Of strangers. And of friends. No need for words of condolence or whatnot, nothing of the sort has happened recently. I bring it up only as a reference point for comparison. Because as I’ve been talking to people recently, I’ve remembered those crappy days, to which I do have an emotional connection, as a counter-balance to the post that Gareth wrote below.

Remember our dumb, reckless diver friend above? Yeah, that was me. OK, maybe not quite that bad… not as a diver, anyway. (But if you ask some of my oldest, non-diving friends about some of the shit I’d pulled through a capricious youth you’d either laugh in hysterical disbelief or need a bit of a lie-down with a cold compress on your head.)

At some point, I changed. My thinking about risk and reward was seismically and seemingly unalterably shifted. And on so many of the things I practice and teach I’m now so much less like Mr. Magoo and so much more like a fussy schoolmarm from a silent western movie.

There are a bunch of things I simply don’t give a shit about as a diver… even as an instructor.

The frivolities of fashion: brand names, configurations, super-special-patented techniques? Backmount/Sidemount, Helmet, OC/CCR, wetsuit/drysuit, size of your tanks, etc, etc, etc. Don’t care.**

Is it safe? I get very uptight about that.

One of the folks I was talking to this week is just as uptight. Another person who has had some close involvement with not-just-one dive accident. We tend to be of a single mind when we talk about training, or of gear, or of most underwater things. They were struggling to get a particular safety point across to an ex-student who seemed utterly incapable of understanding the message. Or obstinately committed to a contrary point.

We both got to wondering, “Is it really as simple as that a person can’t appreciate just how dangerous this environment is until they’ve seen it all go completely pear-shaped firsthand?”

Or, worse, will only their buddies have learned when they’re performing CPR on them?

When I explain or expect certain things to/of students (or even folks I’m guiding) I always try to reinforce that we are not simply dogmatically sticking to some rulebook because the rulebook is a holy text… but rather because what we’re doing is actually important and I’d be very happy to explain in fine detail why.

(Except for the rulebook for the group of divers I opened this whole trip down memory lane with. That was - and is - a holy text.)

My friend and I agreed the best we can do is keep trying to persuasively make our cases. And hope that, over time, with experience and exposure, the divers in our immediate sphere (ourselves included) will learn, little by little and with no drama or tragedy, the best way to avoid incidents and accidents by sticking to a good set of SOPs that have been hard-learned over the sixty-some years.

But is an explanation enough? Is even sanctity enough? The later has easier access to an emotional connection by stressing the importance of a feeling of connection to a group, or a leader, or a higher purpose - strength by conformity. The former, by its very nature, is anti-emotional: Vulcan logic - strength by informed case-by-case decision making. Yet neither approach can fully insulate us from doing dumb shit sometimes. Hell… the Pope still goes to confession.

There were a couple of little ways I tried to tap into the emotional connection when I was trying to steer that culture, years ago. Some exercises and drills. But they were just sleight of hand, tricks, analogies. And just as they were kinda like the real thing… they kinda worked. That modicum of success was satisfying to see, though. Because it came at far less cost than it came for some of us.

Hopefully, just hopefully, the ship of our culture at large will be willing to turn, together, always towards the brightest points on the horizon. Instead of - to really stretch the metaphor - one of the containers on the boat deciding it knows better and spontaneously falling overboard from time to time.

Gareth poignantly asks, “Do you want to spend the cost upfront and be proactive, or spend more but in a reactive manner?”

When you think about it, this is obvious intellectual property infringement. In short: plagiarism. Because I’ve heard that exact same question asked elsewhere.

"I know what you're thinking. 'Did he fire six shots or only five'? Well to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, i kind of lost track myself. But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well do ya, punk?”

Sure, I mean… they’re totally different words. In a totally different context. And a different theme. And medium. And have nothing to do with diving. But, effectively, it really is the exact same question about intelligent decision making.

I’m reasonably confident he’ll be getting a letter from Eastwood’s lawyers any minute now. --------

*Gareth Lock: Founder of The Human Diver ** Except for this: Fuck Snorkels

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