Stay Frosty

By Ryan Meyer

I had the privilege of growing up on a dive boat. Didn’t know what I had.

One of my earliest memories was standing on the deck, looking down into clear water and wondering whether I could keep my head above if I jumped overboard. After deciding I couldn’t (the water was 20 feet deep, but you don’t know that when you are a toddler), I stared down at a starfish and watched it crawl slowly along the floor of the marina, as the tide came out. While the water brought me slowly closer, the creature moved ever so slowly farther. It’s very hard to fully get what you want, hey!

Diving with National Geographic

Hands down the best moment of my life was doing a dive with my dad in Nekwakto Rapids with a National Geographic film crew and a close photographer friend. Tremble Rock. If you catch the tide right, you can get a skiff on the island in the middle of the rapids, climb a tree and post a sign commemorating the trip, as many have done. If you don’t time the dive right, the rapids kick up to about 14 knots and after dad and I left the water keeping ultra safe time, we watched one of the photographers get blasted off the rock and picked him up in a skiff.

When we were done the dive, dried off and changed, we took a Sea Doo Explorer, off the back of a steel hulled vessel with a dinghy davit my dad welded himself, and drove to the mouth of the rapids. There were only about 50 horses pushing the jet drive and even at 17 years old, it felt a touch underpowered. Just the same, my dad sat behind me, life jackets already wet from spray, and he said, “The waves coming in haven’t seen anything since they left Japan. Punch it but stay straight with them.”

At the time I had been driving our boat a lot, teenaged, I thought quickly of the scope and expanse of the Pacific Ocean and was like, “Yeah, obviously I’m gong to stay straight with them” and I punched it.

Maybe I was smaller then, but the swells seemed about 30 feet. Big rollers that just came cascading in from so far away, nothing would stop them. They were gentle and we’d catch just a little air at the top before riding down the back like a roller coaster.

Best day of my life.

Best group of people I ever met. 17 years old, just hitting a late puberty, zitted and pot marked, put on a lot of weight on the trip, finally getting thick. Dad took me to a special place where I wasn’t worried about what my face looked like or having a cracking voice. That’s magic.

A few days later, we ran into a dear friend who owned a charter lodge and spoke with an old school diver (think her name was Mo). My dad explained the dive we did, told the story and she said to him: “You’re an irresponsible motherf$%ker taking your son on that dive.”

Before he introduced me to her, he vouched for her credentials, said she’d been diving for a long time. Eyes wrapped in salted wrinkles, she looked at my dad and said, “What were you thinking?”

Take a chill pill.

My mom and dad were divorced at the time (they met as scuba instructors) and my mom flipped when I told her about my month on the boat with dad. “You did what?”

And at the time, I was very much “Take a chill pill mom, it’s just Tremble Rock” because that was what people said back then. Take a chill pill.

Now my dad, and I run a dive insurance program and I look back on that day and the entire trip, laugh a little bit and think, yeah, I wouldn’t want to insure anyone diving there. I just wouldn’t. National Geographic diver got blown pretty far. There was a game plan for that, everyone ultra experienced, but when the tide goes at 14 knots outside of slack, it adds a touch of complexity that I wouldn’t bet money on. Can say I’ve done it, but not staking money with any regularity, if I know that’s what I’m doing.

2021 and Beyond

We run a dive insurance program now and we talk, dad, our amazing co-worker Samera and I, a lot about what we are going to see over the next year. There’s been Covid, pool shutdowns, been a rough year for the dive business. There’s a lot of expectation for the next 365.

Not a person we talked to said they were not affected. Everyone felt the crunch. Thus, the expectation increases for a bounce back in the industry.

On our end, we dropped prices a lot. Did everything we could while keeping the risk pool stable and avoided any smoke and mirrors.

That was a tough year though. Trips cancelled, receipts down. Commodities prices went through the roof. Housing up, crypto up… travel down. Read the Clines Reports. Optimism. Now some concern about inflation for the common man and it’s all just a lot to take in and sort mentally. Hard being stopped from doing what you love and it’s even harder being stopped from conducting your business. Full stop. It’s not politics or partisanship, it just sucks any way you slice it. Dive had a rough ride. We watched while a few long-time customers shuttered their stores and kicked them back as much money as we could.

But things are looking up. Travel opening, gathering restrictions dropping. Looks like we might have a season on our hands. Fist bump.

Everything is reopening now and dad, Samera and I talk while the reports of accidents pick up.

The incident reports are picking up handily.

Just getting back in the swing.

Guy runs over himself with his own skiff, back injuries in Hawaii getting reported late. Waivers not filled in correctly, inexperienced snorkeler being dragged over the choral by a tide. It’s the daily rigours bearing down at double speed. A girl dies in a National Park in Montana, read the complaint and it brings a tear to my eye; girl just a couple years older than I was when my dad took me on that dive, and we hit the waves rolling for miles.

She doesn’t get to say, “Take a chill pill mom.”

All I want to note, before this season starts what we hope is full swing, is I think we understand it’s been a trying year. It’s been nuts, it’s been financially savage, the news articles are crazy making, and it looks like we’re at the end of the tunnel.

But when these flood gates open up, think of that lady Mo, giving my dad, 5,000 dives or more under his belt, shit.

There’s an immense want to get back out and rock the dive life and get things on track, ride a wave that hasn’t seen anything since Japan, if you can.

But there’s always going to be Mo, or me now, or Samera, or a lawyer asking, “What were you thinking?” if anything happens.

There’s someone on Scubaboard (if you make a mistake or even don’t but something happens) dissecting your moves, following a case out of interest. Might be a bot, might be someone who doesn’t know what happened. How much do you want people talking about you?

I’m down for a learning culture and understanding that we make decisions that make sense in certain moments. That was exactly the dive we did on Tremble Rock. It made sense in the moment. But when Mo busted my dad’s balls for the dive, she was right. That’s a very experienced diver looking at safety first and taking her opinion to another very experienced diver and that discourse should continue to happen. Dad was accountable, he planned the dive perfectly, but if anything happened, she was right, my mom would have sued him, and a court would have agreed with Mo and mom.

Hard to take the chill pill on that.

And once you realize you can’t take a chill pill on your ex-wife suing you over an avoidable accident, suddenly the great memory becomes a lot less. Let’s not go dark, but there’s very easily a narrative that could be. We’ve all seen dark narratives the last year.

The balance between fun and safety will always punch more to safety. It’s a bubble wrap society whether you like it or not. Not a bubble wrap business, dive, so there’s always a bit of friction.

As we come out of Covid and get ready to equalize, run business normally and let the good times roll, stay frosty. Nobody likes to hear, “What were you thinking?”

Gotta think though, because you can’t answer that question with, “I wasn’t.”

Game on (I hope for everyone) but seriously, stay frosty. It’s not the time for avoidable accidents. Can’t be a tough two years running, so let’s not make it that way.

Let’s all get on our feet in a positive way and keep the narratives upwards. I think we all understand we can’t get exactly what we want, just like my toddler self looking at the star fish crawl as the tide went out, but we can push for an event free year if we keep our heads on straight. Let’s keep ‘em on straight and stay frosty. Complacency is the enemy, as is overextending.

Cheers, have fun and stay safe from the team at First Dive Insurance.

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