What Really Matters: Renewed Perspective on the Dive Community
Jeffrey Bozanic, TDI 33
My mom passed away last year. For me, as for many who have lost loved ones, it was a sorrowful event. Friends and family reached out to console, offer support, and share their love.
It was also a time for reflection… Where is life going? What is important? How can we change our lives to maximize happiness in the time remaining to us?
Many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins reached out to my siblings and I, expressing their own sadness and offering support. As did my close friends, the “family” that I chose for myself.
My Scouting family also rallied around me. I have been an extremely active Scout leader for over a decade, and the relationships I have built there are both strong and familial. Other Scouters, both locally and across the country, called, wrote, or dropped by to see if they could help. Being a part of a community dedicated to common goals builds relationships that are often as strong as those of one’s biological family.
And finally, my diving family also came together to share in my grief. I have been a member of this community for nearly 50 years, and have friends residing literally across the globe, on all seven continents, living in dozens of countries. Only a few of them came to see me in person, but my family and I received hundreds of calls, texts, emails, and cards from around the world. And this caused me to reflect on the nature of our community.
We all love the same things… underwater environments, marine life, exploring new places, learning to use new equipment, taking photographs, connecting with others to share our joy and passion for the unique places we have been, and introducing others to the natural world that we love. Yet we can be as divided and dysfunctional as some of the worst biological families I have ever experienced.
“Oh, he’s only a PADI (Put Another Dollar In) diver.”
“He’s a stroke!”
“Don’t go to her, she is a NAUI (Not Another Underwater Instructor) Course Director, she doesn’t know what she is doing.”
We continually demean others in our community, sometimes to bolster ourselves, but generally because it is the way we have been conditioned. And yes, I have been guilty of that in the past as well.
As divers, we are systematically conditioned the same way. A new diver who has not yet been certified does not know the difference between an “SDI Diver” or a “PADI Diver” or an “SSI Diver.” They just want to play; I mean, learn to scuba dive. Yet, as they enter our community, they learn that one agency is better because they are independent of dive stores, or another agency is better because they are the only agency that really teaches basics and a standardized way to dive. And the deeper they dive into our community, gaining certifications and skills, the more this conditioning is ingrained. For many, it gets to the point where a person will not consider even taking a class from an instructor from another agency because they are somehow inferior.
The same thing happens with the type of diving people do (“Cave divers are better than lowly open water divers!”) and with the type of equipment people use (“A Hogarthian rig is the only way to dive!” “My KISS rebreather is far superior to that rebreather she is using!”)
This hurts our community and our industry. This type of inherent conditioning prevents us from learning from others. It limits growth by limiting accessibility to instructors, training, or equipment options. It fractionates us, impairing our ability to fight the fights we should be fighting, such as pushing back against limiting access to dive sites or legislation that restricts us from growth. And, perhaps most importantly, it projects a generalized sense of angst to potential new community members (new divers) that literally drive them away from our sport, because it just does not feel comfortable.
Yes, we all have opinions on what we find works best for ourselves. And yes, we are proud of what we have accomplished in our particular community niches, but that should not devolve into an “I am better than you” mentality. It is my belief that we, all of us, need to change our perspectives, and begin in earnest to work together better and put our differences aside.
We need to celebrate our commonality, our love and joy for the oceans, lakes, and rivers in which we dive. We need to welcome each other, and accept other opinions, as they all have a common goal to get us under water. And we need to change the negativism in the way we project our feelings, so that we do not drive new divers away. They are the lifeblood of our continuance, and we should cherish them. They should feel warmly welcomed and accepted, so that they will remain and continue to develop their skills. This is the way we will grow and remain healthy.
Finally, I would like to thank my diving family (not my NAUI family, or my SDI family, or my IANTD family) for decades of fellowship, love, laughter, and support!