I still remember my earliest dives like they were yesterday. My checkout dives for Open Water were completed at Devil’s Den and Ginnie Springs in Florida — blue water, unlimited viz, 72 degrees, a beautiful November 2006. I remember poking around the rocks in Devil’s Den and finding an old Budweiser can. My first treasure! My first ocean dives were off Oahu in Hawaii, where I was the first down the line to a 90-foot bottom. I remember the small old prop plane emerging from the depths as we descended. I remember carrying my old underwater camera and taking pictures of everything in sight. Spoiler alert: None of my pictures were any good.
I was 18, in college, and majoring in marine biology. As fate would have it, now, I am 32 and a co-owner of my own dive center. As we move up the dive ranks, it’s too easy to forget where we came from. At the time of my original certification, I obviously didn’t know I would end up co-owning my own shop. When I certified in blue water, unlimited viz, and 72 degrees, I obviously didn’t know my current primary dive conditions would be green water, limited viz, and 50+ degrees. Your dive journey can take you many directions.
Don’t forget your roots.
I was 24 or 25, post-college, and living the adult life when I did my first Jersey wreck dive. I remember splashing, getting down the line in about 80 feet, and thinking, “what the hell is this?” It’s green, it’s cool water, and the “wreck” was far from intact. I swam around some boilers and snapped more terrible pictures with my underwater camera. It was not my favorite dive. The next season I went again and again. I’ve now been diving NJ wrecks for 7 years and enjoy it as much, if not more than warm water reef diving. Don’t forget your dive roots.
I’m not the best diver.
I’m a diver who is always learning and getting better. Assuming you’re already the best diver implies you have nothing left to learn. I will never be the best. On the contrary, I will be the best mashup of every single diver and instructor who I have ever dove with. I will never claim to be the best instructor. I’m an instructor who is always learning, improving, and revising my teaching practices. I will keep an open mind, take constructive criticism, and apply it where I see fit. I won’t just be an instructor; I will be a mentor. An instructor only instructs a class. A mentor can provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling. I will be a mentor.
Lose the ego
The important thing to remember as you progress through your dive career, whether it’s sport, technical, or professional, is don’t forget your roots. Don’t forget the feeling of being a student. No matter how many times you’ve seen the same fish, dove the same wreck, or swam circles in your local quarry, there’s a new diver experiencing it all for the first time. Don’t downplay the little things. That wreck or fish might not be impressive to you any longer, but to a new diver, it might be the greatest thing they’ve ever seen. I don’t want to be the best diver, but I do want to be a great mentor to anyone who’s willing to dive with me. With new divers on the boats, it’s fun to have gone from newbie diver to an inspirational wreck diving mentor. 14 years ago, as I certified in 72 degrees, blue water, and unlimited viz, I never would have thought I’d become a Jersey diving mentor to dozens of local divers. My roots brought me here, and I’m proud of the journey. No egos, just diving and sharing experiences.
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