by Cris Merz:
Conversation starters among any group usually includes three categories of people; those who genuinely want to know more, those who are being polite and are making some small talk, and those who are looking to inject their own twist or expertise in the matter and “one-up” you. “How many dives do you have? I have a billion…” Diving as a community certainly has its fair share of the latter. We will, for arguments sake, ignore those people in this article and focus on the fun, the education, and what makes for good fun conversation over a cold beverage after a day of diving.
- Equipment. It is always fun walking around a dive deck looking at other people’s gear. “Whoa! What is that? What does it do?” It is a great way to view diver’s choices of what works for them and why. You learn firsthand from a consumer who may either be happy, or not so satisfied, with the product and the “why” behind it. I once actually saw a man with two rearview mirrors attached to his mask so he would not miss any whale shark sightings. This was in Galapagos where most of the marine life is present due to several strong currents such as the Humboldt Current. On the inflatable heading out to the dive site, we learned that he was an eBay fanatic and that was where he found these interesting accessories that clipped on to his mask. Did it work? Well, in 2 knot current, those babies went flying off the moment he turned his head into the current. It was a great idea though!
- Travel. I have always loved to hear stories of travel experiences. Far beyond just the dive sites, I have wanted to know how the taxis were coming from the airport to the resort or the boat. What was the boat like? The crew? The food? These conversations about the occurrences top-side are often more interesting than some of the diving, although I definitely want to know about that too. “Dude, they picked us up in this 60’s minivan and we had to weave through Vespas, mopeds, and bicycles that often carried 7 people or more – I’m talking whole families.” “The food was awful… way too spicy”. “The food was amazing… so spicy.” But more than anything, I like to hear about the people they met and the new culture they just experienced and their thoughts.
- Experience. Far beyond the certification ratings a diver may have, the amount of dives some people have accumulated say a lot. We encourage people to take classes and continue to dive in those areas that interest them. Photography? Perhaps wreck diving? These are the types of fields where a diver may take one or two additional courses and then progress as divers in those fields by diving. Diving, diving, and diving. Looking at sunlight a certain way or the approach toward a certain marine creature while trying to get that fantastic picture is not something you will learn overnight. As a wreck diver, experience and control is what will give you the calm and collective head to figure out what you are doing if something deviates from the original plan. For the most part, people love hearing about these experiences, how you handled yourself and how you prevailed. “Wow…I would have been freaking out if I was surrounded by all those tiger sharks after I exited the wreck. And they didn’t do anything to you? What did you do? Do you have any pictures?”
I have found that though I may have used these conversation starters often, my favorite part was often comparing notes. I am often able to bring something back to the conversation but what I enjoy the most, especially if the person is a great story teller, is listening.