6 Values to Live and Dive By

By Heather McCloskey

When I started diving a few years back, I had no idea how much this sport would change my life. Heck, I didn’t know this sport would become my life! After just barely making it through my open water course, I was hooked on not only the way the weight of the world disappears as soon as you descend, but also the concept of constant imperfection. Perfect dives, and perfect divers are a myth, I learned. Accepting this simple truth freed me to conquer some of my biggest fears both underwater and above, and has been a value at the core of my approach to diving. 

Over the years I’ve identified and embraced a few more values to live and dive by. Here they are:

1. Talk about the tough stuff 

Let’s not brag about the things that are easy; they’re easy after all. Let’s brag about accomplishing the things that once felt impossible. Not everything in diving (and life) is easy, and frankly if it were, I think many of us would not love this sport as much as we do. Challenges keep us sharp. I believe in being open and transparent about the things that are hard. This means talking to others about what you’re struggling with without feeling shame or embarrassment. 

If you are open about the things that are difficult for you now and were difficult in the past, it shows others that they can be open about their struggles as well. This vulnerability and openness is what can help drive real conversations about how to tackle the tough stuff. You can’t grow without struggle…which brings me to my next point… 

2. Accept that you don’t know what you don’t know 

If I had a taco for every mistake I made in diving because I didn’t know better, I am pretty sure every taco joint in the Riviera Maya would forever be out of Papas con Chorizo…maybe even Cochinita as well. I used to completely beat myself up whenever I learned that I’d been doing something in a less than ideal manner. But then someone pointed out a simple fact that has helped me change my way of thinking: You don’t know what you don’t know. I can’t go back in time and teach myself that wearing jet fins while diving in a 3mm shorty made my trim terrible and was the cause of my persistent back pain. Nor can I go back and tell myself to refuse to dive overweighted. 

There are countless things that I have done or been taught to do while diving (especially in my early days) that I’ve later learned are simply wrong, and I think every diver who pushes themselves to grow and improve will encounter this uncomfortable situation more than once. We can’t beat ourselves up for not knowing what we don’t know, otherwise we will condition ourselves to either not learn and accept new things or to never truly assess progress over time. So, rather than beating yourself up, accept that you didn’t know that thing at that time, let the potential consequences play out in your mind, and strive to be better next time. 

3. Always seek more training 

There is no such thing as a perfect dive, nor is there such a thing as a perfect diver, and if anyone tells you otherwise you can rest assured that they are full of it. No matter how much training, experience, and confidence we have, there is always more to learn and always ways to improve. One of the best ways to do this is by taking more courses, however, do not underestimate the power of incorporating skills into your fun dives and following them up with a thorough debriefing with your buddy. 

Finally, for those instructors out there, you can occasionally learn just as much from your students as they can from you. What matters here is not so much how we continue learning but that we strive stay open to learning opportunities whenever they may come up, and that we never lose that drive to improve.

4. Know your limits 

As divers and dive instructors, we constantly remind ourselves and our students to always dive within what our training and experience allows. But truly knowing and diving your limits extends well beyond simply not exceeding the limitations of your training. 

  • Sometimes it means saying “nope” to diving with someone you don’t trust or know well.
  • Sometimes it means calling a dive before reaching your planned gas or time limits. 
  • Sometimes it means waking up in the morning and saying, “I do not feel like making that dive today.” 

Respecting your limits means not just knowing when to say no or thumb a dive, but also feeling comfortable doing so if you need to. Remember and live by the golden rule: any diver can call any dive at any time for any reason no questions asked. If you don’t feel comfortable acting on this rule and calling a dive, don’t go diving. 

5. Size does not matter (…in diving) 

This is informally called the “No f^%&ing excuses, you can f^%&ing do it!” clause. I used to think there were so many things I could not do because I happen to be tiny. And yes, at 5-foot nothing (153cm), weighing in at 92 lbs/42kg (depending on how many tacos I have eaten), I am probably not the first image that comes to mind when you think of a cave diver. However, I’ve learned that it does not matter. It’s all relative to your mindset and in shifting my own mindset I have decided that I am not small, I am restriction-optimized! 

Whether we’re talking recreational or technical, diving is for everyone, regardless of their shape and/or size, as long as they take good care of themselves and their health. Sure, you may need to make some changes in your configuration to make it work for your body, but that’s just one reason why we have such a wide variety of equipment options out there. There is something for everyone and for every body, and with the right mindset and instruction, you can overcome nearly any size-related obstacle you may encounter. 

6. Simply respecting the environment is not enough 

It’s wonderful to hear divers and dive professionals talking about the importance of respecting the environment and consciously making an effort to minimize the environmental impact of their dives as much as possible…but it’s simply not enough. Truly caring for the environment and its conservation goes well beyond our briefings and our behaviour in the water. Think about your carbon footprint and find meaningful ways to help reduce it. At this point, every action, no matter how small it may seem, is huge. Perhaps you’ll stop using plastic straws or go plastic free altogether. Maybe you’ll also consider cutting fish and other seafood out of your diet completely. Be thoughtful about where you can make changes to your lifestyle for the sake of conservation and be mindful of the environment in your decisions as a consumer. 

Furthermore, don’t forget to educate and encourage others to make changes in their own lifestyles as well. Though, in doing so, please remember to be respectful to others in your conversations about this topic. Unfortunately, many people do not understand how dire the situation truly is or simply don’t know how their actions hurt or help. Be careful to educate people without making them feel ashamed, attacked, or alienated…because, remember, you don’t know what you don’t know. 

So, there you have it…6 beliefs that I hold near and dear as a diver and dive instructor. What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook Page.

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1 reply
  1. palmer
    palmer says:

    Let’s start with the positive. Honest, direct and no catering to the status quo of agency’s or manufactures. It is refreshing to see this kind of information put out there. Quote “no f^%&ing excuses. Unfortunately, I have seen no response or discussion. I am not one to assume I believe in the sciences. physics, physiology and psychology.

    So, my question is why no response or discussion. I am more than aware that historically such truths have been met with considerable contention. Diving is fun, Diving is easy, I got my cert and I am king of the undersea world. Let’s not forget, who is this person to tell me I am not perfect. My instructor told me I did great, high five. Chest beating sound in the background.

    let’s start at the beginning. No one is born a diver. If you knew it all you would not need to be educated and trained. This concept applies to Instructors also. You only know what you were taught. Yes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, part of your obligation, yes obligation is to continue to educate yourself. Divers should discuss the tough stuff and seek training and education that expands one’s limits. Size and strength do matter but can be compensated for by skill and technique. Since we are on this subject let’s address fitness. Fitness matters.

    The underwater world seems vast and wonderous. It’s part of the draw of diving. However, all eco systems have limits and expiration date. Life is hard, beware of your impact. If you want to know how hard life is? Realize no one get out of it alive. Something to think about. So, enjoy your time and realize we are just renting this plant from future generations.

    Finally, “You want to be a good diver”; “you want to be a great diver”? Then strive for this achievement. Remember a lion does not need to tell anyone he/she is a lion.

    Reply

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