Deteriorating Skills and the Recreational Diver

By Thomas Powell

Recently, I met a diver who had been out of the sport for several years. He had a medical condition that took his focus away from the sport, and then life happened. He did other things such as learning to fly, sail, etc. Then, happenstance and bad weather led to a sunken boat next to his dock that he was desperate to recover. He came into the dive shop asking about what he needed to do, and how he could get back in the water safely. 

Pointing him in the right direction 

As we spoke, I heard tales of rebreathers, unique caves, and adventures that most customers from years ago always seem to have. I gave him the information about an Inactive Diver course but also set him up with a local dive team contact that I thought might use his problem as a training activity. Before he left, he bought a few little items to thank me for my time and help and asked if I wanted to go ahead and put his certification cards on file as he had brought them in. As I looked over his cards, I realized his stories were not exaggerated. Not only did he have the credentials for the tales he told, but the instructors who taught him were easy to contact. He knew what I was thinking and gave me an easy transition rather than an awkward silence. He understood the concept of deteriorating skill sets and wanted to fix the problem, not create new ones.

In most things we do in life, we must learn new information and skillsets. Over time, if we do not continue to study or practice these things, we get “rusty.” People do not often like to admit that they are not as good at something as they once were, but they will quickly defend their rights to do whatever activity is in question. How often have you seen a diver going on a trip in two weeks who has not been diving in two years? They called ahead and were told they would have to get “refreshed” on their trip or show proof of a similar class upon arrival. Suddenly, the quality of another person’s entire vacation has been dropped into your busy schedule.

Practice Makes Perfect 

The adage of “practice makes perfect” is very truthful in diving. The problem is that according to the internet, I can never ever even imagine what perfect looks like. That said, if we don’t get wet, we should get checked out for safety. The reality is that gear changes, new methods are developed, and simple science teaches us new things every day. A diver taught certain skill sets and information 30 years ago will not have received the same concepts or methods taught to a diver in 2020. 

The best example will start a debate over tables and computers. Scuba Diving International gives its instructors leeway, unlike any other agency for which I have ever taught. For instance, some students may be great at recovering a regulator with an arm sweep, while others reach back and follow hoses. The great thing is that both methods can be taught to students. An Inactive Diver course lets us walk through every open water skill to help students shake the rust off, or to even teach new ideas. 

The importance of Inactive Diver Programs 

In truth, most people love to be “good” at something. The problem is that life often gets in the way of things we love to do for fun. Instead, we must focus on making a living, family, ailments, and problems. Time away from scuba diving can lead to slow recall or reduced muscle memory. Why would we ever want to take a loved one diving when we are not prepared for problems, ready to help, or focused on things we cannot remember. I know I would much rather be enjoying the sights and relaxing in the water. As dive professionals, I encourage you to offer regular Inactive Diver programs or to suggest your shop make them available. You never know, something as simple as helping people feel safer and focused on fun, may bring you the best customer you have ever had.

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