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There’s More to Scuba Than Just Diving

By Mike McNeil

I start each and every Open Water class by introducing myself and telling everyone a little about myself and when and how I got into diving.  Then I go around the room and ask the students to say their names and what their reasons are for learning to dive.  I get a wide variety of answers from “I always wanted to try it” to “because he/she’s making me” (and points at the significant other) and “it’s on my bucket list”.  It doesn’t matter the reason for doing it. I’m just glad we are there so that I can introduce them to the underwater world, the world I love.  Little do they know what they are getting themselves into!

Once you are certified one does not just dive in the same local place all the time.  People plan trips to various dive sites and locations, we make vacations just for diving, we get up at 3:30 am to make it to the boat dock by 7am. We work the extra overtime shifts to pay for a dive trip.  Dare I say we become “addicted” to diving?  In the beginning, each and every dive brings in something new; my first ocean dive, my first deep dive, my first night dive, the first time I saw a shark, etc.  The excitement is unbelievable and exhausting, you can tell when you see divers sound asleep on the boat ride back to the marina after 2-3 dives.  Even the seasoned veterans still come across new experiences.  You will hear experienced instructors talk and say “in all my years I’ve never had…….until now”. 

What happens to these divers and their experiences? 

We talk about them to other divers and non-divers trying to convince them to become divers.  We tell stories on dive boats and dive sites (some tell more stories than others), but everyone starts to share stories and experiences and talk.  We have that common ground (or common water I guess) of diving.  We all share that same passion and love for the underwater world.  Because of those stories on the boats, the dive sites, the dive vacations you are always meeting new divers and making new friends.

Not just the underwater world. 

Unfortunately, we cannot always make those Caribbean vacations or those 3:30 am wake up calls and divers do spend a lot of time at their local dive sites.  Those divers end up building and creating a dive family and dive community.  We end up diving together, then it’s going out to eat after diving or even…..doing something non diving related (if forced to).  These dive communities are always looking for new people to join in their love of diving.  There are groups on social media filled with people who do not know each other, but share that love.  I’ll see a post on a local group “I’m new to the area and new to diving is anyone going to be at XYZ site on Saturday” and then here comes the community “I will, I’ll show you around”, “I can be there any time what’s best for you”, “I live around the corner, hit me up anytime” etc. and that community grows.

The dive community. 

These dive communities range from people finding steady dive buddies to dive with, to good friendships and even life-long friendships.  It does not matter how close you become, everyone is there to help each other out.  If you see a newer diver setting up their tank backwards you help them out.  If you see a leaking hose, you tell them about it and offer a good hose if you have a spare.  Someone forgets a mask you let them borrow your spare.  That is what we do, we help each other out and help take care of each other.  Some communities end up so close we become more of a second family.  I find myself extremely lucky to be part of a second family at my local quarry and dive shop.  I’m always around to help out in any way I can even if it is as simple as giving a report on conditions to divers, I see getting ready to enter the water. 

The down side. 

The down side of the dive community and dive family is when tragedy strikes it hits us all.  I am writing this article with a heavy heart.  Our family lost one of our own on June 18th, 2021.  Colt (36) was taken from us after a surgical complication.  He leaves behind his wife, their six children and an ocean full of memories.  I would like to dedicate this article to Colt and both of his families.  I ask of you, if you are not part of one of these communities/families become one, if you are a shop owner or a site owner, please start building these communities and please keep Colt and his families in your thoughts and prayers.

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