The Horrors of Improper Tech Diving and How They Could Have Been Avoided
By Josh Norris
There are many things in life that frighten certain individuals. For some, the thought of a clown sneaking into their room on a cold, winter night is enough to send them into a complete panic. For others, ascending a step ladder to a height of three to four feet in the air would make their skin moist with sweat. Some are frightened of the word “moist.” Technical diving, no matter what you may qualify as “technical diving,” certainly has some frightening aspects to it as well. Thinking of being surrounded by water when the tiniest little thing goes wrong and you suddenly feel the struggle of being unable to escape could bring anyone to his or her knees with worry. For me, the true horror comes in the form of someone you do not even know having a camera, combined with a Facebook page, when you are having an issue with buoyancy for whatever reason. From there, you can rest assured that the ninja photo taken of you will circulate all over the internet while strangers debate just how much better they are as divers. Yes, it is true; there are some scary things out there.
Some of the questions we are going to go over will include:
- How does one reduce some of these horrors?
- Is there really anything to be scared of in the first place?
- Why would someone want to go tech diving to begin with?
Enjoy the article and, as always, don’t take yourself too seriously. This is only SCUBA diving. There is nothing to be afraid of.
Reducing the chance for a bad experience is easy.
Take all of the preparation work that you do for any type of diving and just prepare the same process here. The only real difference is that you might have more tanks, which means more regulators, which means more maintenance, and that leads to just ensuring that ALL of your equipment is ready to go prior to entering the water. Once you know for sure that all of your equipment is ready to dive, the focus should turn to the individuals entering the water. Are YOU ready to dive? Is(/are) your partner(s) ready to dive? If you have any doubt in your, or their, ability to complete the task at hand, you should probably go ahead and alter your plan. This brings up the point of a plan. Do you have one? While some seem to enjoy wrapping their heads around each and every little moment of the dive, and what should be happening during those moments, others are content with simply agreeing to a very basic dive plan. There is nothing wrong with planning every minute of the dive, just as there is nothing wrong with agreeing to a max depth and time while adding what to do in case of emergency. The details of your dive plan normally revolve around the goal of the dive itself. For many, the goal is to just have some fun and maybe go see a wreck that sits a little bit deeper in the water. For others, they may just want to conduct one long dive instead of two separate ones. It is important to remember the fact that this is not ballet. There will be injuries. There will be deaths. There will be medical emergencies. No amount of planning or equipment review will prevent all of the bad things from happening 100% of the time. If you are the type of person who truly believes that adding more rules to diving will solve the problems, then you just aren’t paying attention to the way the world works. Diving is not that hard, and creating an environment which demands absolute perfection to earn a plastic card will create two things. The first is fewer certified divers. The second is more and more non-certified divers continuing to do whatever they want.
Why are so many people scared to get into the technical diving world?
The answer can seem daunting. On the bench press, 225lbs is 225lbs. There are moments in life that everyone can look back on and be truly proud. I can remember the day I finally benched 225lbs. Imagine a young, 16 year old Josh Norris. As handsome as I was tall (so not handsome at all); I was lying there on a duct taped bench press manufactured in the early 1800s I think. Above me was a bar, discolored by time, with enough dead skin caught in the knurling that you could see it. As my hands gripped the bar tightly, my friend Travis stared down at me and said his typical, “you got this man” as I readied myself to drop the metal onto my rippling and sweaty chest. As the weight came down, it barely made an impact on my shirt when all of the sudden it happened. The bar went all the way back up. It was then that I knew I had become a real man. Where Josh Norris, the boy, had walked into the weight room that day; Josh Norris, the man, certainly walked out. I was in the two-plate club and nothing could ever take that away from me. It was then that I realized that all I ever wanted was to be in the three-plate club. Thus the cycle never ended.
So what was so scary about that process?
Well I could have failed. My friends could make fun of me for failing. Everyone else would leave me behind. I had talked a big game already and needed to back it up. I bought the lifting gloves (don’t use those by the way) and all the other stuff to look cool and help me out. I even read a book, or at least looked at the pictures, about weightlifting. Other than the obvious, how is this thought process any different from diving? The same self-doubt creeps in from time to time. The fear of failure prevents many from even trying. The knowledge needed to accomplish the task can seem massive to some. The fact of the matter is that technical diving should be open to every single person out there that wants to learn and experience it. Notice the word “should” is in there. Sadly enough, the world of professional diving has turned into nothing more than a handful of people thinking that they are the best at what they do while leaving no room for new ideas. All of us seem to have carved out our own little sand box and do not want anyone else to come along and play. Even worse, what if they get their own sand box and it is nicer than ours? Well, then we have a really big problem.
There are no true horrors when it comes to technical diving other than some of the people who already do it.
People always have a “first day” doing something. If I were to jump into working in a hospital emergency room and think I was going to have everything under control on my first day, I would be fooling myself. There is no diver that is better than any other diver. There are, however, divers that have more experience in one area than someone else, and therefore a more developed skill set from time and practice. There are also those who value certain aspects of diving more than others. A good example of this is photography. Some people dedicate their life to it and make their photos perfect. Others could care less. It is no big deal, but you just don’t see someone publicly criticizing someone else’s photos while trying to boost themselves up because they know how to edit something better. Here are the technical divers in some cases though; sitting in their sand boxes making sure it seems scary and not even worth trying just to keep others from wanting to play.
So why would anyone even want to become a technical diver today?
There are so many things to see and do, is the normal answer. How many times have you heard someone boast about how the boat captain didn’t even care if I had a buddy or not because I showed them my “insert highest level here” card? Well, who the hell cares? If someone wants to cruise on down to 160ft and just see what it is like, then who is going to stop them? Why exactly do you think there are people dying in caves each and every year that have never been through the “proper training?” People are going to find a way to go deeper and longer no matter what the rule book says. Humans are just a curious bunch. What would drive someone to go more than 1000ft deep in the ocean? What is the logical thought for someone pushing 10,000ft back into a cave? I will tell you that it is the combination of pride, curiosity, and ultimate self-challenge. All of your buddies can tell you how great it is, but a lot of people want to do it themselves. Then they can be the one to tell the stories.
Truly the most frightening horror regarding technical diving has nothing to do with the diving itself. Being a “tech diver” simply means that at some point in time, there was a goal. That goal could have been educational or more specific, but there was something there that the diver wanted to accomplish. Just like anything else in life though, that diver had to make the leap and see what happened. They say that the place filled with more dreams and brilliance than any other place in the world is the graveyard. It is a challenge to the divers to find a way to go a little bit further in your training and education within the SCUBA world. It is a challenge to the professionals to find ways of making this possible for more people. Remember that it is ok to ask questions and seek proper knowledge, while improving skill sets with others who have been following the same dream for a long time. Simultaneously, remember that if you have been following your dreams and passions, you too started at the bottom once, and likely didn’t make your climb all alone.