Unwritten Rules of Tech Diver Etiquette
We have all been somewhere intending to have a wonderful dive adventure, and been faced with an unexpected visit from “that guy.” In 2013 we began discussing “that guy” and how he can frustrate even the calmest of individuals. With any sport or hobby, there are certain unwritten rules of etiquette we should all consider. The objective behind partaking in a sport such as scuba diving is to have a good time. After all, we choose to dive; we do not need it to survive.
The diver who has to have everything on site
First, divers love toys. From the day we get certified as open water divers, there is always some trinket or item that at first seems to be the most sensible purchase ever made by any human being. After a while, we end up with a bag of items that never seem to be used. Despite this, the bag grows and things rarely get tossed because, “Hey, you never know when you might find a use for something.” As you progress through levels of training, you often discover that streamlining means many of these bobs and trinkets will never be worn again. On the other hand, with technical training comes redundant systems, and toys that often cost even more money. You may purchase high-end lighting systems, backup gas systems, and even things like scooters. What was once a simple dive bag with too many small items can grow into a technical kit that fills the bed of a pickup truck. The problem is that even with all this gear, many divers will realize they have forgotten one simple essential item (such as extra O-rings) because they assumed the dive shop in the truck would have everything needed.
When you arrive at a dive site, your gear may cover whole picnic tables, an acre of ground, and the tail gate of your truck. Try to remember that diving, especially technical diving, calls for planning. Lay out what you need the night before and leave the frills you know you will not need at home. Your buddy will thank you. Your buddy is the one trying to lay his or her gear out in the one square foot of space you have left unused. The development of frustrations with a partner prior to a dive can ruin the whole experience for both parties before you even get wet.
Having everything but never caring for it
Similar to carrying every piece of gear made, many divers who hit the water with high frequency like to use a vehicle as a storage facility. After all, why take it out if you are just going to use it tomorrow? These types of actions often lead to gear deteriorating, systems failing, or things just breaking. When we decide to spend money on a sport we love, we need to remember that we must care for the gear we buy. This is why almost every equipment class taught in scuba diving goes through proper maintenance and care techniques for scuba gear. The problem with faulty gear is that it almost always gets discovered at a dive site. This causes the person experiencing problems to ask a buddy if he or she can borrow critical items. In some cases, there may not be backup items needed and the team may still choose to dive. If your bailout bottle regulator set is not working, should you really just go ahead and dive because your buddy is carrying his bailout? Simultaneously, what if the diver does not tell his buddy he is missing something? Should the buddy make this discovery underwater? There is a certain level of buddy support that every diver should offer. Make an effort to care for your gear, prepare in advance for dives, and work as an efficient and prepared team.
Hitting the water and doing your pre-dive checks
Once you hit the water, there may be a few minutes of final prep. You may need to hook in cylinders. You may need to reroute regulators. You may even just need to take a breather after lugging all your gear around. Most divers have been ready to splash at some point, only to find that the desired entry point is crowded with a minefield of equipment and other divers. As we carry equipment back and forth between vehicles and the entry point, we often stow things in certain areas. A problem develops when countless items from a dive team are stowed all over a busy entry point, and the group owning the equipment is having a good time joking, laughing, chatting, and not preparing to dive. There is always time to joke by the car. Once you head to the water, try to remember that others may wish to use the same entry point to enter or exit the water. In most cases other divers understand the plights associated with using many gear items, and politely wait. Despite this, situations like this can often cause frustration and irritation. Again, the goal is to have fun, so be kind and respect the needs of others as well as yourself.
Technical divers often love discussing places they have been and the dives they have performed. Within this group, there are also those who choose to push limits and break boundaries. Without attempting to argue or validate any one diver’s objectives, pushing limits should be done with care. As we have already mentioned, diving of any type, especially technical diving, calls for planning. In the last year, I had the chance to discuss an incident with a former live aboard captain who told me of a time where a group of divers was traveling on his vessel to do some planned technical dives. These dives were all planned out and approved to ensure proper surface intervals, rest times, and general diver safety. Within this group was a pair of divers who decided to attempt to break a depth/time record without telling anyone else onboard the vessel. The couple knew their request would be denied, so they took a risk without support. This type of action is unacceptable. If anything had happened, there was no planned support and an inappropriate level of potential liability was placed upon unknowing parties. Remember to work with your buddy/team/crew to plan and dive in the safest and most sensible manner while maintaining respect for others.
These situations are just a few more instances where you may encounter “that guy” as a diver. In the end, most of these issues can be avoided by having respect for others. When you know you are going diving, try to plan for what you need. Once you get on site, try to use minimal space and understand that other divers may also need to accomplish tasks. Lastly, plan for dive safety and support. When you want to go dive, try to make it an enjoyable experience while understanding that others are attempting to do the same. If your buddy is having a hard time, help him or her to get squared away and try to have fun.
Dr. Thomas Powell – Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC