Big swell covering the Clan Stuart

Dive Deals column: Where have all the divers gone?

I recently (at the end of August) started writing a weekly column for the revamped website. Here’s the first of the series:

Where have all the divers gone?

Diving is a sport that draws people from all walks of life. Armed with a qualification to dive the world, several choices present themselves to the new diver. Does one keep diving, enrol for further training courses, travel to tropical dive destinations, or sell all that expensive gear and give it up?

Let’s be honest: the ocean is beautiful, full of weird and wonderful creatures, and incredible underwater topography. I doubt there are many people that give up diving because they felt it was boring.

So why DO people stop diving? Why do so many advertisements for second hand dive gear state that it’s been “used only once”?

Some people will try anything, and some new divers take up the sport just to try it out, to be able to say they’ve done it, and then move on to the next adventure.

Some people just don’t enjoy it, but the majority of people that give up diving will cite a bad experience or some negative event related to diving that was the catalyst to their decision.

Let’s look a little bit deeper. The majority of dive centres are pleasant environments, with shiny displays of the latest dive gear, exceptional salespeople and smiling instructors, mostly enthusiastic about what they do and keen to share it. These are easy places to be and easy places to spend money.

And spend money we do. Some people will purchase a full set of dive gear before they ever enter the water. This is not a bad thing as you then become familiar with your own gear. From a hygiene point of view it’s nice to know only you have worn that wetsuit and booties. However some people have body shapes that differ from average, so a custom wetsuit is the way to go. Some people hate a side inflation BCD but don’t know there is an alternative.

Some people will arrive on your boat, newly qualified and on their first ocean dive with a mask the size of their heads, a BCD one size too big (it was on special) and cheap nasty fins because they blew their budget on the regulator… You know the one: the salesperson recommended it as it’s rated to 100 metres and you can take it diving under the ice. Their weight belt doesn’t fit because they were told to add a few kilos for salt water.

Imagine that you’re this newbie diver. Having qualified inland or by doing shore entries off the beach, the boat is all new. The diver next to you looks really hard core and is kitted and ready to roll into the water 10 seconds after the boat stops. They get annoyed with your hesitant attempts to kit up on a cramped boat whilst seasickness threatens to overwhelm you. You roll into the water, descend into the beauty of the sea, but on the way down you are overcome with fear, stress and near panic as this is all new to you.

Your divemaster and dive buddy did a negative entry and are way below you, and you can hear the boat leaving overhead. Your weight belt is loose, your mask is leaking and you want to gag because the mouthpiece on your new regulator feels strange, so you panic. Perhaps the divemaster comes over, solves all these problems and holds your hand for the entire dive. Perhaps not, and back to the boat you go. And at that point you decide diving is NOT for you.

Sometimes you will be on a dive boat, and the sea looks a little rough. But you have spent a lot of money getting here, and prepaid for a whole bunch of dives. The skipper tells you it’s fine, and that he has launched in far worse. He assures you that it’ll be fine on the bottom. It probably will, but getting there is scaring you half to death. At the last minute you decide to stay on the boat, spend 50 minutes feeling terribly seasick and decide diving is NOT for you.

In each of the situations I’ve described, there isn’t one single cause that led our new diver to the decision that this isn’t the sport for him. A combination of circumstances and factors have led to the decision to quit diving, and we’ll analyse how to avoid those next week.

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Scuba diver, teacher, gadget man, racing driver, boat skipper, photographer, and collector of stray animals

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