Being a scuba fanatic and a NAUI certified Training Assistant, I have worked with a few students, and I have talked with a number of new divers at diving club functions (Blue Dolphin Skin Divers of Erie, PA). One of the things I often say is that as divers in the Erie, PA area, we are privileged to learn to dive here. I then ask, “And do you know why?” Always my answer is that we are privileged to learn to dive here because in Erie, the diving sucks!! And I’m quite serious. While I would not consider us diving experts, my wife and I are fairly good divers, and have dived in a number of miserable conditions; cold air, cold water, poor (or literally no) visibility, unexpected currents. And we dive relatively frequently in similar conditions.
At the other end of the spectrum, I know several people who enjoy diving, but are “warm water divers,” many of whom give themselves this designation. So this is not a slam, but an observation. Warm water divers enjoy diving, and often plan vacations around diving. But they do not dive much at home. At home, the water is usually cold, the visibility poor, the comfort level less than optimal. Critters aren’t as spectacular or as colorful as in warmer climates. A thicker wetsuit or even a drysuit is mandatory. True story: some time ago, a national magazine, as part of an article, sent a professional diver to Erie to take some photographs. One of our Instructors went with him, and offered several times to dive with him if he desired a guide. The professional answered rather bruskly, finally telling our Instructor that he was a professional, and could handle it alone, thank you very much. Our buddy just waited on the boat, and within about five minutes, the professional fairly exploded to the surface, ripped his regulator from his mouth, and yelled, “You people dive in this $#it???” Yep, that’s right, we do. And we like it.
And that’s my point with my somewhat crude statement regarding why we are privileged to learn to dive in Erie. I believe that diving in cold water and poor visibility conditions (such as our area) produces divers of the highest caliber. When one can dive in poor conditions, dive well and enjoy it, that diver can dive well and enjoy their dives anywhere in the world. I am not saying that warm water divers are by definition not as good as us “cold water divers.” Many warm water divers are fantastic divers, and I am not worthy to tighten their fin straps. But many are not nearly as good as they could be if they dived “cold.”
Our younger daughter dives, and has been certified for a few years now. However she gets cold while diving in the Caribbean, let alone around here, and absolutely refuses to dive at home in central Pennsylvania. Beth and I have a doctor friend that dives warm water only. He’s a weight lifter, body builder, and is in amazing shape. But Beth and I could dive circles around our daughter and our friend. We are more comfortable and more confident in the water than either of them, and that is due not only to the number of dives we have in our log book, but very much because of the conditions in which we have dived.
I have written extensively about the one-week mission trip that Beth and I took to the Dominican Republic. My posts included my difficulties, as well as how God worked on me through that entire experience. What I did not write about is how that entire time affected my desire for diving.
This past November, Beth and I went to the Caribbean island of Bonaire, and it was perhaps the best vacation we have ever had. Prior to the vacation, my Mother had recently passed away after a brief illness, and we had a number of other “life issues” we were dealing with at the same time. For whatever reason, we really needed that vacation, and our time on Bonaire was absolutely fantastic. We came home refreshed and healed.
But after we got home, the only thing on my mind was that “stupid mission trip” that I had committed to. I was so focused on going to the D.R., I enjoyed little to nothing between returning from Bonaire and the start of the mission trip. I didn’t think about diving, and had no desire to even participate in our annual New Year’s Day dive. This lack of excitement was entirely out of character for me. I am usually buzzing with anticipation for the next dive, wherever it may be, and I constantly think and read about diving. Subscribing to three dive periodicals, I usually can’t wait until the next dive magazine comes to the house, at which point I devour the entire thing. And through this period of time, I barely touched any of the magazines that did come.
And then the time of the mission trip came, Beth and I experienced it, and we came home. It was an unbelievable trip and as I said, I have written extensively about it. But my passion for diving didn’t return. We went to club meetings, and talked with diving friends, but I didn’t feel the “burn” to get wet.
One of our Divemasters was going on a dive vacation to San Salvador in February, and asked me to cover for him with a Scuba Diver certification class while he was gone. My role was to assist the Instructor, mostly in the pool, with the students. The Instructor was Gene Krahe, who was also the Instructor that taught me in my first certification class. So I guess that makes him my Scuba Dad. Kind of fits, he is a lot older than me. Ahem.
Anyhow, I wasn’t even looking forward to helping with the class. And that worried me a bit. As nutty as I had been about diving in the past, I couldn’t even work up excitement about getting in the pool. As much as I have loved diving, I was worried that I wasn’t all that excited about it now.
Until I got in the pool. It was so good to get wet again. It was only a pool, but wow, it felt great! I enjoyed working with the students, and Gene is easy to work with. He gives great direction, and really connects with his students, so that was fun. And the diving! Feeling so fluid, my movements so easy, it was great! I remembered how much I loved the sport, and the excitement returned.
And this is how the past few posts got started. Scuba diving is a great sport, and I love sharing it with Beth. I love being in the water, I love the joy and challenge that it brings. We have a trip planned later this summer to Grand Cayman, but right now it is only March. If Beth and I want to dive before then, we will have to dive here in Erie, where the diving “sucks.” We can look forward to typical Erie diving in cold water and low viz. And I want to go diving!!! Man, I can’t wait.