Though I try to hit the coast for some ocean diving at least three times a year (and as often as possible when traveling), my diving focus is inland (Virginia). I’m the kind of diver that enjoys simply getting wet, and it really doesn’t matter where that is. Give me a mud hole with at least 3’ feet to get prone in where I can blow bubbles while experiencing weightlessness and the sensation of flying for awhile, and I’m game. During the winter months, I tend to be one of the few divers using a wet or semidry suit. I figure that since I’m in the water, I’d like the water to be in me!
While thinking about the prospect of going quarry diving recently, I checked the website of a local dive shop that manages a quarry to see if they offered weekday diving opportunities. The only weekly participation encouraged was the official instructor-student relationship in a class situation. I called the shop to get clarity on that, and was told that “opening the quarry for individual fun dives is not cost effective for the shop.”
There is another dive shop just 5 miles from my home, and a gated quarry around the corner from there that is not open to the public. The owner of the shop, as well as the quarry owner, have chosen to adopt the same attitude. They will only allow dive instructors and their students to use the quarry for diving.
So, let me ask: what’s a guy like me supposed to do when the urge hits and I have some time to take advantage of a dive opportunity? I have all my own gear, including two tanks that normally have at least 1000 in them. I could easily connect with a buddy, make a quick stop at the shop for fills, and be in the water within an hour.
Instead, I’m left hanging and dry. An almost insatiable desire has been squelched again. Anybody who dives knows the feeling.
Quite honestly, I’m beginning to feel discriminated against simply because I want to dive as much as possible.
I recall getting my certification years ago as a young and enthusiastic 14 year-old wanting to enter the underwater world for the anticipated fun, excitement, a sense-of-exploration and being submerged in unknown watery dimensions.
Over the years, I have become intensely committed to diving as a way of training for many of life’s challenges. The knowledge, skill-set, and discipline involved in safe scuba diving help us in many ways even outside of our dive involvement. In my opinion, "fun" dives are so much more than mere recreation. Many divers, including myself, look at EVERY dive as recreation AND training. At the very least, we become more comfortable in the water and with our own gear, making us increasingly confident in our abilities.
At the same time, however, we need regular reminders that though the underwater world is beautiful and compelling, it also presents some rather harsh realities. We must approach each dive excursion with great humility, knowing our individual strengths AND limitations. The physical laws at work in submerged habitats should never be taken for granted. They are not merciful, and bargaining with them is a non-starter.
As the dive industry ramps up ways of increasing scuba diver participation and re-invigorating inland diving (many statistics indicate a decade-long decline), please remember an important fact: the more we dive, the more we WANT to dive. The converse is also true: the less we dive, the more we think of reasons not to pursue it because other things will quickly fill up our limited time schedules and drain our financial resources.
I strongly encourage dive shop owners and managers to always put customer service first, particularly toward fully certified, capable, and practicing divers. In fact, I am firmly convinced priority should be given to them, because their consistent involvement and eager participation in scuba diving will continue to motivate and inspire novices and younger participants.
Maintaining a passion for living and a sense of wonder about the natural world tend to fade the older we get. That is an unfortunate reality. Life has a way of jilting us the more we live it.
To shop owners and managers: PLEASE help us maintain our passion for diving! Let us get wonder-struck and wet as often as possible. Cost effectiveness should always be considered from a business perspective, but focusing on meeting the diving needs and wants of good customers is a much worthier approach, and healthier for the overall dive industry in the long run.
In a very real way, dive shop owners and managers who operate and maintain inland quarry or lake dive sites and do not allow some weekly, or at least mid-week, dive opportunities for individuals who can make the time to get wet, are not fully embracing the chance to encourage and enhance that market segment. I’m a perfect example: as a defense contractor with a flexible time schedule, I would be the first in line to dive the local site on Wednesday’s just after lunchtime. And I have a couple of buddies who could do the same.
Maybe we simply need to re-consider the idea of the fun dive. It appears that some shop owners and managers believe that diving just for “fun” isn’t important enough to allow for mid-week adventures.
Let’s try another term. How about doing a “prac” dive, short for practical or practice? Both ideas convey a level of seriousness and deliberation.
A change in how we describe it just might do the trick.
So who wants to go on a prac dive with me?
Hail to inland diving!