Author Michael Menduno, who first coined the term technical diving, is also known for the following quote: Every dive is a decompression dive; every dive is a solo dive. This is likely one of the truest statements in diving.
Last week I posted an article on the bitter realities of risk management for dive instructors. A large part of that article was devoted to paperwork and, in particular, the vital importance of getting students to complete the Medical History form accurately and honestly. Shortly afterward. an instructor from — well, we’ll just say “somewhere out west” — contacted me with a story of stupidity so unbelievable it boggles the mind.
Lawsuits are something you expect to happen to The Other Guy. Certainly not to you. You’re a good instructor. You teach responsibly and follow standards. Your students love you and would never dream of actually suing you. And, in your fantasy world, peace and harmony abound, and every child gets a pony. Yeah…right.
This article is aimed specifically at dive retailers, instructors and anyone else who sells or recommends equipment to students. Its message is simple: The kind of snorkel we’re generally recommending or selling to beginning scuba divers is absolutely, positively the worst kind for them to buy. And we’ll tell you why.
Most dive instructors would agree that it is far harder to break bad habits than it is to never allow those habits to form in the first place. It’s why we are so adamant about students not putting masks on foreheads or leaving tanks standing upright unattended. Yet, despite this, most instructors allow students to form four of the worst possible habits just by continuing to teach “the way we’ve always done it.” Some divers manage to break these habits with time; many never do.
Does this sound familiar? “The Open Water Diver course is designed to prepare students to plan and make no-decompression dives with a qualified buddy — independent of supervision — in conditions similar to those in which they were trained.” Odds are this statement, or one very much like it, will be the first paragraph that appears in your Instructor Manual under Open Water Diver Course. And I’m here to tell you it’s bullshit.
People often ask me where I get my material. It’s really very simple. I just go to a local open water dive site (any site will do) and wait ten minutes. What I will see during those ten minutes will be more than enough for a lengthy article. Today was no exception.
The most counterproductive word in diver training is the one instructors use to justify not making learning to dive more realistic, more relevant and more effective. That word is should — along with its siblings should not and shouldn’t. These words have done more to stifle meaningful change in diver training than any others in the English language. What do we mean by this? Here is an example.
There’s a popular video entitled The Five Monkeys which helps explain why so many people do things that are completely unnecessary, while having no idea why. Although not based on an actual experiment, the underlying concept has been validated by other studies. The “Five Monkeys” concept applies to diver training as well. I continue to see instructors and training agencies teach skills or require equipment items that are either completely unnecessary, or which should have been superseded long ago by updated procedures.
We’ve all seen the disclaimers: These people are trained professionals. Do not try this at home. And what do warnings such as this help guarantee? That some idiot will, indeed, try this at home. That’s why there are the Darwin Awards. Thank goodness this sort of nonsense doesn’t go on in the diving community. Or does it?