Monday, September 15, 2008

Rescue Diver

I got an e-mail from PADI last week congratulating me on becoming a PADI Rescue Diver. I remember sitting having a discussion with some friends who helped found Marianas Dive last year, and they were trying to convince me why I should take the PADI Rescue Diver course. Their arguments went something like this:
- You can always learn something new to help you out in one of those situations
- New knowledge is always a good thing
- It would put you one step closer to Dive Master status
- We'd feel better knowing you had the training to haul any of us out of the water if we ever got into trouble
- We'd love the challenge of trying to teach an old diving dinosaur like you a few new tricks.

My arguments against it went something like this:
- I've been diving for 35 years, you've been diving how long?
- I've already rescued more people than I can keep track of, how many have you rescued?
- I've been diving longer than you've been alive!
- So you're trained to rescue people but you never have had to, and I'm not trained for it by you, but I've already rescued far too many, how does that make sense?
- You want me to pay how much to teach me something I've already done countless times?

Needless to say, they weren't successful in their attempts to convince me I needed Rescue Diver training. I just couldn't make any sense of it in my head. Part of it was stubborn pride, back when I got certified it was a 3 month course and they taught you all of that stuff back then. Of course that was back in the mid-70's, and admittedly diving and diving equipment has changed just a little bit since then. Even though I didn't agree to take the class from any of them back then, it did get me thinking about it. I like to think about things for a long time usually before making a decision though. If they had pushed too hard, or taken the wrong approach, they would have closed the door permanently and I never would have considered taking the Rescue Diver course, no matter what.

Then there was a situation that really had me rather ticked off at a few of the dive weenies at the time. It was the incident where I evicted a couple hermit crabs from Tritan Trumpet shells and took the shells for my collection. Back when I got certified, in the mid 70's, things were vastly different. Not many people thought in terms of conservation, scuba spearfishing was not only allowed, but was encouraged, and even taught in most of the courses back then. And shell collecting was one of the benefits of scuba diving. So I really didn't think anything of it at all, I didn't kill the crabs, and the shells went into my collection. One of the other divers on the island who also had a blog, decided to take the pictures off of my blog of the Tritan Trumpet shells and publicly castigate me for my "crimes against nature". She made sure everyone knew who she was talking about by putting a link to my blog, thus ensuring the public humiliation was complete. Her dive instructor made some comments about it on her blog, also referring to me as an uneducated and insensitive diver. At the time I felt like if this is how the new breed of divers operates, I want nothing to do with them. To me they were obnoxious, rude, they stole my pictures without getting my permission so they had no honor, and to me they were very counter productive. If the whole point was just to publicly embarass me, I guess they were successful, but if it was to educate me about conservation, their methods couldn't have been worse.

Mike Tripp, who also has a Saipan diving blog, also saw my post, and was also upset about it, but for a couple different reasons. He was afraid that because of my prominent position in the community with my radio presence, and because everyone knew I was a diver, that it would send a bad message to other divers and those who might consider getting certified down the road. He told his wife about his frustration, and she counseled him to sleep on it, and then call me up the next day and talk it over personally with me. That was an approach that I could relate to, and actually responded to very favorably. If you want to educate someone on something, you don't start off by publicly humiliating them and criticizing them. During our talk, I admitted to Mike that I was a diving dinosaur, who got certified in the mid 70's, back when most divers were also spearfishermen, and also shell collectors. I heard all his concerns, and had to admit, he had some very valid points. But because of the reaction by some of the other divers, it made me totally reject any possibility of taking other PADI courses at that time.

Another friend of mine had continued talking to me about diving and my role in diving on the island, and had quietly encouraged me to at least think about taking the Rescue course. He was making progress on me, but like I said, I make those kind of decisions slowly. Finally he made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I agreed to go ahead and take the Rescue Diver course. Once I decide to go ahead with something like that, I take it very seriously and throw myself into it 110%. As I was reading through the books, I had to admit I was learning a lot, there were a lot of things that either weren't covered in my initial course, or that I'd long since forgot. Plus, so much has changed in diving, that it was good to know what was behind some of the various changes. The more I read, the more I wanted to learn and discover, it was contagious for me.

Yes, even an old diving dinosaur like me can learn if you approach it the right way. If you just want to criticize and humiliate, you won't accomplish anything, but if you approach things the right way, you might be amazed at the results. I was reading an article in "The Best of the Underwater Journal" for my Instructor's course entitled "Is Diver Education Deteriorating?", and I had to laugh when I read this paragraph. "Having been in and around the diving industry for quite some time, I've heard complaints about the deteriorating skills of the new diver and new instructors echoed from a variety of industry sources for more than 20 years. There is no objective evidence to support these complaints, but much evidence that refutes them. I would like to take a few minutes of your time to stir your thoughts and present a viewpoint. You might find this useful next time you are in a conversation with a diving "dinosaur" who feels everything is broken. Many of these macho (and macha) types look down upon other divers as poorly trained and somehow not really fit enough to dive. They generally view the modern recreational scuba participants as "boutique" divers. Who knows, armed with this information you may successfully convert a diving dinosaur into a "nuevo" diving dinosaur."

I am proof positive that it is indeed possible to convert a diving dinosaur, and having read through most of the books required for the Instructor's course, I have to say, that I not only understand why PADI does things the way they do now, but I wholeheartedly agree and endorse it!

One of the main things I learned through the class was that if you have me in the water as a panicked diver you're trying to rescue, if you can't just shove something at me and have me save myself, you don't want to get anywhere near me, it won't have a pretty ending. But as someone who has been diving for 35 years, and didn't think there was any need of further diving courses or education, let me assure you, there is always something new to learn and you'll wind up a much better diver for it. And after mid-November, I'd be happy to teach you those courses and certify you as well!

1 comment:

Dennis said...

Way to go Harry!

This is all news to me since I've been off island for the summer, but glad to hear you have a plan and the required enthusiasm to follow through.

Good luck with your IDC and we will truly miss your island presence.