If You Have Fallen in Love With Scuba Diving, You Will Relate to These::
Not everyone who starts scuba diving falls in love with the sport. However, if you are one of the lucky people who finds release, peace, and (paradoxically) excitement in scuba diving, you will probably pick up a few of the habits and behaviors listed below. Perhaps you don’t exhibit all of these traits, but if you are addicted to scuba diving, I am willing to bet that more than a few of them apply to you!
1. You Use Scuba Diving Hand Signals in Everyday Situations
Since it is nearly impossible to communicate verbally underwater (unless you are diving a rebreather), scuba divers use hand signals for basic communication. Dive buddies who dive together regularly will often develop additional hand signals for common communications. So what happens when the buddies go to the supermarket? Attend a concert? Caravan on a road trip?
The hand signals come out. Scuba diving hand signals work well to communicate not only in noisy places, but also over great distances. A scuba diving couple grocery shopping together? She flashes the question hand signal across the supermarket, and then holds up an eggplant. He signals back using the okay sign. Car trouble on the road? The driver hangs his hand out the window, and signals “not okay” and “slow down” to his buddy in the car behind him. I have even observed divers use fish identification hand signals to secretly comment on the personality traits of people around them. This habit becomes even more pronounced with technical scuba divers, who have a much larger set of standard hand signals for communication. Admit it tech divers, you have used the “hold” sign in daily life before, and your dive buddy responded appropriately by giving the same signal back. You were pleased.
2. You Obsess About the Condition of Your Ears
The ability to equalize your ears for scuba diving is absolutely essential, and congestion and allergies can make equalization impossible. Days before a dive trip or excursion, it is not uncommon to find a scuba diver wandering around the office periodically pinching his nose and breathing out to check if his ears are working.
Air conditioning in the hotel room or car? No! It messes up my ears, and nothing so trivial as climate control is worth missing a day of diving. Going to dinner at a cat lover’s house when you have a cat allergy? Not before a dive trip. Does your friend have a cold? Cancel the coffee date until you are back from diving. Similarly, divers who have experienced equalization problems in the past will often travel with an apothecary of their favorite decongestants, ear drops, and anti-inflammatories, even if it makes passing through airport security a little more difficult.
3. Dive Gear Begins to Accumulate in the Spare Bedroom
Somewhere between year two and three of obsessive scuba diving, your dive gear begins to multiply. It’s the exact opposite of socks in the dryer. While a diver who gives it a little thought may be able track the origin of each item, it still seems that dive gear sneakily accumulates. Where did the three masks come from? How come I have four regulators, but only one works? Six snorkels? Some of the gear probably comes from underwater scavenging, some may be hand-me-downs, some is probably non-functional, and most of it is unusable.
All the dive gear is hoarded in a stash most commonly to be found in the spare bedroom (or alternatively the garage if a spare bedroom is not present). Have you ever worried about cleaning the dive gear out of the spare bedroom because your parents were coming to visit? Yup. Enough said.
4. You Become a Conservationist
Whether you have been scuba diving for six months or six years, it is hard to deny that the health of many underwater ecosystems, most visibly coral reefs, is in danger. Those with long dive careers will invariably have observed a decline in the number of fish and the amount of living coral at their favorite dive destinations. Pollution, overfishing, warming oceans, invasive species, and poor diver practices are all contributing to the decline of coral reefs.
It is easier to ignore the problem when you haven’t actually seen the difference between a healthy coral reef and a damaged one. Once a diver falls in love with the underwater world, however, he starts to have an invested emotional interest in preserving it. Serious scuba divers are likely to choose sustainable fish on menus, pick up trash from the beach, and remove fishing line and other debris from the reef. Most importantly, scuba divers often share their concerns with non-diving friends. There are many actions non-divers can take to protect coral reefs. While the declining health of underwater ecosystems is heartbreaking, a diver’s concern for the underwater world, particularly when communicated to others in a positive and constructive way, is an unexpected and wonderful consequence of taking up diving.
5. Your Vacation and Weekend Plans Change
Those who have fallen in love with scuba diving will find that the sport begins to take up more and more of their free time. Trips begin to revolve around the availability of scuba diving at the destination, often to the abandonment of previous vacation plans. Why would you go to Rome when you can stay in a remote hut in Fiji and dive every day for six times the price? Despite the possible mosquitos, seasickness, and food poisoning, remote locations and pristine dive sites start to take priority in vacation plans.
For serious dive addicts, this phenomenon extends to evening and weekend plans. Why would you have a fancy dinner when you can rush from work, brave traffic, and get to the shore at dusk to meet your dive buddies for a night dive? You might arrive home at eleven at night, shivering, exhausted, and salty, but the mental relaxation from the dive makes it worth a little tiredness at work the next day. Getting trashed at the bar Friday night sounds a lot less appealing when you have the option to get up at five a.m., drive to the lake, and brave three-foot visibility for a weekend dive. This might sound crazy, but it’s not. Trust me.
6. You Comfortably Discuss Bodily Functions With Strangers
It is not uncommon to find a boatful of divers discussing the best way to eliminate pee from a wetsuit underwater, or even discussing how one diver can’t manage to urinate underwater and finds it uncomfortable. This is not normal dinner-table conversation, but somehow it is okay to discuss with your dive buddies.
Divers learn about each other’s ear health, congestion, indigestion, hydration levels, muscle cramps, and nearly every other physical condition that can affect a diver’s comfort and safety underwater. When was the last time you discussed a chronically dry mouth or massive mucus production with your non-diving friends? These are topics that come up in dive boats, often with people you just met.
7. You Become Part of a Diverse Club of (Usually) Like-Minded Individuals
Scuba diving provides a commonality between people from different walks of life, backgrounds, and careers – people that might otherwise never meet. It is not uncommon to find a businessman from New York City and a yoga instructor from Portland diving together, sharing life experiences, and finding that they have more in common than they might have guessed. Unusual pairings can and do lead to life-long friendships.
Diving has a way of bonding people despite their differences because most divers are weird – in exactly the same way. Why on Earth would a person want to pay money to strap on heavy gear, descend into a uninhabitable environment, and wander around for a while? If you understand the desire, and the random person you just met feels the same way, you already have a similarity in your personalities that makes you likely to get along. You might be a bartender, a doctor, or a pilot, but you are also a diver. Sometimes, the diver part is all that matters.
8. Your Retirement Plans Change
That quiet cottage in the mountains, luxurious home in the suburbs, or cozy apartment in your favorite city all sounded like wonderful retirement plans until you started scuba diving. Now, the most important requirement for retirement is proximity to your favorite dive sites, or financial solvency that allows you to visit them on a reoccurring basis.
It is not uncommon to learn that divers are quietly plotting their retirement escapes. This ranges from condos in tropical locations, to a home in your favorite cave diving region of the world, to braving an apartment in cold regions to be within half an hour of your favorite shipwrecks. The goal? To become a local diver, be on a first name basis with the dive guides, or even to become a dive guide yourself!
9. You Become Annoyed by the Misrepresentations of Diving in the Media
You have turned to your friend after a movie featuring scuba diving and, slightly outraged, exclaimed some variation of the following: 1. A trained diver would never do that! 2. He didn’t even have an alternate air source/pressure gauge! 3. Where is his dive buddy? 4. Sharks don’t attack people underwater!
Not only do you find the misrepresentations of scuba diving and the underwater world slightly offensive, you feel the need to set them right. Unfortunately, these sorts of media errors are pervasive, and most people don’t care about factual errors as long as the entertainment is . . . entertaining. This doesn’t stop you from trying to rectify the situation, however.
10. You Become an Ambassador for the Sport
Diving is the best thing ever. Well, maybe not the best thing ever, but it is up there in the list with chocolate and sleep. As an avid diver, you feel that your non-diving friends are missing out on seventy percent of the planet, and you are right.
Cue the list of amazing diving experiences you have had, weird underwater creatures you have seen, and unlikely places you have visited due to your obsession with diving. Cue countless vacation photos of fish, turtles, and eels. Cue slideshows, home movies, and Facebook posts.
You know that one of the best things about scuba diving is sharing the experience with your friends, and inspiring them to try diving is the logical next step. While you understand that some people simply aren’t cut out for scuba diving, this doesn’t stop you from trying to convince likely candidates to give it a shot. If you are lucky, your endless stories and images might just succeed, and you could end up with a new dive buddy who loves scuba diving just as much as you do.