Was it wise to promote scuba diving as a pastime that anybody can enjoy?
I was recently invited to offer an opinion in an onLine debate in the ScubaBoard forum. The argument up for debate was certainly thought-provoking:
I’m asking for observations only from dive professionals and divers with a minimum of ten years experience and 500 or more dives; I’m looking for people with plenty of been-there-done-that-seen-lots kind of experience. The question is, how does the average diver of today, regardless of agency affiliation and certification level, compare to the average diver of the mid-90s when recreational diving was really beginning to take off? Yes, this is subjective and over-generalized, but I think it’s the best we can do.
My response follows and there is a link to the full thread below.
Interesting topic for discussion on the understanding that the conclusions may turn out to be as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle; however…
Working for an agency and having served on that agency’s Training Advisory Panel, my overall perception is that while the standards for an average diver to earn his/her certification may or may not have changed in the past ten to 15 years — and it would be extremely complicated to form a matrix for meaningful comparison — the overall fitness level of the average diver DOES seem to have dropped.
During the “early days” of scuba, when instruction was delivered mostly by men and women who made their living working on, in and around water, I believe a standard open-water diver course demanded more of its participants. Agencies such as YMCA, BSAC, CMAS et al, put forward entry requirements that challenged wanna-be divers to demonstrate a fluency with watercraft well beyond the basic “swim a couple of lengths without drowning.” This approach was self-limiting; people who were not strong swimmers tended to avoid diving and gravitate to other activities. The cadre of instructors tended to reinforce this in attitude, advice and practice… there were few if any exceptions made to this standard, I believe.
In addition — and based purely on subjective observation — the average age of the people signed up for a scuba course seemed to be twenties or early thirties; younger than seems to be common today. Read into this what you may, but logic would suggest that the average 20-year old uni student is more able to withstand the physical rigors of diving — whatever they may be — with less stress and angst than the average fifty-something overweight, mildly hyper-tense dentist/lawyer/real-estate broker/sales professional (apologies to those of you who fit this generalization).
The inevitable conclusion from where I sit then is this: The industry stats are inconclusive and it is close to impossible to find data to support either argument pro or con increased diver preparedness and safety. Levels of DCS for example have dropped dramatically during the past decade… even though more divers conduct staged decompression dives. Scuba Diving is more mainstream and various entities have marketed it as an activity than anyone can undertake… even those with ailments that would have precluded their participation 15 years ago. Training is more segmented than before with more options and certainly more advanced topics, procedures and practices are “out of the closet” and rather like the contents of Pandora’s Box, cannot be put back inside. Open discussion — such as this — and a growing database of success stories — and disaster scenarios — supply ample opportunities for the internally-motivated to research and make informed decisions about diving.
So, in my opinion, and without any science to back me up, I would say that there are more divers today who are able to prepare and execute a safe dive plan than ever before. Their gear is better, better understood and successfully utilized. However, these divers form a much smaller percentage of the overall numbers of folks who dive. In other words, there are also more divers today who are total and complete Muppets.
To view the full thread, visit ScubaBoard