One of my clearest memories of my instructor course was a question the Course Director asked the class by way of introduction. He wondered how we had each felt the first time we took a breath underwater, and how we felt after our first dive in open water. Even though each of us had learned to dive in completely different conditions (some of us in inland South African quarries, some in tropical Thai seas), our answers were all the same. Our first diving experience had filled us with awe and sheer excitement at entering a strange and beautiful new world for the first time. After I completed my IDC and began to teach students myself, I realized that this is the way most people feel when they first learn to dive. Sometimes people are a little afraid, and sometimes they have difficulties, but invariably by the time they become certified, they are bona fide scuba addicts. Being a newly qualified diver is a little like falling in love: it’s giddy and exciting and addictive, but how do you maintain that passion once the novelty wears off? Diver apathy is a common affliction, either as a result of diving too much, or of not diving enough. This article explores a few simple ways to rediscover the excitement of your first time underwater.
Often, people fall out of love with diving because so much time has elapsed between dives and they no longer remember how thrilling it can be. There are many reasons people let this happen. Perhaps you became certified while on vacation and then let diving fall by the wayside once you returned home to a colder climate. Perhaps it’s a time or a money restraint; perhaps it’s simply a lack of someone to dive with. Once months, or even years, have passed between dives, it can seem daunting to return to diving even if you would like to. As skills are forgotten, so too does confidence wane, until eventually getting back in the water seems scary rather than exciting. There are solutions to all of these problems, however. Often, the divers who are reluctant to try temperate dive sites are the ones who haven’t yet experienced them, but with the right exposure protection, there are many amazing dives to be had without visiting the tropics. Investigating the diving nearby is a great way to address time and money restraints.
For many people who learn abroad, returning home means losing your dive buddy or dive group. It can be hard to motivate yourself to go diving if you have no one to share your experiences with or to help organize the dive’s logistics. The easiest way to get around this is to join a dive club, which not only provides you with readymade buddies, but also offers a unique brand of camaraderie and takes away the stress of organizing dives on your own with club-arranged trips and excursions. If you are one of those erstwhile divers who feel that you’ve already left it too long to rediscover the sport, don’t worry — it’s easier to get back into than you think. You may feel intimidated at the thought of your half-forgotten theory and your rusty mask-clearing skills, but you will be surprised at how quickly these things come back to you if you give them the chance. Refresher courses are an excellent way to restore confidence, allowing you to practice essential skills and go over theory under the supervision of a trained professional. Choose somewhere easy for your return to scuba, somewhere with calm surface conditions and good visibility, with warm water and limited current. That way, once you return to open water you’ll be able to focus on enjoying your time underwater, and remembering why you loved diving in the first place.
Sometimes, however, the problem isn’t that divers have been away from the sport too long; the problem is that they dive too much. Typically, this affliction primarily affects professional divers since they are required to dive day in, day out regardless of conditions or personal inclination. Like any job, overexposure to even the most amazing lifestyle can take its toll, especially when working as a dive professional often entails long hours, early mornings, intense physical work, considerable responsibility and a lackluster salary. That being said, diving only becomes boring if you let it. One of the best ways to prevent monotony from setting in is to find that one thing that excites you above all else — whether that be nudibranchs, or wrecks, or shark — and fuel that passion by learning everything that you can about that topic and making it your specialty. Challenge yourself to continuously explore new areas of diving, too. Enrolling in further education or specialty courses not only helps to advance your career and make diving more profitable, it also makes it more rewarding. Every new experience will recall that sense of excitement from your first dive because, ultimately, it’s the thrill of discovery that makes things interesting. For the same reason, visit new dive destinations whenever you can (whether they’re a few miles down the road, or on another continent). After all, the opportunity to leave your comfort zone and see new things was probably what made you pursue a career in diving in the first place.
Ultimately, whether your love for diving is suffering from an under-dose or an overdose of time spent in the water, it’s always possible to reclaim the magic. Spend a moment remembering your first diving experience, and all the reasons it made you want to become a diver. If rediscovering that sense of adventure seems worth the effort, why not take the necessary steps to do just that? You’ll find it’s easier than you think to rediscover the underwater world.