Education, Enjoyment and Exploration…

Archive for January, 2008

Control – NACD Journal 1st Quarter, 2008

Wow, what a surreal feeling! I’m hovering motionless above some orange goop watching my friend and ongoing student/dive buddy do exactly the same. I love the way the orange goop drapes over the line making everything look ancient and for the hundredth or so time I wonder what this stuff actually is and why it stays here in the same part of the cave year after year. I gently move my hand above it and watch the goop mirror my hand stroke with ever increasing ripples as we watch in wonder. We grin at each other through our masks and I can’t help but think that this is how it’s all meant to be! A couple of good friends having the time of their lives, swimming around a room in an underwater cave, getting ready to scooter back to the entrance and enjoy a good feast at the local watering hole. Now, what’s so interesting about all this is that we’ve visited this place a number of times before, so what is it that made tonight so special? I know that it’s not just me either, as when we finally surface an hour or so later John looks at me and exclaims, “Now, that was a great dive!”

Well, we’d been out scootering at Manatee for the previous two days and while the visibility was fantastic past Friedman’s, it’s nice to get back to our “home cave”, but surely that can’t be the only reason. We head off to have our post dive fun with some other friends who were diving that night and talk about what was so cool about tonight’s dive. I suddenly think of a phrase that sticks in my mind, I don’t know if someone has told me recently or if I read it somewhere, but it goes something like, one must first have complete control before one is truly able to let go. My friend is currently going through some mix courses with me and while we had our fun scootering over the last couple of days, we’ve been practicing tech skill sets in the open water at various basins. Stuff like removing and replacing stages while following a line in a blacked out mask, riding and clipping the scooters off while towing another, running a line while dealing with multiple scooters, stages and leashes, blowing bags while dealing with a reg failure, blacked out air shares etc. Anyways I’m sure a lot of you know what I’m talking about!

Of course, while John and I are doing all these drills, we’re building muscle memory by repeating the skills until they become second nature and then when we need to apply them to our regular diving; it almost becomes an unconscious reaction. I think that’s why we’re having so much fun tonight, because everything has gone very smoothly, stage bottle drops were smooth and quick, line running with stages and scooters seemed very easy and the funny part is that we were never more than 2300’ from the entrance, compared to the 6000+’ we’d done at Manatee the previous days. I’m sure most of you have heard the sayings “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” or “keep the end in mind” but when you actually think about what these mean and start applying them to your diving habits, you’ll probably end up having a whole lot more fun.

I know that no one ever wants to practice these skill sets, myself included, but due to the nature of my job I’m kind of forced to. My friend and I like to cave dive most of all, so we’ve set up the most recent class he’s taking with me in more of a mentoring form than a formal class structure. That way we get to go cave dive and have fun as well as practice and reinforce those skill sets.

Anyways, as usual I’ve got the babbling/typing sickness again, so let me get back on track. I talked earlier about you must have control before you can truly let go, and I think I’m finally starting to understand what it means. I see a lot of people catch the cave diving bug and they get into it really hard for a couple of years and then they just seem to lose interest. I’ve never really understood this, as cave diving for me is one of the essential parts of life and I know I’d go through some serious withdrawals if it were ever taken away from me, but now I’m thinking it’s because they just got bored with it.

It seems like we’re about to lose a lot of our popular caves down here due to flooding, so now’s a good time of year to get out there and practice your control. Every move that your body makes underwater has an effect and if you learn to bring all aspects of your cave diving under control, you’ll be a much better diver and probably enjoy your dives a whole lot more. By all aspects of your cave diving, I mean things such as keeping your breathing rate under control at all times (whether you’re working or not, your SAC rate should remain constant!), having complete control of your buoyancy and trim, knowing your equipment back to front, what it can and cannot do and keeping things clean and tucked away at all times since there’s no place for sloppiness in this wonderful sport of ours. Start doing everything the same way, muscle memory works! Of course, this will not happen overnight, but experience can be built on over time, and the more you practice this stuff the more fun you’ll have.

Now, by now means am I suggesting to go out there and start drilling instead of diving, but when the dive’s over and you’ve had your fun, take a minute to practice some of the stuff you normally don’t, for example how quickly and smoothly can you get the scooter cradled between your legs after getting off the trigger, how smoothly can you deploy your back up lights, clip off your primary, shut down and switch valves. This is what makes up your “control package” and once you have this sort of stuff down pat, then you will really start to “see” the cave and enjoy the natural beauty of the cave, plus it also looks very cool!

Well, as usual, thanks for taking the time to read my viewpoint, please have fun, be safe out there and let’s see if we can nail down our control when we’re diving in the overhead. Try to slow down and think a little bit before you act, keep your cave diving safe and please take good care of our underwater cathedrals.