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Education, Enjoyment and Exploration…

Reasons Why – NACD Journal 3rd Quarter, 2006

After tying into the gold line and rising up to the top of the passage, I gently start to work my way down the Gallery at a nice relaxing pace. I’m trying out some new LP 85 tanks and the difference between diving them and my normal 108’s is startling to stay the least, much less drag through the water and I feel much more “maneuverable”! I settle into my normal comfortable rhythm and start to relax. It’s my first “fun” dive in a while as I’d been busy teaching and guiding on my days off from the regular job. I almost can’t describe how nice it is to finally be able to unwind, and get back to what I absolutely love doing, swimming silently through these wondrous underwater halls and letting my mind drift. A lot has been on my mind lately, my wife and I have a wonderful baby girl, so I’ve been trying to spend as much time with her as possible. A recent promotion at work has kept me really busy, stocking inventory, networking, putting together orders and staying late to get the business to where I’d like it to be and this was really the first chance I’d had to just get away from it all and lose myself (not literally!) in my favorite underwater maze.

I notice my planned jump approaching, so I grab a spool and “connect the dots”. Swimming up the passageway and peering into nooks and crannies, it feels like the cool flow is washing away all my worries, so I grab another couple of spools, put in a couple of jumps and head into a lower, siltier section. Unclipping my SPG, I give it a quick glance, seems like I’m hardly breathing so just as a precaution I reach up and check my left post, nope the post’s on, cool, I’m in “the zone”. It’s so peaceful down here, there were no cars in either parking lot when I showed up, and so I know it’s just the cave and me down here in this ethereal world of beauty.

I head off onto another jump line, marveling at some of the really pretty rock formations and the noticeable lack of traffic back here and I approach the T, drop a clothes pin and head down the left branch into some pretty, but tighter tunnel. I’ve been beyond here, but I don’t have the appropriate configuration to continue so I flip around and head back the way I came. Ah, life is good, I’m swimming back through clear water to collect one of my jump reels and we’re back at the secondary line. Hanging a left, I continue on in without a care in the world. I’ve been here many times and the buoyancy adjustments are almost automatic at this point.

The passage opens up into a big room and while there’s a jump to my left, due to gas considerations I decide just to continue on around the circuit. Looking to the side, the deep layers of undisturbed silt beckon enticingly, it’s obvious no one’s been swimming in that direction recently. The cave passage makes a quick zigzag and once again another tempting jump line appears on my right. Ah, the beauty of this sport overwhelms me, I know I’ll be back here again tomorrow night with some extra gas and plenty of new passage to play in. The ability to explore an alien environment that few on earth will ever see and understand, let alone being able to frolic in the veins of the earth, is what draws me back here night after night.

Approaching a right angle turn in the line, I start grinning through my regulator as I’m reminded of an old Scubapro poster sitting in my office that’s been with me since 1993. It says “Down here there are no stop lights. No junk mail. No TV game shows or shopping malls. There are no screaming bosses or billboards or telemarketers. Knowing this to be true, what are you still doing up there?” Of course, it’s a little outdated these days but the principle still applies. As a friend of mine puts on his signature at The Deco Stop, “diving is better than talking about diving”. With the furor lately that’s been circulating around the cave community, the internet boards and the local dive shops about various issues such as diving doubles at the Intro level, cave conservation and student divers, down here four atmospheres below the topside antics, none of it seems to matter one bit.

I really hope that those of you reading this still remember how fun this stuff really is and why it is that we do it. It’s not about who’s been the furthest, who’s got the brightest light or the fastest scooter, which is the “best” gear configuration, but rather about the need for isolation, peace and quiet that we cannot seem to approach in the crazy world above the water. Cave diving is a way to escape from the stresses and concerns of daily life, an uncompromising and immediate environment insulated from the needs of tomorrow and the concerns of yesterday. Think of all the other reasons why we all enjoy our shared passion so much, the constant fiddling with gear, comradeship, spending time with close friends in a common activity while sharing stories and events, trying to do things just a little bit better and every day finding something new, another reason to indulge in a sport that we’re so devoted to anyways.

In closing, I would like to dedicate this article to a good friend of mine that lives in Gainesville who, when I first moved to cave country, was instrumental in developing me mentally as a cave diver and was nice enough to take me under his wing and show me the ropes. He’s been having a rough time of things lately with a reoccurrence of an illness and I wanted to wish him and his long time girlfriend all the best for a speedy recovery. His words (and posts!) are what has inspired a lot of the thoughts within this article and also the way I approach cave diving in general.

Well, thanks for taking the time to read my viewpoint, and please have fun out there. Remember, that it’ll only be as much fun as you make it! As always 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.

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