Technology and Diving – A personal perspective

I was recently asked by one of my web development clients who is involved in the dive industry whether I still scuba dive.

I haven’t in a while and I have several good reasons for not doing so unless the situation warrants it.

Let me tell you a story of one of my experiences:

A few years ago I was scuba diving with a buddy along a jetty at one of the more popular dive sites along the Oregon Coast. We both happened to be diving in all the latest in technological wonders that the tank diving industry had to offer. neoprene dry suits, computers – all the trappings that the tank diving industry says you need to have to dive. We were both studying for our dive master certifications and were getting our required hours in the water to fulfill that requirement.

The conditions were what we came to expect from this area – 15-20 foot viz, slack tide – nothing out of the ordinary. We were going to dive what was called "The Crab Hole", known for the number of crabs that reside in this spot. We descended as our training had taught us to do. I stopped a moment to equalize one of my ears that was giving me some difficulty. My buddy descended a little deeper than me, to about 45 feet, while I was just above him at about 40 feet. I noticed that that he blew a bunch of bubbles and I sensed that something wasn’t quite right. He all of a sudden started to ascend quite rapidly. My first response was to get above him and ditch all the air in my BC and drysuit that I had to keep me neutrally buoyant. I thought that I could keep him from doing an uncontrolled ascent. The maneuver worked. We were able to stop and both ascend safely and abort the dive after only 15 minutes into it. At the surface he said that his weight belt buckle came apart and he lost his $100.00 Seasoft 40 lbs weight belt that was around his waist. An expensive lesson to learn and it was of my opinion that the drysuit contributed greatly to the uncontrolled ascent my buddy had. And we were both very competent divers.

My quick action prevented what could have been a potentially life threatening injury to my dive buddy.

So what does this have to do with the topic of freediving?

Well let’s go back the the conversation I was having with the client. He asked me if I would still dive a drysuit in the cold northwest waters that I frequent if I were to scuba dive again.

I responded with an emphatic NO.

After having been in the sport of diving awhile now, I have had my hands on a lot of gear, and I would much rather dive in a high quality 7 or 9mm freedive suit if I were to tank dive again.

I participate in freediving because it reduces you to the lowest common denominator – your skills as a diver. I have to keep fit. I have to train to hold my breath. And too much technoology makes the mind and body go soft, again – in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong – I think technology has its place. I love what it has done for freedive fins (improvements in carbon fiber technology) and the quality of the new neoprenes for wetsuits. I would even use a freedive computer if I could afford one. But not having one doesn’t keep me from participating in the sport I truly love.

In fact, I am addicted to it. Many times I think that there are those who are overly zealous about it, tech weenies if you will. But every sport has it’s zeatlots, even freediving.

Each of us has to measure what risks we’re willing to take in all areas of our lives. Scuba is one area I am not willing to go to. I just don’t trust that much technology with my life right now..

Paranoid? Maybe, but I’m still freediving.

BTW – my buddy got his weight belt back when another group of divers using wetsuits found it in the crab hole…

Dive safe…

Cliff Etzel

Cliff is the former Freediving editor of DeeperBlue.com. He is now a freelance journalist and film-maker.

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