I recently read a post on The Deco Stop from someone looking for a technical diving instructor. One of the answers struck me as particularly astute. In part, it said:
Find a community of divers. Some should be ahead of you. Find out who they recommend. Then work into that community.
It worries me when people just decide to become a tech diver on their own. Who will they dive with? Who will they work with to develop skills before moving onto the next class? or do they just intend to move from class to class until, 12-20 dives later, they’re “full trimix” certified and about to do their first dive with a non-instructor to depth?” (Andrew Ainslie). The full thread can be viewed here.
I think Andrew makes a good point. A sense of community and mentorship has traditionally been an important part of diving. Thinking back over my own diving career, I realize just how important being part of an active dive community is. When I was coming up through the ranks, so to speak, I was very fortunate to be in a group of divers that, even though they were far more experienced than me, were willing to dive with me and share their wisdom. Through the years, the more experienced guys in the group dropped out of diving and as my competency grew, I moved up the chain until I was one of the more experienced in the group.
While there are certainly still many groups of divers who enjoy diving together and learning from each other, there are a large number of divers who do not belong to a dive community. To these folks, I’d say don’t rush through classes one after the other. Take a course, gain experience at that level, and then move on. Find a group of like-minded divers and get out there and dive.
One of my goals as a dive instructor is to grow the technical diving community. In addition to teaching courses, I try to offer diving opportunities that people can participate in without signing up for a course. I try to publicize my dives, whether they be at a local quarry or out on a charter boat, to try to encourage people to keep diving.
So take time to enjoy the present. If you’ve just taken Adv. Nitrox/Deco Procedures, don’t rush right into Trimix Diver so you can “get to 200′.” Enjoy the wrecks around 150′. Get used to decompression diving. Build your skills. Have fun. When you’re ready, move on. In the long run, you’ll have more fun and be a more competent diver.