My last article discussed the importance of selecting the appropriate instructor to help you meet your diving goals. As important as your instructor is to your diving education, there is another, often overlooked, person: a mentor. Your mentor is usually a more experienced dive buddy who will dive with you after your class concludes. He or she can help you gain experience and give you tips and tricks of the trade to make your diving more enjoyable.
The Role of Your Instructor
Your instructor’s job is to train you to safely conduct scuba dives within the parameters of the course. Certification agencies set standards for each course, which dictate what knowledge and skills you must master in order to earn certification. However, you still have more to learn even though you have that bright, shiny c-card in your pocket.
The Role of Your Mentor(s)
It may seem that your technical diving course takes a lot of time, but when you think about it, you really only have a limited amount of time with your instructor. Your diving career will span years. Your time in training lasts only months. After your finite time with your instructor ends, you have years to continue learning and developing as a diver. That’s where mentors come in.
A good mentor can be an almost endless source of information. Thinking back to my early years as a tech diver, I remember lots of things I learned from more experienced divers after I was certified. My instructor taught me how to rig a deco bottle, but it was another diver who showed me a technique I liked better (and still use). My mentors showed me equipment modifications and new configuration ideas.
Some of the best information I got from more experienced divers was logistical. Planning dive trips in the Great Lakes can be challenging. As I’m fond of telling my students, ships never sink near big cities with well-equipped dive stores. They’re always out in the middle of nowhere. To pull off some Great Lakes expeditions, you either bring all the gas you’ll need, or you bring a portable compressor. My mentors helped me out all sorts of ways. My buddies loaned me extra tanks when I needed them. They suggested gas mixes that could be easily re-mixed and used again.
Instruction + Experience
I don’t think you can become a truly great diver by just taking one class after another. Formal instruction is vitally important, but it is equally important to augment that instruction with good, solid experience. So after you’ve chosen a good instructor and experienced a satisfying course, find yourself a good group of experienced divers who will dive with you and share their knowledge. And once you’ve gained some degree of expertise, pass it on. Be a mentor yourself!