What a fabulous sport scuba diving is. Other sports mostly challenge my sanity, and their blatant inadequacies confirm diving as the superior sport. Take Motor Racing for example. Aren’t you glad I do not squirt you with Champagne on the dive deck after every successful dive?
Few realize what this extravagant behaviour actually symbolizes. Squirters are not just wasting perfectly drinkable and delectable beverage, they are trying to consummate their victory.
I have seen women shake and squirt Champagne, but it looks distinctly odd, and is a rare occurrence – for good reason. In the animal world males compete in order to mate. The animal winners really do get to mate but since podium “mounting” by our racing heroes would undoubtedly be frowned upon, motor sportsmen unwittingly only simulate it. Observe carefully what they do. Actually, they are wankers.
Divers never worry about winning, and gleefully drink any Champagne handed out. After a couple of magnums, divers agree how happy they are that they all had a great dive. Cooperation beats competition, and everyone helps each other fill out their log books with exaggerated depths, times and encounters. OK, I’m kidding, that’s Socialism not diving.
Unending news of injuries, fights, fouls and suspensions makes the football season unbearable. And then there is cricket. In the 1880’s when English missionaries moved into Milne Bay PNG, they decided to civilize the natives by teaching them cricket. “Shields into bats and spears into wickets!” they proclaimed. As a result Milne Bay people are sterling characters, friendly and hospitable, and it is my favourite place to go diving.
Cricket was a gentleman’s game and the manner in which you played was just as important as winning. Not anymore. Playing cricket these days is excellent training for cads, drama queens and deviant mobile phone texters.
High physical impact sports take their toll on older players, but divers just get better with age. The intellectual processes of sea sense, observation, identification and understanding of marine life are more important than youthful reflexes and strength. History, with its triumphs and tragedies, enhances our discovery of an underwater wreck – which may be transformed into a magical garden. Scuba diving is a low impact physical sport in its own right, but it is even more a vehicle for enlightenment.
Swimming and cycling are excruciatingly dreary. Just imagining the hours of repetitive training involved sends me to sleep. In the ocean with a mask on I can swim for days (well 41 years actually) mesmerized by the marine world. Don’t tell me cycling involves beautiful scenery – the cyclists I have seen mostly have their heads down watching the road, or are swerving to avoid annihilation by passing trucks. That is one of the greatest things about scuba diving – the exercise is incidental to the sport, and not its main purpose.
And let’s get the drug thing sorted. Every diver’s kit bag has performance enhancing drugs – Sudafed, Drixine, even Aspirin for deep divers. We do not make a fuss about it and do not call it cheating; we just swallow and praise the pill. So what if athletes turn out to be drug freaks? They are pretty much freaks anyway. Basketball would not exist without, shall we say, height advantaged, personages and I’m not even going to mention Sumo Wrestling.
Purists are correct when they say diving is uniquely a sport that provides prolonged weightlessness, and many enjoy diving for this very sensation. Being weightless is deeply psychological, directly relating to the time in our mother’s womb. It is probably why I feel so relaxed as soon as I start any descent. I’m going home to Mummy.
Experienced divers clear their brains of cares and luxuriate underwater, blissfully floating in inner space. I have never been able to do that on a golf course. There is no primordial reason to hit a ball into a hole with a stick (and to be obscenely rewarded for being good at it).
But is diving a sport at all? In the past I have promoted diving as Adventure rather than sport, however recent experiences have confirmed to me that diving is indeed competitive, and that underwater photographers are the most competitive. Anyone who has been elbowed off a sea fan containing Pygmy Sea Horses knows I am right.
Years ago I dived with a jerk who after shooting a subject, deliberately stirred up the silt to make it impossible for other divers to photograph. He did not stay on my guest list for long. One tour leader routinely guided his disciples to a well-worn area, and then would disappear with his model to his nearby “secret” hot spot.
When I was running the dive boat Telita I made a point of showing my clients the weird and wonderful critters I had discovered – to the gratitude and amazement of some professional photographers who routinely kept their discoveries to themselves. But of course my main business was getting passengers on the boat, not selling underwater photos and competing with them.
One question that always turns up when you admit to being a diver is “How deep have you dived?” This is the diving equivalent to your “PB” (personal best) time for your event, your handicap, or highest score. The ignorant public perception is that the deeper you have been, the better diver you must be. We even have world depth record for scuba diving on air and people die attempting to break it. As we know, the gases that we breathe become more and more poisonous the deeper we go. Deep diving record attempts have the same illogic as seeing how much arsenic you can swallow before it kills you.
Having said that, my PB on air is quite deep. I am sort of proud of it, and tell people even when they do not ask. But, as you all know, I am a sweet, non-competitive guy and would never encourage some budding underwater photographer to go deeper, but if one does – then that is one less competitor! Ha!
In my youth I was a keen underwater hunter but only ever for food, and, of course, the thrill of watching freshly spilt blood and thrashing animals die. In Japan this is called “Science”, which is one of the reasons science is so poorly understood these days. The other is Al Gore.
Competitive underwater hunting has never been my thing. I know many that started their diving careers this way but, as they learned more about the underwater world and came to love it, they abandoned the practice. I do not even eat reef fish these days. I’d rather be environmentally correct, and eat my neighbour’s cat.
Yes, diving is the Superior Sport. Now if I could just stop my model from racing me back to the dive boat at the end of every dive, life would be perfect. It’s not the racing I object to, just the fact that she always wins.