Diving For Fun

By Jean-Michel Cousteau

Why do we dive? Its a fair question, I think. After all, we go to a lot of effort to get into the water. Whether we fly thousands of miles to climb on a live-aboard and disappear over some tropical horizon or tramp down to our local beach, it is something out of the ordinary. Something that involves mechanical preparation, a little training, time and commitment.

This is not to say that diving is a big challenge, because I dont think it is. Having dived with military demolition experts, oil rig workers and the handicapped, I know anyone can do it. The element of water levels the playing field, so to speak, neutralizing advantages and softening the edges of disabilities. Beneath the waves, skill, experience and sensitivity count more than raw strength.

But why do we make the effort? In my experience, there are as many answers as there are divers.

Many are drawn to the lure of adventure. Distant places and bright colors hold the promise of exotic wonders. Others are attracted to the thrill of discovery. Each dive becomes a learning experience and they are eager to research the marine species they have observed. Some people have to dive, because it is their job. Oil rig repair crews, abalone farmers and others routinely log many hours beneath the surface, some in deep darkness. Scientists also dive, combining work with the pleasure of learning and helping us understand our planet and its creatures. Others seek the truth about themselves in a search for inner peace and express it in highly personal and yet universal works of art.

And, there are many, many more reasons, as diverse as the shapes of coral. There is one common denominator;fun. It seems so simple, so obvious, but it often gets lost in the shuffle. Diving sometimes involves making plans and reservations, booking lodgings, watching finances, getting time off from work. It can involve visits to dive shops and immersion in a plethora of equipment and accessories. It involves cameras that sometimes leak and wetsuits that are not always warm enough. It involves training and a host of rules and procedures tailored to emergency situations. It involves remembering to practice environmentally respectful techniques.

Then theres the airport, where so many trips go awry. Can I fit everything in and not be charged for excess baggage? And the nagging equipment worries that turn a long plane flight into torture because sometimes an entire vacation can be ruined if one piece of gear is left behind. Thats a lot of stuff to carry around in ones head. Add to all this the pressure to get the perfect photo, to see a specific animal or even to have a good time and it can leave one frustrated.

People get out of sync with the rhythms of a place so easily. Before a dive, they are obsessed about whether their equipment will be appropriate. After the dive, they wonder whether their pictures will turn out. And in between? Often they cant remember what happened.

Diving should always be fun. And I think the key to having fun is to relax and take what the sea offers. It is a vast, unpredictable and uncontrollable realm. When we enter it, we never really know what lies around the corner. That is the mystery and magic of diving. To enter the water with specific expectations is to invite constant disappointment, and it is to be blind to other wonders. Some of my most memorable dives took place on days when the weather was bad, the light was wrong and marine creatures were not doing what they were supposed to be doing. In retrospect, the very uniqueness of the situation made everything stick in my mind. And in the end, I had a wonderful time because my mind was open to discovery.

I dont know of any psychology of diving, but I do feel experience and observation have taught me a thing or two. And it seems to come down to this: Rather than going out and conquering the sea, we should encounter it on its own terms, surrender to it and open ourselves to what it may want to show us.

If we stick to this frame of mind, we will leave our frustrations behind and recognize why we dive;for the sheer fun of it.