Good divers are always learning. This is what is printed on the front of every Dive Training magazine, and exactly what we did one our recent trip to Mermet Springs in southern Illinois.
Even if you are a very experienced diver, any change in equipment or environment presents a chance to expand your scuba knowledge and experience. Within the Mermet group, Jerry and Anthony had new BC’s, Sheryl was working on mastering her drysuit skills, and Tater was diving in a drysuit for the very first time. In addition, Mermet Springs was new to all of us.
The first thing we did once we parked our trailer was get an orientation to the dive park with Mermet Springs’ owner, Glen Faith. This dive quarry is very well thought out. The covered pavilion that was reserved for us was equipped an overhead fan, electricity and two gear tables with bungies for securing our gear. Each training platform is marked with a large white buoy, and each sunken attraction is marked with an orange buoy. Each buoy has a notation on it indicating what is below it and at what depth. In addition, under the water, all the attractions are connected with ropes that have tags indicating what the next thing is and how deep. It is impossible to get lost! The main dock, which was just steps from our pavilion, was even handicapped accessible with a lift for getting in and out of the water. With that information, we felt ready to hit the water.
With all the new equipment, the first order of business was to do a weight check. It is obvious that a new or different wetsuit or drysuit will require a weight check, but even a change in BC can effect the amount of weight required and its distribution. After fine tuning our weights, we were ready to go. We decided to spend a little time on a training platform to give everyone time to hover, check trim, and generally become familiar with the location of all their dumps, buttons and hoses.
After the underwater check, we took off for a tour. Mermet is unique in many ways, but one really surprising thing is that they have music piped in underwater. This makes it nice to swim around with something other than your breathing to listen to. The underwater speakers also have a less frivolous purpose as well; they serve as a diver recall system when needed to reunite dive buddies. So, we swam along listening to classic rock, looking at all the fun stuff. Our divers with new equipment played with their buoyancy.
Tater commented that at times he felt like he did when he was a brand new diver. If you are used to being highly competent underwater, it is a bit humbling to suddenly return to that awkward “newbie” state. However, there are definite rewards to be reaped by challenging oneself and learning something new.
Yes, new divers long to get themselves to a state of true comfort and confidence underwater, but once that comfort level is achieved, if they really want to be good divers, they will find the next thing to challenge and educate them.