We are divers in the age of an evolving pandemic. The world has changed and we are changing
accordingly. We used to be an industry that was built around tropical vacations but then airlines
stopped, borders got shut down and international tourism froze. Still, America should not have
been hit as badly as it did. After all, we are a nation of 2.6 million active divers that are
geographically surrounded by over 95,000 miles of coast line so why should any of this affect
us? Still, our local dive industry took a hit.
There were flaws in which diving was being marketed prior to Covid. Pick up any scuba
magazine and it is assumed that we all are looking to fly to the next far-off tropical destination.
From the gear that was advertised, to the places that were featured, we imagined diving to be
something distant, some expensive and something 100 feet vis! True, Covid took that away
from a lot of us but there was still 95000 miles of coastline! So what happened?
As an irrepressible optimist, I truly believe that there are some lessons that Covid tried to teach
us. At this point there is no formal course out there or a publication or a webinar that will teach
these lessons but if we were to accept adversity itself as our teacher, then the five lessons
would be as follows:
Lesson # 1: Purchase a drysuit! That ‘more than 95000 miles of coastline’ is really worth seeing.
It has giant kelp forests, wolf eels, otters and other critters that have evaded the tropical diver.
But in order to have this “alien planet” like dive experience, you have to invest in a drysuit. A
good drysuit will cost around the same as (if not less than) your international dive trip but it
opens up miles and miles of diving, closer to home, on a much more frequent basis. For the
wetsuit divers, diving is often a vacation whereas to the drysuit divers, it is a lifestyle.
Lesson # 2: Invest in long term training: One of the longest and the most productive courses I
took was my TDI Introduction to Technical Diving. By the time it was over, my proficiency was at
a different level. Those days-after-days of drills that we did in the local quarry remain one of the
most productive diving experiences I have ever had. A lot of times, the purpose of diving is not
to see something but to “be” something.
Lesson # 3: Take the Cave course! When the charter boats stopped running, we all waited for
the world to return back to normal but those cave divers were still diving. In times like those, it
was great diving, cheap diving and diving that did not require boat transportation. Covid made
me realize, I wanted to be a cave diver.
Lesson # 4: Shore dive! During the days of Covid boredom, I decided to make a shore diving
atlas of America.That 95000 miles of coastline and the fresh waters meant that there were so
many shore dives, from the Great Lakes and the shores of New England to Florida to the West
Coast, with a whole lot of mines and quarries in between, that it would take many lifetimes to
fully explore these dive sites. There were wrecks and reefs and lost towns that we had all
forgotten about in our quest for the next tropical adventure and had it not been for the Covid, I
may never have learnt about those. Almost anyone can swim out from the shore but to return
safely to the same place may require some training and SDI Shore Diving specialty with an
instructor local to those places may be a good way to start.
Lesson # 5 Camp and Dive: Hotel industry is bouncing back but Covid taught many of us the
value of a good tent and the pleasure of sleeping outside. It was cheap and easy and when we
talk about the 95000 miles of coastline that we are blessed with, a lot of those marvelous diving
opportunities are only available to those who dare to leave the comfort of a good hotel room.
Lesson 6: Take the Solo Diver course! I remember the days when this would not be a politically
correct thing to suggest. Then certain safety procedures were developed and SDI Solo Diver
course trains a diver to reduce the risk that is associated with solo diving. As the world is in the
process of learning new political correctness, I would dare to suggest that Solo Diver training
makes more sense today then it would have made if this was not the pandemic.
The whole world is in the process of unlearning and relearning and not all the lessons have
been formalized yet. But, if we could collect bits and pieces of different peoples experiences
during these strange times and what they all did to remain divers, then we can see that the
pandemic has opened our eyes to many possibilities that were virtually at our feet and we did
not see them.
We were too busy staring at the horizon.
Yours in diving,
Aziz Khan “Sinbad”
Instructor # 32270