How to make diving look cooler!

The temperature crept up into double figures today meaning that I ventured out of the house in something less than a giant hoody and hat. As the seemingly perpetual winter starts to slide away I found myself thinking ahead to the Spring wardrobe sported by the average UK diver and wondering whether there could be a way for UK diving to be a bit ‘cooler’. My next thought was to realise that if you are wondering how to make something ‘cooler’ then you are immediately by default entirely the wrong person to attempt to make that happen. “Cool’ is effortless and natural. If you try to be cool you will fail. If you have a meeting to decide how to make something cooler you will make it much less so. If you use the word ‘cool’ you are not. However as the rest of my hair turns to grey I am not going to let this stop me…

Looking good

This is from the liveaboard collection and features undersuits with an almost legal requirement for being laundered. Note the stance, as if I have just finished my routine on the pole and the jealous onlooker in the background.

Now first off, in Winter, I don’t care, all bets are off, I just want to be warm so I will happily leave the house in all my undersuits complete with ancient Fourth Element hoody thrown over the top and whichever dive branded hat is currently languishing at the bottom of the stairs. I have been know to queue for the life preserving Costa Coffee at Reading services whilst fully zipped into my BARE SB suit with the faint must of drysuit sock wafting around me.

UK Diving Winter

Here I’m sporting an ensemble from the Winter/Fall collection. Notice the sailing jacket, over a decade old, half tucked into the drysuit complete with beanie hat, one size too small. Note also the stance, leaning slightly back with a casual hold on the spool I like to call ‘leisure grip’

But now Spring is approaching and we must all collectively think about how we want to portray ourselves as a group when the sun finally comes out. The first step in finding a solution is admitting you have a problem. Take a look through the following list and tick off the items you wear to find out how on-trend you are:

  • Fourth Element Hoody (bonus point if it’s old and says ‘Dive Team’ on it)
  • Branded Beanie
  • One of those Russian style wooly hats
  • A novelty hat (ie ‘hilarious’ jester’s hat)
  • Trousers that zip off at the knee (bonus points for having actually unzipped them)
  • Clogs (Add 10 points for Crocs)
  • Wrap around mirrored shades
  • A gilet
  • A northface style fleece
  • Those trainers that aren’t really trainers but aren’t walking boots either. Often brown.
  • A T-shirt with some kind of cartoon fish on it.
  • One of those dryrobe things that makes you look like a Jawa.

I can check off about 6 of those (no ones going to get me out of skinny jeans and converse, not yet anyway…) but I was thinking that perhaps it’s time to up my game. Specifically I’m thinking about the outfit Prince wears in the Purple Rain video. I believe that the extra time spent in the morning ensuring my cravat is just right will pay off simply by how much cooler I’ll look walking round the dive site. I’m going to be the Beau Brummel of UK diving, just you wait…

Purple Rain

Looking forward to greeting the candidates for the Spring IDC in this little number.

A few thoughts on the new padi open water course

Last weekend I finished an IDC for the lovely Aquanaut in Kingston and Dive Wimbledon. We had a great time and I know the candidates will nail the IE. As part of the IDC we spent some time discussing the new skills in the updated Open Water Course and practising those skills in the pool.

One of the things that came out of the practise sessions is that there is definitely a little more investment of time in the new version required to deliver a valuable course.

Both of these centres just like Diving Leisure London and Big Squid offer a quality Open Water Course/Referral. They all charge in the region of £400 for the full open water and just under £300 for the referral course. They don’t do one day groupon deals for £80 (plus course materials, plus PIC etc etc). My views on groupon can be found here…..

The price of an open water course hasn’t changed much since I started in the UK industry over ten years ago. However in that time VAT has increased, rent, rates etc all have gone up.

All these centres are running with a group of students over four days for a full course or two for a referral making it around £100 per day to learn to dive. Personally I think this is a total bargain especially as that is pretty much all inclusive too. Really it should cost more and I’m hoping to see the price of an open water rise to around £450 and a referral to £300.

I’m not aiming to point out the impossibility of delivering a course to the same quality level as the aforementioned dive centres when you’re charging a third of the price with 3 times the number of students and half the time (oh I just did) but more to express my hope that the demands of the new open water course will begin to affect the ability of low cost/high volume operations to actually meet the required standards.

Without entering into specifics, the main differences between the old course and the new are an emphasis on trim and buoyancy as well as the student demonstrating the ability to plan and conduct dives as a buddy team. Buoyancy in particular is a hard concept for many students to grasp over a two day referral let alone one. Introducing trim (ie hovering in a more horizontal position so as to be more efficient and less likely to damage the marine environment) adds a greater level of difficulty.

Trying to bash this stuff out in an afternoon (except in one on one situations) is going to lead to divers who are unprepared for the open water dives and perhaps, just perhaps, the centres overseas that receive these students will begin to question more firmly how the referral course was run.

The new open water course is a fantastic opportunity for quality dive centres to differentiate themselves from the others. Let’s make a big deal about the new skills and how the extra time and smaller groups offered over a 2 day referral course will lead to much more confident divers.

Personally I’m really enjoying getting instructors up to speed with the new course so we can all begin to create happier, confident divers who are much more likely to continue their diving education.