Olympic Tears


Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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In the early days of DAN, I was privileged to work with a local dive club in running a DAN Underwater Olympics event.  This group of divers spent hundreds of hours gathering toys and tools to provide materials for the competing 4-person teams. One local artist provided a trophy: another donated a T-shirt graphic. Many local and national scuba manufacturers and vendors supplied donations for  team awards and raffle prizes. All proceeds went to DAN.. For several years, this event annually contributed more than $1000 to DAN. Our events were primarily team in-water relays (pass orange under the chin while treading, swim a pool-length on-your back holding a lit candle, pass the baton,  hold a ping-pong ball with an inverted spoon while swimming a length, three-finned race (three fins between two buddies),  and an underwater hot-wheels race) with added attractions of team assembly of underwater PVC pipe puzzles, underwater mini-basket shoot (release ping pong balls at-depth such that they surfaced within a floating circle), blacked out mask recovery of poker chips scattered over the pool bottom, and we finished with a team tug-of-war. It was a long day that provided fun for the participants and the event organizers, as well as recognition for our sponsors and a check for DAN.  Each year we tried to come up with a new event that would provide both fun and challenge to our participants.

The trophy

One year we tried an exercise that many of us had done in novice training; it is an exercise I typically  use  on "fun night" (the last basic scuba  pool session). The event involves lifting a weight from the bottom of the pool. A 25 pound weight is attached to a 40 pound (the most common size available in recreational diving) lift-bag. Then, as a relay event, each team member swims about 20 feet to a point above the submerged object, surface dives to the weight, exhales through the snorkel into the lift bag and returns to the surface to touch the next team member. This cycle is repeated until the lift bag becomes sufficiently buoyant to lift the weight. The first team to raise the weight wins the event. We typically time the event, so results from different heats could be arranged in order of finish.

The first year we tried this event, I noticed a team of four divers sitting on the edge of the pool. All four young women were in tears. I asked what was the matter and they all replied, at different times, in essence with "we don't know how to do this ... we have never done any surface diving!" Not only had these novice divers not done any surface diving, but had no clue how to use a snorkel. (It had not been part of their training.) The inability to surface dive cost these girls some very nice prizes as zero points for the event substantially lowered their over-all standing in this team competition.

We were dumbfounded. It had never occurred to us that such a fundamental skill (surface diving) would have been eliminated in training. The same scenario, unfortunately, was repeated with a different set of divers the following year.

Eventually, we discontinued this fund raiser, in-large-part,  'cause too many newly certified entrants were simply unable to compete.

I will never forget the anguish on the faces of those young divers as they individually  lamented, "I don't know how to do this!" It was the first dramatic moment-in-time where I began to grasp how much was being lost to divers as the training standards were lowered and in-water time and skills were being removed from training. For me, it was one of the saddest times I have known as a scuba diving  instructor.

The points are: 

1. When you remove knowledge (class time and topics) and in-water time (for skill and comfort development), you are taking away future fun from your students. In some cases, this lack of fun, becomes a long-remembered negative experience.

2. Negative experiences (lack of fun) contribute to a loss of participation. This lack of participation affects the diver, the instructor, the dive shop, the training agency and, ultimately,  the entire diving community.

3. While shortened, lowered standard type classes may be "cost-effective, in the long term, they are devastating to all involved in our sport 'cause every skill or piece of knowledge removed contributes to some future missed opportunity.


"the knowledgeable, physically fit diver has more fun!"


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About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 200 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2024 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

All rights reserved.

Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education