Diver drop outs? Where’s the spirit of adventure?

Recently I had a very good reason to visit Quebec, Canada and Newport Rhode Island in the USA – my daughter, Paige is a member of the New Zealand Elite Women’s Underwater Hockey team which competed in the World Women’s competition in Quebec. (See page 6)

Underwater hockey was started by Southsea Sub-Aqua in the UK in 1954 to keep club members fit during the chilly winter months. The sport was introduced to New Zealand in the early 1970s. I recall playing the game back then; it really was a game played by hard core spearfishing Clubs. Breath holding and brute strength were the skills you needed, much like a State of Origin League final!

Now the game requires complex team work, and extreme fitness, skills that for the untrained seem impossible! After battles over two weeks between 16 countries the New Zealand Women and Men’s teams both claimed Gold!

In New Zealand recently over 400 school students competed in the Underwater Hockey NZ Secondary School Nationals in Rotorua. I have long maintained this group represent the future of our dive industry because they are so at home in the water. Many of them continue to enjoy their diving for many years afterwards.

Dropouts, why?

Meanwhile the dropout rate of new Open Water Divers quitting diving within two years is over 90%. An appalling statistic. The training agencies and the dive industry as a whole have failed to successfully address this issue.

Many experienced divers think one of the main reasons is due to the “adventure” being taken out of recreational scuba diving. We have Worksafe requiring compliance with their regulations and audits of dive companies and charter boat operators. Fair enough I guess. But, as a result basically, after a few dives wrapped up in cotton wool, a diver thinks, is this it? Boring!

No wonder free diving and spearfishing are booming. They go out into the ocean with a mate and have an adventure without having to be “certified” plus it costs bugger all. May it long continue.

So what should we do to bring adventure back into diving? Adventure is out there 1000%! So where do you find it?

Let us know your thoughts.

A couple of my mates called by recently to show me images of two WWII planes laying on pure white sand that they had just dived. The first divers ever to dive these planes! The thrill of discovering a new wreck and confirming its final resting place is very exciting.

But their discovery was the result of over two years of research and planning!

It could be anything that you discover… taking a picture of a new species of nudibranch, or behavioural interactions between fish, or whatever. The subject is only restricted by your imagination!

But when you hit the Jack Pot it is exciting payback for all your effort.

Cook’s Endeavour

I was not able to be with my two friends who found the planes as I was on an adventure of my own. The possibility of diving the final resting place of Captain Cooks’ Endeavour in the waters of Newport Rhode Island USA. It’s been an amazing journey over two years and is still on going.

As you will read, a lot is going on above the surface re the Endeavour, activity that is very challenging and at times very frustrating. Like recreational diving restrictions, politics can also curtail the natural human instinct to explore.

The six part television series Uncharted presented by Sam Neill currently screening on Prime TV is taking us on the amazing journey of
Cooks’ explorations from Tahiti to the South Pacific, Antarctica to Alaska. Without today’s modern navigational aids it is hard to comprehend how such ocean voyages were achieved. An amazing seaman. I’m sure the spirit of adventure ran in his blood. The introduction to Uncharted says:

Whether admired or admonished, Captain James Cook is forever linked to the Pacific, its heritage and its future.

That includes New Zealand. All Kiwis know Cook is forever linked with us. Let’s hope the New Zealand Government does not ignore this part of our maritime history resting in the waters of Newport Rhode Island USA.

Dave Moran
Editor at Large

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