Let he, she or they without sin cast the first stone. Whatever, Kirsty Andrews is casting with a vengeance as she names diving’s six greatest sins.

It’s the January edition, hitting your doorsteps around mid-December, so I thought this might be a fun seasonal time, with chatty get-togethers and Christmas parties leading neatly into a New Year, to air our pet peeves. So, let’s talk about the absolute worst diving behaviour, that really drives us up the wall and round the bend, destroys our festive cheer and fills us with Grinch-like grumpiness. Maybe leading to some behaviour-changing January resolutions, you never know. Hope springs eternal. 

I’ll start. Bad buoyancy is an obvious place to begin. Careless finning or a general lack of control can damage marine habitats, destroy the visibility, or, I shudder to say it, mess up a photographer’s planned perfect photo. We all have our moments where it goes a bit wrong from time to time but in general I’d hope that’s the exception rather than the rule. No-one wants to be a farmer, ploughing through the seabed.  

In a long diving career, I could quote so many instances of this: a memorable one being kicked in the head repeatedly by someone who was merrily finning along a metre above me in less than perfect conditions. Did the diver know I was there and was taking the opportunity to send a message? Or did they not care whether it was me or the wreck they were thumping? Names have been omitted to protect the guilty. Oh, and when it comes to marine damage, I haven’t even mentioned critter fiddling*: a crime so heinous I’m going to take it as read and move on.

Bad buoyancy is an obvious place to begin

Next up, let’s go for not being prepared and ready on time. I can definitely be guilty of this myself, I hold my hands up. There’s always one (sometimes it’s me) who rushes on to the boat with seconds to spare before ropes-off, in a tangle of regulator hoses, cylinders that may or may not be full and all necessary items thrown aboard somewhere, hopefully. They might cobble it together in time, but even so, needless stress has ensued. Time and tide wait for no man, or SCUBA columnist. Or maybe it’s the worthy folk who arrive early but just have to do a bit of kit fettling or fix the trailer or rewrite the risk assessment or catalogue the contents of the first aid kit before you can leave, and suddenly high tide has been and gone and it’s getting dark. 

Back to in-water shenanigans. I’ll chuck a multitude of sins under the banner of poor communication. Maybe it’s Mr(s) Speedy who races off, heedless of the panting of their comparatively slowcoach partner, or Mr(s) Eagle-Eyed, who spends 59 minutes avidly counting the cerata (the pointy bits) on a sea slug while their buddy slowly freezes next to them. Perhaps it’s the blinkered buddy, who doesn’t respond to a single signal until they sidle up sheepishly holding up their contents gauge, worryingly in the red. Better communication and a little extra consideration would be beneficial here, I can’t help but feel. 

What are your pet peeves? Do you know someone who’s steadfastly refused to wash their undersuit since 1975 so as not to lose its thermal qualities, regardless of the offence caused to your nasal passages? Or do you recognise yourself in some of these? It’s never too late to change our ways.

*Critter fiddling. A term given to the physical manipulation of small animals by photographers or complicit guides, in order to improve the composition of a photo or to flush out an animal that normally shelters out of sight.

Article ‘The absolute worst’ by Kirsty Andrews, first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 142 Jan/Feb 2024.

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