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WtF: The Decline in Scuba Participation

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba' started by boulderjohn, Apr 20, 2021.

  1. dlofting

    dlofting DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Thanks for the original post. It was quite thought provoking. For my family, even though 4 of us are certified divers (myself, my wife, 4 kids and partners) the above quote definitely applies.
  2. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    When I did my first GBR liveaboard nearly 20 years ago, I was told that the different operators agree to focus on certain specific sites in order to leave the others undamaged.

    The problem with that theory can be seen in the documentary Chasing Coral. In it, we witness the death of a portion of the GBR as a camera shoots from the same spot over time. This was not a site frequented by divers. It was a spot selected by climatologists who predicted it was likely to experience a bleaching event due to climatological factors.
    eleniel, Esprise Me and Dan G like this.
  3. kelemvor

    kelemvor Big Fleshy Monster ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Largo, FL USA
    I'm pretty sure that's the norm for most hobbies. People get interested, do the hobby a lot, interest wanes and they do it less or stop completely. Some people might get a stamp book when they're kids and collect a book full of stamps. It's a rare person who is found sitting in their study looking at their stamp collection 40 years later.

    A decade ago I got into photography. Spent thousands on gear and trips specifically to go photograph cool stuff. I still have a decent camera but only pull it out a couple times a month. Haven't even posted a set of photos to my website in about a year.

    A few years later I got into firearms. Bought a couple, at one point I went to the range 5 out of 7 days a week. I went to the range once last year. I sold my best guns to buy scuba gear a few years ago... Now I haven't been diving much as I'm scared to get on a boat due to covid (although I'm seriously thinking of buying my own lately).
    Ukmc, Sam Miller III and Lorenzoid like this.
  4. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    I think the F factor was very much in play in the days that Los Angeles created the AOW program in the hope of reigniting diver interest. The friends I mentioned in my original post, the ones who have gone on dive vacations with us and who will be going on an intense dive vacation with us this fall (barring another Covid flare up) live within a few miles of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where true scuba instruction was born and where the original leaders of the Los Angeles program and NAUI learned to teach. They do very little local diving because they think it is just too cold most of the year, and they own high quality 7mm suits that were not available in the 1960s.
    Sam Miller III likes this.
  5. Belzelbub

    Belzelbub Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Largo, Florida
    Interesting topic. For sure, diving has a lot going against it. For the most part, it’s not just something you can just decide to try one day, then go do it. For many, the lure is not there, or if it is, it isn’t strong enough to commit. I have a hard time grasping this, as for me, the lure has been strong ever since I was very young.

    Training is certainly a factor, but it’s not exactly straight forward. Watering down the training can have the result of lowering the bar to entry, but it contributes to another problem. You now have a bunch of divers with minimal knowledge. They are not comfortable in the water to begin with, and now they have to contend with bulky, heavy gear. That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Swing the pendulum to the other side, and you can end up with very skilled comfortable divers, but only a few of them, as the upfront work is high.

    All I can really say is what worked in my family. My wife has no desire to dive. She’s the exception in my family. It makes sense though. She never learned to swim until she was in her 30’s. I, on the other hand grew up around water and learned to swim at a very young age. Our daughters actually learned water skills before they could walk. As a result, the three of us are very comfortable in the water, and for the most part, the learning part didn’t seem like a lot of work.
  6. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    People often talk about the dilution of standards and quality of instruction. I am not sure there is clear evidence this is true.
    • Has constant lowering of standards has made students less prepared? In the last 3 decades, for almost all OW instruction in any agency, the only requirement that has been removed is single regulator buddy breathing. In a recent thread, more than 15 standards that had been added were identified. OW certification requirements are higher now than they were 30 years ago. In the History of NAUI cited earlier, the authors said that the average modern student finishing OW class is a better diver than the average instructor who helped create the agency in Houston in 1960.
    • OK standards might be higher, but shops and instructors are skipping them. Unfortunately, that has always been true. In that history of NAUI, the authors talk about a problem they had from the start. Instructors wanted to be able to hand students their official certification cards at the end of class, so the cards were created and sent to the instructor when students registered. Leadership knew that as a result, many students got those cards without having completed the class, and some without even having taken it. My certification class more than two decades ago skipped many standards so that the class could be finished in 2.5 days. They were obviously following a practice they had done for years.
    • Well, in my class 30 years ago, we did ABC, and I saw a recent class where…. What you did in your individual class 30 years ago may not represent what happened in other classes then, and what you see in a class today may have little relationship with what happens in other classes today. I know very well that in the last shop where I worked, individual instructor performance varied dramatically--much to my frustration. In the History of NAUI, the authors said they were surprised to see instructors in the seminal 1960 session harassing students by taking their masks off (etc.). They did not like it, and they thought the instructors were doing it more for their own enjoyment and not for any benefit to the student. Yet, people today will insist that it was once standard practice, because, after all, it happened to them.
  7. wetb4igetinthewater

    wetb4igetinthewater Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Seattle

    I strongly believe that the most critical aspect of creating competent open water divers is teaching them neutrally buoyant, properly weighted, and trimmed.

    allowing students to be on their knees just introduces a host of problems, including creating coral kickers.
    Lostdiver71 likes this.
  8. DBPacific

    DBPacific ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: NorCal, USA
    Anecdotally, people often talk about how dive shops even pre-pandemic were struggling and closing. Since dive shops are the primary location to be certified, couldn't it be a negative feedback loop?

    The dive shops in the areas close, so divers in the area must go elsewhere if they want to continue diving or getting fills, those who would be interested can't get certified, awareness of the route to be a diver decreases, and then there are fewer divers which decreases the demand for a dive shop.

    At risk of repeating the arguments from I don't even know how long ago about why younger people aren't diving, everyone I know in my age range who has any interest to dive either can't because of financials (college is pricey and minimum wage jobs that most of us can get because everything else requires 4+ years of experience sucks), or because of medical conditions, usually asthma (which now has me wanting to drop everything and look at air pollution trends and papers since if I remember right there's been fairly solid links between air pollution and asthma). The others who are interested who can afford it are certified, though diving trips usually have to be delayed to family trips or summer break.

    My experience is pretty skewed though since 80% of people I meet are in the marine field somehow, so I know a lot of divers under 30
    Esprise Me likes this.
  9. Eric Sedletzky

    Eric Sedletzky Contributor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: California
    I think the reduction in diver participation starts way before they ever know about negative impacts on reefs or lack of dive shops, or watered down training, or any other ill the industry is experiencing.
    People aren’t even getting that far to know about the reefs or the cost of gear or the hit and miss nature of finding good instruction. They are just not interested in diving and the thought isn’t even entering their mind in the first place. It’s a bygone era, why are people finding it so hard to understand that?
    There is no exposure to the sport to bring it to the attention to the general public.

    Do I know that wing suit flying exists? Yes.
    Do I care or have any desire to take up wing suit flying? No, because I just don’t care and I do other things.
    Pick any sport and this can apply.
    Same with diving for many people.
    Bob DBF and apenland01 like this.
  10. Rick Brant

    Rick Brant Contributor

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Kaua'i
    The fact that you re-mapped WTF into work-to-fun is problematic. The regular WTF is much more apropos in this situation. It's more "work" because we collectively have trashed the ocean. Little things are not going to correct this. Here in the US -- arguably a leader in past existential battles -- we have spent four years going in exactly the wrong direction. Even today we have half of our country -- as well as more than half of the rest of the planet -- actively working against anything that could benefit the oceans, the coral, and the fish. Fishing is at record levels and increasing. We are in a state of emergency and this PDF really only illuminates the myopia that surrounds us.

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