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Rob Hunt

Every day in the journals, on the wirelesses and the televisuals, we hear more and more about the Big Dive Society and playing a part in the Dive Community. Whilst we appreciate the crippling back pain and possible exposure to nits that bending down to ruffle the hair of the common man exerts on James Cameron and Norman Clegg (played by Peter Sallis), what we really need to know is how we can become a part of that Community in order to be better than everyone else in it.

First of all we need to know what the Dive Community is. The easiest route to understanding is via the old Zen parable in which the wise Jedi master has a whole bunch of people that are a bit hungry after a dayís RiB diving in Swanage, and only one portion of fish and chips to feed them with. He imparts some wisdom to do with the sound of a regulator that no oneís breathing through or something, and the dog dies at the end. I forget the rest, but itís brilliant when you watch it. You should go and see it before the DVD comes out.

The shock to the system when first entering the Dive Community is enough to snap the will of even the strongest of divemasterers, and breakdowns during the first week are common. Many people will advise you to find the meanest looking member that you can, steam in like Ray Winston during the very first Club Night and attempt to out shark-story them, however this approach requires caution. Whilst it will undoubtedly increase your rep, it can easily result in you being put in solitary confinement along with the nonces, in the Online Dive Community.

As a general rule, itís important not to let anyone know what youíre in the Community for, particularly if itís because youíve just completed your Open Water and enjoyed the social scene down in Portland during the training weekend. The older and more cynical members will immediately latch on to this kind of information and attempt to use their own grizzled divey standing in order to take advantage of you the next time youíre on the wrong side of a few G&Ts up at Stoney.

Whilst alluring, the bright colours, the Cher, the shaven heads and the intoxicating odour of amyl nitrate emanating from the Dive Community can also be an assault to the senses, and with many conflicting signals itís not always easy to know what will impress. In some corners of the Community, your prowess hacking off portholes at 35 metres will quickly bestow legendary status upon you, whereas in others, your inability to look at a piece of coral without smashing through it belly first will earn you a patronising dressing-down from a 12-year-old divemaster. Whilst superficially welcoming, the Dive Community is also a cliquey place, so extreme caution is advisable. If youíre going to dance, do it during a safety stop.

Many members of the Dive Community will have joined because they want someone to talk to, and what with the buses now and this weather itís nice to be able to get a lift in to the shops now and then (twice daily) so they can pick up their bits and pieces. Be careful that your youthful lack of cataracts and unrevoked driving licence arenít taken advantage of though, or before you know it youíll be at the wheel of the club van all the way up to Scapa whilst the rest of the Community get hammered on cheap sherry and trifle in the back.

Outside observers often regard members of the Dive Community as being surly individuals with a chip on their shoulder and a belief that PADI owes them a dive. Unfortunately, many of these perceived traits stem from a generally lower socio-economic status due to ongoing compulsive acquisitions of BCDs, regs and dive accessories, plus lack of role models in the Dive Community largely due to inherent alcoholism and a lack of sexual sophistication amongst dive professionals. The vicious cycle is completed when what is seen by divers as endemic racism towards them goes to compound and exacerbate cultural differences between the Dive Community and the ďstraightsĒ. Itís not uncommon, therefore, for divers to deliberately entangle fishing line when under piers or to unnecessarily display Compressed Air stickers in their car.

Faced with such cultural tensions, many newbies to the Dive Community are tempted to gain immediate respect by attempting a snorkel test on their first outing, but this can often lead to disastrous consequences including the wearing of underpants on the head, and lengthy monologues concerning the recent improvement in your fin-pivoting technique with people physically unable to escape your presence. Know your limits.

Above all itís important to remember that the Dive Community is extremely hierarchical and movement between castes is extremely difficult, often requiring excellent knowledge of diving physics and an ability to hover in one and a half metres of surge. Drones can often enjoy a comfortable life within it as long as they remember to carry cylinders in a timely fashion and take care not to upset the Queen who has ultimate power over all the Courses she Directs. Also, donít pour boiling water on the dive shop.

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