Did you know the most important scuba course you will ever take is your basic certification course? This one course gives you the tools to survive as a scuba diver and becomes your foundation from which you build on. If you have never truly mastered the knowledge and skills taught during your basic scuba course, your ability to survive and succeed as a public safety diver could be in question.
Training is defined as "to make or become proficient with specialized instruction and practice." Through proper training we are able to master levels of proficiency known as "Standards." These standards are well known and form the basis of what we refer to as "Professional Level Performance." As public safety divers, having an acceptable level of performance is imperative because it not only determines the success of a mission, it can be the determining factor between life and death as well.
A "Monster" is a term I use to describe the little problems we have after being certified. They are part of our training, which we never truly mastered, creating little "un-comfort zones" which cause us to hesitate or participate unprepared. Monsters create little fears inside us that hold us back from doing things correctly or even from participating at all.
Example: Because of monsters, many divers don't like to dive with a hood. They make excuses and don't see it for what it is. When they are faced with an environment that requires the use of a hood, they either won't dive, dive without one or enter the water wearing one but uncomfortable and unsure. This isn't a person who needs to be entering the water. They're distracted, focusing on their comfort rather than the search.
To see if you have any monsters, ask yourself what skills or equipment you never became comfortable with during your basic scuba course. If you hated to clear your mask and were actually stressed out every time your instructor asked you to do so, the question is, "Are you still uncomfortable about clearing your mask?" If you are, there's a monster! If wearing a hood makes you feel confined or just plan uncomfortable, there's another monster, etc. The two most common monsters are:
Mask clearing and/or removal
Wearing a hood
Some others are:
Buoyancy Control Techniques (hovering, fin pivot, etc.)
Emergency Swimming Ascents
Regulator recovery and clearing
The first step in conquering our monsters is to be honest with ourselves and understand these types of monsters do exist and we could be haunted by one or more. Once we recognize them, we can either: (1) train to overcome them, (2) train to control them or (3) not participate whenever we face one. The last option is not where we need to be as public safety divers.
Killing those pesky little critters is easy. You'll find that "training" is the biggest monster killer of them all. So instead of avoiding them, we need to attack them head-on and overcome them. This means every time you get into the water, wear a hood, or clear your mask three or four times before starting every dive. Whatever your weaknesses are, attack them, don't avoid them. Once you face them, you'll find the monsters start to disappear. When we start focusing on our weaknesses we take the first step in making them our strengths.
It's also important to remember that diving with new or unfamiliar equipment or conditions such as deep diving, zero visibility, cold water, and swift water are not situations that are considered monsters. Usually these are conditions you have not been properly trained to handle. So don't get "lack of" or "improper training" confused with monsters. They are not the same.
Special Monsters - Once you get into this business we call public safety diving, you'll run into situations that create special monsters or fears that cause us to want to run in the other direction. An example are creek beds. When you run up against one of these in zero visibility, they seem like the mouth of a monster just waiting for you to enter. You feel the drop off and reach down never feeling its bottom. Everything inside you tells you to turn around but your pattern tells you to keep going. How you handle this monster and how thoroughly you end up moving your pattern through and searching its features depends on your training and what you've got inside you.
Remember that self-readiness is your foundation as a public safety diver. The stronger this foundation the better. The more competent you are in your basic scuba skills (mask clearing, buoyancy control, regulator use, wearing hoods and gloves, etc.) the better you'll be in the water and in the services you provide.
Question - How many monsters do you have? When you face one of your monsters, which way do you run? Are you attacking them head-on or are you running in the other direction?