The Value of a Dive Mentor

Kim, my wife and usual dive buddy, has been laid up lately from a severe back injury. Upsetting as it is I have since found it to lead to some new opportunities. With Kim being out of the picture I decided to turn lemons into lemonade. I was going to find some new dive buddies. 

I remembered that some guys from my church had recently been certified, a young college kid and a middle-age family man. They were both looking to gain more diving experience and they looked to me for mentoring. I accepted and we set some dates for diving; first, a beach dive then a boat trip to Catalina Island. 
Although I was a bit apprehensive, I was pleasantly surprised at how well they were trained as evidenced by how they set up their gear. Mutual buddy checks were made and we were down the hill to the beach. A fin was lost in the surf by the older gentleman but it turned into a learning experience on surf entries and exits, even when there are problems. The young man and I went on to have a great dive. 
Next stop–Catalina Island. Although the my older friend had trouble controlling his buoyancy and trim, I was able to help him correct the problem without leaving the water, using a few tricks I’d learned over the years.  Between dives my newfound buddies were enthusiastically asking questions so quickly about what they had seen that I could hardly keep up. They were absorbing it all with relish.
The next dive was in heavy kelp. While enthusiastic, they lacked experience so I covered kelp diving techniques: air reserve, swimming below, preventing entanglement and the kelp crawl. I helped them streamline their gear and off we went. It was a great dive with lots of kelp forest critters. Half way through the dive we came across a moray eel. I snapped a few shots and then handed the camera to the young diver. An impromptu brief underwater photo course ensued and he popped off a few photos. One turned out better than mine! 
The last dive of the day the boat skipper took requests and I had heard that the giant black sea bass were cruising Goat Harbor. My suggestion was accepted. Anchoring up I discussed with my buddies how to approach the behemoths and how I could get some great photos with them and the monster fish. We had a blast encountering three and getting some excellent pictures with them posing face to face.
I hope we will be enjoying more underwater adventures in the future. I know they are better divers for the experiences from buoyancy control to kelp diving and beach diving skills. Some were small things but I know they are better, safer divers for it will help them enjoy their adventures so much more in the future.
Years ago an experienced diver took me under his wing and showed me the ropes and we had a lot of fun together. Mentoring these divers was my way of paying it forward. Do experienced divers have a responsibility of mentor new divers? No, but I found it very rewarding. And I have some new dive buddies that are not only getting better with every dive, they are learning my way to dive; a bit selfish I’ll admit, but that is one of the things that makes them the best dive buddy for me. 
New divers:  Admittedly the best way for you to getting more experience is in an advanced class under the tutelage of a qualified instructor. But sooner or later you will need to venture forth away from a paid instructor. Find an experienced patient diver; dive clubs are great place to start. Check out the Dive Club Directory.
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