North Florida, November 2006

My journey to the dark side (cave diving)

Where to begin? I had taken a cenote cavern diving tour in Mexico in February 2005 and liked what I saw, but as a relatively new diver I knew my skills were not yet what they should be for cave diving. So I dove a lot, hung around with more experienced divers, changed my gear configuration, learned a few new skills and then headed down to North Florida on Nov 11th to begin my NSS-CDS Cavern and Basic Cave courses.
Each course was 2 days long and consisted of many skills that had to be achieved to progress to the next level. Cavern taught us how to place line, follow line blind without losing it, and how to communicate as a team. It became clear that this was a very different type of diving than what I was used to. We ended the cavern course by doing a cave dive which was nice because it didn’t involve any OOA or lights out drills on the way out. This would change soon.

I won’t go into details of the Basic Cave course, except to say that it changed the way I view diving, and how I view myself as a diver. It gave me a new respect for cave divers and technical divers. There is no room for error when you’re hundreds of feet away from the surface, surrounded by solid rock. There’s nothing like doing a lost line drill: pitch black, groping around for the gold line, feeling the flow wash over you, hoping you’re moving toward the line and not away from it. There’s nothing like the disorientation that makes you feel like you’re swimming around in circles during a lights out air share drill, and finally feeling a line arrow and knowing you have indeed moved some distance.

I realized partway through the Basic Cave course that my skills had a long way to go if I wanted to continue this path through the dark side, and I was sure at one point that I was going to fail. But by this time I also realized that whether I passed or not, I would have learned a great deal from this course, and that passing or failing didn’t matter. The caves would always be there, and I would be back.

Thanks to everyone who helped me train for this course (you know who you are), and thanks to Ralph D for running a tough, eye-opening, informative, but also fun course.

And yes, I’m now a (Basic) Cave Diver. 🙂


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