In successfully distancing recreational diving from the military-style teaching methods of yesteryear, the training organizations seem to have overlooked the economic potential of ‘boot-camp’ style fitness programmes that emphasise the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy.
For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a relatively recent phenomenon; one in which people who are apparently incapable of motivating themselves, crawl out of bed at sparrow-fart and pay somebody with all of the delicate sensibilities of a psychopathic drill sergeant heaps of money to scream at them and threaten to rip their bloody arms off and beat them to death with the soggy stumps if they don’t immediately perform fifty push-ups.
Having spent some years on the receiving end of this sort of treatment (albeit in a paid capacity and managing to survive the experience with all of my appendages intact), I rather like the idea of switching roles and being the one who gets to dish out insults and do all of the shouting. It is, in fact, the sort of job that I’d be prepared to give somebody else’s right arm for – and the left one too if it meant more money.
And judging by the growing demand for fitness programmes of this type, there’s a small fortune to be made for the first organisation prepared to go out on a limb by turning back the clock and structuring an entry-level course based on some of the earlier methods of diver selection and training.
It won’t, of course, be an easy course to pass, but in restricting it to people with healthy bank balances and low self-esteem, it’ll give a healthy boost to dive store profit margins. And, by limiting the numbers of people actually certified as divers, give even greater credibility to diving’s already impressive record for safety.
Immediately precluded from the entry-level diver training course will be – as in diving’s early days – those people with, ‘short necks, full blooded and florid complexions.’ people who are: ‘very pale, whose lips are more blue than red, who are subject to cold hands and feet and who have what is commonly called a languid circulation.’ Or those who are, ‘hard drinkers and have suffered repeatedly and severely from venereal disease or who have rheumatism or sunstroke.’
“Listen up, sea-slug. These selection standards are for your benefit. Don’t try telling me that two out of four ain’t bad. Unless, that is, you want to spend the rest of the day standing in that garbage-bin shouting, ‘I am rubbish.’ Divers on my course are – or should be – people of, ‘good physique and capable of enduring considerable bodily and mental strain. If possible, persons who have a strong team spirit and an alert sense of responsibility … the lone wolf is never a success in the diving world, either above or below the water.’
“And ‘cause I’m a nice bloke, I’m not even going to mention the bit about divers being required to be, ‘above average intelligence’.
“What we’re looking for are people with, ‘no history of nervous breakdowns, irresponsible behaviour, or fits. Addiction to alcohol is also undesirable as it indicates mental instability and inability to stand sustained mental or physical strain. Heavy smokers are (also) not usually suitable’.”
“But I saw you down at the, ‘Floppy Flounder’ pub the other night, dancing on the tables with a full beer glass in each hand, your shorts around your ankles and bent over with a smouldering cigarette stuck … Can you bounce that bit about, ‘physical strain’ past me just one more time?”
“Don’t give me any of that lip, you little piece of shark-snot. All certified divers that have been through the hoops like what I have, know that it’s OK to let your shorts – I mean, your hair – down now and again. But that’s a privilege reserved for us what have been there and done that. And one that you – as a new conscript to diving – are going to have to earn the hard way.
“And don’t think for one moment that I’ve forgotten how old you are. You’re a borderline case as far as age is concerned. You knew when you paid your money and signed on for this course that, ‘as a general rule, people over 30-years of age should not be selected for training as divers. Trained divers can continue for some years after this age, but must be watched carefully as they enter their late thirties. Divers beyond the age of 45 ought not to be employed on deep diving or in any work involving long stays under pressure. People who are overweight should be rejected. It is said that they are more prone to the bends, but what is more important is that they are not fit for arduous diving.’
“Now plop your over-weight carcass back into that pool, you slimy pile of squid droppings, and give me ten more mask clearings before I even consider teaching you the intricacies of regulator recovery techniques. You hear me?”
Based on its success in other areas of physical pursuits, it’s a programme with obvious benefits as far as the image of diving is concerned. All that’s needed is the widespread support of all of those Training Agency people who’ve failed to keep abreast of popular trends, and who still believe that diving should be an enjoyable activity. But that’s something that – after a week or two of diver ‘boot-camp’ training – can easily be beaten out of them.
(NB. All of the italicised quotes are taken directly from early Naval and Commercial diver training texts.)