Introduction to Fit To Dive

Let me start with a story.

A few weeks ago I rescued a diver who ran out of air at depth. I had one minute to haul the diver 200' up current along a wreck to the anchor, get him on new air and begin taking him up the line. Quite a sprint! It all worked out OK - we got him on my air and so on - but it was scary, unnecessary and entirely avoidable. Debriefing later, our club reviewed the incident. I presented the case and pointed to lots of mistakes (as did others) that led to the proximate cause. Naturally, there was lots of entirely appropriate self-flagellation over 11 wasted opportunities to break the "chain of causality". Very helpful stuff (really!) but not much we hadn't heard before - just a healthy reminder of the potential cost of cutting corners.

At the end, a new club member piped up with a comment that changed my perspective entirely. You see, one of the divers saved was, by his own admission, 'a big guy'. Dragging him the length of the wreck and pushing him up the ladder was incredibly hard work. 'Though I'm in pretty good shape (could be better though, I'll get to that), that rescue kicked my ass! The new member pointed out that the diver was himself a primary cause of the accident and was negligent in putting others in danger because of his poor fitness level. He added that, had the situation been reversed, the diver likely could not have saved another 'diver in the same position'.

You could have heard a pin drop.

Looking around the room, his comments rang true - we were your average middle-aged dive club. Most of us are overweight (if not as measured against our peers then certainly by objective standards), out of shape, soft, comfortable. Although we work in an medium almost 800 times as dense as air, we do not train for the experience in terms of physical fitness. No one, for example, would mistake us for the Richmond climbing club or the Richmond mountain biking club. We were divers and, sadly, we looked like divers.

Ok - here it is straight up. In my opinion, a lot of us are not fit enough to be diving anywhere but the local quarry. Almost all of us would struggle to save someone in equally poor or worse shape (it damn near killed me !). Our $2000 computers, reels, lift bags, pony bottles and double bladder wings don't mean squat if we are too exhausted to reach safety. I believe it is time that you, and I, cleaned up our act.

Week to week I'll pull together information from reputable sources on what it means to be fit, how to get fit and how to measure your dive fitness. Use what's useful - comment on what can be improved - it is a resource - that's all. But please challenge yourself and encourage other divers (especially your buddy) to improve their dive fitness. It might save your life ... or mine.

Safe diving,

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