DiverDownSomeone recently told me that they were buddied up with a Dive Master during a boat dive and upon surfacing realized that they were too far away from the boat to surface swim back. The boat ultimately had to navigate past another watercraft and pick the divers up, resulting in much embarrassment and humiliation. The person telling me the story trusted that since their buddy was a DM, that they should have better navigation skills and should have been able to navigate back to the boat close enough to avoid the aforementioned scenario. How could a DM get lost?

While listening to my friend’s story, my initial thoughts led me to one of the first books I read before becoming certified. I wasn’t shocked at all that a) someone trusted someone else who earned the DM title to take care of them and b) that the DM didn’t have superior navigation skills. My dive buddy and I spent many hours researching and reading about SCUBA before becoming certified. One of our favorite books, and one which we feel has boosted our SCUBA knowledge and safety is Diver Down: Real-World SCUBA Accidents and How to Avoid Them
by Michael R. Ange. Like the title suggests, this is a book about SCUBA accidents but what really caught us off-guard while reading the book was that so many of the stories were about people who carried more than just an Open Water certification title.  These weren’t stories about new divers and what they do wrong, but rather a book about divers of all levels (that includes Dive Masters) doing all types of SCUBA and making poor decisions, sometimes resulting in death.
Ange begins the book with a basic introduction to SCUBA then continues with 20 different stories about what went wrong with 20 different dives. Ange doesn’t stop there – this isn’t a book to shock you but rather to educate you. He ends each scenario with a synopsis of what went wrong and what you can do to survive in a similar situation. Priceless! I have to mention that many times we’d stop reading and look at each other and say, “That is no different than what I would have done!” but it was the wrong choice. We learned about rebreathers, nitrox, drysuit diving, drift diving, safety gear, cave diving and much more. But, what we walked away with was a better understanding of our responsibility as SCUBA divers to be educated, dive safely and within our comfort and especially training levels. And, don’t forget to drop your weights when things go wrong!

Ultimately, this is a book that should be read by everyone at all different levels of SCUBA diving and, dare I say, should be a prerequisite for Open Water certification. I can’t speak for what our instructors thought of us, but I know that we feel that we were at a different level of understanding when we were in our Open Water certification class. I wish that everyone in the class had read this book because — well, there were a few people who, without some further training, could unfortunately end up being a story in Michael Ange’s book.

Going back to the DM who was accused of having poor navigation skills, please don’t put all of your trust into a DM (or anyone!) to take care of you in the water. We learned all about this by reading Diver Down. You need to take responsibility for yourself and be educated and dive safe. You need to ask the right questions when you travel and dive with a new buddy. You need to be able to assess your own abilities and acknowledge when you have a few shortcomings. This will keep you safe and may even some day save a life. Here’s to safe and smart diving! Now, go read Diver Down.