Listening to the conversation going on around me while kitting up for a recent dive, it became apparent that in some diving circles technology is breathing new life into the old adage that “clothes maketh the man” — an Olde Worlde way of saying that “first impressions count”.
Beguiled by brand names and equipment configuration techniques, there is, I noticed, a creeping tendency to judge divers by their outward appearance rather than by their experience, their knowledge, or their abilities. Those divers with shiny, sleek, and obviously more expensive gear gain greater credibility for their views than those dressed in tatty old gear held together by neoprene cement and faith.
But as anyone familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s story about “The Emperor’s New Clothes” knows, placing too much reliance on the superficial trappings of fashion carries with it pitfalls and the potential for — at best — extreme embarrassment.
In Andersen’s tale two unscrupulous tailors claim to have invented a cloth that is invisible to the stupid, the incompetent and those unfit to govern. Managing to successfully convince a wealthy ruler that he was smart enough to appreciate the qualities of this wondrous material, the tailors’ received a vast fortune in exchange for a suit of clothes made of the nonexistent fabric. With their credibility reinforced by the fact that none of the Emperor’s officials or subjects were prepared to have their intelligence or fitness for office put in doubt, the tailors’ scam almost succeeded until a young child innocently announced that the Emperor was naked.
Which in diving, as in life, just goes to show that affluence is no substitute for aptitude — and that it’s possible to dive breathing through a length of garden hose provided that you approach every dive with the right mental attitude.
Diving since 1961 — with a background in military, commercial, recreational and technical diving — David Strike has dived extensively throughout the Asia-Pacific region, is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and the organiser of the biennial OZTeK Diving Conference.