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Originally posted 2018-03-07 23:56:28.

Are You A Prestige Diver?

Elitism, snobbery, clique, and dogma exist in the dive community. Are you guilty of that mistake? Are you a prestige diver?

The Prestige Diver

If you dive regularly, you’ve probably met a prestigious diver already. They’ve got the good gear. They’ve done reputable courses. They talk about diving philosophies. They advocate for better diving training and improved dive safety. They’ve been there, done that.

Some of those divers are legitimately prestigious. Others are pretenders to the crown: they are prestige seekers.

What motivates a prestige diver?

There are many motivations that drive divers to pursue higher level, more advanced qualifications and skills.

There are many reasons why advanced divers are attracted to one agency, methodology, or equipment brand over another.

Some divers undertake further training and more ambitious dives because they enjoy challenges.  And that’s just fine for so long as the challenge they seek is about making themselves a better diver, who is more competent, knowledgeable, and skilful.

Some divers have a passion for exploration. And that’s okay also, for so long as they are exploring progressively.  For example, if a diver has explored all the local wrecks under 40m/130ft depth, then they are justified in a need to extend their diving capabilities to access new wrecks lying at deeper depths. 

Very few advanced divers are “thrill seekers”.

Technical, wreck and cave diving is just not that ‘thrilling’, in the adrenaline sense,  as an extreme sport.

Prestige seekers versus prestige divers

What I DO see often is prestige seekers.

This encapsulates a specific diver motivation – that being, to appear as elite or superior amongst the diving community.

  • If a qualification level is perceived to be prestigious, then there are always those who will seek it.
  • If conducting a challenging dive might be considered ‘reputation building’ there will always be those who’ll do it.
  • If an agency or philosophical approach is deemed to be ‘elite’, there will always be those who want the association with it.
  • If following a specific approach, or displaying a given image might garner prestige, there will always be those who strive for that.
  • If a particular equipment brand is identified by cost or association, there will be those who choose it for the status value.

Be under no illusions that technical and cave diving is often seen as prestigious.

Even within that tech community, there are sub-groups deemed as more prestigious when viewed from below.  Full Trimix qualification… sidemount CCR units… certain ‘elite’ agencies… shipwrecks that are described as the ‘Mt Everest of scuba diving’…. you get the idea…

Examples of prestige seeking in diving

The card-collectors who race from one qualification to the next to ‘reach the top’, whether that is a divemaster, instructor or technical trimix.

The recreational dive professionals who get bent or drown trying to join the ‘Arch Club’ in Dahab.

Dr Guy Garman, who perished in his 2015 world depth record attempt having completed less than 400-lifetime total dives.

The diver throws caution to the wind, racing to ‘reach 100m’.

More subtle examples of the wannabe prestige diver

Social media posing

We see those ‘carefully staged’  diving skills photos all over tech diving forums and Facebook groups.  Is that the true purpose of perfecting our trim and buoyancy?  Is that really why we seek better equipment configurations?  Or is it about establishing a status, a right to comment… an authority to criticize others?  A measure of personal prestige. For some, it is.


Zero-to-hero and fast-track training

What about the ‘zero-to’hero’ diving instructor? Or the ‘fast-track’ technical diving instructor?  Or the ‘2-day’ sidemount instructor?  Is that really a motivation stemming from an unquenchable desire to educate others? Does it arise from a long-held and fervent passion for diving?  Is it because diving instruction is a lucrative and profitable employment? (don’t laugh!). Are they prudently and patiently setting goals for their diving development?

prestigious diver kool aid dir

The elite agency snob

What about those ‘elite’ agencies?  There’s some exclusivity there.. it’s more expensive training and the ‘required’ equipment brand labels are much more costly.  

It suits those inclined to ‘pay for the best’;  a perceived aquatic equivalent to Rolex, Ferrari and Prada.  Of course, many divers identify good training with a motivation to increase diving safety.  

For some, the reasons are far more superficial.  Prestige provides the opportunity to look down at others and empowers an illusion of superiority.

Reaching the apex as a prestige diver

When divers seek prestige and status, they set themselves a goal to achieve what they consider is the apex of diving. Once reached, they discover there’s always something bigger and better to pursue.  There’s potentially no end to it –  until;

  1. The money runs out (common)
  2. Someone with ethics and responsibility is successful in counseling the diver (rare)
  3. The consequences eventually bite a diver in the ass (tragic).

There are many different motivations for doing further training, choosing an agency or conducting challenging dives.  Some indicate a positive mindset towards development for tangible reasons. Others are quite superficial.  If they are superficial, there are often fatal flaws in the diver’s competency.

The purpose of this article isn’t to cast blame or to criticize people.

What I hope to achieve is to encourage divers to honestly examine their true motivations in diving, because it’s easy to get side-tracked by the superficial stuff along the way…

Andy Davis Technical Sidemount Wreck Diving Subic Bay Philippines RAID Courses Training

About The Author

Andy Davis is a RAID, PADI TecRec, ANDI, BSAC, and SSI-qualified independent technical diving instructor who specializes in teaching sidemount, trimix, and advanced wreck diving courses.

Currently residing in Subic Bay, Philippines; he has amassed more than 10,000 open-circuit and CCR dives over three decades of challenging diving across the globe.

Andy has published numerous diving magazine articles and designed advanced certification courses for several dive training agencies, He regularly tests and reviews new dive gear for scuba equipment manufacturers. Andy is currently writing a series of advanced diving books and creating a range of tech diving clothing and accessories.

Prior to becoming a professional technical diving educator in 2006, Andy was a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Belize, and Cyprus.

In 2023, Andy was named in the “Who’s Who of Sidemount” list by GUE InDepth Magazine.

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