Bring on the Cringe Factor
Scuba Exceptional: Become the Best Diver You Can Be
By Simon Pridmore
Appeared in DIVER January 2019
THE TROUBLE WITH READING Simon Pridmore books is that they’re likely to give you uncomfortable moments every now and then, as you recognise your own diving behaviour in the case studies he likes to use to make his telling points. Or is it just me?
I get these “Oh no, I’m always doing that” cringe moments all too often. But then, these books are intended to make us think long and hard about how we behave under water, to strip away any tendency to over-confidence and to make us all-round better divers.
It was reading Scuba Confidential, written for exactly that purpose five years ago, that prompted me to ask the author to write a regular column on technique for DIVER. How glad I am that he agreed, because I reckon his take on the way we dive is among the most thoughtful and incisive around.
It’s also based on a deep background of varied experience that would be hard to challenge.
This new book is intended as a companion-piece to Scuba Confidential, even though there are now five books in the Scuba sequence (the others are aimed at beginners, pros and those concerned with the physiological effects of diving).
Like Confidential, the aim of Scuba Exceptional is to encourage us to refine our approach to diving, however experienced we might be, and at its core is the belief that complacency is the biggest enemy to diving safety.
A fair amount of the content has already been previewed in DIVER and fed into the book, so might feel familiar to readers, but the majority of it is new. There is also more emphasis than before on areas for improvement in the highly experienced, including technical and rebreather divers, along the lines Pridmore recently suggested in DIVER as being the equivalent of advanced-motorist training.
I don’t know how many of his case-studies are based on real experiences and how many are fictional or a bit of both, but it hardly matters – your heart always sinks as you follow the hapless divers into inevitable difficulties, and wonder how they will be resolved.
These tales are followed by an analysis of what went wrong and why, and how the situation might have been avoided.
This, of course, makes the book immensely readable. We will already have drawn our own conclusions from the unfolding incidents and are looking for these to be vindicated, so turning the pages keeps on scratching an itch. And without playing God, the author takes a lateral view and draws constructive conclusions.
Areas covered are many and wide-ranging but I found the final chapters on rebreathers, present and future, especially thought-provoking.
Others include getting lost at sea, failure points, equipment servicing, reverse dive profiles, harness-and-wing systems, flying after diving, nitrogen narcosis, in-water recompression – I could go on but that gives a flavour of the topics, with a lot of new thinking that we might have missed neatly summed up. There are also repeated warnings about rip-off operators and how to spot them.
I found myself dissatisfied only when reading the chapter on corals – nothing wrong with it as a marine-biology standalone piece, and I can see that it’s included so that environmental awareness isn’t left out, but to me it felt out of place and filler-ish in this book. Otherwise, there’s a wealth of food for thought to be found here – essential reading.
I read the Kindle version, but it is also available in paperback.
Softback, 305pp, 13x20cm, £11.79
Review by Steve Weinman