I am not sure if this is something that has been happening for a long time and I have not paid attention to it, or if it is something that has risen to prominence in the last few months. The new trend in diving seems to revolve around making yourself famous.
It seems to be every week (and sometimes multiple times each week) that we are publishing news articles about new world records being set, or people who want to break records and I am not sure that this is actually a good thing.
On the one hand it is potentially good for the sport as it raises awareness of diving to those who would not normally pay attention to it, but this fetish of wanting 15 minutes of fame and divers becoming celebrities is not a good thing overall.
In my mind, diving is about experiencing and enjoying the underwater world. It is about discovery and education. It is about research and the environment, and all of this done out of the passion for being underwater. The new fad of becoming famous seems to have very little to do with passion, discovery or education. It is all about gaining publicity for a single person, completing a single feat. Everybody wants to be a personality. Everyone needs their 15 minutes.
When you look back in the history of diving there was none of this celebrity culture. Yes, there are famous divers who we all admire but fame was a by-product of them living their dream and their passion. A certain level of “balanced” fame can be a good thing as raises the profile of a mission or a cause but this is very different to the celebrity culture that seems to be infecting diving at the moment.
Look back to the great pioneers in diving. Cousteau became famous but it raised the profile of exploring the seas. Tom Mount or Brett Gilliam became famous but as a side effect of pioneering technical diving and learning how the human body copes at depth. Sheck Exley and Martyn Farr became famous but not out of seeking fame but because of a love of exploring and discovering cave systems.
A good friend of mine, Simon Nadim from Pure Tech in Lebanon is pushing the boundaries of cave diving but not because he wants to become famous but because the passion for diving and discovery is at the very core of everything he does.
I understand the hypocrisy in this point of view as I publish a scuba diving news website and people breaking records is news. It generates me more visitors to this website and helps us attract more advertisers which allow us to continue publishing The Scuba News, but overall I am not sure that celebrity culture is the right way forward for diving.
We are divers it it should be a passion for the underwater world that drives us, not the 15 minutes of fame we obtain by breaking a record that serves no purpose other than fame itself. Dive because you love it. Don’t do it because you want to be on the X-Factor or Big Brother in order to become famous for being famous.