Instructor Des Glover Shares His Passion for Remaining Visible in Poor Visibility
Almost every time you exit the water, the first question you are asked by excited divers assembling their kit on shore in readiness for the dive is ‘What’s The Viz Like? How is the Viz?.
Visibility – or just Viz – is often what defines a dive; it is the difference between an average dive and a fantastic dive. Everybody dreams of 20m gin clear waters so they can gaze at all our wonderful marine creatures in their full glory – the bright purple of a Bloody Henry starfish, the vivid blue and orange of the male cuckoo wrasse, the beautiful red of the comical tompot blenny, and not forgetting the amazing array of colours of our resident nudibranchs.
On a dive around the Lizard Peninsula (Cornwall, UK) last year it struck me that while the viz is usually really good at around 12m, it can sometimes be a lot less, but even if this is the case there is still an amazing amount of colour to be seen in our seas and around our coastline.
This got me thinking: if scuba diving is all about viz, and the wildlife we aim to find and photograph is bright and colourful, why do the majority of divers choose to wear black, black and more black?
When asked, the first thing that some divers tell me is that wearing black underwater means that the wildlife is not as spooked and as such we can get closer and see more. If this is the case why do anglers use bright coloured beads, baits and lures to attract the fish? Maybe wearing black is some kind of camouflage? If that is the case, then who are you hiding from?
Some divers like the style of all-black kit, but underwater they are less visible so the style is lost and it all just blends in. To be honest, in poor visibility, nobody will be able to see any of it, apart from when they are standing on the shore asking “How is the viz?” I honestly cannot see any benefit to wearing all black but if that’s what you want to do then – as always – it’s up to you as an individual.
Should we, as divers, be wearing more colour underwater? In my experience, if you have something bright on you while diving it does not scare the wildlife away. In fact, I have found that some wildlife can be quite inquisitive about it, as anybody that has dived with seals around the south-west of England will know – if you are wearing bright coloured fins, the seals love them! So what is the downside of colour? In my opinion, nothing. In fact, it has one massive bonus: safety!
While everybody encourages safe diving practices and the following of rules and dive plans, the unfortunate truth is that very occasionally divers go missing. Whether that is just two divers getting temporarily separated underwater and then finding each other after a short search – or something much more tragic – being more visible can only have a positive impact on this.
If the unthinkable happens and the emergency services are called to search for someone, who do you think they would find first, someone dressed all in black or someone brightly coloured and trying to be visible?
As diving instructors we teach divers of all levels from beginner to experienced divers, and here at Kennack Diving we try to make sure everybody knows the value of colour. All our students wear brightly coloured equipment, and as their instructor, I like to make sure they know where I am at all times.
For this reason, I’ve had a somewhat unique drysuit made by our good friends at Otter Watersports, which clearly shows the value of being visible. While I am not expecting everybody to love the suit as much as I do, or even want to wear one, I hope it shows what an effect colour has underwater.
Just by wearing it every day, people ask me where I got it and why is it so bright. This promotes the high visibility message and leaves them with a visual memory that will last. We give our students a lot of information during training – especially new divers – and as such, there is a lot for them to take in. What this suit does is make a statement and leave a lasting memory about high visibility, because when they leave us, they will go away enthused about diving and safety, and they will talk about their instructor’s dry suit: ‘You will not believe the suit he had, it was so bright!’
Yes, some will say it looked fantastic and some will say it looked ridiculous, but one thing is for sure, everybody will be talking about how colourful it is and how visible I am. If it just encourages them to wear a bright hood, fins, BCD or even flash of colour somewhere on their person, then it can only be a good thing.
All I am trying to say is: ‘Why blend in when you can stand out?’ The next time you exit the water and someone asks you “How’s the viz?” ask them: ” How is YOUR Viz?”, will they be seen or are they hiding in the dark?