By Adam Cruise

Image by Dr Michael Hindley

What got you into scuba diving? Was it a primeval lure of the ocean or some riveting documentary that you saw on the Discovery Channel?

Perhaps the reason why you are a fanatical scuba diver today had to do with a subliminal moment or a series of moments long before the consciousness of wanting to don the neoprene tights. For me, trying to locate the reasons that still keep me addicted to this sub-aquatic pursuit after 22 years is essentially a Freudian journey back to the nebulous, sepia-toned memories of my childhood.

I believe my first interest in the underwater world came after my parents gave me my  first Tintin book as a six year old. It happened to be Red Rackham’s Treasure, the one where Tintin and his friends hunt for the sunken treasure of the pirate Red Rackham. That book enthralled me. I used to pour over the graphic underwater scenes for hours absorbing everything – the long waving seaweed, the red fish swimming about in mid-stratum, the broken-up shipwreck of the Unicorn, the human skulls lying half immersed in the sand, the treasure cask, and of course, the antiquated copper-helmeted dive suit and the eccentric Professor Calculus’ ultra-chic mini-sub made to look just like a shark. Although during the story Tintin was attacked underwater and Captain Haddock almost lost a hand to them, the sharks depicted in the comic book are so benign looking that, even as a six year old, I felt sorry for the one that was hauled aboard and supposedly killed just because it had swallowed a treasure casket. Red Rackham’s Treasure is the best-selling of Hergé’s Tintin adventure series. I wonder how many hundreds of young minds found they had a yearning to go underwater when they reached adulthood?

Later, Jacques Cousteau’s television documentaries were another major influence that formed my young mind. Cousteau, who incidentally was inspired by Professor Calculus’ shark submarine, made a real shark-shaped submersible called Troy. This garnered a sense of realism to the seed that had been sown in the Tintin book. His adventures and underwater escapades were like an indelible ink to the point that when I saw the movie Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a movie that parodies the inventor of scuba, all those memories came flooding back with such clarity that it felt I had only just recently sat cross-legged a little too close in front of the television with my peanut butter sandwiches, watching J.C. and his merry band dive among sharks and whales and explore deserted desert islands. Yet it was James Bond more than Cousteau that ultimately provided fodder to my young mind. 007’s escapades with sharks and the evil hordes underwater is legendary and infused the idea that, if ever I had designs of being a hero, I first had to be able to scuba dive.

What ultimately made me make the plunge was my younger brother’s enrolment into a NAUI Open Water I Course while he was still at school. I was studying overseas at the time and was bluer shade of green with envy when I heard he was doing the course. As soon as the mid-term break arrived, I came back to SA and took the plunge. It just so happened that, almost concurrently, I went to see The Big Blue directed by Luc Besson and starring a young macho acting Jean Reno. The movie that was destined to become the cult movie for scuba and free-divers had just hit the cinema circuit in 1988 and that film, more than any other, previous or since, decided my fate. Diving, from that moment on, became my life, my career and my entire being.

What was your first memory of wanting to scuba dive and do you remember you first dive? Where in South Africa would you still like to dive? Find out more about #DiveSouthAfrica

Have a friend or family member who wants to get into diving? Our Learn to Dive section is full of useful information.