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Where have all the young divers gone? Meet Rob Thomas and Young Divers International

Where are those 20-something and younger divers when we need them, and how do we entice them to take the plunge? InDepth managing editor Amanda White talks with 20-year old British cave diver Rob Thomas about his new YDI organization focused on connecting and inspiring GEN Z divers to explore their underwater proclivities, and what we can all do to help.

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By Amanda White

Header Photo by Paige Swan, London Diving Centre

“Where are all the young divers?” I feel like this is a common question I hear at almost every dive event I attend. Being a “young” diver myself, the “older” divers often ask me why I think there are not more young people joining the sport. But, is there really an age gap in the industry? Maybe the youngsters are just hiding…

According to PADI certification data, which provides a broad view of the overall global market, the number of younger divers (let’s define this as under 30 years old), has steadily increased every year for the last five years. Divers under 30 represented 43% of global certifications in 2019, up from 26% in 2014. This is good news for the longevity of the industry if we can keep these divers interested in the sport. But that is key. 

Divers under 30 represented 43% of global certifications in 2019, up from 26% in 2014.

This is where Robert Thomas is to the rescue. The 20-year-old British instructor wanted to connect young divers through the recently launched Facebook group Young Divers International. This group seeks to connect and inspire the younger generation of divers by giving them a place to share their stories and a way to find dive buddies all over the world. I recently had a chat with Rob about why he started the group and his perspective on the industry.  

InDepth:  So how did Young Divers International come about?

Meet Rob Thomas. The 20 year old UK Instructor who started YDI. Photo by Paige Swan.

Robert Thomas: It first sort of came about after I spoke at one of the Birmingham dive shows in 2018. So, it’s been in the cards for a little while really. But during the lockdown period especially, I had a bit of time on my hands, so I was trying to be as productive as possible. I thought the best way to start would be just using social media. And then it snowballed. And it’s getting some quite positive reviews which I’m really happy about, and it’s mainly just to encourage youngsters to promote what they’re doing, and hopefully that in turn will encourage others to do the same.

When I found out about it, I joined the group and scrolled through people’s posts. And it was pretty cool to see how many people are young and passionate about diving. I think this brings hope to the future of the industry.

It’s really cool to see. I’m over the moon with the rate at which it is growing. And I was really blown away by just how positive everyone was about it when it first happened. I was quite shocked really. It was quite a nice feeling.

I think you found something that was needed and fulfilled the need. 

Definitely. And when I first set it up, we first had a group of youngsters just sort of bouncing ideas off of each other about  what they would like to see happen in the industry. Grace Westgarth was a part of the group, and I gave her the design for the logo, but she was the one that made it on that front, so she did a really good job there. She deserves a shout out for that one. Basically it’s not a solo mission. It’s a united front.

The Young Divers International logo. Created by Grace Westgarth.

You’ve been in the dive industry your whole life because of your dad [British Cave Diving Group training officer Michael Thomas]. Did your personal experience play into why you thought YDI was needed?

I thought it was needed because I was getting bored of getting on dive boats, in the UK especially, and for a lot of years and being the only young face on the boat. So I wanted  to try to balance that out a little bit. Because obviously without younger divers coming through, by the time I get to the older generation’s age, I’m not going to have an industry to work in.. But it is definitely changing. Nowadays there are more and more younger divers at all different levels. Be that either bubble blowing, sort of scuba diving for the first time, or even getting into the realms of technical diving. So it is going in the right direction, in my opinion, which is really nice to see. Everybody needs a bit of Zen right now, and I feel like diving is that.

“Everybody needs a bit of Zen right now, and I feel like diving is that.”

So what are your goals for the group?

Basically promoting what young divers under 30 are doing. But it’s not an exclusive club, because obviously without the experience of the older generation, we are off to a no-starter. So it really does aim to incorporate all divers together to try and push this forward. Not just making a little exclusive club of youngsters. So it’s all good and well promoting high-end diving for youngsters, but they do need to be held back on occasion and just basically balanced out by the divers who have learned through years of experience and paved the way for us. 

I would also like to start running trips, not necessarily in the name of YDI, but obviously mixing that in. And if we can get a boat full of young divers, that’s a great way of promoting the dive scene as a whole. 

Are you seeing the trips as UK-based or worldwide?

Big picture, I’d love worldwide because there’s lots of places I’d like to go diving. I’m looking at doing trips down to Cornwall to start with. Obviously with everything at the minute (COVID-19), and being UK-based, the diving we have is pretty good, and I’m going to capitalize on that. Then hopefully once travel restrictions are less complex, I’d like to do a trip out to North Carolina and dive some of the submarines out there as well. 

That will be a lot of fun. So, what advice would you give to new divers?

Definitely give it a go. If you’ve never dived before, it is probably going to be one of the best things you’ve ever done because who doesn’t want to breathe underwater like a fish? That’s cool in its own right. But also, don’t be disheartened if you don’t get things straight away because it does take time and effort. But the more you put into it the more you are going to get out of it as well. So it’s a bit of a trade-off in that respect. 

And don’t be afraid to ask for help as well. Try and set your goals realistically and enjoy the diving you’re doing at the time. Even if you’re seeing people blasting off into the distance playing with tech toys and such things like that, there is no rush for any of it. Just take your time and enjoy what you’re doing would be my advice.

What would you like to see in the future from the dive industry?

To be fair, I would like to see more unity between key industry players. If I had a vision of the dive industry, it would be really nice if we had a sort of unified goal of just going diving! Everybody’s got different things to offer within the dive industry, so if we were to mix them all into one pot, it would create a pretty great thing for the whole scene, present and future. The industry is changing on a fairly regular basis at the moment due to some unfortunate circumstances (COVID) mixing things up, so now more than ever it is the time to pull together, creating positive change wherever humanly possible.

“Everybody’s got different things to offer within the dive industry, so if we were to mix them all into one pot, it would create a pretty great thing for the whole scene, present and future.”

I agree with you. I think that if we want to bring in new people, that’s the way to do it.

Yeah, definitely. If we could come out on the other side of COVID stronger than what we were before, I think we’d be in a really good place. And people are looking for different activities to try. They’ve probably been locked up. I know, in the UK at least, a lot of people’s screen time has increased dramatically, so potentially getting outside in nature and enjoying what the planet has to offer whilst they still can is going to be a good thing. Diving is a good social distancing activity. You’re underwater and with your own mask and breathing set. You can’t really get much better than that, can you?

Your dad recently wrote an article for us about cave diving in the UK. Do you feel like that group has done a good job attracting young people? 

Rob Thomas preparing for a cave dive in the UK. Photo by Paige Swan.

Yeah, absolutely. I am the secretary of the Somerset section in the Cave Diving Group in the UK, so I’ve kind of climbed the ranks relatively quickly in that respect. But there was a job role opening and I was like, it would be nice to have a young person keeping all the oldies in check. That being said, in the last two years we’ve had a load more new trainees come in. There are probably as many active young divers in the group now as there are of the older generation, if not more. In the Somerset section at least, we’re doing a pretty good job of increasing young divers and young cavers, basically because the group is not just about diving in that respect. 

Why do you think it’s so difficult to bring in young people, or the next generation, into diving?

“A simple answer to that would be cost. Say you want a twin set and a scooter. Most young diver are going to struggle to afford that.”

A simple answer to that would be cost. Say you want a twin set and a scooter. Most young diver are going to struggle to afford that. So without the support of either parental help or external forces, being agencies, it’s quite an expensive sport to get into. Once you’re in it, it’s not so bad because you’ve got your kit and it lasts for a long time because we have good quality manufacturers. But the initial setup cost for a new diver isn’t cheap.



Other than money, do you think there are other obstacles that are in the way for people?

There are obviously the logistical aspects. Diving as a hobby, on a regular basis, does take some dedication. Like my friends, for example: if we go out to the pub the night before, and then I say to them, ‘oh yeah, who fancies waking up at 7:30 in the morning to go diving?’, I can tell immediately the initial start of 7:30 is going to put a number of people off which is always quite a funny thing. So obviously effort and dedication. But once you’ve worked out how good it is, then you are set really and the dedication kind of falls into place.

Are there any specific people that come to mind, I guess young people more specifically, that you think are going to be pretty influential in the direction of diving?

Yes. To be fair, all of the Rolex scholars I’ve met have been some incredibly well-rounded and inspirational people with the stuff they’re doing. To name just a few young divers who I think are making a difference. Mae Darricott, Joe Gurney, Eleanor Stewart, and Will Cooper.  Along with every young dive professional for showing others what’s possible and doing their part to inspire the next generation of divers.

Mae – for continued work towards conservation and marine biology. Working closely with manufacturers helping drive the industry at its core, along with many others who have passed through the Rolex scholarship scheme.

Joe- for being a flagship instructor and instructor trainer for SSI. Leading a large number of youthful divers into the underwater realm. Promoting not only training but actually diving when not training.

Ellie- being a brand ambassador and a high level tech instructor at a young age. Working in different roles around the dive industry leading to a clear level of experience, again working to progress the industry from the inside.

Will – in some ways similar to me, started diving at a young age not only going diving but also in and around the industry learning its quirks and adapting them to suit. Continuing to rise on both personal and instructor levels of diving. Trying hard to lower the average age of the dive industry.

What is important to note with all of the above is they go the extra mile to inspire the passion that gets people hooked on diving. And it’s that passion that changes someone from a holiday diver into a weekly or monthly diver. The lure of adventure and the call of the unknown need to be sparked. Once that flame burns it ain’t easy to extinguish.

And then obviously, you are a young diver and instructor who is making a difference, too. Is there anything specific that you think that the dive industry should change or do differently to reach a younger audience?

I think it’s definitely improved, but I’ll go back to diving fanatics. Diving should be fun at the end of the day. Obviously there are safety regulations that need to be abided to because for obvious reasons being underwater is not necessarily conducive to life. But, that being said, if you’re an instructor teaching a course, it’s your job to not just cover the necessary skills but also to encourage the passion and show how fun it can be. Because I feel, in some cases, you might get chucked off a boat, do some skills and then surface again. And that is not an accurate representation of what diving is or should be about. 

Can you tell us a little bit about what you are up to right now?

Rob Thomas training in his JJCCR. Photo by Paige Swan.

I’m making up for lost time at the minute. I’ve been all over the place. I was teaching. I did some DPV and twin set training the other day. Basically my own diving, I’m working toward my mod three on a JJ, so I’ve been busy learning the theory of that over lockdown. So that’s kept me entertained and my mind a bit more active. And obviously, I personally would quite like to get into the cave instructor side of things, but I’m not quite old enough for that yet. 

Meet Some of the YDI Members:

Grace Westgarth

Location: South East London

Age: 17

Certifications: Master Diver, Sidemount Diver, Deep Diver, Adaptive Diver, etc. (DM in progress)

“As a Girls That Scuba Ambassador, my main focus now is to encourage more women of any age into this amazing sport. Especially in the UK, as there are so many amazing dive sites here that people don’t know about. I have recently started sidemount diving and I love how it has opened up so many doors for me. I can see myself going further down the technical route in the future.

Eventually, my goal is to be an underwater cinematographer. This also will allow me to spread the very important message of ocean conservation to the younger generation.”

Annika Andresen

Location: New Zealand

Age: 26

Certifications: GUE Fundamentals – Tech Pass, GUE Rec 3, PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor

Annika is an impassioned ocean enthusiast and was selected as the first global scholar for Global Underwater Explorers NextGen Scholarship. She is a Senior Environmental Educator for BLAKE, managing their ocean education program, BLAKE NZ-VR. In the last year and a half, she has taught over 30,000 students about the ocean and the threats facing our marine environment. Annika holds a Master of Architecture, and in 2019, she was awarded the Westpac NZ Women of Influence Youth Award.

“Diving is my sanctuary. It’s where the world stops spinning and it’s ‘my’ time where I can explore, think and breathe. I can let my mind be quiet whilst surrounded by the most incredible beauty and my favourite part is, I am often surrounded by my best friends and divers that are equally passionate. I have had my best memories around the ocean and this has made me determined to share these experiences with the people around me. My passion is to ignite a sense of wonder with what lies below the surface within people and open their eyes to the beauty that I have seen.

It’s not a competition—it’s not about how many qualifications you have, lasting longer on a tank than everyone else, or how many dives you have done. Instead, be curious and ask questions, if there’s something you’re concerned about, talk about it. I found having a dive mentor (this could be a dive instructor or someone in the diving community that you respect) was really helpful and the most important thing is to make sure you’re having fun! “

Lennart Rossenfeld

Location: Germany 

Age: 25 years

Certifications: Advanced Open Water Diver, SSI Shark Diver

At the age of 10 years I did my first “bubble maker”.  At 12, I received  my Junior Open Water Diver. Both of my parents are scuba divers. I think that’s why I have this big big passion for the ocean. Four years ago I started to work as an underwater cameraman. For one year I have worked as a freelancer around the world with my camera. Normally I work for my own project, called Feed Your Dreams, which is a company who makes promotional videos for tour operators. In addition to that, I work for broadcasters and organizations for ocean protection.

My big passion is sharks. For a few years I filmed them around the world and was always excited by them. My biggest goal would be to find a way to protect sharks in a way that makes it possible to show them to my kids one day. It always makes me happy and sad at the same time to dive with sharks, because I know how threatened they are. And if we don’t change our way of fishing and work to protect them, they will be gone forever. My biggest advice for anybody who has never dived before? Do it! And do it now because every second we lose a piece of our beautiful ocean.

The biggest challenge for me is taking the perfect shot of an underwater scene while not getting too impressed by it.”

Daniel Jacoby

Location: Germany

Age: 19 

Certifications: PADI Divemaster, TDI Sidemount with Advanced Nitrox/ Decompression Procedures.

“I did my first dive in 2015 when I was 14 years old. A year and a half ago I started my DM training and got into technical diving. I got into sidemount diving because it seemed to give me the most for my investment. And there it is, the biggest challenge. Financing diving, and especially tech diving, as a student is a massive challenge. My advice to any young divers would be to get in touch with your local dive centers and show people how enthusiastic you are. You will benefit from their knowledge and they might even help you out with your expenses. Be creative and offer people to help. From simply offering to carry tanks and getting yours filled for free up to managing the social media of dive shops. Now I finance some of my diving by selling custom line markers and other 3D printed diving gadgets like dust caps.”

Feel free to visit my website: divingdaniel.com

Janavi Kramer 

Location: UK 

Age: 27 

Certifications: PADI Divemaster 

“After starting my diving journey in 2013, my love for the ocean has only grown stronger. Diving gives me a glimpse into a world full of wonder and allows me to witness the power of nature with a sense of exhilarating freedom. The art I create is an extension of that feeling and gives me an opportunity to articulate the magic; hopefully evoking the same burning passion in others. My mission is to spread awareness of what lies beneath the surface and help to educate others as to why it is so vital to protect the ocean and inspire others to dive into this unimaginable world.”


Amanda White is the managing editor and designer for InDepth and the Marketing Director for Global Underwater Explorers. Her life’s goal is to make a positive impact on how we, as humans, treat the environment. Whether that means working to minimize her own footprint or working on a broader scale to protect wildlife, the oceans, and other bodies of water. Amanda is a GUE recreational diver and volunteers for Project Baseline and Clean Up the Lake.

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Fact or Fiction? Part 2: Interview with World Record Holder Ahmed Gabr

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by Michael Menduno

See Part 1: Fact or Fiction? Revisiting Guinness World Record Deepest Scuba Dive 

The day before this issue of InDepth was to go LIVE with Gabr’s world record story—I had reached out to him to comment but he declined—I received an email from Gabr. He apologized for any previous confusion and told me that he had checked my credentials and legitimacy and was now willing to grant me an interview. An hour later, we were speaking on FaceTime. Gabr was animated and very talkative. He would frequently go off on tangents and I had to keep bringing him back to my questions. At first, he seemed a bit nervous, but he started to relax more as the conversation went on.

After we briefly talked about his military background—note that he made the dive while still a colonel in the Egyptian army—I began by asking Gabr why he thought these allegations were surfacing now, six years after he conducted his world record dive. He said he believed it was because a documentary of his dive had been completed, and his detractors wanted to get back at him. “Their agenda is to discredit me and the movie,” he said. I asked him if he knew who Scuba Sam was, and he told me that he was a former disgruntled member of his team that had fled Egypt under legal suspicion and wanted to get back at him.

Gabr verified that the head cam video included in Scuba Sam’s email was accurate. I asked him why he hadn’t carried a camera and filmed the dive to begin with. He explained at the time he had an 8-year old child and a pregnant wife, and he said it would have been a huge stressor for him to know that they might see the video if he had died. For that reason, he hadn’t videoed his training dives either.

What About The Depth Timer?

I asked Gabr about Scuba Sam’s first allegation, whether his Scubapro 330 m Depth Timer with blacked out corners—that only showed his Maximum Operating Depth—was metric or imperial. He answered by first saying that computers were not required as part of the validation and launched into a detailed explanation of Guinness’s measurement methodology.

Guinness’s procedure for validating the dive was twofold. First, Gabr had to retrieve one of the unique, signed, and wrapped depth tags from the certified descent line. More on procedure surrounding the tags later. In addition, Gabr’s deep support diver, who met him at 90 m/295 ft, instead of 110 m/361 ft, as planned, was supposed to video him giving a special hand sign indication “3-5-0,” which was requested by the Guinness adjudicator shortly before the dive. In addition, he was to display the retrieved tag, which was the 335 (335 m/1094 ft) tag as shown in the video. He said that only the adjudicator, deep support diver, and Gabr knew the sign. Computers were not required. However, Gabr told me that he was so excited that he held out his Depth Timer (DT) which showed a max depth of 330. The question is whether it was feet or meters.

I asked him why he had blackened out the three corners of the Depth Timer so that only the max depth was showing. Note that only the last digit of the current depth reading, and part of the preceding digit, in the upper left-hand corner is showing. He explained that he did that before his last training dive because he was worried that breathing helium beyond 300 meters would give him hallucinations, so he wanted to keep his brain focused by having a single number. Is max depth the best number? His account contradicts the explanation that two of his team members independently gave me. They reported that Gabr told them it was to insure the integrity of the device under pressure as per the manufacturer.

Gabr explained that he made the dive with four measuring devices: two computers, the Depth Timer, and a Swiss military watch which was rated to extreme depth. He told me that he clipped one of the computers on the line at 90 m/295 ft on his way to depth, as he was worried that it would fail and he wanted it to keep track of his overall dive time compared to his runtime table. He later retrieved the computer which is shown in his hand with double enders in the video. Gabr then said that the main computer died (went blank) at 290m/796 ft during his descent.

OMG! How did he monitor his depth with no working computer and a depth timer only showing MOD? Gabr explained that he used the rope as his “depth tool,” and his watch to keep the time?!? Wow. Can you imagine? What if you got blown off the line? The rope was NOT marked in 3 m/10 ft increments. Rather, according to the engineering report, it was marked in 5-meter increments from 320-350m, and 50-meter increments from 300-150 m, then 10m increments from 120-100 m, and the 3m increments from 96-90 m, where he met his first safety diver. In other words, it would be very difficult to follow as a depth guide, particularly if he were suffering confusion. Gabr reported to me that he was mentally confused and feeling drained at depth. 

Note also that Gabr’s first three planned 1-min deep stops (186 m, 171 m, 150 m) were not marked on the rope, nor his stops at 140, 130, 123 (see the partial runtime deco table shown in Part 1). On the video, Gabr gave his first safety diver the OK upon meeting him at 90 m and later reported that the dive went according to plan. No mention of computer problems or the lack of a depth-keeping device at depth.

Again,  I asked him about the Depth Timer, whether it was the imperial (feet) version as alleged, or the metric version. Specifically, if it were the metric unit, why wasn’t the decimal showing before the last digit of current depth? [See the analysis in Part 1] Note that the Scubapro metric unit shows the current depth shallower than 100 m in three digits XX.X, to the tenth of a meter. Gabr said that the device “wasn’t in feet.” 

What happened, he explained, was that the depth timer began to flood on ascent, and as a result, the decimal point indicating that it was a metric unit and the temp reading had disappeared by the time he reached 90 m/295 ft. He said that eventually the face of the depth timer went blank. Again, Gabr pressed the point, “Why do I need to fake something that is not even required [for the record]?” 

One source told me that Gabr had been wearing his metric depth timer on his previous training dives with a standard strap mounting. However, the depth timer in the video has bungee cords. Was the metric device swapped out for an imperial version for this dive?

What About the Gas?

I asked Gabr about arriving at his 90 m/295 ft stop, where he met his deep safety diver, roughly eight-minutes (21 meters shallower) earlier than the plan. He explained that it wasn’t an issue and was within his calculated safety limit. He said that he had reached the 335 m/1099 ft depth tag between 12-14 minutes, and in the absence of a working depth monitor, he ended up making his first stop from depth at 150 m/492 ft using the rope markings. The plan called for slowing his ascent rates as he ascended through various depth zones. 

I next asked him about the video which shows him breathing his back gas (trimix 4/85) as he is met by his safety diver at approximately 90 m: “Why were you breathing your bottom mix?” Gabr answered immediately, “I ran out of deco gas.” He then launched into an explanation about Isobaric Counter Diffusion (ICD), and why it wasn’t a big concern for him to switch back to his back gas because the differences in nitrogen were minor. But what about the oxygen?!?

Note also, that none of the tanks had SPGs. I asked him about this. “It’s a weak point for failure,” he explained. However team members told me that all cylinders were triple checked, analyzed, and marked for proper contents prior to the dive.

Deco plan for the dive. Photo courtesy of DeeperBlue.com

In the video, the safety diver descends to Gabr, asks in sign, Are you Ok? Gabr, who appears very relaxed, responds with an OK sign. No mention of an out-of-gas issue. Gabr then displays his retrieved 335 tag, shows his Depth Timer reading 330, and makes the sign requested by the Guinness adjudicator 3-5-0. “The first thing I wanted to do was secure the record, and do the whole video process,” Gabr explained. He next secured the tag to his support diver to prepare it for its trip topside. “My nightmare was that my deep support would lose the tag so I zip-tied it to his D-ring.” 

After the Guinness protocol was accomplished, the safety diver switched out Gabr’s empty stages and passed him his stage bottle with trimix 12/75 deco gas, that was supposed to be breathed from 120 m up to 90 m. Gabr then went back on his deco gas. The support diver also sent up a status slate to the surface indicating Gabr was OK. The 90 m safety diver met them soon after, and facilitated Gabr’s gas switch to trimix 16/69.

There were several things that were a bit inexplicable. First, if you had just completed a 330+ meter diver, lost a computer, and then ran out of deco gas prior to your 90 m stop while you were facing another 14-hours of decompression, would you give your safety diver, who was carrying back-up deco gas the OK sign? Again, according to Guinness and other news reports, Gabr said that the dive went as planned. Second, were Gabr’s priorities. Wouldn’t you switch to your deco gas and then do the record protocol?

Finally, most troubling, Gabr had four 12L cylinders of 12/75: three staged on the line and one in a carried stage bottle. According to the plan, Gabr was to breathe 12/75 from 120 m to 90 m, for a period of 15 min at an average depth of 110 m or 12 atm. You do the math. For example, with a high 20L surface consumption rate for example, he should have burned through 20L/min x 12 ATM x 15 min=3600 liters. That’s roughly 1.5 12L cylinders, not four. Was he in that depth range longer? Gabr acknowledged that he had burned through lots of gas between those depths and was crazily coughing and had some chest pain. He thinks he had mild pulmonary edema. 

Lines, Tags and Fitness

The fourth allegation concerns the angle of the descent line. The video, 50-minutes into the dive, shows the line at what is estimated to be 25º angle, which performing a trigonometric analysis, would mean that the 335m tag would be at approximately 303 m/989 ft short of the record. Gabr explained to me that the Guinness adjudicator and the calibration engineer who was on board measured the angle of the descent line at 15 minutes into the dive. Accordingly they subtracted 2.65 meters to arrive at the record of 332.35 m/1094 ft and 4.5 inches.

The fifth allegation is that there was a broken chain of custody with the tags, meaning that they could have been altered or replaced prior to the dive. Gabr disputed the claims. Though he wasn’t present for all of it, he said that the tags were under the control of the adjudicator the whole time, who even had his own locks to secure the tagged line the night before the dive. That is in Guinness’ bailiwick to determine. Gabr said that the adjudicator watched him dress and searched him prior to the dive. Eye witnesses reported that Gabr and his lead support diver were not searched thoroughly for tags before entering the water, and that the diver who escorted Gabr to depth was not searched.

Gabr showing off his record to his friends. Photo courtesy of DeeperBlue.com.

Finally, I asked Gabr about his reported high energy level following the dive, which contrasted sharply with Gomes’ experience who had to be helped to walk (See Part 1). Gabr, who is reportedly very fit, explained that, unlike Gomes, he removed his quads at 21 m/70 ft and so only wore them for 4.5 hours. Gabr said that he also hydrated and ate every hour during his shallower deco stops, which he asserted Gomes’ did not. He also pointed out that at 41-years old at the time of the dive, he was 12-years younger than Gomes when he set his record. Ouch! I later checked with Gomes’ who said that he also hydrated and ate. As discussed in Part 1, Gomes insists the quads were not an issue for him. We ended the post-dive discussion with Gabr pointing out that its difficult to compare one person to another.

What now?

I asked Gabr what he intended to do. To my surprise he launched into a story about a sustainability project he was involved in with the first Egyptian to climb Mt. Everest. He then told me about a shipwreck exploration project in the Mediterranean in late September that he planned to do a pilot film about. I finally interrupted him. “But what about the allegations?” 

“I have no idea,” he said. “What do you think?” “It’s up to Guinness,” I offered. “No, Guinness is done with it. It’s over,” he said. I asked Gabr if he had been in touch with or heard from Guinness or his project leader. He said he hadn’t, adding that, “They have a bullet-proof system.” He went on. “I am confident in what I did. But it bothers me that my reputation has been targeted. Why do I have to justify myself? I am confident, but I’m being hurt,” he said. 

He went on. “Why are they doing this now, after six years,” he asked rhetorically. “Usually people try to discredit a record at the time it is made. But why six years later?”

“Do you think it’s because of the documentary film?” I asked. “I’m sure about that,” Gabr replied. “It’s the same person who was with the team. He was trying to sell helium illegally in my name and got me into trouble. He wants to discredit my whole record and the movie,” he said.

I asked if Netflix was going to release the documentary, which several people had told me about. Gabr said, no, that the documentary, which had investors, had not been sold yet. “Netflix didn’t buy it?” I asked. “No,” he said. I asked him several times if he had a financial stake in the film but did not get a clear answer, though he acknowledged he was under contract. 

Gabr then said about his anonymous accusers. “They are not searching for the truth. They only mention half the truth. There was no peer review from professionals. My record would be discredited if I had relied on one of the computers. For sure. But that was not the measurement methodology.”

I asked Gabr if he would be willing to have a peer group review all the information and possibly clear him. Gabr said that he was open to anything. He said that he has been using the same video in his talks as presented in the emails and is always willing to sit and discuss things at every dive show he attends. “I don’t mind talking about my dive,” he said.

Conclusions?

There is obviously a lot of information to unpack, and numerous additional details, as well as information protected by confidentiality that I have omitted here. It’s clear to me that I am not in a position to render a judgement, nor is it my job. My job has been to ask questions, lay out what appear to be the facts as best and fairly as I can and point out inconsistencies as I see them. 

As I said before in Part 1, it’s up to Guinness to decide if they want to investigate the allegations or not, and on that basis to determine if Gabr completed a record dive or not. However, given the widespread distribution of allegations about the record, and what seem like surprising discrepancies, it’s likely that his record will remain under a shadow until the full truth is known, whether by Guinness or perhaps, as Gabr suggests, through a peer review by professionals. 


Michael Menduno is InDepth’s editor-in-chief and an award-winning reporter and technologist who has written about diving and diving technology for 30 years. He coined the term “technical diving.” His magazine aquaCORPS: The Journal for Technical Diving (1990-1996), helped usher tech diving into mainstream sports diving. He also produced the first Tek, EUROTek, and ASIATek conferences, and organized Rebreather Forums 1.0 and 2.0. Michael received the OZTEKMedia Excellence Award in 2011, the EUROTek Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, and the TEKDive USA Media Award in 2018. In addition to his responsibilities at InDepth, Menduno is a contributing editor for DAN Europe’s Alert Diver magazine and X-Ray Magazine, a staff writer for DeeperBlue.com, and is on the board of the Historical Diving Society (USA).

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