I’m not sure if there’s a record for the longest serving SCDC member to never have been on the committee, but I might just be the holder if there is. After joining SCDC in 2005, and several years of responsibility-free diving, I was probably at a stage when I would naturally be expected to ‘give back’ in terms of committee service around about 2011 - and there’s absolutely no truth in the suggestion that Emily and I decided to start a family around that time on the basis it would give me a bona fide excuse not to volunteer for committee duties for another few years. Anyway, having found a new lease of diving life over the last few years, I am now absolutely honoured to serve as the SCDC Chairperson this year.
Over recent weeks, whilst recovering from a bout of ‘twisted-arm syndrome’ so expertly applied by Rob Christie, I have had the chance to begin to reflect on the responsibility I have taken on as SCDC Chair and would like to take the opportunity to share some of my thoughts here if you’ll indulge me…
First of all, I would like to say a huge thanks to my predecessor in the role, Maddy Prout, for everything she has done serving the club and the committee. 2020 was perhaps the most challenging year many of us have ever faced, and the Covid pandemic considerably curtailed the operations of our club, just as it has every other aspect of our lives. Being Chair of SCDC during this period must have been challenging and frustrating in equal measure, as Maddy remarked at the recent AGM that her role during the year mostly involved shutting down the club. I’ll certainly be looking to draw on her expertise as an experienced and enthusiastic SCDC member and pursue some of the ideas she had for development of the club, but never got the chance to put in place.
The rest of the committee remains the same of course, and I feel immensely lucky to join a team with such a wealth of SCDC experience, both below and above the water.
For the last couple of weeks, I've been reflecting on my new role in the club, and the thing that strikes me most is that the position of Chairperson is perhaps the least well defined of all of those on the committee. For other positions it’s pretty obvious: The Training Officer organises opportunities for us to advance our skills, to progress in our knowledge, and for instructors the opportunity to share our experience with others; the Expeditions Officer takes care of getting us afloat through dive trip scheduling and boat booking whilst the Treasurer keeps us afloat in a different sense; the membership secretary ensures all of our SCDC and BSAC memberships up to date, the Communications Officer communicates and the Members’ Member ensure our members are well-cared for. And of course, our trusty Diving Officer nags us to within an inch of our lives about aspects of safe diving and equipment, so that we never come within an inch of our lives whilst we are diving.
But what of the Chair…? The way I see it, the job is one of coordination, prioritising and focussing discussions and decision on important matters. But the next question I’ve come to consider is “What matters…?” And the answer I’ve come to, for now at least, involves 3 things.
First of all, and above all else, I feel an enormous sense of responsibility for ensuring that everything we do as a club is done safely - and this is not limited to diving itself, but everything we do in relation to this, loading kit, moving around the boat, and also, in these strange times, at our social events. Nothing is ever risk free, but it is important to remember that our hobby comes with some specific risks, and as Chair I see it as a big part of my role to work with others on the committee to ensure that we are able to enjoy our passion for diving in a context in which we look after ourselves and each other first and foremost.
Secondly, as a reasonably seasoned member of the club, I feel a great debt of gratitude to all those who have shaped and contributed to SCDC over the years, and a responsibility to protect and build on that legacy. Whether their contributions have been through their diving expertise, roles on the committee, or just creating some of the memorable iconic SCDC ‘moments’ and funny stories from the past, SCDC continues to exist, thanks in part to the likes of Hambleton, Roberts, Cheung, Darvell, Ho, Bayne, Pacey, Kelly and so many many others. I feel a big part of my role is to ensure that the club continues to thrive, develop and grow, well into the future.
But the third aspect of the Chair’s role and the one that I am most passionate about is helping to ensure that SCDC meets the huge diversity of needs, expectations and interests of the current membership. One of the reasons I love being part of SCDC is the opportunity to spend time with such a variety of different people, and this reminds me that each of us has our own particular reasons for being part of SCDC. Some are driven by the chance to develop their skills and progress through the ranks of diver training and certification, some by the opportunity to pass on their skills and knowledge by training others. Some are motivated by protecting the marine environment, or by photography, or by faffing with huge amounts of expensive kit. Some, the “drinkers with a diving habit”, are motivated by the social side of the club; others still just enjoy time spent bobbing around in boats or sharing a hobby with their significant other. As the operation of the club kicks back into gear after yet another Covid suspension and the new committee starts its work, I want to help ensure that we take the opportunity to not just restore the regular cycle of weekend dives, Thursday club nights and other bigger social occasions, but that we look at what we can also add to what we do, to ensure that every single current and future member gets the best possible experience they can out of the club.
Whilst there are a growing number of commercial dive operators in Hong Kong now, I believe that SCDC’s position as a BSAC club enables us to offer something distinctive and unique. I like to think that every dive trip is an opportunity to create an ‘event’ - never formulaic and indistinguishable from each other, but a chance to create stories and memories. Maybe one week there is a special theme, or a focus on a particular diving skill, exploring an unknown site or contributing to an environmental project. Maybe the sense of occasion is created out of the water, with a related social activity. Whatever it is, I challenge all DMs this year to think big, to make the most of your day, to be imaginative and creative and to see what value you can add to the experience of all those who sign up each weekend. Yes, there’s always plenty to do in overseeing the basic diving operations, but there are always willing helpers to lend a hand - whatever your ideas, just ask. Go for it!
In a similar vein, I hope that as a committee, we can also be creative and innovative. We will certainly keep in mind that huge variety that exists in the club and be ready to listen, to seek out new ideas from across the membership, and continue to develop and build this wonderful organisation in a way that makes us all laugh and smile. My goodness, after the last 12 months we certainly all need some of that!
Wow, this turned into a bit more of a lengthy and weighty essay than I imagined! Thanks for reading if you made it this far! I look forward to seeing you all out on a boat sometime soon, or over a beer at ABC. If you have thoughts and ideas about the activities and direction of the club, I would love to chat and listen.