Interview: Michael Menduno

The DIVER interview: With Michael Menduno -A Journalist, Reporter, and Producer

Michael Menduno, aka M2, with his Media Award at the 2018 TEKDiveUSA conference. Photo: TEKDiveUSA

How long have you been diving? A

I was first certified in 1976 in Monterey, California.

What made you want to become a diver ?

I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau and Lloyd Bridgeas Sea Hunt so it was always in the back of my mind. But the moment I took my first breath underwater in the pool in the Bay Area during my open water class, I was hooked. I still remember that moment and the first time I swam at age 7. Iam still an avid swimmer; I swim about seven and a half miles( 12 km) a week. I love water!

How long have you been a diving novelist ?

Ha! I started my writing career with diving. I wrote my first piece about a diving citizen-science group I was involved with called the Cordell Expedition in 1988. The group was doing bio-surveys of the deep-sea mounts off the central California coast. We were inducing relative deep, decompression dives to about 165 ft( 50 m) athe D-Words! aand I couldnat find a diving publishing who would publish my story. Editors told me you are NOT supposed to do that. Eventually Ken Loyst, publisher of Discover Diving magazine ran the piece. It was 1988. A

I was hungry for information about this kind of diving but there was little available so I started aquaCORPS: The Journal for Technical Diving ( 1990 -1 996 ). And then went on to start the original Tek.Conferences and later Rebreather Forum 1& 2, which helped facilitate the emergence of technical diving. Broke my heart when we went out of business. I have been writing about diving ever since.

Being recognized as the aone of the most influential dive journalistsa at TEKDiveUSA this year was a huge accolade. OMG !! Even better, it was a community award- tekkies actually voted for me. That genuinely meant a lot. Plus, I had no inkling I was going to get an award. It was a total surprise. Brought tears to
my eyes.

What does diving mean to you ?

I ask myself that question sometimes. God knows that there isnat any money in it( I write about technology and cyber-security stuff to pay the bills !) But diving has so many elements that fascinate me. It encompasses adventure and exploration, science and geeky stuff, cool technology, physical fitness, human spirit, and a big magical dollop of blue zazen. How can you go wrong with that? Iam hooked.

Who is your go-to diving buddy ?

Locally my go-to buddy “wouldve been” my friend Bill Kibbett whoas a GUE Tech 2 diver. Getting closer to the surface, my swim buddy is Wanda Bogin, aka aFisha.A

Favourite dive snack ?

Ghost fishing activist Heather Hamzaas vegan cupcakes of course!

Favourite piece of equipment? A

I am loving my new Shearwater Teric and the ability to go from freediving to open circuit to CCR in one small device. I think theyave redefined the dive computer! Iam also loving my new Paralenz Dive cameraathink GoPro on steroids, constructed for divers by divers. Oh, and did I mention Yamamoto open cell neoprene?( Michael smiles !)

You coined the word atechnical divinga. How did you arrive at this terminology, and did its industry adoption surprise you ?

In the first issue of aquaCORPS we featured an article by Dr. Bill Hamilton titled, aCall It High-Tech Diving.a We also referred to it as aadvanceda divinga and aprofessional sportsa diving, a moniker invented by marine biologist and early rebreather pioneer Dr. Walter Stark, who devised the Electrolung. At the time, we didnat really know what to call this new sort of sport diving; none of the names seemed to work.A

It was also clear that we needed to distinguish it as separate and distinct from recreational diving. The recreational diving industry was not happy that deep and decompression divingathe aD-Wordsaawere out of the closet and they didnat want to have anything to do with what was emerging. They were concerned that an increase in fatalities would trigger the U.S. government to intervene and remove the recreational diving industryas exemption from Occupational Safety& Health Administration( OSHA) standards.A

At that time, I had several friends who were rock climbers and to participate in atechnical climbing, a where individuals use ropes and protection to tackle boulder faces who have not been able otherwise not be climbed. The word atechnicala had all of the human rights connotations. So, I pinched the word for diving. We use it for the first time in aquaCORPS # 3 DEEP published in January 1991. In the following issue I changed aquaCORPS a tagline to aThe Journal for Technical Diving.a

Later that year, Drew Richardson, then a vice president at PADI, penned an editorial, aTechnical DivingaDoes PADI Have Its Head In The Sand? a for PADIas Undersea Journal . His article helped devote our community legitimacy and the name stuck! I was pretty happy about that.A

aFreediving is likely the fastest growing area in diving right now. I find that strongly reminiscent of early tech diving. Itas all about exploring oneas limits. Itas edgy, necessitates ongoing training and practise, thereas currently limited scientific data, and itas every bit as geeky as tech diving. On a longer timeframe, I guess the next technological breach thru will be consumer one-atmosphere diving suits, like Phil Nuyttenas Exosuit. The cost needs to come down to make it affordable by sports divers but I am sure it will get there.a

Proudest diving moment or achievement ?

From the beginning our focus at aquaCORPS was improving diving safety, which enabled us to increase our performance. I am reminded of retired U.S Navy Master Diver Sam Huff explanation of the Navy Experimental Diving Unitas mission: aWe construct our divers safer so they can go deeper and stay longer.a That is what aquaCORPS and the TEK.Conferences were all about, and I am proud of it. We saved lives.A

Beginning with aquaCORPS # 5 BENT, we operated an incident report on every tech diving fatality that occurred. I think there was a total of 48 from 1993 -1 996. I personally did the reporting on all, except cave explorer Sheck Exleyas death, which was reported by Dr. Bill Hamilton, Jim Bowden, and Dr. Ann Kristovich. They were sobering and the amost reada section of the magazine. I was also proud to assistance bring the sport, commercial, scientific, and military diving communities together for the first time at the TEK.Conference. Heady stuff. I like to think of myself as a community organizer. We are an extraordinary tribe.

Whatas next for you ?

More swimming and diving of course! I have just gotten into freediving which I perfectly love. I also recently got re-certified as a( open circuit) full cave diver and sometime soon I want to get back on my rebreather.

Now that I am getting long of tooth, I have decided that I want to spend the majority of my hour doing water-related activities. I merely havenat figured out how to pay for it yet! A

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