Flash Interview: John Kendall (GUE) on diving with purpose

April 7, 2020Interviews

At BOOT 2020, we interviewed a number of interesting and inspiring people from different ocean-related companies. What is diving and surfing with purpose? How does an “Ocean positive” business look? What are the benefits of adding underwater cameras to teaching situations? Why is visual inspiration key to make more people care about the Ocean? And, why is diving for exploration so important?

This time, we spoke to John Kendall, instructor and photogrammetry lead at GUE (Global Underwater Explorers).

John Kendall from GUE at BOOT 2020
Interviewing John Kendall at BOOT 2020

Why is ocean exploration so important?

We can have a pretty detailed look on everywhere on the surface of the planet, right? We can send planes, drones, and satellites over land and track what’s going on. But, as soon as we talk about the Ocean, we can’t do that anymore. So much of the planet is covered in water, yet so little of the Ocean has been properly explored. Just imagine all the knowledge that is out there, and we haven’t been able to gather. 

And for me, being able to be part of exploring the Ocean is just a wild dream. Who knows what we’re going to find tomorrow, or next week, or next year? We’re in an exciting and incredible place right now, and there are a lot of discoveries yet to discover. 

Do you think that video can play a crucial role in ocean exploration?

I think it’s not just video recording that is important – it can be anything that can gather data. I like the saying: ‘it’s not exploration, if you don’t bring back data.’ That means you could be the first person ever to go somewhere, but if you don’t bring any data back, then you might as well not have gone because you didn’t help to grow the knowledge of the world. Having easy access to videos, photography, or anything else with what we can capture data on our dives is what is going to add knowledge to the world and help us learn what’s going on underwater.

With this, it’s very important that videos, photos, or other data we gather can be shared and stored. We might not know what data could be useful to a researcher in the future. When I capture everything, and I can save that data somewhere, then potentially somebody in the future will be interested in that data. And if we can tie together multiple sets of data from all around the world, a future researcher could spot a trend and better understand what’s going on.

Do you see a collaborative spirit growing in the industry?

Yes, and no. I think I see a lot of grassroots. More and more people are becoming passionate about plastics in the Ocean, fighting the decline of the coral reefs, and looking at coral bleaching, and so on. In the end, nobody can go out and get all the data needed alone. Thus, the more ways we find to collaborate effectively, the more we can accomplish, and the better it gets for everyone. I think collaboration is the way forward.

What does diving with purpose mean to you?

I’ve been diving for 27 years now. When I first started diving, it was a mind-blowing experience to get in the water and try to breathe. It was amazing. And this feeling alone will probably keep you going for a couple of years: swimming around, be able to breathe underwater, see the fish or see some wreck.

But after a while, you get into a bit of a rut. You start doing the same actions over and over again, especially if you are diving all the time or instructing. It’s like driving a car. I can remember when I passed my driving test, and I got so excited to go and drive. Now it’s not something I’m often excited about; it is just something you do. 

So, the question is: what can we do with our diving? For me, I go and survey a wreck, or look at and record nudibranch, do a sea horse count, or simply introduce new people to the sport of diving. The added purpose gives me a good feeling and an excellent reason to get back into the water on and on. If you dive with a purpose, you’re more likely to keep on diving. If you dive for the sake of diving, it can get repetitive.

Do you see that mindset of ‘diving with purpose’ growing?  

There’s definitely a difference between the recreational the tech diving sector. In the tech sector, a lot of people end up just focusing on the equipment or on the procedures. And, that’s normal for when you start doing that. But diving just for the sake of the gear, or the procedures, or the skills isn’t going to keep you excited and interested for a long time.

However, I have experiences that, once people have got good enough at diving, when they feel comfortable and in control, giving them something to do on top of diving keeps them going. For a recreational diver, that can be to capture some videos, to so some reef cleaning, to take a trash bag and go pick up pieces of plastic. For the tech guys, that can be to survey caves, to try capture data about a wreck, and – for us –, to 3D-scan these wrecks as well. 

All these extra activities give us another element to the sport which keep us going. And I think I’m seeing more and more people who see the value in that.

Thank you John!

Check out the other flash interviews from BOOT 2020:

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