Letter from Rich Mallory
"Comfort" - in response to "Everyone needs an Anton..."
I met Anton while diving in the Red Sea the summer after my Junior year in high school, 1997. I was one of his and Trish's Broadreach children who's job it was to rob the two of their sanity, and I am pleased to say I feel I did a very good job.
I have been diving since the age of twelve and have had many different instructors over the past seven years, none have even come close to Anton's caliber. In my opinion the ability of a good diver is measured in how comfortable he is with the whole aspect of SCUBA diving. Not just breathing from a tank and swimming underwater but planning dives, gearing up, staying out of the sun, finding a buddy and so on. The main inhibitor of SCUBA excellence is therefore the opposite of comfort, being uncomfortable or nervous.
When my divemaster field training came around. I was, to say the least, nervous. I wasn't really worried about forgetting the big things, like observing Anton, my fabricated rookie diver, and helping him to deal with his problems. I was, however, concerned that I would miss the subtle mistakes he intentionally made. Anton was the perfect teacher, I have never seen someone act so perfectly the role of a inexperienced diver.
While quelling Trish's (my other instructor and Anton's buddy for the dive) fears of the ocean and helping her to don her equipment, Anton, unnoticed and fully ready, jumped into the water. Admist a stream of inappropriate words I rushed a whining Trish into her kit, threw mine on and entered the water. At about twenty-seven meters, five below the established depth, I found Anton, and laughed for about three minutes straight, which was quite difficult underwater. I have never seen such an incorrectly setup diver in my life, Anton was breathing out of his back up air source, his hoses were all in the wrong places and wrapped around his body and he was, somehow, with his BCD vest strapped around his arms and waist, riding his tank. Anton just looked at me and smiled.
All my fears of missing my divers' mistakes vanished, and I was again comfortable. Anton and Trish however were no where near done with my torment. I think this was their personal vendetta for the mental stress I had unintentionally and occasionally deliberately caused them. After I had gathered myself I proceeded to straighten out Anton's equipment, in the meantime, little to my knowledge he unstrapped my tank. After some more inappropriate words I finally got the dive underway. Things like this went on for the entire dive. He did everything from trying to start a fist fight underwater to making romantic suggestions with diver hand signals.
Anton's magic was his incredible knowledge and charisma. He was able to accurately determine what was making people uncomfortable and then skillfully create a comfort zone that everyone felt safe and welcome in. In or out of the water, both in diving and life; whether it was catching and preparing dinner (enclosed pictures), helping with a dive, hiking up Mt. Sinai in pitch black Egyptian darkness or meeting a girl in a bar, Anton always knew just what to do. He taught me so much over a month, I am forever in his debt and I will never forget Anton and all he helped me to learn.