Mike Johnson – DEMA BOD Candidate

A letter from DEMA BOD Candidate, Mike Johnson

In the summer of 2013, at the age of 27, I took my first dive. Scuba was something that had intrigued me since I was a child. Unfortunately, living in the Midwest did not facilitate scuba diving without travel – or so it seemed at the time, which I now know couldn’t be farther from the truth. With my first breath, I immediately fell in love with the underwater world. Before that Discover Scuba experience ended, I was already contemplating how to become a certified diver and take my craft of video production below the waves.

With the goal of working as a professional in the dive industry, I began to research trade organizations and potential business opportunities. The DEMA Show quickly rose to the top of my list as the place I needed to be. In November of 2013, I attended my first DEMA Show as a non-diver. From the outside looking in, this was where I knew I wanted to be. I left with a lot of good advice and a plan to begin my career in the dive industry.

I completed my scuba certification in December of 2013, and joined the ranks of instructor in the summer of 2018. The DEMA Show became an annual event and I took every opportunity I could dig up, and in some cases create, to further my knowledge and experience as an underwater cinematographer. Through this process one thing became very clear to me: it is extremely difficult for young professionals to connect to the dive industry. Each year I would leave the DEMA Show extremely excited for the connections made and possible opportunities moving forward. Within a few weeks of returning home, that excitement turned into depression as nearly all of my follow up calls and emails were left unanswered (a HUGE Thank You to those who did respond!). Despite the hurdles of getting my foot in the door of the industry, my passion for scuba continued to grow and develop.

This year will be my sixth consecutive DEMA Show. The anticipation and excitement are greater than ever. I am extremely humbled to have my name included on the ballot for the DEMA Board of Directors. When looking at the other names printed above and below mine, I can’t help but think there are many well-deserving and highly-qualified candidates. Some might see my age and short time in the industry as unfavorable for a board member. To those I would say, consider the possibility that a young professional is exactly what this industry needs to help shape the policies and resources that will ultimately dictate the success or failure of reaching others my age and younger, as both new consumers and professionals alike.

All of the industry leaders I have met and spoken with over the past six years agree on one important point: the dive industry is aging in both the consumer and professional sectors and this is a problem for the future success of the industry. Fortunately, we are not the only industry to face this issue. Why is that fortunate? Simply put, it means we can learn from the actions of other industries and apply those successes and failures to the policies and resources that will shape the future of the dive industry and DEMA.

On a more personal note, I want to ensure that fewer young professionals have an entry experience similar to mine. If we are to grow as an industry there must be a bridge built between current leaders and brand-new young divers. This is a point I have championed through involvement with DEMA’s Emerging Leaders Task Force, where myself and several other young professionals worked directly with DEMA President, Tom Ingram, to develop a structured mentorship program designed to pair willing leaders with the next generation of retailers, manufacturers, conservationists, instructors, and artists. I believe this is just the first step to build the bridge that will carry the torch to the next generation.

Many current consumers and industry professionals were inspired to start scuba diving due at least in part to the influence of Jacques Cousteau’s films and the Sea Hunt TV series. Scuba was pop-culture and portrayed in a positive, exciting, and adventurous manner in the mainstream media. Undoubtedly, this created an explosion of growth for the fledgling industry of recreational scuba. Today, positive mainstream media related to the dive industry is few and far between all the negative stories – whether in the news, movies, or television. The positive stories that do make publication are quickly lost in the 24-hour news cycle. Technology and the insatiable need for new video content has opened a giant door of opportunity for previously unthinkable approaches to develop and publish original content to the masses. Imagine what would happen if we as an industry created a Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or Discovery series that illustrated the passions you and I share for the underwater world. I believe this is not only possible, it is much needed and a reasonable objective to aim for. Think of the growth potential in all sectors of the industry if we collectively set aside our differences and work together for the betterment of the industry as a whole.

November 13, 2019, not only marks the beginning of this year’s DEMA Show, it is the opening day to place your vote for your 2020-2022 board members. Please, take the time to be informed. Reach out to the candidates to express your concerns and learn more about the vision each of us has for the next three years and beyond. Whoever you choose to vote for, vote – the future of our industry depends on it.

About Gene Muchanski

Executive Director at Dive Industry Association. Board Member at Dive Industry Foundation. Marketing Consultant to the Diving Industry. I have been a certified Scuba Diver since I was 15 years old and have been a passionate waterman for as long as I can remember.
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