Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Modern refresher courses are insulting and divers need to start asking for more! #scuba #refreshercourse #scubaskillsupdate #scubareactivate

If it's been a while since you've been diving and you're ready to get back into diving, congratulations! I love scuba diving and if you're ready to dive again, I bet you do too.

When I took time off before moving to the Pacific Northwest to teach full time, I knew I would get back into it soon. I ended up taking about a year off. When I started diving again, I didn't take a formal refresher course from another instructor because I'm an instructor myself. I did however create a plan to follow, taking my time and worked my way back to the level I was before taking that break.

That took about two years. Time off takes a huge toll one's experiences and comfort as a whole. If one year off took me two to get back, how long will it really take you?

As with any of the activities that we do often, when we practice we get better and even if one's skills don't improve, they rarely get worse. Even masters in their prospective fields get better if they believe they have something to learn. Interestingly enough, there are those out there that think that getting back into scuba diving is like riding a bike. This is somewhat true but only in the smallest degree.

One can probably assemble the gear, strap it onto their back and drop below the surface of the water, however the physical action of performing the motions and skills needed to be a safe and competent diver after taking a long hiatus will not be as if one never stopped. So, what should be in a good refresher? The easy answer is any area that one feels they need improving on but there are some considerations that most non-professional divers aren't aware of...

Often, divers with long breaks in diving will come back to the activity because of a trip to an exotic destination or itinerary near water. Trips of a lifetime also bring out the rusty and dusty diver. The phenomenon of the "Bucket List" and things people have to "do before they die" are drawing people back to scuba as well.

Whatever the reason, scuba diving is an amazing activity and it's hard to give it up forever. I surely didn't understand why I took at break at all. What does a typical refresher course cost? As with any market, competition can often drive market prices.

However, market prices can sometimes not be a clear reflection of what the consumer needs. I've seen refresher courses for as little as $79, and if the diver has been out of the water for less than a year, a little pool time can seem like all they need.

Those that have stayed away longer often admit they need more than rudimentary education driving prices upwards of $150. In this world of available instant gratification, some want refresher courses to be as easy as possible, often not reflecting what the industry believes they need rather what the customer says they need. Suffice it to say, anyone that takes more than two years off of most activities, especially ones with the inherent risk of death shouldn't be so quick to accept the cheapest and fastest.

Often, even when divers only have time for a short educational review and a couple hours in the pool, divers with 10 plus years between dives have been know to seek these type of refresher courses.

As an analog, I ask students how they would feel about a surgeon performing "minor" surgery on them years after a hiatus. Most are easily reluctant but when considering an activity in an environment foreign to our nature, it's amazing that anyone would settle for less than what they really need.

Any refresher without an instructor supervising their actions asking them to perform the sames skills learned during their initial training, at least a couple of dives in a non-confined water environment, and for all intents and purposes starting from scratch, should always be what one truly considers as the only option! After all, everyone that has surgery always wants the best, irregardless of whether they can afford it or not.

In order to ensure that divers not fool themselves into believing they are better than they really are, personally, I insist that anyone wanting a refresher course from me follow my guidelines:

1) Any diver for which is has been less than 12 months since their last dive will have a 2-hour educational review and will visit the pool with me. The educational review is abbreviated and the time in the pool will cover all the skills needed before open water. This can usually be done in a couple of hours.
2) Divers for which is has been at least 12 months since their last dive but not more than 24 months will have a 2-hour educational review and will visit the pool with me.
The educational review is abbreviated and the time in the pool will cover all the skills a new diver does. After the pool skills are completed, 2 open water dives are completed demonstrating everything done in the pool while in a real world diving environment. 
These 2 dives and skills can even be under the supervision of an instructor at their dive destination. Confirmation of their refresher is not given by the referred instructor until the completion of those dives and skills performed if re-certification dives are conducted elsewhere.
3) Lastly, any diver for whom it has been greater than 24 months since 
their last dive will have the full educational review (like a new student,
typically six hours) and will visit the pool with me to complete all the
work as would a new student.
After the pool skills are completed, 2 open water dives and all open water skills are completed. There are other dive shops, instructors, or dive destinations that will do
the condensed versions of the refreshers they may be looking for, but when I disclose that, I also emphasize how sacrificing quality and thorough instruction is a recipe for injury or death. 
This is one area that I truly believe that the industry must re-evaluate their policies, practices, and standards. You know what the scary part is... People sometimes don't sign up for my refresher courses.

When students wonder why I require more from than other dive shops or other instructors, I point them to a couple experts. This shouldn't be something that I have to explain, sadly if someone is looking to cut corners, they will  ind a way. The 2 articles below clearly illustrate why it is so necessary to change this industry shortcoming.

Please read these two articles some of these insights:

Addressing the Issue of Diver Competence by Alex Brylske

My favorite quote from this article:
"There's also a lot of confusion about exactly what training can realistically achieve. Divers are initially qualified through a certification process, but they remain qualified only through continued experience. In no field can certification alone guarantee
Dive Training Today: A Perspective by Bret Gilliam

My favorite quote from this article:
"Some scuba training agency programs lead divers to believe they are more qualified than they are, with ratings such as 'Advanced Diver' requiring as few as 9 to 10 total dives; and 'Master Diver' requiring fewer than 25 dives." 
If you would like to see what poor training looks like, please watch this video. While no one gets hurt or dies, it's clear that the divers need more than a refresher course!

Another diver comes to the rescue. How two divers almost became statistics. Safe diving practices: https://youtu.be/1LyocSGiXdU

In the end, I make my living as a scuba diving instructor. Hopefully, more will follow my lead and insist that training, safety, and experience precede a paycheck, but the world and I don't always see eye to eye. For what it's worth, even the weekend warrior can find value in my program and the $350, however common sense is a commodity that is often priced way below market value.

Here are some of the aspects of taking a long hiatus from diving that the reluctant diver often neglects:

There is no doubt, the typical American diet is contributing to an epidemic of laziness and morbid obesity. Because of this, it is also realistic to conclude that the physical abilities of the average diver have diminished.

Partner this with the fact that divers are getting older as well as entering the activity in one's later years, there is concern here. NAUI has implemented testing and physical fitness criteria and SDI/TDI requires medical evaluations every year from their instructors. In the past, as instructors got older and fatter, there was no accountability to the standards of health of most agency's instructors.

I remember a time when a large class of students was accompanied by a second instructor and maybe even a couple of Divemasters. Today, while the standard ratio of instructors to students has been relatively the same, more than one instructor or Divemasters infrequently accompanies
today's instructors.

Too often dive shop owners insist on maximizing instructor to student ratios to keep their profit margins high as possible. So, anyone returning to diving and becoming re-certified may be surprised as to the amount of attention and actual training they receive. While in warm, tropical waters with excellent visibility, having a group of 8 might seem feasible, in reality, one instructor is rarely in arms reach of two students, let alone 8.

If divers are returning to the activity and in need of additional attention, it is very likely that they won't be able to receive it as the entire group is also needing attention. Programs are being facilitated towards the lowest common denominator.

Educational materials are sometimes outdated. Not to mention that physical books are disappearing or being replaced by the favorable "e-learning," older students that prefer hard-copies might not absorb the materials as learning modes vary from generation to generation.

Electronic educational systems also assume that the user has access to a computer and even access to the internet. While public access at educational institutions and public libraries are available to some, they might not be available to all.

I've had several older students that wanted the hard-copy books and DVD's to brush up on the education they were rusty on. If electronic education wipes out the hard-copies, a group of divers could be excluded.

Because e-learning and online education and videos are becoming favored, there is also the missing personal relationship that develops in a classroom setting. Electronic education and testing may be efficient, however it doesn't allow for independent thought, opinion, and discussion.

When one has to choose from "A, B, C, or D" or "true or false," it is possible that a student could guess incorrectly while believing they knew the answer. Similarly, the instructor doesn't know where the student guessed or areas of concern. While educated guesses may work in some areas, educated guesses can result in injuries that divers don't fundamentally know about (i.e. driving to altitude after diving).

Teaching to the lowest common denominator is becoming the norm. As experienced instructors retire from the industry, younger and less seasoned professional emerge. I've seen students whom missed questions with blank looks on their faces nodding their heads upon review of final exams missed questions.

Admitting that one really doesn't comprehend the answer is likely to be avoided if it turns out that failing to pass an exam may result in not receiving one's certification card or an update for a logbook.

For those agencies who have the student's take final exams after pool and certification dives, there is almost an expectation that failing the final exam can never happen.

Equipment technology has improved greatly! Not only is scuba diving equipment getting easier to use but the costs of manufacturing has dropped. Profit margins of the high-end systems often drive dive shops to push equipment to divers that are not ready, capable, or need certain equipment.

Because of this, when divers drop out, that merchandise ends up on Craigslist, Scubaboard, or the classifieds where the local dive shops and instructors have little influence over how much education is required for the prospective diver prior to using that equipment.

Not to mention adverse reactions by dive shop owners to those that purchased used, students may find the confrontations uncomfortable resulting in failure to return for additional education, refreshers, or even equipment servicing.

Medical technology has vastly improved! It has been shown that the formation of micro-bubbles and deep stops might be able to reduce the incidences of decompression sickness, DCS.

However, while the science is getting stronger helping us discover more about decompression theory, those wishing to scuba dive are reluctantly admitting less and less if they conditions which could
hinder entrance to scuba diving education.

While it's my opinion that not allowing one to scuba dive because of medical contraindications isn't the solution, creating a safe environment to do so should be, the industry has been slow to want
to take any risk when there is uncertainty.

As my programs evolve, I'm discovering that even my students are taking shortcuts. Ironically, if I'm able to see loopholes in my student's devotion to scuba diving education and I plug those holes with
additional education, additional water work, and a need for subjective criteria for successful completion of my program (i.e. diver attitude, diver confidence, and my gut feeling), other programs very often only follow minimum standards and follow the student with blinders on.

What that means is that ultimately the student completes all the skills on a checklist in order to appease the legal system and in the event of an accident, feels the education is defensible. That doesn't teach the student what they really need because injury and death are really the
highest training standards that each diver should be trained for.

The last thing that I'll talk about is, "resort diving." In my opinion, creating an environment where students can continue to keep "trying scuba" is only setting them up for disaster. I believe that these experiences should only be conducted in pool like conditions and at the very minimal of depths.

There are numerous reports of divers on the second or third visit to these tropical dive destinations with aspirations of scuba diving with the fully certified. In reality, resorts continue to promote scuba without training and the try scuba divers are willing to jump on board!

I've changed my standards so that anyone with time off from diving exceeding 12 months must do an extended amount of education, pool work, and two full dives with an instructor (myself or referred), but I am the only one.

I have never heard of instructors, agencies, or resorts turning away business because its been too long between dives. While the preponderance of divers never have issues, being witness to diver deaths and near fatal injuries only emphasize the need for more remediation, not less!

As an independent instructor, I've found an incredible flexibility to train students to a level I never thought possible. The ironic thing is that not one student has ever told me my program was too hard, too long, or should be faster.

On the other hand, I have heard from a couple of PADI instructors that tried to find fault in the manor which I teach, stating that more is not better and insisting that it better to have the student come back to continue that education.

The reality is, even with the relationships, community, and high standards for safety, I still see many who learn to dive, go on their trips, and never dive again. While I can say that my percentages of drop outs are significantly lower than the local dive shop, many still want to just try it and see if they
like it.

As with all things that take devotion, time, and commitment to master, scuba is no different. Those that dive year after year without long breaks can really see how well they improve, but should also be able to see how much they would have forgotten.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Addressing the issue of diver competence by Alex Brylske, Dive Training Magazine, July 2012

Buy Alex's book here: http://amzn.to/2tfyENi

full article text can be found here: https://jcaelitescuba.com/articles/Address-the-Issue-of-Diver-Competence.htm

Dive Training Magazine: July 2012
Editorials: Addressing the Issue of Diver Competence
Text by Alex Brylske

"It's inevitable that once we've done something for what seems like a lifetime, one begins to look at newbies with a jaundiced eye. How many of us haven't told our kids about the good old days when the grass was greener, the sky bluer and the air clearer? The fact is that the human psyche (probably as a defense mechanism) tends to remember the good and forget the bad."

"I've had many similar conversations with old-salt divers, and I've found that what it really comes down to is their lack of understanding of how diving (including the diver himself) has changed over the years. When you and I started diving, divers were a pretty homogeneous bunch. The norm was reasonably good physical condition, a high level of comfort in the water and training that would make a Marine Corps drill instructor envious. And most important of all, we dove a lot. You could say that diving was more or less all we did for pleasure. Well, look around on any dive boat and you'll see how much that's changed."

"Today's diver can't be pigeonholed. They include big and burly types as well as kids, older folks (like us) and people who never imagined they'd ever purposely jump into water over their heads. What's made this possible, of course, is vastly improved equipment technology. Equally significant is that today's diver enjoys diving, all right, but not to the exclusion of other recreational interests. This means that instead of making 50 or 100 dives a year (common in days past) the average diver today, I'll wager, probably makes fewer than a dozen dives a year."

"There's also a lot of confusion about exactly what training can realistically achieve. Divers are initially qualified through a certification process, but they remain qualified only through continued experience. In no field can certification alone guarantee competence."

#alexbrylske #divercompetence #diverincompetence #divetrainingmagazine #divetraining

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Individual Professional Liability insurance for DAN members has been reduced to $649 for instructors and $379 for Divemasters


DAN RRG Announces Upgrades to its Professional Liability Program
Durham, NC (June 14, 2017) –DAN Risk Retention Group (DAN RRG), a wholly owned subsidiary of Divers Alert Network® (DAN®), is pleased to announce upgrades to its Professional Liability offering for the 2017-18 program year.

Beginning July 1, 2017, DAN’s liability program will be available to all dive professionals and dive businesses. Our goal is to make DAN your first choice for professional liability protection.

Drawing on its expertise in dive accident management and the strength of its other insurance programs DAN has improved the program to make it the best in the industry. With litigation on the rise comprehensive liability protection is critical to a safe and sustainable business.

Policies are available for dive professionals at every level - Instructors, Divemasters, Free Diving and Swimming Instructors, those in training, and those who have retired. Additionally, all DAN Professional Liability programs are backed by two of the largest reinsurance companies in the world – Lloyds of London and Gen Re, ensuring the security and long-term viability of the program.

Based on our analysis of data from the 2016 year, and feedback from DAN members and the dive community, DAN has implemented the following changes:

1.Lower Premiums – A successful first year has allowed DAN RRG to reduce premiums for the 2017-18 program year. Effective for all 2017 renewals and new purchases after June 1, 2017, prices will be reduced approximately 15%. The cost of Individual Professional Liability insurance for DAN members has been reduced to $649 for instructors and $379 for Divemasters.

2.Online Enrollment – To expedite the application process and get coverage in place at the earliest possible time, dive professionals can now complete and submit their application online. Once the application is approved, all supporting documents related to a member’s Professional Liability policy are available 24/7 through the member’s DAN account.

3.Unlimited Defense Costs – To ensure that policyholders receive the full benefit of their policy limits, the DAN RRG policy can now be purchased with a rider which provides unlimited defense costs and removes these costs from the aggregate limit. This means you get the full benefit of the minimum coverage of $1 million per event, $2 million aggregate for bodily injury and property damage.

4.Rebreather Training - Now available at no additional cost to protect professionals who provide all levels of instruction.

5.Risk Mitigation – No one plans to have an accident, but there are numerous programs available from DAN to mitigate your risk. When you enroll as a DAN Professional Member you gain access to all DAN health and safety resources, including our new Prepared Diver Program and Student Medical Expense Coverage. Provided at no cost, these programs are designed to make diving safer and provide insurance coverage for students should an accident occur.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to improve the already excellent Professional Liability Program and continue to offer sustainable, reliable, and cost-effective solutions for the dive industry’s liability needs”, said Bill Ziefle, President and CEO of DAN. “These improvements make it easier and more cost effective for instructors to protect themselves from risk, and allow them to focus on improving diver safety and working towards the DAN Mission of making every dive safe.”

About DAN: DAN is the world’s most recognized and well respected dive safety organization, with more than 35 years of commitment to the safety and wellbeing of divers. DAN’s research, medical services programs and global response initiatives have created an extensive network capable of providing divers around the world with vital services – from the prevention of accidents through safety programs and education to the facilitation of lifesaving evacuations.

To learn more or to become a DAN member, visit DAN.org.

#scuba #liabilityinsurance #DAN  #DiversAlertNetwork #NAUI

Thursday, June 1, 2017


As it starts warming up, all those that got into diving and only did it once and now have gear to sell you, are NOT doing you any favors.

There are great deals out there, but there are more bad deals. It doesn't matter if they tell you it's never been used, used very little, or meticulously well taken care of... Used has a limited lifespan. Like everything that gets older, sometimes sitting around can make it worse than being well used.

Consider these facts before buying anything used:

Everything depreciates. If you want to put an accurate value on it, take 50% off it's original new sales price, then 10% off of that amount for each year of age.

For example. $100 and 5 years old...

$100 x 50% = $50


$45- $4.50=$40.50

$40.50- $4.05=$36.45



Now, one can always offer more than in this example for something priced in your budget, but don't go out of your way to buy it. There will be another deal you can't miss tomorrow.

O-rings and lubricants dry out. Even new equipment that has never been used will need to be fully serviced. Depending upon the materials used during the manufacturing process, those o-rings and lubricants just sitting inside the equipment can actually damage it over a long period of time.

They say it was just serviced and they have a receipt. Sorry, just like buying a used car or a house (other than new build), you're going to need an inspection. However, keep in mind, an inspection is superficial. If it's scuba gear, it needs to be serviced while it's in your possession.

There is a lot of crap out there! There are ONLY a few brands and models in used scuba equipment that will stand the test of time and I'll recommend. I'm a service technician and an avid diver/instructor who knows how the equipment performs. Buy Gucci and Prada...!!! If you buy Wal-Mart you get shit! Used Gucci and Prada is always better than new Wal-Mart!

There is no warranty! If you buy something used, you must consider it as is! Some manufacturers offer free replacement of some items on a free then prorated basis. That is valuable. Buying something that is 2nd hand and a month old at 80% of its sales price can be a worth it for low priced items -- a $50 flashlight for $40. However, buying a $1,000 dive computer for  $800 and no warranty is not a good idea. $800 is a lot of money. If you are going to spend that kind of money, let me take you to a local dive shop and let's look at what is available. Buying last year's model from a retailer might mean you save $200 and still get a warranty.

If it's brand new, never been used, never been unpackaged, never been registered -- it's stolen! Don't buy it. If it came from a hard working diver that spent their hard earned money or perhaps saved up for it -- it belongs to them. Secondly, if a dive shop employee stole it, you definitely don't want to trust anything they tell you. If you take a close look at some of the scuba bulletin boards out there and the quantity of brand new, never used items, there is only one way that much exists. There are NOT that many people buying new then deciding to never use it.

Don't be afraid to consider the local dive shop first. Sometimes local dive shop's sell things on consignment, sell used, refurbished, and blemishes items at a great savings. Some might still have warranties! Now, with that being said, not all dive shops are created equal. Use your intuition. If the person at the dive shop seems like a used car salesman, leave. Develop a relationship with the people that work there and they'll take care of you. That relationship works both ways. If you go in and demand discounts or get all their advice and go elsewhere to buy, you're a dickhead, and they will not be there for you when you need something.

Not last, and not least, consider your scuba mentor -- me! I want what's best for you. I don't work for the dive shop; I don't work for the guy selling used stuff out of his garage; and I don't get kickbacks, commissions, or incentives by pointing you in any particular direction. I've been in this area for 6 years now. For the most part, I know the dive shops, the owners, many of their employees, and the real in's and out's of the dive industry. That's threatening to some. I trust some because they have your best interest in mind, too. That is the exception.

Talk to you soon...


#scuba #usescubagear #caveatemptor #Craigslist #scubamentor #buyingscubagear

NEW VS. USED SCUBA EQUIPMENT; Which should you buy?

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