Monday, October 22, 2018

Scuba Equipment Rental for Recreational and Technical Diving Now Available

Do you need scuba diving equipment for an upcoming class, trip, or a dive weekend. Rental equipment is available for all students and divers including hard to find sizes! The entire rental cost for open water or recreational specialties is only $65 when diving in a wetsuit for and $115 when diving in a drysuit. Technical courses or specialties are priced according to specific items that are rented. If I don't have what you're looking for or need, just ask. I'll try to get it for you. Equipment is usually delivered to the student at their certification dive location, however I can come to you for sizing and fitting if you're not one of my students. Please call 503-935-2698 for details.

#scuba #scubadiving #scubarentals #scubaequipment

Friday, September 7, 2018

Do we drown or rocket to the surface? A review of a podcast by Beth Rose and Rich Osborn on the BBC

Podcast (audio):

'Do we drown or rocket to the surface?'

Ouch: Disability Talk

Rich Osborn had the perfect summer job as a scuba diving instructor in Cyprus - but it would become a job which led to him becoming paraplegic.

On a day off, the then 21-year-old and three instructor friends decided to go for a carefully planned deep-dive.

At 40m under the ocean's surface the group ran out of air.

With nothing left in the tanks they had a decision to make - drown there and then, or rocket to the surface and risk catastrophic injuries from the [bends].

Presented by Beth Rose with Rich Osborn

Full Transcript (written):

I'm only going to review the point where everyone ran out of air... the planning that failed all four of them.

Beth Rose interviews Rich Osborn his time as, "a perfect summer as a scuba diving instructor in Cypress when he was 21." 

There's a lot of great things about being a scuba diving instructor but the "dream job" or the "dream summer job" is not like a swim in the shallow end of the pool. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching and I love diving, but there's a lot of responsibility that comes with teaching people to scuba dive not to mention just taking divers on "tours." There are several things that bother me about the cavalier attitude of these guys. It perpetuates cutting corners during training. I've seen it first hand. When classes are large, the only way to get everyone done at the same time is to accept the outcomes (abilities) from everyone as being the same. 

Additionally, diving beyond the scope of one's training and ability is abundant in the industry. PADI certifies divers to 60ft and only in conditions from which the divers were trained in. That means that one doesn't dive deeper than 60ft without additional training and it also means that divers that earned their certification at tropical destinations are not prepared for cold water, low-visibility dives. Some agencies and instructors also lead divers to believe they are more qualified than they really are. In particular, labels like "advanced diver" or "rescue diver" categorize ability and experience where none exists. 

Until a diver takes technical or professional courses, ALL courses are "recreational." All classes are recreational and leisure at one's dive destination. Recreational dive limits mean no in-water decompression obligations, no penetration dives or overhead environments and not diving beyond the scope of the training you received and regularly practiced. If a diver takes years away from diving, skills will degrade.

BETH - "...but his summer came to an abrupt nightmarish end when during a deep dive with three friends their oxygen ran out. The group had a decision to make: drown there and then or rocket to the surface and face the consequences of the bends."

The water can be a really bad place to make split decisions. In fact, even when one makes the best decision at that particular moment the outcome might not be as desired. Similarly, one can do everything wrong while nothing bad happens. Beth's description of the position Rich was in was real although somewhat exaggerated. Drowning is the last thing on the diver's list and it is not a dichotomy of "rocket to the surface" or "drowning". There is a large spectrum between what you can do and decompression sickness is not a result of a fast ascent, but can be the outcome of one. As we'll hear later on in the podcast, Rich was the only one that was injured. 

One must be ready at anytime to perform: air sharing ascent; buddy breathing ascent; emergency swimming ascent; emergency buoyant ascent; and emergency buoyant ascent while orally exhaling into the BCD. Ironically, PADI instructors teach a lesson called the CESA, Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent and as I've talked about before, it's very often taught to never be practiced due to potential injury. Nevertheless, even when it's utilized, it's often done in a manner that is unrealistic and more often unsuccessful. Getting to the surface is the next place you'll be taking your next breath. You have to know how you'll get there, what you'll do when you arrive there, and especially what to do if others don't make it back up with you.

Rich reports that he learned how to dive when he was 14 and took his instructor examination when he was 18. Many divers do make a quick transition into the professional side of scuba especially if they have an opportunity to make some money doing it. The interesting part about young instructors is not their ability to perform the skills and tasks necessary to scuba dive or teach others to dive, it's that most 18 year-old's don't make good decisions. Partner dangerous activities to an immature attitude, limited experiences and poor decision making, and scuba diving becomes a lot more dangerous than it should be. 

Scuba diving has risk, but reducing the risk is the goal of every diver not just instructors. As Rich found out, while most dives are a balance between risk and reward, death is NOT the worst thing that can happen. Rich's attitude about life with a spinal cord injury after the fact and how he lives with it are also not typical for most teens or young adults if not most adults. He reports that he still has a "fire for outdoor activities" including for scuba diving. The ability to play the cards we are dealt is a difficult ability to master. In this regard, his injurious outcome has only become a speed bump in the highway of his life -- unfortunately not typical.

As Beth continues to interview Rich, he describes teaching pool sessions, "confined water, so you can practice it in a safe environment" and the open water sessions, "so practicing the skills you learned in the safe environment in an open water environment." 

These statements seem like there is a emphasis on safety after the fact and that safety is a tenet of what is always practiced. A couple of things stand out in PADI's culture, particularly. One such leader in the diving industry, Bret Gilliam found, "...that no effective attempt is made within some agencies to interdict and restrict instructors who consistently breach standards that lead to unacceptable accident records." This is the phenomenon called, "Just Culture." Just culture is a practice in which front-line operators and others are not punished for actions, omissions or decisions taken by them which are commensurate with their experience and training, but where gross negligence, willful violations and destructive acts are not tolerated. Interestingly, when nothing happens over the course of one's career, another phenomenon occurs, "Normalization of Deviance." Normalization of deviance is defined as, "The gradual process through which unacceptable practice or standards become acceptable. As the deviant behavior is repeated without catastrophic results, it becomes the social norm for the organization." Nothing bad has ever happened before, so why will it happen this time...?

Herein lies the problem when education is inadequate. If you learn by poorly written material and have an instructor that only follows the materials provided, it's hard to recall that material when you need it. I call that process "teaching to the lowest common denominator." Why devote extra time and energy if only one or two in the group are going to benefit from it or continue with it. Programs that only teach the minimum and only emphasize getting a passing score on tests or in recollection are prone to losing those students. So much so that skills can never be correlated to test scores. Students that pass a test with 80% also mean that they didn't pass 20% of it. What 20% did you miss? Why would someone want to miss 20% of a program that is designed to train in skills necessary to reduce risk and injury and can result in death? Not only is that contrary to risk reduction, but the review of what was missed is often followed by blank stares or glazed looks while the student nods their head in agreement when wrong answers are being reviewed. Sometimes the instructors aren't well versed in the materials either. When this happens, throwing it over your shoulder or under the rug happens. "PADI doesn't put a lot of emphasis on that," I've heard. Or, "Once you're certified, no one remembers that stuff anyway." Students that understand the material get the correct answers on tests. If the goal is comprehension, missing anything is inappropriate.

Scuba diving already has an incredibly high dropout rate. Divers will also take years off between dives and feel that a couple of hours of remediation in the pool will make up for years of lost experience. There isn't a substitute for ongoing training. That doesn't mean that practice makes perfect... people make mistakes, however, practice makes permanence! Surgeons that don't perform surgeries regularly are not on my list of surgeons to perform my operations. The last thing I ever want to hear is, "I've haven't done this operation in three years but I watched it done on a YouTube video and feel like I got it!"

BETH - "So, you were obviously having a great summer, and then one day something a bit unusual happened. Tell me what happened," says Beth. 
I understand that this is an interview and Beth is facilitating the interview to move in a fluid and forward motion so the podcast is successful. It's possible that the English connotation and expression interprets differently than an American one. However, I believe that listeners (English, American and others) are tuning in to find out what happened and why. Going on a scuba dive is not unusual for scuba divers, but doing anything and it resulting in being paralyzed from the waist down, is definitely unusual! 

Rich accounts the dive and the day of the accident. 

Here are the bullet points:

  • it was their day off so Rich and a couple of others he works with (turns out to be three) are going to go diving
  • tells Beth, "they were all dive professionals"
  • someone said, "let's try this"
  • they wanted to go a little bit deeper than normally
  • everyone was trained in deep diving and "stuff like that"
  • Rich admits that being young, "you kind of want to push the limits a little bit"
  • BETH - "How deep are we talking?" RICH - "So, about 40 metres or so."
  • Rich states that 30 meters is like the usual depth in recreational scuba diving
  • additionally mentioning that at 40 meters, "you need to be deep dive trained for that"
  • Rich states, "we all planned thoroughly before the dive"
  • RICH - "But what happened was a disparity between what was planned in terms of breathing rates and what actually happened on the dive. So, a couple of people ran out of air before they'd planned to run out of air, if you know what I mean."
  • BETH - So, it was a surprise was it? RICH - "Yeah, it was an absolute surprise."

This description reminds me of the meme that shows a guy saying to his buddy, "Hold my beer. Watch this." 

I would also settle for a slap to the forehead or a Picard face-palm...

Four divers are going on a dive together. They were all together so I'm not sure how gas management escaped all of them. I teach students that running out of air is a misconception, but I guess these guys had to prove this theory inaccurate. I tell my students that nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to run out of air, BUT these four guys did! It seems improbable, but they actually did it... Wow! I wonder what the odds are that four divers would enter the water together and that each of them would run out of air? Rich called everyone "dive professionals." The definitions of "professionals" are all over the board so I don't know which one to take, but I'll go with the way I define it, "A person that follows standards and guidelines set by the greater community in a paid capacity and is expected to perform at the highest level aptitude and integrity."

It'd be fair to say that they didn't approach this day as dive professionals. As far as professional attitudes, I'm not sure that was there either. Interestingly, I'm sometimes told that I have to let bad divers make their own mistakes but there is a harsh reality that comes with that philosophy. I think it's important to speak up. Being sure to say something when another is making (or going to make) a bad decision, especially when scuba diving is involved, is just being compassionate -- and as far as professional, I'm always an instructor. Scuba divers are a group of individuals that share this great activity in common; a group of people that make up a community. Communities have a responsibility to watch out for each other. We might even belong to many communities. Imagine what the world would be like if someone in the communities we belonged to always had our back. Now, put that in an activity that is inherently dangerous -- it's a win-win-win-win, Rich...!!! If you'd like to see how numerous failures on a dive boat lead two down to 149ft and if somebody didn't eventually do something, they would have not made it back, watch this video: 

40 meters (130ft) is a long way down, but the depth itself is not any more dangerous than 4 meters (13ft). Deep dives require specialized training and definitely the right attitude. Thorough planning DID NOT happen in this case and here's why. Rich put is quite eloquently when he said there was, "...a disparity between what was planned in terms of breathing rates and what actually happened on the dive." Even with proper planning, gas management only works when the plan has considered all the things that can go wrong. Let's run through a rudimentary dive plan and see if that matches up to what happened.

I use V-Planner, dive software, when planning dives (especially deep dives). If the parameters of the dive change, like less time at depth or a shallower maximum depth, that will only give more of a cushion to fall back on if needed. This example will only be hypothetical as there are several factors we just don't know. The primary ones are everyone's "Respiratory Minute Volume" or RMV and "Surface Air Consumption" or SAC rate. Additionally, we don't know if they have any special considerations that can effect RMV/SAC (like health issues) and dive conditions (current, visibility, equipment, emotional, physiological, or environmental factors). It seems like all of them where young and probably healthy. If we go with these assumption then their numbers might be a little lower. 

The assumptions of the plan I created are below. I picked a dive plan in V-Planner that would closely resemble a 130ft dive with a 3-5 minute safety stop between 20ft and 10ft and an average diver's air consumption with an average dive computer with an average conservancy (whatever average means). The math is also below. And remember, this is a RECREATIONAL DIVE...!!!  If you'd like to calculate your own, you can use my RMV/SAC calculator by following this link:

Dive# 1,  VPM-B  +2
Depth = 130ft
Profile = Square
Elevation = 0ft
CNS = 4%
OTU's = 11
Gas = 21% = 51cuft required
Gas density = 5.9g/l
Decozone start = 69ft
SAC = 0.80cuft/min
Ascent/Descent rate = 30ft/min
Cylinder = Aluminum 80 (77.4cuft)

(130ft) / (30ft/min) = 4.33 minutes

Atmospheres Absolute
(130ft) / (33ft) = 3.93atm + 1atm = 4.93ata

Rule of Thirds
51cuft / 2 = 25.5cuft x 3 = 76.5cuft

77.4 / 3000 = 0.0258

.0258 * 500psi = 12.9cuft
10.82cuft / .0258 = 419psi required to get to surface -- ROCK BOTTOM PSI

------ Time     Depth     Notes (below)
start 0:00        0        1)
descent to bottom 4:20        130     2)
stay at bottom 6:40        130     3)
ascent to safety stop       3:50        15       4)
safety stop 3:00         15       5)
ascent to surface 0:30         0        6)

So, how deep is 130ft? It's somewhat rhetorical, but it really isn't that straight-forward. Let's look at it this way. 130ft of water is above your head and you have to swim back to the surface. That is a long way up. Additionally, 130ft is a 4 minute and 20 second descent and ascent at 30ft/min. 130ft is also 4.9 atmospheres absolute and that means breathing about five times the amount of air at that depth. You remembered to add the atmosphere above the water into your calculations, right? 

1) Before you get into the water, do you know how much gas you need to do the dive? Let's figure out what we need following the "rule of thirds". 51cuft of air is going to be required (see above). That's the descent; 6 minutes and 40 seconds down there; the ascent; a 4 minute safety stop; and then the exit. But that wouldn't leave us with any gas left over. When we use the rule of thirds it means that 1/3 of the gas is left for emergencies or contingencies. If we know how much we need, and that comes from our RMV at different depths, usually every 10ft, we can calculate what we should take with us. take that 51cuft, divide the 51cuft by 2, then multiplying that number by 3. 51/2=25.5x3=76.5 that means that a full AL80 with 77.4cuft at 3000psi will be adequate for this dive and leave enough gas for emergencies. 

We should also calculate how much gas we need before we have to turn around immediately to get back to the surface on your last breath. Let's figure that out also... if they stuck to the plan and air consumption stayed the same, "Rock-Bottom" psi is how much air needed to get to the surface without a safety stop and nothing getting in the way of (or slowing down) that ascent. HOWEVER, Rich mentioned that breathing rates changed. Was that not planned for? Cave divers make it a point that breathing has to remain constant and consistent. Getting out of the cave still happens when one hits their first third (turn psi), but if one's goal is to get to a particular site to see something in particular, then constant and consistent must happen. We'd have to know what the new breathing rate changed to in order to know when everyone should have turned around. in the light of the recent cave rescue in Thailand and the death of one of the dive team, air consumption is particularly critical. Some interesting insight also comes into view by doing the actual written work.

2) Some might say that you can just descend faster, but that is problematic by itself. Not only do you have to equalize, regularly and often, but you have to stay with your dive buddies for the dive plan and schedule to work. failure to equalize could cause traumatic barotrauma as well. Descents are a perfect time to decide to end the dive as well. I call this a "jumping off point." Divers have a tendency to check their air too much, not at all, or think they'll never run out of air. This doesn't mean that someone should expect to run out of air at some point in their scuba diving career, but if it happens, one knows exactly what they will say to themselves, what they will do, and they know what will happen once they get to the surface. 

A jumping off point is the place in the beginning of a dive where the diver reaches their destination (in this case their planned depth) and stops to ask everyone if their air is okay. giving a number to everyone isn't the same because that only reflects a moment in time. the question to answer is, "Do I have enough air to complete this dive?;" "Do i have enough air to get the attention of my dive buddy and tell them i am out of air, please share air;" "Do i have enough air to safely swim to the surface and power inflate my BCD?;" "Do I have enough air to get to my dive buddy, share air towards the surface and go back to my own air supply to finish the rest of the dive?"

3) This is probably the most interesting part of this plan! New divers often think that an 11 minute bottom time is the same as dive time -- the clock starts once you hit the bottom. Once you get there, you'll know how much time you have if using a dive computer, but not until then. NDL's are not correlated to the amount of gas a diver has left. It is possible that a diver may have more time, but not enough gas... some dive computers have planning modes but they only work on square profiles. In reality, after the 4 minute and 20 second descent, the divers only have 6 minutes and 40 seconds at depth. When I used V-Planner, everything longer than 11 minutes went into decompression. The 1:20 at 20ft and the 3:00 at 10ft are technically a required decompression, but instead of a recommended stop, this one you can't skip but it as closely matches the safety stop everyone should be doing. 

Realistically, most follow the guidelines that a safety stop is required, so that's a good thing. So, here's is the reality of this dive! Why did 4 divers agree to spend a whopping 6:40 at 130ft. that's the whole dive! There are costs to all dives and if there was something amazing down there, perhaps advanced nitrox and/or decompression procedures programs would be a better option. Perhaps diving with larger cylinders or two tanks? All these calculations are what every technical diver considers and uses. Most of this is done electronically, V-Planner in my case, but the fundamentals and nuances of being "deep diving trained" is something that these 4 instructors should have known. If one was leading the group into this dive, why did everyone go so easily? Of course, there are questions that no can except these guys can answer, so we'll never know. As far as what he said during the podcast interview, it's very likely to be abbreviated or even carefully scripted to protect everyone involved.

4) PADI ,SSI, and SDI consider the total dive time in the water not the same as actual bottom time. PADI, SSI, and SDI consider that the clock starts when you leave the surface, but it stops when you are making your final ascent. The physiological reasons why this is not accurate can be read in chapter 14 of diving medicine for scuba. 

NAUI considers that total dive time is the same as total bottom time. Most tech divers follow this rule also because they will often follow a schedule of stops to do decompressions at, all of them being consider required! chapter 14 for more information on decompression and tissue compartments. So, is a safety stop required? No, it is recommended. anything one can do that can minimize the risk of decompression sickness is typically a good thing. With that said, one can do everything right and still get bent. On that same point, one can do everything wrong, and not get bent. I always tell students when talking about the "what ifs," I remind them that death is not the worst thing that can happen -- as we can see by this discussion. This isn't based on an assumption that paralysis could be a good thing or a bad thing, but there is a strong probability that one doesn't wake up in the morning and say, "this is a good day to get paralyzed," just like one doesn't wake up in the mornings and say this is a good day to run out of air...

5) and 6) So you decide to do a safety stop. There should be more happening than waiting 3-5 minutes. Absolutely! Work on your buoyancy, confirm you know where and how to get to your weights to ditch them, that you know where your alternate is, check your air, watch your breathing, relax, confirm that everyone else is there with you, that everyone is ready to ascend and that you get the actual confirmation of that readiness, maybe deploy your SMB and finger spool, and most importantly that when you get to the surface, leave the reg in your mouth, your mask on your face, and look around to make sure it's safe to be there (i.e. boat traffic, surface conditions, where your exit point is, how you'll get out of the water WITH your dive buddy).

Bonus) RBS -- There are a lot of divers that dive with an RBS, a redundant breathing system. There are some misconceptions about this device that should be addressed and clarified as well. Since divers don't expect to run out of air, have you practiced using it? Equipment that the diver carries with them yet they never practice with will not be useful to them in an emergency. Do you know how much air is in that other cylinder? Systems that are kept on the back have a chance to be leaking, empty, or never turned on -- consider slinging the bottle. If not, when entering the water, consider an "s-drill" and your buddy confirming that the valve is on...

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Paul gets Open Water Scuba Certified in Monterey, California

A friend referred Paul to me and I flew down to teach him how to scuba dive. We stayed in Monterey and dove at "Breakwater," San Carlos Beach Park. The water was in the high 50's to low 60's. As you can see in the video, lots of animals and a beautiful kelp forest. Paul learned to dive in a drysuit. Learning to dive in a drysuit and learning good buoyancy from the beginning is totally doable. All of our dives were shore entries. All water work was done at this site!

If you are thinking of learning to dive, give me a call and if the starfish align, I can come train you to dive as well!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

sund rock

Using my new Intova Connex video camera and a close-up lens... I don't buy expensive underwater cameras anymore because flooding is too much of a risk. This camera was $65 brand new, still sealed in the box. The close-up lens was $18. The deepest part of our dive was to 117ft. I'm also using two inexpensive video lights from China that cost about $25 each. For $133, I've got HD quality. So... why do people have to spend on underwater cameras? They don't... (p.s. sorry for not setting the clock on the video camera)

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Open Letter to the Dive Community Concerning Sund Rock Dive Beach


#scuba #SundRock #hoodsportWA #PugetSound #PacificNorthwest

Open Letter to the Dive Community Concerning Sund Rock Dive Beach

I am writing this letter to the dive community in an effort to give some history and insight into the Sund Rock dive beach.  As far back as the early 60’s divers have been drawn to the unique underwater structure and habitat of Sund Rock.  Named for my family who homesteaded there prior to statehood. 

In the early days, divers were more of the hunter gatherer type.  Divers would park on highway 101, hike down the steep bank at the state turnout, don their gear and set out for a long surface swim to the rock.   Some would trespass and were chased out by my grandfather who had some rather creative ways to deal with a trespassing scuba diver!  They often left trash, fires and over harvested the lingcod, wolf eel, rock cod and octopus to near extinction.  

Fast forward to my father’s generation who in conjunction with the University of Washington created the underwater preserve.  As the years went on a new diver began to visit the site; observing, taking photos, doing fish counts and enjoying the underwater wonders.  Divers still did not have access to the beach other than the state turn out on highway 101, same steep bank and long surface swim. 

Tab to my generation who entered into an agreement with Hoodsport n Dive back in the 90’s and created an opportunity for divers to drive down to the Sund Rock beach, have a water entry and park off the highway.  The relationship with the dive community improved and there seemed to be a mutual respect between the family and dive community.  Divers appreciated the access and the family has appreciated the respect and care the divers have shown for the property, above and below the water.  It is my hope that this mutual respect continues.

As the Sund Family begins to manage the entry to the beach, there may be a few changes in policy and procedure.  We are hoping to build relationships with divers who truly care about the environment, and the creatures that inhabit the site above and below the water.  Simply by loving the site so much, our overuse of the area has taken a toll.  The family considers the beach to be a partnership of sorts.  We will provide limited access, a maintained road, porta potty, gear up benches, monitored entry and continue to add amenities such as a picnic area, a campsite, better lighting and hopefully a fresh water rinse area up top.  In exchange we ask that you sign in, pay a fee, take any trash you create with you, drive slowly up the road, take pictures and observe sea life from a distance, be aware the effect of excessive finning has on visibility and organisms, no harvesting of any kind, and close/lock the gate behind you. 

In the short term, we plan to open access to the beach on Saturdays and Sundays thru the summer from 9am to 4pm.  Registration and payment will be at the gate.  We are set up to take credit cards or cash.  The entry fee will be $15, which includes tax.   Weekday, night dives, off hours and group access can be arranged by emailing Cindy Sund at   

Check out the Glamping camp site on Airbnb, it’s perched above the rock, has power, heat and a hot shower!  Ask for a tour next time you come out for a dive. 

Our family feels blessed to be the stewards of this special place and we enjoy sharing it with those divers that share our respect and gratitude for the land, water and wildlife that inhabit the site.  


Cindy Sund

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Response to Article, "Lack of fitness spells disaster for inexperienced dive duo"

Response to article, "Lack of fitness spells disaster for inexperienced dive duo" 

#scuba #medicalhistoryquestionnaire #medicalreleaseform #refreshercourse #fitness #divetrainingmag #scubamag

The story points out several things that are true however several thing's were missed. While I agree that the diving population is getting older, and I definitely agree this population has increase physical limitations, the real issue is the missing advanced training, ongoing training, long hiatuses, longer breaks between dives AND not modifying the educational process to meet the needs of today's students and today's newest divers!

I believe that this diver's physical limitations contributed to his death, but this could have happened to him anywhere. Because it happened on a dive, the response from his son was inadequate however the diver himself failed in this responsibility as well. If divers don't acknowledge they need additional training and insist on it, who will? Logically you think that instructors and shops will but we know what they're really asking for.

My focus comes to this because as an independent scuba diving instructor I'm seeing more students that look like Glenn. With this, the industry has failed to alter their programs to match who it's current diver is today. Yes, the advanced training might have reduced the time necessary to extracate Glenn from the water, but advanced training shouldn't come as supplement to training rather be included in it. Courses should not be faster, easier, and there should never be an assumption that just because one paid for certification that one gets it.

I get that instructors and shops want to their student's to come back to take additional courses because it's a positive way to generate ongoing revenue, but if the industry is experiencing an 80% dropout rate, shortening the length of instruction and what's included in instruction illustrates how this fails it's customer base. Charge more for certification, make it more robust and thurough, and create a diver, not a card-carrying dropout statistic.

Safety is good business and common sense is a commodity that's way undervalued! I believe that medical evaluations and physicals are an individuals way to judge their physical ability to undertake a physically demanding activity like scuba but if you don't do anything with the outcome of that evaluation, is the diver any better off than not getting one? Think of medical evaluations as a factor in determining whether you should dive at all as well as should you not do certain dives.

More often than not, the medical release is a form that the student has to "get signed off" in order to go diving just like the the diver has to "get certified" in order to go diving. This concept of having to find "the way" to get what you want without the work required for it is contributed only more by a just culture of instant gratification and a demanding population.

I'm going to illustrate this concept by the one following example.

Just the other day I overheard and witnessed a student that had a hiatus of twelve years off, get a half hour of redmedial education and 45 minutes in the pool. In fact, that person was done with their refresher in less time than it took my student to try on rental equipment for his certification dive weekend. As the independent instructor that doesn't work for a dive shop, I am the fly on the wall that sees all!

I later overheard his instructor saying that he looked great in the pool. Since when does "how a diver looks in a pool" an evaluation of what he'll perform in open water? That person's buoyancy might have been more of a comfort factor of the warm, clear, and clean water of THE POOL not to mention that he only had four pounds of weight on his belt.

My rule is, after twelve or more months off from diving, the student needs at least two open water dives with an instructor before updating a logbook or reissuing a certification card. ...and if the shops out there are thinking that several hours of instruction, and several hours in the pool, and two dives is not cost effective, I can do this in a day and charge $350 for this service. Refresher courses are not a means to get back in the water, they should be the process to do so. This process must be complete!

I know of no industry that allows a twelve year hiatus and will allow a person to start up again in an hour and fifteen minutes. Would you let a surgeon operate on you; a bus driver take your kids to school; a welder on a skyscraper; or a auto mechanic to take a twelve year hiatus and feel confident in that person's abilities?

"In no field does certification alone guarantee competence. With long down times between dives, skills will degrade." --Alex Brylske

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Elearning, self-study programs, student motivation, and Easter eggs!

I've been seeing something for years, really since I went to college, but I didn't think I'd see it in scuba diving...  Here are some questions that I'll try to answer or at the very least get some of the other instructors to think about.

  • Are your students rushing through the reading material? 
  • Are they actually reading it or just skimming?
  • What is the student's level of comprehension after completing self-study instead of in-class participation, presentation, or lecture?
  • Are students just getting answers to pass the quizzes or final exam?
  • How well do you think students would do if they were given the final exam at the end of the course, after the certification dives?
  • If students missed questions on the final exam but they are allowed to pass the final after "reviewing" wrong answers with the instructor and acknowledging that they understand, do they or are they just nodding their heads?
  • Did they find the Easter eggs?




Quizzes and Final Exams.

Alternate test taking criteria.

Blank stares and glassy eyes.

Easter eggs.

My Educational Review.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

RESPONSE TO ARTICLE: "Gateshead scuba diver's death was tragic accident, coroner rules | The Northern Echo"

Gateshead scuba diver's death was tragic accident, coroner rules | The Northern Echo

It appears that he had an inflator stick... So, how is it that an "experienced diver" doesn't disconnect the LP inflator hose right away, yet my students are taught this before they enter the pool! "Day one skills" are the essence of becoming an experienced diver not the number of dives you have or the Mount Everest of dives, "The Andrea Doria"

While it's sad that a diver lost his life, equipment malfunctions are very rare. Inflators are notorious for being neglected by divers when cleaning their own gear as well as during equipment servicing -- especially on rental gear!

Even when teaching drysuit courses, disconnecting the inflator hose comes off before attempting to remedy any other issues.

While there is always speculation and controversy when a diver dies, the lessons we learn from them very often fall back to lessons we should pay more attention to -- if you are ever taught them at all... 

Watch my full explanation of equipment set up poolside. This is what the student learns before even getting into the water:

Watch the section that discusses the inflator, a stuck inflator button, and disconnecting the LP hose:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Checklist for Referral Divers for their dive destination. What you need to know when you're completing your dives internationally. #scuba #scubadiving #scubareferral #divedestination


• standard agency or company only

While each company can create their own documents to run their business, every agency provides all dive shops and instructors a free to download standardized medical history questionnaire and liability release. Most agencies have student record folders that a shop or instructor can purchase but they are not required. The agencies you've probably have heard of and will interact with include: BSAC, CMAS, GUE, IANTD, IDEA, NASE, NASDS, NAUI, NSS-CDS, PADI, PDIC, RAID, SDI, SSI, TDI, UTD, and YMCA. These agencies require use of a RSTC, WRSTC, or their own forms for the Medical History Questionnaire and Liability Release.

  Required by the agency, required for the instructor, required by the government, or not required

While the United States is a litigious society, there are countries that do not require Professional Liability Insurance, Business Licenses, or ISO (International Organization for Standardization).

Please contact these agency headquarters to confirm whether your dive shop and/or instructor in the country you are traveling to are required to have Professional Liability Insurance and the minimum policy coverage and limits. If the dive shop holds a group insurance policy, is that valid for independent instructors and are they signed with them? If your instructor is independent of a dive shop, do they own their own Professional Liability Insurance? If that agency does not require shops or instructors to have insurance, does the government of that country require it. Please keep in mind that US Citizens might not have the rights and privileges of that country's citizens. Consider buying traveling and diving insurance through DAN (Divers Alert Network). It is very inexpensive.

NAUI:; 800-553-6284
PADI:; 800-729-7234
TDI/SDI:; 888-778-9073
DAN:; +1-919-684-2948

• complete or mismatched
• proper fit 
• inspection and assembly prior to departing the dive shop
• tanks: hydro and visuals

Each certification agency might vary slightly in the required equipment to complete certification, but here are some that are likely to be required across all agencies: mask; snorkel; boots; fins; BCD; regulator system (1st stage, primary 2nd stage, an octo or alternate air source, pressure gauge, depth gauge, timing device, dive computer); compass; cylinder; weights; weight belt; signal marker buoy; finger spool and line; cutting tool; exposure/thermal protection; and dive light. While not all dive shops will offer dive computers, a dive computer can take sometimes take the place of a depth gauge, timing device, pressure gauge, and compass. You should find out what brand and model of dive computer you will be renting if you don't own your own so that you can download the instruction manual ahead of time to read it. Remember, the scuba diving gear you are diving with is life support equipment. While mechanical failure is rare, if you don't inspect it prior to leaving the dive shop, you could be accepting responsibility for defective or failing equipment.

A cylinder is due to be inspected and tested at the first time it is to be filled after the expiration of the interval as specified by the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Model Regulations, or as specified by national or international standards applicable in the region of use. 

United States: hydrostatic test every 5 years; visual inspection is not required by the USA DOT. The visual inspection requirement is a diving industry standard based on observations made during a review by the National Underwater Accident Data Center.
  • European Union: hydrostatic test every 5 years; visual inspection is required every 2.5 years
  • Norway: hydrostatic test (including a visual inspection) 3 years after production date, then every 2 years
  • Australia: hydrostatic test every 12 months
  • South Africa: hydrostatic test every 4 years; visual inspection every 1 year
  • Mexico: hydrostatic test every 3 years

• air quality inspection certificate

Each country has it's own standards and limits for contaminates regarding the testing of breathing gas (air) that goes into a scuba cylinder. 

Here is some information from the United States:

NOAA defines acceptable air to be that which meets the compressed gas association (CGA) grade E standard or better. The following table is taken from the NOAA Scientific Diving Standards and Safety Manual, section 3.6, August, 2008.

Oxygen: 20-22%/v
Carbon Monoxide: 10 ppm/v
Carbon Dioxide: 1000 ppm/v
Condensed Hydrocarbons: 5 mg/m3
Total Hydrocarbons as Methane: 25 ppm/v
Water Vapor: (ppm) 2
Objectionable Odors: None 

United States: OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration);
ISO standards: (International Organization for Standardization);

Did you remember to bring your logbook? Are you going to log each dive after each dive? Will the instructor sign your logbook after each dive or at the end of the certification weekend? 

The dive briefing and planning stage before the dive is often more critical than the dive itself. Dive briefings that are 5-10 minutes are inadequate. If you've never been on this dive site, in that gear, with 30-70lbs of gear on your back, and lack the experience to deal with unforeseen issues that might occur while underwater, and 5-10 minutes will do it, that's assuming a lot!

Any student that is relying on the instructor to save them if the shit hits the fan, don't forget that this instructor may have six other students and only two hands! Let's say a student bolts to the surface. Does that instructor go after them and leave the group or let that person go and stay with the group? Your perspective changes when you are in both positions.

• Site
Where are you diving? The name of the dive site and the city, state. What is the history of this dive site? How often do people dive here? Is this an intermediate, advanced, or technical dive location? 

• Environment
Environment may be different than site. What does the topography of the floor in that body of water look like? Does it change when the tide changes? Is there a current? Are there any hazards? What kind of animal life lives there? What are some of the permanent fixtures you'll see there? Is there a general area that one should avoid and for what reasons? Is the bottom rocky, silty, sandy, etc. What is the visibility like? What is the temperature of the water? 

•  Emergency 
Emergencies happen. Being prepared is the key to all situations. Do you know where you are and can you explain directions to EMS if needed? If you are in a foreign country, what is their emergency management system protocols? If there is an emergency, does someone need to go to the road to escort them to the site of the accident? Where is the emergency oxygen? Is the cylinder full, is the regulator connected, and is it ready to be used instantly? Is there an AED and can everyone use it? Where is the nearest decompression chamber?

• Activity (see skills below)
What is our goal of diving at this site and doing this dive? When will you go? How long will the dive be? Will there be any skills required to be demonstrated? Are there any skills that are required to dive on this site? What do you do if divers get lost or separated? What are the communication hand signals that will be used? Who is your dive buddy? Will there be a dive debriefing? Who is leading the dive?

• Buoyancy
As addressed in "Environment", there may be special considerations about this dive site that particular attention to buoyancy are required. While good buoyancy is always a good idea, if the topography has to be always in mind (silty bottom, no bottom, dangerous objects or animal life), how does one modify their diving to adapt to it? Are special kicking techniques required? Will buoyancy be controlled only through one's BCD, drysuit, or both?

• Air
Gas consumption is always a consideration, however there are several factors that can effect how much gas you breath; one's diving experience, the work load you'll be undertaking, task loading and the amount of equipment you will be operating during the dive, depth of the dive, time at depth, time in the dive, emergency air sharing, and possible decompression requirements. How does one communicate how much air they have and do they know their SAC rate or RMV? Does the size of the cylinder matter and what about tank volume baseline? Will one be required to end the dive with a certain amount of gas in reserve?

• Gear
New divers might not own any of their own gear yet and the gear they use at their dive destination may be different than what they used at home. Gear that is likely to be used is listed above. Was an inspection of the equipment done at the dive shop or is the first time you are looking at it? Is everyone diving with the same kind of gear or are some divers equipped with different styles, brands, manufacturers and does one's dive buddy (chosen or assigned) know how to manage it? If you are going to do a buddy check, have you tried ditching that persons weight, releasing weight pockets, buckles, and clasps or were you just told how they work? Is everyone diving with an octopus or does anyone have an air-source, integrated-air, or RBS (redundant breathing system) and have they explained to others how they will share air in the event of an OOA (out of air) situation? Does everyone have a dive computer? Is anyone diving tables? Does anyone have a "Save-a-Dive" kit?

Conditions can vary from dive site to dive site and even effect the ability to complete a skill, but there are some minimum skills that every diver should be asked to do. Some of these skills are done prior to entering the water, upon entering the water, only in confined water (pool), and open water. Each agency has it's own version of how these skills should be performed as well as the professional opinion of the instructor that is demonstrating them or the evaluation of skill presented to the instructor. 


  • Demonstrate swim stroke proficiency of at least 15 continuous stroke cycles
  • 10 minute survival swim
  • 50 feet underwater swim, 1 breath

Skin Diving
  • 450 yards snorkel swim, non-stop
  • Recover diver from about 10 feet

Skin Diving Techniques
  • Water entries and exits
  • Surface dives
  • Surface swimming
  • Clearing the snorkel
  • Ditching the weight belt
  • Buoyancy control
  • Underwater swimming and surfacing

  • Pre and Post Dive Skills
  • Select, check, assemble, and don equipment
  • Pre-dive gear check for self and buddy
  • Defog masks
  • Doff, rinse, and care for gear

  • Entries and exits
  • Perform surface buoyancy/weighting check
  • Surface communications for divers
  • Orally inflate/deflate own and buddy's BC
  • At surface remove (in turn) equipment
  • Face submerged, breathe through snorkel, rest/swim
  • Face submerged, breathe through water in snorkel
  • Release simulated cramp for self and buddy
  • Entry/exit, use of float/flag (if applicable)
  • Deploy a signal marker buoy 

  • Control pressure in air spaces
  • Control feet first descent with breath or BC
  • Controlled ascent with precautionary stop

  • Give, recognize, and respond to U/W signals
  • Mask clearing, including remove and replace
  • Remove, replace, and clear primary regulator
  • Primary regulator recovery
  • Hover without support
  • Use of buddy system
  • Monitor air supply -- communicate amount
  • Environmental and compass navigation
  • Compass navigation, bearings, and reciprocal

  • Surface air consumption calculation
  • Plan then make no-deco dive between 40-60 feet
  • Calculate repetitive no-deco dive using tables

  • Diving with minimal impact on environment
  • Marine life identification

  • Transport 50 yards simulated exhausted buddy
  • Share air both as donor and receiver
  • Perform controlled emergency swimming ascent
  • Alternate air share both as donor/receiver
  • Retrieve unconscious diver from 10 feet

No one expects to have a dive accident. Dive accidents don't just happen under the water. You're also carrying around 35-70 pounds of equipment depending on where you do your dive and how much weight you'll be wearing. Some of these items below are good old-fashioned common sense. Just because you know what you're suppose to do, or not do, accidents can still happen if you let it. Remember, the video of the two divers? Don't forget, "Who's the barber, here?"
  • Be trained and certified by a professional underwater instructor.
  • Maintenance good physical and mental conditions for diving. Be at ease in the water. Only dive when feeling well. Do not use any intoxicating liquor or dangerous drugs before diving. 
  • Have a regular medical exam for diving.
  • Use correct, complete, well-maintained diving equipment, which is checked before each dive. Equipment must not be loaned to non-certified divers. Use a buoyancy compensator, plus a submersible pressure guage and alternate air source.
  • Know the limitations of yourself, your buddy and your equipment. Use the best possible judgment and common sense in planning each dive. Allow a margin of safety in order to be prepared for emergencies. Set moderate limits for depth and time in the water.
  • Know your diving location. Avoid dangerous places and poor conditions.
  • Control your buoyancy to make diving as easy as possible. Strive for neutral buoyancy. Be prepared to ditch your weights. Make an emergency ascent, clear your mask or take other emergency action if needed. In an emergency: Stop, Breathe, Think, Act.
  • Never dive alone. Always buddy dive -- know each other's equipment. Know hand signals and stay in contact.
  • Use a boat or float as a surface support station whenever this will increase the safety and enjoyment of the dive. Fly the "diver down" flag to warn boaters that divers are underwater. 
  • Slowly surface close to the float and flag, watching and listening for possible hazards. (See "Safe Boat Diving Practices")
  • Beware of breath holding. Breathe continuously throughout all scuba diving activities. Emphasize exhalation any ascents. Without scuba: avoid excessive "over breathing" before a skin dive; do not overexert. Know your limits and allow for a margin of safety. Be sure to equalize pressure early and often both during ascent and descent.
  • If your are cold, tired, injured, out of air or not feeling well, get out of the water. Diving is no longer fun or safe. If any abnormality persists, get medical attention.
  • Know decompression procedures, tables and emergency procedures. Make all dives as "no decompression" dives. Avoid stage decompression particularly on repetitive dives, at altitude or when flying after diving. Wait a minimum of 24 hours before flying or driving to altitude.
  • Ascend no faster than 30 feet per minute -- ascend 10 feet and wait for 20 seconds -- one foot every two seconds, etc...
  • Make a "recommended safety stop" at the end of dives. That means you should pause at about 15-18 feet for a minimum of three minutes before your final ascent to the surface. For dives deeper than 60 feet, do a "recommended deep stop." Ascend half of the deepest part of that dive and pause for 90 seconds. Ascend half that distance again and pause for another 90 seconds. Safety stops and deep stops may be combined.
  • Continue your scuba training by diving regularly, taking additional training, specialty courses, refresher courses, and continuing education. Log all dives and make at least 24 dives each year (like 2 dives on one day each month).

Diving from a boat is fun. Sometimes you can't learn it all before getting certified, but here are some things to remember. If you aren't sure, ask someone on the boat. The Divemaster or Instructor will be more than happy to answer any questions you have. If you're not going to dive or you're not on a dive boat, ask the First Mate or Captain. While some countries don't have a Coast Guard, most have a Navy. 
  • Select a Coast Guard licensed boat that is fully equipped with the required safety equipment and has diver support and safety equipment.
  • Ask to receive boat diving techniques training as a part of your basic, sport or advanced diving courses.
  • Rely on the Captain's knowledge of the most suitable dive sites. Plan your dive using the specific site information provided by the crew or Divemaster.
  • Only sign up for trip destinations that are consistent with your ability and dive plan.
  • Arrive at the boat 15 minutes before departure. Stow your well marked gear in the assigned locations. Respect the boat facilities: no wet suits in the bunk room or dropping tanks or weight belts on the deck.
  • Between dives keep dive gear in your bag to avoid lost or broken equipment. Assist your buddy with his/her tank. Do not sit on the deck to put your tank on or you may get hit on the head by another diver's tank.
  • Use your equipment to dive easily and safely. Do not over weight yourself. Only use your BC to fine tune your buoyancy during the dive or to compensate for a heavy game bag at the end of the dive.
  • No loaded spear guns are EVER allowed on the boat or boarding ramp. Bring a container for your game. Help keep the boat deck clean and clear.
  • Use the boat exit points recommended by the crew. Move away from the boat exit once you are in the water. Either snorkel clearly on the surface or begin your descent down the anchor line. Do not use scuba to skim just under the surface. If you just skim the surface you cannot be seen by passing boats or other divers.
  • Fins should be put on last while you are waiting near the exit. Do not walk around the deck wearing fins.
  • Be sure to use a compass and submersible pressure gauge. Plan your dive so you end the dive with a reserve of air and are able to return to the boat while still under water.
  • Be aware of changes in current conditions during the dive. Use natural clues such as seaweed. Look for current lines trailed behind the boat on the surface. Do not hesitate to pull yourself hand-over-hand back to the boat using this line.
  • Use common sense, training, and experience and ask questions if you are unsure. Allow for a "margin of reserve" and do not push your endurance limits. Watch for other divers waving one arm while on the surface. They are signaling a diver in distress. Divers who maintain personal control and are comfortable in the water have safe, enjoyable experience under water.


"Every dive is a dream come true."
Twitter Blogger Facebook Google+ YouTube Instagram Newsletter 
JCA Elite Scuba

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

NEW VS. USED SCUBA EQUIPMENT Which should you buy? How much is a 10 year old piece of scuba equipment worth today on eBay? Take the r...