Friday, December 19, 2014

Redundant Breathing Systems... Confidence... the next step...

  Recreational diving and technical diving used to be a lot closer in the activities performed. Diving was done by a select few that were very well trained. They dove a lot and practiced their skills, including the emergency skills on a regular basis. One of the biggest myths in scuba diving is that you can run out of air underwater. As discussed in a previous blog, running out of air, unless done on purpose, seldom happens, and as I expressed, "you cannot run out of air." Please read the blog to find out why... Even so, basic scuba divers learn at least a couple of emergency techniques to deal with out of air situations. The emergency buoyant ascent and the emergency swimming ascent are two. A controlled emergency swimming ascent is part of every scuba diver's open water training. The question you have to ask yourself is, "do I remember how to do it?" Look up "s-drill."
As a NAUI dive instructor, I teach my students to be good dive buddies. Nonetheless, just because you are in the same ocean as your buddy, doesn't mean they will be in arms reach if you ever run out of air. Sharing air with a buddy is the prefered method to ascend safely to the surface. 

Most certification agencies don't encourage "solo diving." As a diver with technical experience, I understand that a technical dive is a solo dive. Technical divers plan accordinly and often follow decompression schedules that means they are required to stop at different depths. That being said, each diver on a technical dive site may not be able to exit the water together, so sharing air to the surface is problematic. Technical divers also plan for the worst case scenario and bring what they need to resolve those issues at depth. Recreational divers plan that in a worst case scenario, they've got to get to the surface.
Until you are ready to start your technical training, there are things that you can do to better manage your gas. You can follow a "rule of thirds." This might not be your best option unless you are diving with a very large cylinder. Most divers want to get the most time out of every dive and leaving a third of your gas in the cylinder usually means shorter dives. You can learn to manage your air consumption. Yes, your air consumption usually gets better over time, but how much air you are consuming on your dive is only part of gas management. The time to a site, time on a site, and the time to return to the shore are also part of it. Those takes time to learn and lots of dives to master.
There have been divers that jokingly have asked me if I was going to run out of air. They see the extra cylinder I regularly dive with and wonder what that's all about. When I do dives, I don't plan on running out of air, and while I have never had an equipment failure nor an out of air emergency, it could happen.

Divers carrying redundent breathing system can develop a level of confidence beyond emergency skills. I've seen it. I believe that the diver should be as confident even without the RBS. Look at it this way, if your dive buddy isn't near enough and there is an issue, you can be your own buddy and make your ascent safely and slowly, breathing all the while. 

If you don't dive with an RBS, have you been mentally rehearsing those skills and going over the maneuvers and procedures on a regular basis? One of my newest students demonstrated his confidence on a dive at Clear Lake. His regulator free flowed and he did exactly what he was supposed to. We shared air to the surface. He was totally cool during the whole procedure.

Likewise, one can't say that just because you have the equipment, that using it effectively is going to happen, either. Just like emergency skills, RBS skills need to be practiced. Ascents with and RBS have to be practiced. A few of my students have shared a confidence they didn't know before diving with their RBS. If they ever were on their own, they don't feel that the lack of a dive buddy is a danger. 

So, are you going to fork out a couple hundred extra dollars (minimum) for equipment you'll never use? The purpose of owning it is for emergency purposes, but owning it alone might not reduce any of the risks of diving. In fact, I was recently made aware of a change in policy requiring an RBS on a particular dive site. This dive site had a regular policy that an RBS was required in order to participate. Being an instructor myself, the dive guide felt comfortable sharing some of what they saw. Untrained in its use precipitated to several divers actually running out of air. While no injuries occurred, they could have. The common mistakes included: the diver starting the dive out on the smaller cylinder; switching to the redundant cylinder to extend bottom time; and in one instance, even completing the dive on the redundant cylinder because they interpreted, "returning to the surface with 500psi in the tank on their back," meaning that at 500psi the diver must switch to their redundant cylinder. 

If you want to learn more about the RBS and learn how to use it, let me teach you how.




Sunday, December 14, 2014

An SPG is not always an SPG...

When I teach my beginning open water scuba diving course, one of the things we talk about during the educational portion are the myths associated with scuba diving.
One of the biggest myths is that, "you can run out of air underwater." Here is why the perpetuation of this myth is unfounded. Unless it is your goal to actually breath all of the air out of the scuba cylinder, we will contend that no one wants to run out of air. As a NAUI Instructor, I promote diving with a buddy until the time comes that your training provides you with the requisites to attempt diving on your own. Solo diving will be left for another discussion.
So, what do I mean with that statement. Let's look at the SPG. The submersible pressure gauge is a tool used to aid the diver determine how much air is left in the cylinder. Believe it or not, there was a time when divers did not use pressure gauges. The scuba cylinder had a valve on it that when in the "off" position, left a little bit of air in the cylinder. Once the diver felt the resistance of getting low on air or ran out, they pulled a lever which opened the valve the rest of the way providing them the additional air required for an ascent. As you can imagine, the "J" valve fell out of favor. If the lever was in the "on" position all along and unbeknownst to the diver when they pulled the lever and there was no air, their only options were buddy breathing (one regulator, two divers) or an emergency ascent to the surface.
So, what do I teach my students. I teach them that, "you will never run out of air." When I say this to them, I ask them to tell me what they think that means. I usually get two interpretations. The first is that this diver, the one I teaching at this moment will not run out of air. As if they have a technique that makes it possible for them to survive underwater without needing to breath. Well, we know that can't happen. No one has that ability. Next, I hear that the diver believes that there is so much air in the scuba cylinder that it will never run out -- that it will never become empty. Well, as we know, that is not true either. It is possible for the cylinder to be breathed down to nothing and it is possible for all the air to escape from the cylinder (accidentally or on purpose).
This is what I teach. The SPG tells the diver how much gas is in the cylinder at that particular moment. Has anyone ever told you that all SPG's have a margin of error? Some more than others, but usually a few percentage points. Electronic pressure gauges are the same but the margin of error is higher. That's something to keep in mind. Also, just because the SPG reads 3,000psi doesn't mean there is 3,000psi in the cylinder. Most divers check the SPG when assembling their gear, but what about the moment they enter the water and after the cylinder cools? What about once you reach your desired depth or dive site? What would it mean if you looked at the SPG and it still read 3,000psi? What about 300psi? If you develop confidence as your dive career progresses, you should be able to look at it and determine that it is not working properly, tell your buddy, and swim safely and surely to the surface.
Mechanical failures are rare. Even when they do happen, what the diver does then can make the difference between life and death. Divers learn to never hold their breath, ascend slowly, and some even learn to relax well enough to extend bottom times and improve their buoyancy. Learning about air consumption rates, where you are, being ever present and aware of your equipment and your environment usually takes a little longer.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

JCA Elite Scuba's FAQ

"I'm claustrophobic. I can't dive."

"I don't have the time to learn."

"How is your program different from all the others?

"I already have several hobbies and play several sports."

"Aren't all instructors the same?"

"I can't afford it."

"Is there a difference between the certification agencies?"

"I'm claustrophobic. I can't dive."
Living with claustrophobia is difficult, frustrating, and challenging. Is being claustrophobic getting in the way of setting goals and effecting your day to day life? Depending on how you answer, scuba diving may still be for you. You'll want to ask yourself, "Do I want to continue to live with these fears," and if not, "What can I do to overcome them?" I can design a program that will slowly introduce you to the equipment and build your confidence in the water. You don't have to be a great swimmer, either. Let's breakdown some of those roadblocks and open up some of the doors you've been wanting to pass through.

"I don't have the time to learn."
Like all things that are important to us, we find the time. One of the ways I help my students find the time is to have the most flexible schedule in the industry. I will meet you anytime and place. For our initial introduction, I usually meet students at a Starbucks. It's a great place to meet, they have snacks and beverages that makes the first meeting casual and comfortable, and it also makes a great place to do lessons. I've never know anyone to fall asleep in a Starbucks. In my opinion, classrooms are really the worst place to learn. Additionally, when you are ready for the pool sessions, I can meet you any one of six days a week. Your certification dives can also be done on your schedule even if you want to break the two days up. I've found that having only one place to meet, a particular day to teach on, and a weekend that you might not have off usually doesn't work the best for the student. I want you to dive and become a scuba diver! If I was a dive shop and couldn't get you certified because your schedule doesn't fit, then you don't dive... That also means you don't continue your education. I want you to be my student, so I will make my schedule fit you!

"How is your program different from all the others?"
I focus on quality and don't funnel students through my program all at once. While I can teach up to eight students by myself, I've found that someone always gets lost with large class sizes. I limit my class size to four (if everyone knows each other -- like families), otherwise it's two students at a time, unless you are learning on your own. Not only does that make it easier to meet everyone's needs, no one ever feels like they are falling behind or holding up the group. When a student gets stuck, we have the time to take to make sure they feel comfortable before going on to the next skill. I focus on the student's abilities, not disabilities. Just because one skill is difficult, I don't let that become an obstacle to certification. It may take more time, but I don't charge you extra when it does. My standards are are higher than industry standards! Not only will that make you a better diver, you won't find yourself underprepared when you are not diving with me. At some point, the instructor must cut the proverbial "umbilical cord." Just because you paid for certification, that doesn't guarantee certification on your timeline. It benefits no one to send a poorly trained diver out there. Sometimes the path is non-traditional, but safety and attention to detail should never be things you pay additional for or just not receive during your training.

"I already have several hobbies and play several sports."
There are those that make their sport their life. You've heard about those surfer dudes that live to surf... Scuba is a passionate sport to many, but it is also a lifestyle. Scuba divers take trips just to dive. Many do practice other sports and participate in other activities, but few of them will change your life like scuba does. After quitting my banking job in 2006 and learning to dive a month later, my path in life changed. I can honestly say it was a spiritual experience. I've dove all over the world and have seen first hand a multitude of diverse animal life, historical shipwrecks, and even learned to cave dive. I have become more patient, feel grounded, and have become more confident and self-reliant. Are you looking for a community to be a part of, a group of people that you can put your life in their hands and make new friends? Scuba is all that and more!

"Aren't all instructors the same?"
No. Everyone had favorite teachers in school that influenced them and scuba is no different. Those that influence us play immense rolls that shape our lives for years to come. "The dive course you take is going to be no better than the dive instructor who teaches it." Your instructor should be dedicated to you, to scuba diving education and to the scuba diving industry. I feel privileged to have met, taught, and in many cases become friends with those I have taught. I continue to dive with several of them and many continue their education with me. I never had these experiences in any of the vocations I was a part of before scuba. One of the greatest assets to learning from an independent instructor is their individual philosophy. Being a NAUI Scuba Diving Instructor means that I can tailor my program to my student's needs. It's important to remember, "In no field can certification alone guarantee comptence." My job is to build your confidence through competance.

"I can't afford it."
While scuba is an equipment intensive sport, and there is some equipment you want to own, you don't have to buy it all to enjoy everything scuba has to offer. Many new divers rent equipment until they find what works best for them. There aren't many sports that one can try different styles and name brands without having to make a purchase. Rental equipment varies in manufacturer, size, fit, style, purpose, and quality. With that said, if you want to learn how to dive, I will find a way to make it happen. There are times when I consider and accept payments. Yes, pay as you...!!! There is a way to make most things happen, and when it comes to scuba, I have lots of resources at my discretion. I partner with a few shops that share my philosophy and ethic. There will come a time when you'll be able to afford more and if I am flexible with you now, my hope is that you'll come back to me in the future. Relationships, personal and business, make the world a great place. Let me help you build relationships that will last you a lifetime.

"Is there a difference between the certification agencies?"
Yes. Becoming certified requires an educational component which can be done in a classroom setting, at home with self-study, or on the internet. Many agencies follow the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) standards. The WRSTC's mission statement is, "The World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) is dedicated to the worldwide safety of the recreational diving public. As such, one of the WRSTC's primary goals is the development of worldwide minimum training standards. The establishment of globally recognized and implemented standards is a valuable asset in addressing local and national regulatory issues." Currently, there are twenty-two WRSTC member agencies. Some you may be familiar with: SSI (Scuba Schools International); PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors); and SDI (Scuba Diving International); and some you may not be: IAC (International Aquanatic Club); PSS (Professional Scuba Schools); and IDEA (International Diving Educators Association). These agencies create and comply with strict professional standards set by WRSTC, and their certifications are recognized worldwide. Scuba diving is a self- regulating industry. Each agency establishes its own agenda for diver training and issues certification for each level of scuba diving competency and experience, from beginner to instructor. Courses vary in teaching methods for the beginner's level, but they all cover the same essential knowledge and practical skills development as set by WRSTC.The main mission of certification agencies (SSI, PADI, SDI, IAC, PSS, and IDEA) is the Marketing of Scuba Diving. Some do a better job than others. The organizations you have heard of have done a better job of selling their brand. Is NAUI a member of the WRSTC? No. NAUI's standards surpass those standards and is known as having the highest in the industry!

Scuba Diving Certification

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