Monday, December 21, 2015

Scuba Diving Lessons Portland Oregon, Please Tell a Friend...

Friends, family, students, divers, and those that would like to learn... It's that time when I ask you to consider forwarding this post to anyone you know that might be interested in learning how to scuba dive. You can even "like" the post so it will show up in your news feed and "follow" me on Twitter.

I ask that you do this because so often, people that know I teach Scuba Diving Lessons forget that the best recommendation comes from someone you know. Similarly, knowing someone that teaches and getting the prospective student connected doesn't always happen.

As an independent instructor, I don't own a dive shop as I don't want to sell equipment, I just want to teach. All my classes are taught on your schedule and I come to you for the educational component. My programs never expire and you can take as long as you want to finish. I've taught 10 years olds and I've taught a 72 year olds... Anyone can do it.

I also teach Basic Life Support, CPR and First Aid, snorkeling, skindiving, and a couple technical diving specialties (TDI Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures).

I've had a great couple years, each one growing beyond my expectations. I've made a lot of new friends and we've had lots of great dives together. If you are someone you know is interested in diving, marine life, the oceans, environmental issues and causes, you'll always find new and interesting posts on my JCA Elite Scuba Facebook page ( and Twitter account (

My website is full of information, course descriptions, pictures, videos, and even a scuba blog!

In order to continue to deliver the highest quality, elite five-star training that many of you have first hand knowledge of, I'll be raising my rates January 1st. I'm adding local day boat trips, technical diving education, Divemaster educational programs, international trips, and will be doing several presentations about scuba diving, dive travel, marine life, and the oceans at local schools and businesses. If you would like me to come to talk to your school or business, please let me know.

Thanks greatly for all the support, have a great, safe, and Happy New Year! See you in 2016...!!!


JCA Elite Scuba
Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington

Friday, December 18, 2015

Snorkeling and Skin Diving Lessons Portland Oregon Vancouver Washington

Snorkeling Lessons

Imagine floating on a clear sea of liquid watching fishes, crustaceans, corals, and diverse sealife face-to-face. Your NAUI Instructor will coach you through the process of snorkeling and breath-hold diving. Your fun will grow as your skills develop!

Fun for the whole family. This certification class is for 8 year-olds and older and whether you are an accomplished swimmer or someone who has never spent time in the water, everyone can join in and learn something new.
There is a lot more to snorkeling and skin diving than just getting wet. We'll start with the proper equipment and fit for the location you'll be diving. Then, everyone will learn different kicking techniques, breathing skills, and you'll even learning to clear the water out of your mask. Great training makes a big difference in one's overall comfort.




Skin Diving Lessons

Call or e-mail for pricing, group lessons, and scheduling...
JCA Elite Scuba 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Become a Divemaster. I can get you there! Portland Oregon. Vancouver Washington.

NAUI Leadership Course


Would you like to lead dives and dive trips and take certified divers on vacations to the world's best dive sites? Many Divemasters are employed full-time or work independently supervising certified divers during club, store, resort or charter tour and travel activities. As a NAUI Divemaster you enjoy again and again adventures to which you introduce your clients. Another option leading to NAUI Instructor qualification.

An active-status NAUI Divemaster is qualified to organize and conduct dives for certified divers if the diving activities and locale approximate those in which the Divemaster is trained.

NAUI Divemasters are qualified to organize and conduct NAUI Recognition and Experience Programs and award appropriate recognition materials to participants. An active-status NAUI Divemaster is qualified to assist an active-status NAUI Instructor in diving courses. 

If all other prerequisites are met, a current NAUI Divemaster is qualified to enter a NAUI Instructor Training Course (ITC).

The NAUI Divemaster rating is the highest NAUI leadership-level certification with the exception of Instructor. The program is designed to train experienced and knowledgeable divers to organize and conduct enjoyable open water dives for certified divers.

Once you obtain Master Diver and have Scuba Rescue, Basic Life Support & First Aid / CPR, and Oxygen Administration, you can start your NAUI Divemaster training.

JCA Elite Scuba Divemaster Course
Education, Certification Dives, Skills Review, Evaluation, Final Evaluation, Certificate of Completion, and Certification Card.

NAUI Leadership and Instructor Education System (#98000) 
NAUI Leadership and Instruction Textbook
NAUI Leadership and Instruction Workbook
Activity Roster
Divemaster Air Dive Tables
Black NAUI Deluxe Backpack

Divemaster Certificate Packet (#93502)
Leadership Application and folder
Divemaster eLearning Activation Code
NAUI Certificate of Completion
(Does not include Application Fee or Insurance that is paid directly to NAUI upon completion, if desired)

Member Deluxe Logbook, Standards and Policies Manual, and Risk Management Kit (#90015)
NAUI's Standards and Policies Manual rev. 2012 (#12902)
Risk Management Handbook (#12908)
Deluxe Logbook Starter Pages (#81000)
Recreational Dive pages (#81009)
Deluxe Zipper Organizer Binder (#30010)


Sunday, December 6, 2015

"Justin Theroux suffered scuba diving scare during honeymoon" -- MY ANALYSIS AND TONGUE LASHING...!!!

Justin Theroux suffered scuba diving scare during honeymoon

There is a practice in the scuba diving industry called, "Resort Diving," "Try Scuba," or "Scuba Experience." When you go to a destination that offers many types of activities, scuba diving is often available. For those that are already certified, it is a great opportunity to see the underwater sites as part of the overall experience. However, for the untrained, it can be a game of Russian Roulette. While some might think that I am over-exaggerating, I believe that any activity that takes years to master, regular and ongoing practice, and is an incredibly equipment intensive is NOT the activity to just try out and see if you like it. Furthermore, to cut your training short, into a couple hours of do's and don'ts is like asking an office physician to take out your appendix after watching a YouTube video. If you are going to try it out, do it in the pool. Don't be mistaken, even the pool is a dangerous place to be for the untrained student, but to go out into the open ocean, in my opinion is just not a good idea.

As a scuba diving instructor myself, I made a decision a long time ago, that "try scuba's" will always be done in the pool or in open water I can stand in. It only takes a moment to get into trouble and to have to rely on someone else to fix the problem can often mean that someone could get hurt. A scuba diving instructor invests thousands of dollars,(if not more) in their training and takes years to develop situational awareness, be competent in the execution of their skills (including rescue skills), and last but not least they dive a lot. Even with ongoing education and regular practice, good instructors get hurt and sometimes die.

While it's not necessary to break apart every line of the event or in the article, identifying how much was missing from Justin's training and his understanding of what he got himself into will illustrate what I'm referring to. In the end, you make the decision. In the end, he was incredibly lucky! 

“I went scuba diving and you get a little training course, where you go down about 10 feet and you see coral and little fish,” Justin explains.

Before any training session, the students signs a plethora of forms including a liability release. While these releases are written by lawyers to minimize the risk to the operator, one thing is clearly spelled out. Scuba diving is dangerous and has risk. The only way risk can be managed is with proper training and practice. Even with training and practice, injury and death can occur. My program starts with the student reading a workbook. Within this workbook are questions that have to be answered before moving onto the next chapter. It's impossible to say how long it should take for the student to get through the material, but if they sat down and didn't stop until it's completion, I would expect it would take 8-12 hours. Introducing breaks will only extend the time it takes. My education system also includes a DVD. Watching the DVD will take several hours to complete as it is interactive. Lastly there is an online course. Similarly, I would give the student an 8-12 hour window to complete this. Now comes the fun part, my review and final exam. My review includes an overview, but is also interactive where I expand upon the concepts that the student learned on their own in order for them to be able to see the correlation of what they learned to what they will do. At minimum, it will take 4-6 hours to complete this. After the education, is confined water training (what we refer to as the pool). While there is not a lot of skills that the beginning diver has to learn, it is realistic to believe that the introduction of new equipment, breathing underwater, utilization of the equipment, the skills, safety drills and exercises should take 4-6 hours at minimum. Additionally, that is ONLY if there is one student in the pool and they are incredibly comfortable, confident, and are able to demonstrate the skills back to me where I feel they are ready to (then and only then) go to the ocean. Finally, at least 4 open water certification dives over a two day period are conducted. As a new diver, training dives or "cert dives" could be 30-45 minutes long, but usually lean toward the lesser. By the end of the two days of diving, the newly certified diver might have 2-4 hours of open water training. At this point, I consider the student adequate. Adequate means that they have the skills and tools necessary to start diving "autonomously" (with a dive buddy, but without the instructor). The proverbial umbilical cord has been cut and now they are on their own. So, as you can see, I haven't even started, and it is evident that Justin is over his head.

“I thought, ‘That’s great, I’ll do it again’.”

This is when Justin should have decided to get fully certified. Going through three full days of training (minimum) on one's honeymoon is usually the last thing one wants to do, so the course would have normally been completed in advance. Going on another "experience" increases the likelihood of injury and does not add to the diver's skill or abilities as their was no training. What they accomplished on the first experience is not indicative of how every other experience will be. There is no further training while the amount of time underwater is becoming larger.

"...but he had a bad feeling at the start of the dive after discovering their French guide spoke hardly any English and took little notice of the fact Justin was a novice."

Trained scuba divers learn that anyone can, "call the dive!" This means that at anytime if any diver is done, feels uncomfortable, or just wants to end the dive, "WE" end the dive. Jumping in the water with a guide and following them with little ability to communicate means that if one wants to end the dive, they have to leave the safety of the instructor and ascend on their own. If it's hard enough to understand someone underwater with a limited amount of hand signals that have to be clearly understood, having a guide that doesn't speak your language is not even on the scale of bad to worse.

So he puts the [oxygen] tank on me and someone had just used my tank before me, and I went down…  I look at my [oxygen indicator] and it’s on red, basically.

The scuba diver, from the beginning of my program, during confined water training, and regularly and often during certification dives is trained to understand that the only way to make sure that the equipment they are using is assembled appropriately, is to do it themselves. The student that relies on someone else to "pack their chute" and then proceeds to leave the surface where an unlimited supply of air exists, MUST understand the concept of "gas management." Gas management is not just checking your submersible pressure gauge (SPG) to see how much air is left in the cylinder, but knowing that the cylinder you just connected to your other equipment is not full. Starting a dive with a tank less than full is not just a red flag, but screaming sirens blaring "YOU'RE GOING TO RUN OUT OF AIR." No one starts driving through the desert without making sure they have a full tank of gasoline! Having an SPG in and of itself does not guarantee that one will never run out of air either. Like with all equipment that one has never seen and nor used before, how to use it, and in this case, what the information on the SPG is telling you when you look at it is as important. If a diver starts their dive and the SPG reads 2,500psi, one should expect that after a short period of time, that number would be lower. If it is not, this indicates a failure in the SPG, and without proper training to understand this concept, it is likely that one of two things are going to happen. One, the diver is going to tell someone (like Justin did) or Two, ignore it. Given the odds, 50%: do nothing and 50%: tell someone, it is a 50% chance of running out of air! Those are unacceptable odds! It doesn't matter that Justin made the right decision, he could have easily made the wrong decision. He only had two choices. The experienced diver has more options and thus lowers the risk of running out of air to what is considered an acceptable and manageable risk for scuba diving.

“We’re going around and we’re going really deep…

How deep is deep? I don't know about you, but taking a large mouthful of water at 3 feet is the same as 300 feet. I don't know too many that would tell me that 3 feet is deep, but I know that everyone would make sure their child is supervised in 3 feet of water if not 3 inches of water! So, depth is subjective. What is important is understanding how much air is required to get to the surface. When other factors are put into play, just getting to the surface is not as straight forward as everyone thinks. The surface is a boundary between the air and the water. Believe it or not, the surface is the worst place for a diver to be. Scuba diving is done under the water. While under the water, your equipment is on, being used, and rarely ever does the second stage primary regulator (the part of the equipment that is in your mouth delivering air to you) come out of your mouth. Inexperienced divers sometimes get to the surface and fail to obtain positive buoyancy and start to remove their gear. YES! The inexperienced diver gets to the surface where there is an unlimited amount of air and drops below the surface where there is none because the equipment they are wearing is designed exactly for that purpose. While the equipment has the ability to keep the diver on the surface, it does not do this on its own and if the inexperienced diver sometimes fails to obtain positive buoyancy, what do you think is going to happen to the untrained diver?

“I just wanna go up…,” he remembers. “I go to my friend and I’m like [indicating with eyes], ‘Look’, and he’s like, ‘Oh my God, you’re about to die…!’ It’s just sheer panic in my eyeballs!”

Good training cannot prevent all accidents, but good training can help to minimize risk and help to resolve issues where and when they happen (underwater and while diving). Going to the surface is not the only option.

The actor finally managed to convey his panic to the instructor, who provided him with an emergency oxygen mask, but the switch was far from smooth.

Even divers that have received their certification rarely practice "out of air" (OOA) emergencies, "air sharing ascents" and/or emergency swimming ascents. Why? Well... Why don't people practice fire drills at home? Why don't people take CPR and First Aid courses? Why don't people with children have the phone number to the Poison Control Hotline programmed into their phones? These are all valid questions but I think we all know the answers. "That takes work..." "I'll do it next time..."  "I'm too busy..."  "I forgot..."  Everything else that is important takes priority and gets pushed to the top of the list. Scuba diving instructors are fortunate just by the fact that by default they get to practice their skills every time they teach a new student.

“I can’t just swim up to the top because I don’t wanna get the bends (decompression sickness), so he pulls the respirator (sic) out, puts it in my mouth, hits this ‘clear’ button which sends all these bubbles out, sends water down my throat, so now I’m coughing and hacking under water, which is not a great feeling…,” Theroux added.

Decompression sickness is caused by nitrogen. When nitrogen comes out of solution (your blood), if those bubbles go to places they are not suppose to, an injury may result (they are supposed to be exhaled). Depending on where those bubbles go, the resulting injury will vary. Just ascending does not cause decompression sickness. Even just ascending too fast does not cause decompression sickness. Failing to have this understanding means that it is likely that Justin could ascend slowly and ignore signs and symptoms that could appear hours after being out of the water. Failing to get proper treatment could result in permanent injury or death. Justin would not have learned about decompression sickness to the extend that a fully trained diver would.

So what does this all mean?

What do you think...

Thursday, November 26, 2015

TDI Advanced Nitrox and Decompresson Procedures Courses. Portland Oregon. Technical Diving Training.

JCA Elite Scuba Technical Diving Specialties

TDI Advanced Nitrox

TDI Decompression Procedures


Dive a little deeper and stay a little longer with these courses. Learn to dive with Oxygen percentages from 40% to 100%. Learn all about Decompression Diving and how to use those higher percentages of Oxygen to cut down times on decompression obligations.

Even if you aren't going to become a technical diver, these courses will take the mystery out of the zones beyond recreational diving and become a powerful tool to increase safety and minimize risk.
Course Tuition, Educational Materials, Education, Certification Dives, and Cert Cards included.
$400 each
$300 each (when both are purchased together)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Black Friday Scuba Diving Lessons Special Pricing Portland Oregon

If you and your family or friends have thought about learning how to scuba dive, now is the time! From now until 11:59pm on Friday night, November 27, 2015, scuba diving lessons are 50% off when four enroll.

Remember, my rates go up January 1st, so get in while the gettin' is good...!!!

click here to purchase the offer

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. An act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth."

Dive Training Magazine: November 2015 -- No Dumb Questions -- To dive on nitrox or not to dive on nitrox...

Every month, Dive Training Magazine comes out, and one of my favorite parts is the question and answer section written by Alex Brylske. In this month's section, a student working on the completion of her certification wonders if diving on nitrox is worth it or not. She is told by many of her diver friends, "nitrox certification isn't necessary, and it's just a way for a dive shop to earn more money."

Alex does a great job about explaining what nitrox is, some of the myths and facts about it, and why one would want to pay more for this gas. Alex also isn't afraid to address an instructor's comment that, "nitrox will leave you less tired," (for which there is no empirical evidence of) but also wraps up with a final analysis that if the diver is, "someone who plans to limit your diving experiences to the occasional vacation to shallow water (40ft or less), it may not be a worthwhile investment."

As the years goes by, one thing consistently presents itself in the dive industry, and that is "disinformation." If I am using the correct word to illustrate my thought, I am describing a statement by which information is incorrectly expressed in order to perpetuate an ongoing inaccurate course. Wikipedia describes "disinformation" as "intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth. Disinformation should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false." Perhaps many of those that have the wrong information are mistaken, but it is interesting that there is so much wrong information out there! (I chuckle as I write that...)

As I evolve as an independent instructor, I've learned to temper my reactions to these occurrences of disinformation with trying to offer the correct information. The process of expressing that information in a responsible and professional manner is part of my personal growth. Regrettably, many don't want the correct information even when it comes from credible sources, defaulting verbatim to friends, family, acquaintances, or worse yet -- the internet. A good friend and business colleague (a mentor really) has told me that when he first met me, I was adversarial, confrontational, and sometimes defensive. My perspective has dramatically changed over the last four years, more so than the previous five years to that (from the beginning of my scuba diving career). I can see it (it was it nice to hear that from him as well). I've discovered that I don't always have to be the one to provide the correct information, particularly when it is not asked for. Like often happens in an industry where everyone is considered a professional the moment a paycheck appears, it's hard for those that have to compete with the traditional source of scuba diving information, "the local dive shop," to be experts in the field. "Pick your battles" comes to mind but when it's my area of expertise, sometimes just smiling and nodding is not the easiest thing to do.

Perhaps the part about all of it that is really hard, is that I want everyone to become scuba divers! It is my driving force, it also pays the bills... Who wants to let the bullies win, if I can loosely use a metaphor? I could say that it is already hard enough to convince people to leave the comforts of their terrestrial environments to explore the aquatic world on cold winter days, but I'm trying. Life is not pulp fiction, but sometimes it is as dramatic. As early as yesterday, this disinformation presented itself and I probably lost a customer because of it. Not because I told them that they were wrong, but because I didn't... In the end, that person will surely learn to dive. Will they start off on the wrong fin? Probably not. Is it necessary for them to know the right answer right now? Probably not. What can I learn from these experiences?


time to go feed the ducks... 

Monday, November 9, 2015

The new year is almost upon us and some changes are in the works...

2015 has been pretty good (more than double of what I did in 2014), even with a few slow months. I've decided to step it up a notch or three starting the beginning of 2016. My plan is to raise my rates... my last rate increase of July of 2014. Once that happens, with the focus on finding new students (my "year" of students) and the addition of TDI's Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures Programs, I foresee lots of great diving opportunities.

To start, I'm thinking of at least one local boat trip per month, one international trip per year, and I want to set a goal of one new Divemaster per year, too. My goals have been all over the place if not very relaxed because I considered the first year, "the year of infrastructure" with the second year, "the year of relationships." As I've been on my own (no dive shop and not selling equipment), many of the businesses I partnered with have reported being happy with how things have gone. I want to do something to build on that. Many of the other professionals out there thought that being a full-time instructor without a shop couldn't work. I've not only seen opportunities to teach divers everywhere, I've found a pretty cool niche.

I've really missed technical diving, especially cave diving. I started technical diving in 2007, barely a year after my open water certification, and now, I want to do something more with it! I'm not sure yet what it will be, but cave diving has presented it self so many times in the last few months with meeting a couple new cave divers and seeing a fellow instructor and friend get her cave diving certification! I really miss deep wreck diving too, and I'm definitely eyeing some of the wrecks in Canada to start exploring.

If anyone has thought about setting any personal diving goals, I'd like to meet with you in person to put it into a formal plan, in writing and set dates for classes, dives, and awarding of certifications. One of the things that I've seen being the greatest asset to building the business, finding new students, fostering new diving relationships, and doing lots of diving, has been my flexibility of scheduling. As I've gotten busier, I'm finding that my calendar is seeing fewer days available for unscheduled events. I think its time to use a calendar to my advantage. This will allow me to think about what 2017 will bring or planning for far down the road!

If you have dives, classes, and certifications to finish, don't worry. Part of my plan will be to push all of you a little harder to make your goals happen sooner than later. Again, my programs will never expire, so you can still take your time. I'm also looking forward to meeting with some of the members of my group that haven't started their dive training yet. It's time to get the tank rolling.

OH...!!! Those of you that have starting to pop out babies or have them on the way, I'm not letting you off the hook that easy. I will get you back in the water even if I have to drag you to Hawaii or Mexico to do it!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Exotic Gifts for the Holiday Season, especially if they don't dive yet... Private scuba diving lessons in Portland and surrounding areas.

Holiday Specials

Exotic Gifts for the Holidays Season

Learn to SCUBA DIVE with a friend, spouse, or buddy is the greatest gift that keeps on giving...!!!
It's not that hard to do and you don't have to be a great swimmer. Once you're certified, you'll be able to dive anywhere in the world and your certification never expires. You'll learn skills you never thought you'd be able to do. Many find that they discovered a new sense of confidence. Meet new friends and travel to exotic destinations. Everyplace there is water, you'll find divers. Lakes, oceans, rivers, under water falls, lagoons, reservoirs, and even abandoned missile silos! 

For the holidays, every new student gets a free drysuit course when you sign up with a buddy. If you sign up before Thanksgiving, the educational system is reduced to $99.95 (a $30 savings). Once you sign up, your tuition never expires, there is rush to finish, and you get to set the schedule. I come to you for the educational portion of your training.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

JCA Elite Scuba, Portland OR -- I've added some more photos from some of the trips we've done... thanks to Thom Owens and Chad Miller for taking lots of the pictures!

Brand: Juan Carlos Aguilar -- The difference between a brand and a product. Why you want me to be your dive instructor. Private scuba diving lessons. Portland, OR.

You've heard people talk about "brands" and "products," but do you really know the difference between them? It's really quite simple and the easiest way to understand it is with this example: "Starbucks." Their brand is world famous. You can walk into any Starbucks and people are hanging out, working on their computers, having conversations even though it's usually pretty loud in there, and the best part... they spend lots of money on poor quality coffee and prepackaged food. If two coffee shops were side by side, the "fun" atmosphere will attract more customers because, well...  who wants to hang out at Denny's? I grew up drinking brewed coffee like the coffee shops, Denny's and Shari's makes. It's not too strong, you can get unlimited refills, and you only pay a dollar or two. I never would have imagined ever paying $4+ for a whipped up coffee infused concoction of ice, chocolate, and whipped cream. In fact, Starbucks is my favorite place to teach! Classroom settings are boring, students actually have fallen asleep in classrooms I've taught in, and as far as retention goes, often the student remembers very little from a classroom experience. No one ever falls asleep at Starbucks.

People don't go to Starbucks to savor fresh roasted gourmet coffee beans (sarcasm implied), they want the atmosphere. When the atmosphere is rich and inviting, it promotes positive associations and makes it easier to remember. I know that most of us had mediocre if not negative memories of the educational institutions we went to.  Who wants to relive that?

What does that have to do with me? I am the brand. When you think of scuba diving instruction, you should be thinking about the instructor that devotes his business to making scuba a lifestyle and something that is part of who you are. It should be fun, something you look forward to doing. As many are coming to find out, there aren't too many mom and pop shops left and that includes shops run by momma Jane and daddy Joe. Often, in order to keep the doors open, the local dive shop has to sell scuba diving equipment, and a lot of it. There is an old joke in the dive industry. How do you make a million dollars in scuba? Start with two! Equipment sales are the lifeblood of their businesses. Their doors aren't open to teach, it's to sell, and with internet sales taking a devastating piece of the pie, a large proportion of shops lose sales because of higher costs of running a brick and mortar.  Many dive shops owners tell me that there is very little profit in education. After paying the instructor, setting aside a little money for the lease or rent, equipment, supplies, advertising, utilities, and the like, if they are not in the hole, they'd be lucky to make $50.

I believe that everyone deserves to make a profit, but as a scuba diving instructor, I place value integrity, and service first. My goal is to create an atmosphere of camaraderie and relationships. After all, how long is a good dive and what do you do during your surface interval? Sadly, I've seen instructors in their cars talking on their cellphones and students on their own waiting for the next dive. They look spiritless and definitely don't look like they are having fun. I don't want to sell equipment and I don't my business to have to depend on it.

I also only teach a student or two at a time. This not only gives me an opportunity to build a report with them, they get to know who I am as a person. Report means that when they want to go diving, they call someone they can trust, someone they got to know, and someone they can share great scuba experiences with. Large class sizes also have the inherent possibility for some of the students to fall behind. Some may also not excel... The odds are more likely that half the class won't get all the attention from the instructor they wish they had. In education, this is called, "teaching for the lowest common denominator."

Juan Carlos Aguilar as the brand is selling the program over the phone, sight unseen and without a store front. It's delivering the educational systems to the students in person. It's also meeting them near their work or homes for my educational review and final exam AND on their schedule and when it's convenient for them. We carpool, and during certification dive weekends, it means that we share a large room, not only making lodging more affordable, but no one is left alone and spiritless.  We share food and stories, talk about the dive day and laugh! When it's time for continuing education, they think of JCA Elite Scuba.

The part of the brand that I feel the most strongly about is that I've found out that it's that I don't need the dive shop, rather the dive shop needs me. Often is the case that the student will spend more on equipment than education, but it is also likely that they will never return to the dive shop, never refer others there, and may even hop from shop to shop without ever becoming a regular customer. Often the student will start to buy used equipment or default to online sales. Ironically, only a few shops have won me over and I feel comfortable returning, recommending them, and bring students there. If I can't take the lead, be trusted to put my students into the right equipment at the right time, I could default to online sales and even equipment sales and rentals myself. Luckily, I don't have the interest in becoming a dive shop, having an inventory, having sales goals, and putting diving on the back burner.  Coincidentally, I've done more diving as an independent instructor than I ever did as an instructor working at a dive shop with a classroom full of students.

When you're ready to learn how to scuba dive, please don't think about it as something you have to just get through so that you can "go" diving. Think about giving me the opportunity to help shape you into becoming a great diver. Plan on doing a lot of work but being able to appreciate quality over quantity.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Editorials. Addressing the Issue of Diver Competence.

Dive Training Magazine
July 2012
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. The overwhelming majority of the horror stories that you and I have both witnessed come from these "occasional divers." With lengthy downtime between dives, skills will decay. This is why divers should understand the implication of curtailing their diving for long periods, and be willing to admit and accept the need for some remedial measures. That can mean taking a formal refresher class, or just diving under the supervision of a professional until they regain their sea legs. Unfortunately, many divers never heed this advice, or never understand the degree to which their skills have eroded until it's too late. (Hence, all the rescues you mention.) Additionally, if divers are unlikely to heed the advice to maintain skill competence, this shortsightedness is likely to spill over into poor decision making. I wish that there was an easy way to address this problem, but it's just impossible to dictate common sense. Fortunately, the high level of professionalism shown by dive professionals keeps many of these bungling divers from becoming accident statistics.

In the final analysis, the argument about whether divers are more or less competent today than in the past can go on forever unless you establish some criterion for measurement. I've always liked the one criterion that nobody can fudge or misinterpret -- death. How many divers die while diving today versus years ago? The good news is that, as measured by fatalities, diving is far safer today than it was years ago. For example, in the 1970s the average fatality rate was between 100 and 150 per year. Today, it's fewer than 100, and there are far more dives being made now versus back then. Regardless of the incompetence one might witness, take solace in the fact that diving has actually become a safer sport than when you and I first started.

Dive Training Today. A Perspective. An industry and training veteran says a poorly trained diver is a dropout statistic waiting to happen. Are you one of them? Do you agree?

Diver Magazine
January 21, 2014
Dive Training Today A Perspective
An industry and training veteran says a poorly trained diver is a dropout statistic waiting to happen. Are you one of them? Do you agree?
Text by Bret Gilliam

Diving is a sport that is complicated. Not adversely so, but just like snow skiing, hang gliding and spelunking, there are prerequisites to be met, skills to master and experience to be acquired in order to participate with an acceptable degree of risk. Notice that I said, ‘risk’, not ‘safety’. Because active outdoor sports are not safe. There are hazards and the potential exists for injury and even death. Training and real practical experience mitigate those risks. To be capable, divers need to comprehend subjects like embolism and decompression sickness. This isn’t bowling or golf. Divers need to fully be aware of and appreciate exactly these realities when they decide to strap on SCUBA gear and take the plunge.

Are today’s certification programs meeting the challenge of preparing divers? It’s a complicated discussion and my analysis is probably not going to be warmly received by some parties. So here we go.

There are many things that modern dive training does far better than when I was certified in 1959. By orders of magnitude equipment has advanced in design, efficiency, safety and ergonomics. Training texts are superior, whether in print or electronic form as part of online home study training courses that are now commonplace. Retail stores, dive boats and beach access in most locations have all evolved into better environments for learning and those initial open water experiences. And directly supervised checkout dives now number at least four, up from just one years ago. So what’s the problem?

Adverse Reaction
As much as things improved in some areas, the circumstances of a changing industry, economic pressures and a shrinking market prompted other ‘evolutions’ that began a slow slide adversely affecting diver competency and retention in the sport. As late as the 1980s, most diving instruction tended to start locally and was nurtured by dive retailers who conducted academic, pool, and ‘open water’ dives usually within a fairly tight radius of their home region. But as local conditions deteriorated and new divers were turned off by cold water, beach surf, a lack of interesting marine life and limited visibility, a new trend emerged. Initial training was still done locally, but then divers were referred to warm water regions to complete their underwater education. This shift was grounded in solid logic: it was more fun. Where would you rather do your first ocean dives: off the beach in northern California, in chilly New England, in a murky lake or sinkhole in the Midwest or some place with more appeal? How about the Florida Keys, the Bahamas or the Caribbean, in a warm, clear, calm environment with all the added perks of a nice vacation? This was a far more stimulating atmosphere.

Soon a symbiotic relationship developed between local training centers and resorts. Students enjoyed a smoother open water transition; they established a dive vacation pattern for activities, bought more equipment and tended to stay in the sport as active participants. The model was an all around win/win … at the outset. Now over two and half decades later, things have changed and some reassessment is in order.

First of all, I think it’s fine that divers complete their ocean training in a warm and exotic resort location as long as they thoroughly understand that such environments are easier, more forgiving and far less demanding than the more challenging conditions that await them back home. They must be very clear that a few dives in Nassau or Grand Cayman afford a qualified certification to dive in that type of benign ocean where it’s 82°F (28°C), visibility can be 100 feet (30m) and where little or no current and relatively placid sea conditions invite casual diving with little stress. In this scenario a diver’s age and physical fitness level are less of an issue. And this is okay provided divers are fully informed of what their limitations should be.

But in many cases they are not so informed. I am actively involved in operations, consulting for scores of diving industry clients worldwide. My work includes specific risk management advisories for protocols. Also, I am hired as an expert witness in lawsuits (almost equally for the plaintiff and defense) that give me insider access to all the facts and details of accident analysis that are rarely disclosed when cases settle without a trial verdict. This involvement has given me a unique perspective on dive training and qualifications for everyday participants as well as the instructors and divemasters that teach the programs and conduct the dives. Here are a few objective observations firmly rooted in reality:

Matters of Concern
1 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 to10 total dives; and ‘Master Diver’ requiring fewer than 25 dives. Some ‘Rescue’ courses are so simplistic as to be largely impractical in actual emergencies. There are numerous other examples.

2 Divers can qualify for instructor ratings with as few as 40 dives in some agencies.

3 No effective attempt is made within some agencies to interdict and restrict instructors who consistently breach standards that lead to unacceptable accident records.

4 Courses tend to be abbreviated for the sake of ‘moving the student’ through the system instead of ensuring that skills and knowledge are fully learned and mastered. One agency claimed to use a ‘performance based’ standard of qualification but in one lawsuit’s discovery disclosures that premise was proved to be totally misstated. For example, if a student was asked to clear a mask two dozen times and finally got it right on the 24th time, he was passed despite the fact he/she did not demonstrate the ability to repeat and master the skill. In fact, the student had successfully cleared his mask just once! This hardly meets any meaningful competency standard demonstrating the student can successfully repeat the task and is confident, regardless of multiple certification cards in his wallet or patches on his windbreaker.

5 Students need the opportunity to make mistakes under direct supervision of an instructor who turns the process into a positive learning experience in a controlled environment, rather than a mistake becoming a lesson in survival when it occurs in open water without experienced help at hand.

6 Historically, the number of divers entering the sport has been vastly overstated for marketing purposes. Recent Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) census reporting has confirmed this. When the database of divers is not accurate, it skews the ratio of participants’ accident incident rates and makes forecasting risk predictability and actuarial insurance ratings impossible to determine and assess.

7 Additionally, the dropout rate for divers and instructors is at an historic high. This is particularly significant for instructor and other leadership level ratings, as it then tends to replace existing professionals with those even less qualified. This is due mostly to employment conditions and lack of financial compensation. Although touted as a career path by many agencies, the majority of instructors find that they lack the means to obtain a position that will pay them a living wage unless their ratings are supplemented with legitimate extra credentials such as EMS training, maritime licenses or specific expertise in such fields as photography and videography to supplement their value in a retail, resort or live-aboard position.

8 Since participation in diving has experienced a dramatic decline over the past decade, there has been a corresponding decline in experienced mentors for new instructors and Divemasters for on-the-job or in-the-field real world training. One outcome is declining effectiveness in the early identification of behavior patterns that more experienced dive supervisors would notice and correct. Another outcome is increased accidents.

9 A review of lawsuits and accident reporting suggest accidents, increasingly, result from a simple lack of common sense, from a lack of situational awareness, maritime experience, etc., since little of this specific training and assessment is incorporated into many agency instructor curricula.

10 There is also a need for enhanced training in evacuation, field assessment and treatment. Perhaps most importantly there’s a need to disqualify inexperienced divers from activities in challenging conditions. To illustrate, an issue of Undercurrent magazine reported the celebration of a diver’s 25th logged dive from a live-aboard vessel at Cocos Island, a site best suited for advanced divers with the ability to dive independently. How such a diver was even accepted as a customer defies all prudent logic.

11 Finally, while most training agencies do a credible job of developing worthy standards and procedures for training, many resorts and dive live-aboards lack even rudimentary operations manuals that address varied field condition protocols. These would be for more advanced medical assessment, search and rescue and adequate evacuation methods. As well they would cover procedures for on-site treatment of decompression sickness with adequate oxygen and delivery equipment, along with in-water treatment table procedures and sufficient supplies of oxygen with demand masks for surface breathing first aid.
Consumer Convenience

Whew, that’s a lot to digest. Emerging gradually over the years, these concerns have been brought on by a litany of factors, not least economic strain and, for some, financial desperation. As more people drop out of the sport, local dive retailers lose sales of both equipment and travel and fewer people opt for diving as a job since the pay isn’t sufficient compared to alternatives. As noted above, all these elements then collide as the industry struggles to sustain its business model.

Another major factor, the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’, is the increase in online equipment sales at the expense of the local dive retailer. This trend seriously threatens the survival of traditional dive stores and we’re seeing shops close at an alarming rate. This is particularly harmful to dive training since these facilities are the primary source of certification programs that bring new folks into the sport and foster their continued interest.

Recently, another trend has hurt dive stores: the practice of resorts and live-aboard vessels providing full equipment packages, including dive computers, regulators, BCDs, wet suits, etc., at nominal rental rates or at no charge for week long bookings. You can’t blame them.  This is what the consumer has asked for in an age of absurd airline baggage fees and the flat out convenience of having all you need made available at your dive location. It’s no muss, no fuss travel. The same model has served ski resorts for decades. Only the most committed skiers buy equipment. Nowadays they prefer to organize their gear on arrival at the mountain. Many industry professionals argue that this practice works to retain participation by offering a wide selection of state-of-the-art gear without a big financial outlay and by stimulating travel, perhaps the most effective way to keep the diver or the skier active. But try telling that to a local retail store.

Basic Realities
I am deeply concerned about the dumbing down of dive training on all levels. Of course, the impetus originates with some agencies that see the strategy enrolling and graduating more students. But, it seems, they miss the point about customer retention. People that are not fully competent are not confident. When turned loose with a pocketful of certifications and questionable specialties many quickly learn that their advanced or master diver status doesn’t help them in a strong current, surge, reduced visibility or other stressful situation. Before you know it, they drop out and choose another sport like tennis. Once gone, they aren’t coming back.

The dive industry and the consumer/diver must grasp some very basic realities, key among them the firm understanding and importance of initial training as the acorn that grows into the lasting oak tree, the active diving participant. Agencies need to upgrade requirements for Instructor/Divemaster qualifications to ensure that true professionals are the result. These knowledgeable people will pass on their training and by their example build the strong force of professionals needed in the sport. Concurrently, changes are needed at the entry level where more supervised training is essential for newcomers to sport diving. This means more dives and longer bottom times. Let’s do away with four dives, as short as 15 minutes each, in return for a C-card that says you’re a qualified diver. Agencies also need to de-emphasize the collection of specialty certifications that serve only to confuse new divers with respect to their actual competency and skill level. Are you an advanced diver, with only nine dives? C’mon, we all know the answer to that. Are you an advanced skier with nine runs down the mountain, most of them on the bunny slope or easy trails? You’re not advanced at anything with only nine experiences whether it’s diving, driving, in photography or golf. The industry would benefit greatly by producing a more complete training package that truly qualifies people with the skills and confidence that keeps them in the sport.

Sometimes I’m hopeful, and sometimes I’m not. A recent change by one training agency now allows divers to do their ‘open water’ dives in an aquarium. Yes, you read that correctly, in an aquarium! No current, no surge, temperate water, perfect visibility, no stressor whatsoever. There is no requirement for a dive in the ocean, a lake, or even a muddy pond. Do you really think this will prepare those divers to dive on their own? Call me crazy, but I’m skeptical.

There are some bright spots. Diving technology and equipment has never been better. The emergence of reliable efficient rebreather models is one exciting development, which you can read about elsewhere in this issue. This apparatus may play an important role in the sport’s growth in the years to come but it goes without saying that proper training is critically important for those interested in using this more complex apparatus. Rebreathers could serve as the stimulus, at all levels of participation, particularly among young people who yearn for the latest tech advance and stand in line overnight just to buy the latest smart phone.

I can’t offer a solution to Internet sales. And I can’t arrest or reverse the effects that warmer temperatures, pollution and other phenomena continue to have deteriorating the ocean environment. Diving is still a vibrant and exciting experience that is a great family recreation, and that’s key to the long-term health of the sport. Yeah, the reefs and marine life are not what they were when I started diving, but I still love it. For those just now experiencing the wonder of seeing a dolphin or a turtle that gives them a hello for the first time, it’s a thrill they will remember forever.

So let’s give them the tools and training they need to become competent, confident and independent divers who will enjoy the sport throughout their lives.

As I have often been quoted saying, ‘safety is good business’, but I’m concerned by what I see and hope that these issues won’t come back to haunt the current generation of diving. Still, there’s time to make the adjustments and get the ship back on course. The industry needs to embrace proactive change. That starts with meaningful reform to training models that have gone askew. The best diving customer is an active diver, not one who dropped out when his qualifications proved less than real.

Reality…it’s a bitch.

Bret Gilliam is a 42-year veteran of the diving industry with involvement in retail stores, resorts, live-aboards, cruise ships, manufacturing, publishing and hyperbaric medicine. He founded the training agencies TDI,  SDI  and ERDI and also served as the Chairman of the Board for NAUI in the early 1990s. He’s logged over 18,000 dives in his career and continues to travel internationally on diving projects.

"Private scuba diving lessons" OR "Group scuba diving lessons." What are you going to choose? Here is some information for you...

Dive Training Today A Perspective
An industry and training veteran says a poorly trained diver is a dropout statistic waiting to happen. Are you one of them? Do you agree?
Diver Magazine
January 21, 2014
Bret Gilliam

Editorials, Addressing the Issue of Diver Competence
Dive Training Magazine
July 2012
Alex Brylske

The Impact of Class Size and Number of Students on Outcomes in Higher Education
James Monks, University of Richmond
Robert Schmidt, University of Richmond

Ronald G. Ehrenberg, ILR-Cornell University
Dominic J. Brewer, RAND Education
Adam Gamoran, University of Wisconsin
Douglas Willms, University of New Brunswick

Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy
Russ Whitehurst, Brookings Institution
Matthew Chingo, Brookings Institution

The REAL worth of a scuba dive business

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Scuba diving lessons in Vancouver, Washington. Flexible scheduling. Private classes. CPR and First Aid training.

 Providing private lessons in Vancouver, Washington and surrounding areas. You schedule classes when it's convenient for you. Learning from an independent NAUI Scuba Instructor means that you get the best training in the industry. NAUI has the highest training standards of all the agencies. Whether you're in a hurry and need to get done quickly for an upcoming trip or want to start diving regularly in the Pacific Northwest, JCA Elite Scuba will get you there. Give me a call, send me an e-mail, and check out my website for lots of great information. Refresher courses.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Scuba diving lessons in Battle Ground Washington and surrounding areas... Learn to dive right here. Dive right here...

JCA Elite Scuba provides the best scuba diving lessons, certification, and training in Battle Ground, Washington and surrounding areas. Your scuba diving certification will be taught on your schedule, where you can take as long as you want with individualized and personal attention. I come to you for classes and on your schedule. Finish your classes in a few days or a few weeks. There is never a rush to have to keep up with others or at their pace. Learn from textbook, online, e-Book, DVD, and direct facilitation from a NAUI Scuba Instructor. CPR and First Aid courses, too. Refresher courses.

Scuba diving instructor spotlight, Carlos Aguilar, JCA Elite Scuba

Scuba Diving Lifestyle and Resources

Adventure, Passion, and Fulfilment

Scuba diving instructor spotlight, Carlos Aguilar, JCA Elite Scuba

Nothing is more important to a scuba diver, than his cat! Her name is Emma. She is a 10 year old Abyssinian that he’s had since she was a kitten. There are people that have pets, but when you have that special connection, you, the animal, and everyone knows it. He tells me that every time he comes home, she meows at him from behind the door and can’t wait to be picked up. She loves to be outside, but she is not an outdoor cat. Emma has traveled the country with Carlos and was there from the beginning of his  scuba diving career.

Carlos originally got his scuba certification in 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada and fell in love with scuba with his first breath in the pool. He tells us, “Holy, moly.” “It works!” We laugh together. He explained later that he didn’t think that it would not, but it was what his heart felt. His interest progressed fast and he immediately worked towards his advanced open water certification. Advanced, and then Master Diver came in the first year. By the second year, Carlos started working towards a professional certification and became an SSI, Advanced Open Water Instructor.

The professional part of his dive career went slowly, so he picked up technical diving. Technical divers go beyond the scope of traditional recreational, no decompression limits. This could include going beyond the 130ft limit that a recreational deep diver would, could include going into decompression and having mandatory safety stops on ascent, and even a combination of the two. Carlos achieved the ranking of Advanced Nitrox Diver and Decompression Procedures Diver in 2007. He didn’t stop there. In 2009 he achieved Trimix Diver which allows Carlos to dive on a gas mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, and helium. This program culminated in his dive on the USS Monitor at 241 feet in the Outer Banks of North Carolina . Carlos is also a cave diver..

In 2013, Carlos crossed over to NAUI to teach recreational divers. He describes this as the best move he’s ever made. “NAUI grants me the latitude to teach my students to become scuba divers, and not a person that just received a certification card.” Carlos does not work for a dive shop. He describes his business as a partnership with shops that must believe in his values, never pressure students into buying gear before they are ready or need, and will let him take the lead. I asked him if he found it hard to not have everything a dive shop has. He laughed and I seemed a little bewildered for a second and until he told me, “I feel sorry for them.” “They don’t have me!” Carlos’ business revolves around a schedule that puts the student first. He is open 24 hours a day, and while most of his business is done during traditional hours, most of his customers work during the traditional 9-5, store hours.
He describes this as his niche that dives shops won’t follow. Its not that he just offers independent and private scuba diving lessons, but he does it on the student’s schedule, comes to them for their educational requirements, and doesn’t have a deadline that they have to complete the program by. “By focusing on the student’s needs, their strengths come through.” “If I focused on a sales goal, once the student has bought gear, the relationship would be over.” By having this platform, Carlos’ students consider him “their” instructor. His goal is to create a lifelong relationship and continue their educational career, their kids, and one day, even their grandkids! Carlos doesn’t have any other job that people call, “career.” He just wants to teach and dive.

Carlos sees himself and his business continuing to grow. He reports that he has already done 135% (YTD) of what he did last year and expects to finish the year around 220% of last years receipts. I found that amazing, numbers that any corporation would die for. When I asked him if there was a secret to his success, he said, “Yes!” Cheshire grin and he stands up to shake my hand… Carlos can be reached at and his website is JCA Elite Scuba.

Scuba Diving Lifestyle Staff Writer

Thursday, September 17, 2015

living the dream... bucket list... invest in yourself...

are you living your life to its full potential?

is there a goal you haven't accomplished yet?

I did 283 scuba dives in the last two years.

What did you do?

if you want to learn how to dive, I can teach you.

let's start now.

(picture of a fortune taken from a fortune cookie I got on September 17, 2013)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

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JCA Elite Scuba provides the best scuba diving lessons, certification, and Basic Life Support: CPR & First Aid in Oregon and Washington. Your scuba diving certification will be taught on your schedule, where you can take as long as you want with individualized and personal attention. I come to you for classes AND on your schedule... Finish your classes in a few days or a few weeks. There is never a rush to have to keep up with others or at their pace. Learning modes include textbook, online learning, e-Book, DVD, and every student will receive direct facilitation from a NAUI Scuba and DAN Instructor.

Every student always get more than just the basics because I believe in "Dive Safety Through Education" and building confidence through competence. I want you to become a great diver and have experiences that will last you a lifetime! Individual attention means you get 100%. You won't feel lost in the traditional large class.

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

How NOT to improve your air consumption... Just breathe and just dive.

In the article, "How to Improve Your Air Consumption," by Ted Harty, Ted states that he has more techniques now that he teaches free diving. (1) I am saying, don't worry about your breathing right now, just breathe.

Free diving and scuba do not mix. There are probably some of you that will do one or the other, but probably not that will do both. With scuba, our goal is really to spend as much time underwater as possible. The treasured 60 minute marker on the average scuba cylinder is what I shoot for. I can admit that holding one's breath for 5 minutes is impressive. With that said, what do you get to see on a 5 minute dive?

When the new diver learns about the physics and physiology of scuba diving, it is regularly drilled into their head that one should never hold their breath. I really believe that this extends to not messing with breathing techniques as well. Outside of the photographer who might be sitting on the bottom and holds their breath for a fraction of a second while depressing the shutter release, air consumption should be natural. I also encourage divers to not start their dive until they, and everyone they are diving with are ready. If anyone is anxious, that anxiety is not likely to go away and very likely to continue with the diver throughout the entire time underwater.

Relaxation and being at peace starts before the dive and is a state of mind. I became cave certified in 2007 and air consumption rates with an overhead environment are crucial. One cannot become nervous, start breathing heavy and use up more air as they are required to return to the cave entrance to exit. Cave divers as well as technical divers use the "rule of thirds" to determine their turn around time. One third in, one third back, and one third for reserve. Increasing air consumption rates means ending the dive sooner or having to not do a dive that will require greater than two-thirds of the gas volume the diver is carrying.

I do agree that relaxation techniques on dry land can benefit air consumption rates, but while diving, several factors change when manipulating the regular inhalation and exhalation we normally do. Carbon dioxide buildup, over-expansion injuries, and decompression sickness are the big ones that divers want to avoid. Carbon dioxide build up in diving usually occurs from the diver not fully exhaling. That doesn't mean exhaling to the point we could call our lungs "empty" but surely to the point where the diaphragm cannot push anymore air out of the lungs. Carbon dioxide buildup can manifest itself from, "inadequate breathing, a tight wetsuit, overexertion, regulator malfunction, deep diving, and contamination of the air supply with exhaled gases.  Carbon dioxide levels in the blood can increase, causing shortness of breath and sedation, resulting in carbon dioxide toxicity. Carbon dioxide toxicity symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, flushing, and severe cases can progress to confusion, convulsions, and loss of consciousness." (2)

Assuming that failures of scuba diving equipment are rare, if the diver attempted to take a breath from their regulator and nothing came out, those few moments that it takes to decide on an emergency swimming or emergency buoyant ascent are only exacerbated by having less air in the space of the volume of the lungs from which the alveoli can continue to pickup oxygen that still remains in that space. Additionally, without the ability to exhale, carbon dioxide cannot be exhaled and will build up. I was not able to find scientific evidence as to what happens to the diver breathing compressed air and emphasizes a greater exhalation than an equal inhalation. If we assume that dive tables are already conservative, we should also assume that it is based upon regular breaths in and out!

While there is not enough evidence showing that an increase in the possibility of decompression sickness by doing a free dive after scuba diving,  as with all risks associated with scuba diving, our goal is to minimize the risks and not add another, minimal though it could be. Especially when the diver is new and still mastering the use of all the equipment, having anyone increase their task loading is counterproductive. NAUI says it best, "Just Dive." (3)

So, if you want to do longer dives and you are having to turn around, what options do you have? If you are using dive tables on air, use a dive computer. A dive computer will average the depth you are at any given time. While the computer won't decrease air consumption, it can help to manage your dive specifics, how long you are at a depth, and by diving shallower you will not use as much air. It may also help with anxiety about the dive itself especially since using tables are not easy. Consider diving with Nitrox. Nitrox will increase bottom time and decrease nitrogen absorption, all things being equal on air. While many report feeling better and more refreshed after diving on Nitrox, there is no evidence to substantiate this effect. Placebo or not, feeling better after a dive means you are becoming more relaxed as a diver. Dive with a larger tank. For divers that use a lot of air, diving with a larger tank may extend bottom time. Consider that the "air hogs" that buy bigger tanks eventually sell them for smaller sizes as their air consumption rate increases. Choose a well breathing and well maintained regulator appropriate for the dive, depth, and conditions of the diving you are doing. An unbalanced 1st and 2nd stage regulator system will be harder to breath on at 100 feet especially as the pressure in the tank decreases. Breathing harder and faster uses more air. 

Evaluate your dive buddy. Are you nervous or anxious when you dive with them? How did you feel when you dove or when you dive with an instructor or more experienced diver? Dive shallower. Diving at a shallower depth or an average shallower depth will extend your dive time, all things being equal. Slow down and don't dive in currents or heavy tidal exchanges. I practice taking one's time and slowing down as the first and best thing for a new diver to do! Diving at slack tide or doing a drift dive means you are exerting less energy. Less energy used means less air consumption. Make sure you have efficient dive equipment. Regulators are not the only thing that can increase air consumption. The type of kicking can effect many things, but try the modified frog kick. Get in trim. That's not just lose some weight, but also lose the dangling things that stick out and create resistance in the water. Make sure you are properly weighted too. Having too much weight on your belt will increase air consumption. Consider doing a surface descent, too. If you get to your dive site quicker, you won't use as much air.

Most of these things that I mentioned are things, like everyone seems to say, "will come as you do more diving," but some of them may be happening because of improper training or rushing. Consider having an experienced diver give you some feedback and evaluate how you are doing. I've seen divers exhausted at the surface even before their dive began. Don't forget your snorkel! If you don't have a snorkel, that means you will have to swim on your back or use the gas in your tank. The biggest factor in air consumption is buoyancy. A diver with good buoyancy will use less air. This happens because they are not only putting less air in the BCD and or drysuit, but because they are not flailing! Yes, keep those arms in and stop flailing. A perfect buoyancy or underwater ironing specialty can help with buoyancy issues.

All this leads us back to the reasons for this post, how to increase your air consumption buy using free diving techniques. Sorry, but the risks outweigh any if little benefit. There are other factors that a diver looking to improve air consumption must consider. If you use a lot of air, so be it.  Accept it and have fun diving. In the long run, you may drop your air consumption a little bit by using some of these ideas. If not, just dive!


Sailfin Sculpin are one of my favorite fish in the Puget Sound...

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