Christmas Special! Learn to scuba dive in Hawaii. Only one offer available. Today only. http://squareup.com/market/jcafa/item
Friday, December 25, 2015
Monday, December 21, 2015
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 (https://www.facebook.com/jcaelitescuba) and Twitter account (https://twitter.com/jcaelitescuba).
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
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.
Skin Diving Lessons
JCA Elite Scuba
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...
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
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.
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
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?
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?
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.
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.
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...
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?https://jcaelitescuba.com/articles/1/Dive-Training-Today-A-Perspective.txt
January 21, 2014
Editorials, Addressing the Issue of Diver Competence
Dive Training Magazine
The Impact of Class Size and Number of Students on Outcomes in Higher Education
James Monks, University of Richmond
Robert Schmidt, University of Richmond
CLASS SIZE AND STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
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
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
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...
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Sunday, September 13, 2015
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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Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Saturday, August 15, 2015
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!
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Sunday, July 19, 2015
While many of you have been enjoying this unseasonably hot weather, for those of you that haven't, I've got some news for you.
I dove in the Puget Sound yesterday and the water temperature to 35 feet was 70°F. Yep, unbelievably and unprecedentedly warm! If anyone has been reluctant to dive in the Pacific Northwest, now is the time.
The water had at least 40 feet of visibility and I saw an amazing variety of life that is usually spread out through different times of year, different depths, temperature ranges, and times of day.
With that said, this unprecedented heatwave could be a sign of trouble for the Puget Sound. While there is over 3,000 miles of coastline in the Sound, I've been told that this kind of heatwave could generate a massive die off.
It would be terribly sad to see so much of what I love disappear. I dove the Great Barrier Reef in 2009 and saw coral bleaching below 90 feet and during that entire time I was there, I only saw one Blacktip Reef Shark.
If you want to come see what I've seen, let's go diving... If you have avoided diving in the PNW, now is the time. If you've been putting off learning, let me teach you.
One of the greatest resources on the planet, one that is in our own very back yard, might not be here one day.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
NEW... Open Water Cross-Over:
Already certified, but feel that something was missing, didn't learn enough, or you feel that your skills need improvement? Do you think you needed more class or pool time and now want a little more than just a refresher course? I'll take you through snorkeling and skin diving exercises, swimming styles, and self-rescue techniques. Additionally, we'll practice dive buddy rescues skills, emergency swimming ascents, buddy breathing, and air sharing. Don't remember how to do dive tables or weren't taught them? Let me teach you! How about pre-dive planning, buddy checks, ascent techniques, buddy communication, or post-dive debriefing? Don't know what your SAC rate is, know how to calculate it, or what to do with it? Do you remember what an emergency buoyant ascent is? If you answered "no" to any of these, then the "Open Water Diver Cross-Over" is for you!
The question really is, "who would take the Scuba Cross-over? There are few points of view to consider, if not more... The student didn't think they learned enough, the student actually didn't learn enough, the student's program was lacking, and perhaps even that they didn't even finish their program. At first, one might think of a "refresher" but is there a difference?
Different agencies focus on different skills needed to accomplish prior to completion of a scuba diving program. Additional skills might not be what is actually needed as much as the student has fears, roadblocks, or anxieties to overcome. I feel that one of the most important aspects of scuba diving is confidence. Practice builds confidence, practice builds competence and fluidity. It is very realistic that skills will degrade if not practiced. One of my favorite articles is, "Addressing the Issue of Diver Competence," written by Alex Brylske.
"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."
One of the reasons this is at the forefront of my thoughts lately is that a diver (in one of the areas I frequent) recently died on her first open water dive after certification. The autopsy revealed that she drowned, but as usual in cases like this, the circumstances of incident might really never been know. Sadly, the thing that stood out was that eight additional divers went in the water together. Buddy teams are of major controversy as some feel that divers should only have one other on their "team." Similarly, many feel that emergency skills should have more emphasis during training. In all actuality, it is realistic to think that after initial training, all but instructors will not practice or recite in thought: controlled emergency swimming ascents, air sharing ascents, emergency buoyant ascents, buddy breathing, mask clearing, and regulator recovery skills. As of April 14, 2015 I have logged 1,425 dives and have been diving since 2006. In this time (outside of advanced specialty training and those exercises) I have never lost my mask, I have never lost my regulator, I have never had to ditch my weights, I have never ran out of air underwater, and I have never had to do a rapid, uncontrolled ascent to reach the surface. I didn't enter the professional side of diving until 2008 and had logged several hundred dives by then.
So, what does the student, or potential student do before, during, or after their certification? I think the thing that stands out to me the most is, MEET YOU SCUBA DIVING INSTRUCTOR...!!! Not on the first day of class, but before you sign up. It doesn't have to be face-to-face, but at least talk to them. I know that this is problematic for dive shops (except for the small mom and pop shops) that contract their instructors or are not employed at the shop full-time, but I think that the person who is going to teach you life saving skills and techniques should be someone you like, someone you feel comfortable with, and someone that will insist you earn that certification outside of pressures to buy equipment, keep up with others, and will insist that you take more classes if your skills are lacking.
JCA Elite Scuba
Learn to Scuba Dive
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
DIVER EQUIPMENT & TRAVEL CHECKLIST Are you getting ready for your upcoming Scuba or Snorkeling trip but think you might be forgetting something? Look over these check lists to be sure that you have everything you need for your excursion! ***EQUIPMENT*** Regulator/Octo BCD/Weight Pockets Weights/Weight Belt Computer/Gauges Compass RDP/eRDP Cylinder Wetsuit/Dry suit Lycra Suit Booties Gloves Hood/Beanie Knife and Sheath Mask/Defog Snorkel and Keeper Fins Scuba Certification Card Logbook Slate/Pencil Surface Signaling Devices Wreck Reel Dive Watch Equipment Bag Camera Equipment Desiccant Packs Dive Lights – Main Light, Backup Light, Tank Light Goodie Bag Accessories: First Aid Kit Save-A-Dive Kit Dry Box Fin Strap/Mask Strap Mouthpiece/Zip Ties Master Scuba Tool O-rings Gauge Retractor Extra Batteries and Bulbs Spare Mask Dive Destination Book Marine Life ID Book Float with Flag Game Bag Spear Gun Lift Bag Microfiber Towel ***TRAVEL & PERSONAL ITEMS*** Airline Tickets Dive Insurance Emergency Phone#'s Money Passport Photo ID Vaccination Cert. Vouchers/Itinerary Prescription Medications Decongestants Motion Sickness Med. Doc’s Pro Plugs Dry Ear Drops Swimmer’s Ear Med. ***BEACH ITEMS*** Beach Towel Hat Windbreaker Beach walkers Sandals Sunglasses Sunscreen Swimsuit Rash Guard Insect Spray
Thursday, March 12, 2015
certification and just dive for a while. Learning to become proficient takes time and being able to master those skills may take many years. Realistically, a new student is given very little to
learn in order to receive a scuba diver certification. Diving often and regulary, getting feedback from peers, and taking specialty classes will add to the diver's knowledge and skill base. Those
new skills will open their eyes to other diving opportunities (deep, night, search & recovery, wrecks, nitrox, drysuit, etc.).
As to the number of dives required to become an advanced diver, this is somewhat of a misconception. Some agencies will award their advanced certification with as little as five additional dives (nine in total) while others make their divers wait until twenty-five logged dives. More dives has a practical benenfit. The more you dive, the easier it gets.
As like in other sports, as your skills improve a divers will need gear tailored to specific diving environments. Attitude, ability, and confidence is important, too. While it's impossible to
quantify attitude and confidence, that is where an experienced instructor can evaluate how the diver is doing, how far they've come, and what they still have to work on. Continuing to need work
also doesn't mean that a certification can't be awarded, because like one's initial scuba diving certification, skills will improve over time and with ongoing practice.
I've chosen to make six specialties the foundation of becoming an Advanced Open Water Diver. The specialties I start my students out with and require as a prerequisite: Night Diving, Deep
Diving, EAN Nitrox, Drysuit Diving, Navigation, and Search & Recovery. These specialties will prepare the diver for incredible and diverse diving opportunities. While each specialty requires a
minimum of a couple dives, often, specialty dives will be combined and skills will start to overlap to help the diver to learn to task many activities at once and for many of those skills to become second nature. Twelve dives is the foundation required to complete the course requirements but should not be a guarantee of an advanced diver certification.
What kind of equipment is required for these specialties? While I don't sell equipment, and I believe that owning one's own equipment fosters continued diving and confidence in that equipment.
Just because a diver can't afford to purchase all the equipment at once, is not a valid reason to not start an advanced diving program. Very often rental equipment is available yet when not,
inexpensive yet quality alternatives are easy to find. When I dive, I carry all of the equipment necessary if not have it at my disposal to use on subsequent dives.
My primary equipment, includes my regulator system, plate and harness, wing, drysuit, dive computer, compass, dive light, reel with line, signal marker buoy, whistle, and scissors. I have a dive slate and pencil but don't always bring it with me. I also can carry an extra mask and a redundent breathing system when diving alone or in advanced diving conditions. My fins attach with spring straps. Not only does it make donning them easier, but reduces the chance of breaking a strap. If I dive with a redundant breathing system, the regulator hangs round my neck on surgical tubing that is fashioned around the mouthpiece of the regulator. Easy enough to cut off if necessary and flexible enough not to constrict my breathing. If in the event of an emergecy, the attachment points can be pulled off (not attached so tight that I could get caught by something else).
My regulator system includes my first stage, a primary second stage and an alternate second stage. This is standard to the industry although configuaration may change and routing and positioning
is flexible and can vary. I use to dive with an integrated alternate second stage, but I don't anymore to be consistent with how new students learn and typical rental equipment. My alternate
second stage is on a longer hose and is attached to me with a quick release that will stay fastened and conveniently available, but can be deployed immediately and conveniently. I use an analog
pressure guage which is attached in a location that is visible without having to seek it out, move it, or disconnect it. Attachment options vary with all equipment but everything is attached in a
manner that it is out of the way and free from possible entanglement but can be disconnected easily in the event of an emergency.
I wear a dive computer on bungee cord and it is on my arm and sits a little above my left wrist. The bungees make it easy to put on even with thick gloves and I don't have to worry about a buckle
coming undone and losing it. My compass is also on bungee cord and I wear it on top of my right hand. I've found that this position keeps it always available and when I hold my hand out in front
of me, I have the proper perspective to see it and the numbers indicating the direction I'm going but also keeps my field of view facing forward and in the direction I'm going. Having to look down
at a compass is like texting and driving -- don't take your eyes off the road! I always take a dive light with me. It doesn't matter if I'm diving in the daytime, a dive light helps one look into those cracks and crevices where all the critters are and it is a great tool to communicate with. It too is attached in a manner that can be removed and used but if necessary can be let go without worry of loss. A bungee cord is used to keep it stowed and out of the way when not in use.
A reel with enough line for at least twice the depth of any planned dive and a signal marker buoy hang from my right hip. Each is attached separately so each can be used independently. While
leaning forward or when in diver position, the signal marker buoy and reel don't hang below my stomach to prevent touching the sea floor or entanglement. A whistle is attached on my right shoulder
but can be removed if necessary. I always leave it attached to avoid dropping it. It can even work underwater. It is close enough to my mouth that if I do not remove it, I can still use it.
Scissors are brought on every dive as well. It lays flat on the top of the corregated airway of the low pressure inflator system attached with a couple bungee cords. It is easy to deploy and use
if necessary. The dive slate would go high on my left arm (if brought, as I'm right handed) and is usually turned down to be out of the way. The dive computer could be set opposite of the slate if
both are being used and both can be rotated at the same time.
I use a stainless steel plate as this reduces the amount of extra weight I have to carry and offers lots of attachment points. Being metal, I also don't have to worry about wear. During recreational dives, I use a harness system that is fashioned from two inch wide nylon webbing and allows various positioning of d-rings and buckles. I have metal buckles that can release the shoulders if needed. I have two large loops for my arms and one that comes around for my waist. Around the two pieces that come around my waist are two integrated weight pockets with a quick release in order to ditch the weight.
Everyone always tells me how much equipment I have, but I look at them and tell them how much equipment they are missing. An easy entry to this gear would include and in the order of what I
believe should be bought (even if everything else is preliminarily rented:
10ft bungee cord ($3)
2 snorkel keepers ($6)
1 scissors ($5)
2 brass ($5)
1 storm whistle ($10)
NIGHT (most dives shops don't rent lights)
3 dive lights ($100)
SEARCH & RECOVERY and DEEP
1 wrist slate ($10)
1 signal marker buoy ($20)
1 finger spool with 150ft line ($25)
NAVIGATION (some rental systems have compasses)
1 compass ($50)
(prices can go up from here)
Divers take for granted that a dive light is necessary during a night dive, but most don't think about lights during the day. Light technology has come quite far in the last few years and with advancements in this technology, the prices have dropped considerably. I've bought lights that cost over $700, but now lights with that kind of power can start under $100. Light kits with a primary light, backup, and a tank light can start around $100, too.
A signal marker buoy and line is not only indispensable for drift dives, but doing mid-water ascents. Doing a mid-water ascents takes a lot of practice, and until that point in time, deploying an SMB at depth can make it a little easier and safer. Spools are made from PVC and are virtually indestructible. Reel quality varies, but if you are going to invest in one, don't buy a cheap one. Not only can cheap ones break a lot easier, they also get fouled more often. Make sure you reel has at least 150ft of line and that the line is braided, not twisted.
Invest in a pair of EMT sheers or scissors. They are inexpensive and will cut through anything. Most divers spend too much on knives and most of the time cut themselves rather than use them as an effective tool.
Bungee cord can be your friend if used properly. It takes a little of the tension off the items it's holding on to, but gives a little as to prevent breaking. Buy a long length and keep it in your save-a-dive kit for all occasions.
Bolts snaps made of brass can be purchased at hardware stores. Stainless steel bolt snaps are marine grade and quality ones are easily found at marine specialty stores.
Compass quality can vary incredibly. I am partial to the Suunto SK-7, but will have to look at the SK-8 as it is brand new for this year. A good compass should be able to glow in the dark, have a viewing window, two lubber lines, a rotating bezel, and fine azimuth delineation.
Snorkel keepers make great ways to attach equipment to a d-ring and are easy to pull the equipment out and away or just break clean off in the event of an emergency. An inexpensive addition to any save-a-dive kit, as well.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I've worked with dive shops since I first learned how to dive. Some of them are great! As with many things we're looking to buy, especially things that we don't know much about, a lot of us refer to the internet to give us some general insight -- what we want, where to get it, and what will it cost. While some may come across a dive shop through sheer luck, others just pick the first at the top of the page or pick the cheapest. Scuba diving is not one of those products that the consumer should opt for the cheapest, easiest or quickest. Fit is important and you should buy within the price range that you want and for the type of diving you plan to do. There is also a high drop out rate in the industry -- people want to do other things with their time. If you are going to make an investment in scuba diving equipment, it should not be impulsive.
So, is it is okay to rent equipment? Of course. Some rental gear is quite good. Having your own equipment means that it is likely to fit you better, be the right kind of equipment for the places you are diving, be in perfect working order, and be modern. The best part about owning your own equipment means that you are probably going to be familiar with it because you are using the same equipment and configuration every time and you are likely to go diving more often than not. The thing you have to remember about rental gear is that the configuration may be different with each rental, each shop, and each location. This means that you have to be able to be flexible, be able to conform to it's limitations, be okay with poor fit, and expect that it will be well used. If the dive shop will rent it to you for your training, then it has to be safe enough to keep you from drowning. Equipment will perform differently diving to 10 feet in a warm pool than to 60 feet in the colder ocean. Also, remember that all of us are uniquely shaped and contoured!
So, is it okay to buy used equipment? Sometimes... As with all used scuba diving equipment, be sure to have a technician look at it, test it, and in the end, service it... I CAN DO THAT FOR YOU FOR FREE...!!! It is life support equipment, after all. A mask that doesn't fit you properly often leads to your whole dive experience being a bad one. There is a lot of pressure pushing against you when you're diving. If you have the wrong fins and are caught in current, will they help you swim to safety? Snorkeling and scuba diving equipment don't always cross-over. In the end, if you buy before finding out what kind of gear is going to work best for you, that decision may end up costing you more in the long run. While the dive shop is a great source of information, it isn't always the best one. Have you ever gone into a place to buy something and the sales person knows nothing about what they are selling? It happens in scuba diving, too. Don't let that old saying trap you either. "I've been doing this for 30 years!" The gear you buy is not going to be 30 years old and as equipment changes and improves, it is going to be different. Anyone that is not aware of all the current benefits and features cannot sell you the right equipment. That means that they have to know it, dive it, read the instruction manual, and in many cases, have taken it apart and serviced it!
As a professional dive instructor, I don't want you to be in "cheap" products. There is a difference between "cheap" and "inexpensive." I can help you find gear that fits you properly and is safe for you to use. "Is the glass in your mask tempered?" "Is your regulator balanced?" If you talk to fellow divers, friends and family, and even check online, it is likely that some of that information could be based on opinion, one person's personal experiences, myth, sales pressure, and some of it is just flat out wrong. See if you can get a consensus about the information you are looking to validate. It will help with the final decisions you make. Your instructor is the expert in his or her field. Their experiences, education, training, and perspective is invaluable. They've devoted their life to this industry!
If you can't find what you are looking for, ask the instructor or dive shop if they can recommend a person or place that can meet your needs. Yes, while I hate to admit it, I don't know everything! That doesn't mean that they are going to do the legwork for you, nor does it mean that you should patronize every shop in town or on the internet. There is an incredible value in developing a relationship with an instructor or two... a shop or two. Not only will you develop a trust and comfort, but you will have someone to dive with and perhaps even make some great friends! Diving is more than just a sport to many, it is their passion, and a lifestyle. Many have overcome fears, met challenges, achieved milestones and seen some of the most amazing and beautiful animals -- been to and seen some of the most amazing places on earth!
Some have argued that without the dive shop, diving would disappear. As the consumer, be assertive. Instructors and dive shops are authority figures. If you feel uncomfortable about something, tell them. Be sure to ask about their return or exchange policy on products, policy on canceling classes, or withdrawing from the program all together. While it is necessary for many instructors and shops to plan their month to month expenses on the students that enroll, equipment that is purchased, and day to day revenue, there must be responsibility on both parties -- ask if you don't know because they can't read your mind. Should I then just stick to buying everything on the internet? I would not. There are something's and sometimes when the internet is easy. The internet is not as fast as you think, either. If you buy something and it is not right for you, the time that it takes to return it and find something else eats away at valuable time that can be better spent. Most importantly, the internet does NOT always offer the best prices! YES, you heard me. There are times that the local dive shop will match or beat that price. I don't recommend walking into the shop and telling them what you will pay, but you can tell them what you can afford. Sometimes you might even get more bang for your buck and even better, as that relationship builds, there are face-to-face benefits that the internet just can't offer!
It's okay to ask for things in writing. Don't rely on "he said, she said." Send e-mails so that there is a paper trail. If you agree to their terms and conditions, it is fair for them to expect you to fulfill your part of the bargain. You can help to make your experience as fulfilling as possible by letting the one's you are working with know how things are going. Scuba is often totally new to the student. If it takes you a little longer to learn something, the instructor and dive shop will help you get there.
When you are ready to buy scuba gear, get a hold of me so I can sit down with you and go over everything that is right for you! It is free. You like FREE, don't you?
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