How did it go from play toy to product?
As I kept developing and testing it, a lot of people expressed interest in what they might want to do with it. So, I kept working on it. There were a few times that I wanted to give up because it was just a personal toy, and as a result, I wasn’t in a rush to do anything with it.
But when my friends started getting interested in it, then it was like, all right, let me push this thing a little bit further. The concept was to make rebreathers a little easier to accept because they didn’t have to change everything they were doing. No matter if you were diving sidemount or back mount, you just needed to add a few D-rings to your shoulder straps on your harness and you could clip the unit on and go diving. That was the concept behind it.
For readers who haven’t seen the unit [See: InDepth’s Rebreather Holiday Shopping Guide] and or aren’t familiar with it, you basically connect the chest-mounted counter lungs, scrubber and an oxygen tank to your harness an single or double back mounted tanks, or twin sidemount tanks, and now you’re diving a closed circuit rebreather. It’s a very interesting concept Lamar.
One of the challenges for students in learning to dive a rebreather is that they show up, put on the rebreather and are told to forget everything that they’ve learned about buoyancy, and configuration and everything. Oh, and we throw on a stage bottle or two. Now everything is foreign from the get go; there is nothing familiar about anything they are doing. That’s not the case with the chest-mounted unit, and it has had a soothing effect for a lot of people to realize that putting the unit on did not commit them to closed circuit only.
Right. Because with this unit, you can show up at the dive site or on a boat and go, “You know, I was going to dive open circuit, but because of conditions or whatever, I think I’m going to go closed-circuit.” And then basically just connect it to your rig and now you’re a closed-circuit diver.
Exactly. One of my planned trips before COVID hit, was to go down to the Keys with Lee Ann and make a two-hour dive the Spiegel Grove with the rebreather and a single 95 on my back, and an aluminum 40 for oxygen decompression. Then get back on the boat, remove the rebreather, and then go do a shallow reef dive with Lee Anne on the 95. Because I’ve only used a couple hundred pounds of gas out of that 95.
For me, the whole point is not being committed to being on the rebreather all the time. For example, if you go on a trip and you have any kind of malfunction on your rebreather, you are not going to have to worry about making it work or else, because you didn’t bring any alternate dive equipment. You can just leave it behind, and dive open circuit. You now have the time to fix whatever the problem is. My hope is that people will be more relaxed knowing that they now have options.
When I think of a chest-mounted rebreather I think of Army combat divers, who typically are doing these long swims on chest-mounted oxygen rebreathers. It’s an optimal position for the counter lungs, when the diver is in trim position.
That was one of the design concerns as we were building this thing that we went through a lot of iterations. The shape of the lungs, where to put them, how to route everything to get the type of performance we wanted when it came to the work of breathing. It took about a year of refining the shape and everything to get it to where it was comfortable to dive, and all my test pilots wanted to dive it again rather than go, “Oh my God, I’ve got to go dive with Lamar again.” Now they’re all loving it, but it took a bit of time for everybody to get on board.