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Your winter issue of The Underwater Journal has some great features – from finding the little stuff with photog Mike Bartick to Capt. Gary Mace’s gripping story about decompression sickness. We’re starting 2012 with something for everyone. This issue covers it all: gear, photography, marine life, advanced diving and adventure travel.

Steve Lewis gives us another pragmatic view in his column Nitrox, Voodoo Gas No More, but Still Misunderstood. His discussion focuses on the details of using this gas that many of us don’t fully understand.

Jump into the icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula with Eco-photo Explorers Mike Salvarezza and Christopher Weaver. Learn and look at South Florida’s amazing wrecks from our Editor. And be sure to catch the DAN Column, Dive Safety Essentials, and get your dive year started off on a safe track.

There’s so much more to enjoy and learn, get your FREE magazine today. Don’t forget, UWJ is iPad compatible to download and save in iBooks.

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Underwater Journal is the official publication of SDI/TDI/ERDI

Time to Schedule your SDI™ Nitrox Course

For some of us, winter is upon us; for others, plans are underway to far off destinations. In either case this means completing that course we started sometime ago, stowing away the dive gear and breaking out the tropical picture show during these extra cold months. But does it have to mean we stop learning new things about diving? No.

There are many locations that will go right on diving through the winter, and in some cases, your diving will even increase. For the rest of us whose waters are great if you like ice skating but not if you want to dive (of course they are good for an SDI Ice Diving course), we still have some options to keep engaged in diving. One great course to take is nitrox. Nitrox is one of those courses that everyone should take for several reasons. Safety is a key concern in diving and anything that can be done to increase safety should be. What nitrox does is increases the amount of oxygen you breathe which decreases the amount of nitrogen you breathe; this in turn decreases the nitrogen uptake into your body, provided you dive nitrox according to air computers or tables. Each year we get a little older and our bodies do not process things as they used to. The way our muscles and tissues process nitrogen are no exception to that rule. Don’t be concerned! There is a solution…

SDI Computer Nitrox Course

Longer Bottom Times. Shorter Surface Intervals. These are among the many benefits of diving Nitrox — a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen in which the concentration of oxygen is greater than that found in air. You’ve no doubt heard of Nitrox, and you probably know divers who use it. You also know that using Nitrox safely requires special training and certification.

Traditionally, becoming a Nitrox Diver required long hours in the classroom, learning how to work obscure formulas and use complex dive tables. No more. Through SDI’s on-line training program, you can complete most of the required academic study in the comfort and convenience of your home or office. As with all SDI programs, you’ll learn to dive Nitrox the modern way, using Nitrox-programmable dive computers instead of arcane formulas and complicated tables.

When you are done with the self-study portion of the course, you will meet with your SDI instructor to review your final exam (academic review) and to take part in a brief, practical application session. Here you will get hands-on experience with oxygen analyzers and Nitrox computers. Your instructor may even provide you with the opportunity to make one or more Nitrox dives. When you have completed the academic review and practical application sessions, your SDI Dive Center will order your permanent certification card. What could be easier? Nitrox opens a world of possibilities, leading to better, more enjoyable diving. What are you waiting for? Get Started Now!

Diving 10,000 Year Old Ice

There is a very old dive site that has just been floating around waiting to be discovered…

Iceberg Scuba DivingAsk the average scuba diver what they think of when someone mentions ice diving and chances are good they’ll tell you about diving under the winter ice cover of a freshwater lake. But did you know you can dive ice in the summer too?

Every year it is estimated that as many as 50,000 icebergs calve off the glaciers of Greenland to start their long journey south driven by ocean currents. A few hundred travel down the North Atlantic coast of America and make it as far as the island province of Newfoundland. The most famous got in the way of the Titanic 100 years ago (April 1912); and the stream of berg’s since that historic collision has grown stronger in recent years thanks to global climate change.

The process of carving goes on year-round but the best time to see Newfoundland (or Atlantic) icebergs “in person” is in the summer, and one of the best places to find ones that are “safe” to dive is Conception Bay, near that Canadian province’s capital city of St. John’s.

“Safe” of course is an entirely relative term in all types of diving but most certainly in this particular flavor of adventure-diving. An iceberg is a dynamic entity; constantly moving, shifting, stressing and straining. Rolling and splitting are two of the constant threats presented by a huge chunk of frozen fresh water floating in a slightly warmer flow of salt water – and gradually melting away. Of course, these events can be disastrous for anyone close by, whether on the surface or underwater. Because of this and other factors, diveable bergs are bergs that are grounded. These are sometimes called Ice Islands.

Iceberg ScubaGrounding? Let me explain. There is no such thing as an average Newfoundland iceberg. Some are the size of a football stadium, and some look as small as a garden shed (see table), but what they all share is that approximately ninety percent of their bulk is “hidden” underwater. What we see floating is just the tip of the iceberg (sorry; couldn’t resist the pun). As air temperatures effect it – making it melt and crack due to changes in surface temperatures and internal pressure – a free-floating berg is always at risk of turning over or calving off mini-bergs of its own.

You might say that the berg is constantly changing its buoyancy and trim! Only when that hidden portion of the berg bottoms out on the ocean floor is there ANY opportunity to partially manage these risks.

However, few icebergs are held fast for long. As their bulk and mass gradually lessens, buoyancy changes and ever-present currents and tides will tend to push it along, often dragging its way through the seabed. Many berg divers check out this Ice Scour or Gouging – given depth limits – before getting close to the body of the berg. This is an indication of how long the berg has been grounded, and in some part, how it has behaved during its time as an ice island. Also, since the seabed in Newfoundland is home to all manners of cold-water creatures, the gouge often uncovers hidden critters and can attract larger predators to an open feast — take a camera!

Once a berg is confirmed to be grounded, divers usually submerge at a safe distance and swim toward the iceberg. This is one of the most unique experiences. Remember, an iceberg is fresh-water, perhaps more than 10,000 years old. It is pure and unsullied by mankind. As a diver closes in on its walls – which incidentally have the appearance of a multi-hued abstract sculpture – she will pass through the meltwater zone, where seawater and freshwater mix. Her buoyancy will change and she will experience passing through a distinct halocline. Also, the quality of sunlight or daylight will change, and it is not unusual for the visibility around a berg to be “virtually limitless.” The ice itself seems to glow from transmitted sunlight and the berg’s walls will shimmer with countless shades of blue from pale aqua to deep violet.

It will be, all in all, an unforgettable experience.

Size Category Height Length
Growler Less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) Less than 5 metres (16 ft)
Bergy Bit 1–5 metres (3.3–16 ft) 5–15 metres (16–49 ft)
Small 5–15 metres (16–49 ft) 15–60 metres (49–200 ft)
Medium 15–45 metres (49–148 ft) 60–120 metres (200–390 ft)
Large 45–75 metres (148–246 ft) 120–200 metres (390–660 ft)
Very Large Over 75 metres (246 ft) Over 200 metres (660 ft)

Data supplied by International Ice Patrol

Iceberg Diving


Often an iceberg will be surrounded by small chunks of calved ice (Growlers or smaller). If possible, collect one or two of these and use them in your cold drinks (in Newfoundland, this might be an after dive drink of Screech). When berg ice melts, it makes a fizzing sound called “Bergie Seltzer.” This sound is caused by escaping air originally trapped and then compressed as prehistoric snow layers became glacial ice.


Iceberg diving is great for advanced divers, equipped and experienced in cold-water diving since even in summer, the water temperatures at depth in Newfoundland hover only a few degrees above freezing. Divers with a sense of adventure and a yen for something out of the ordinary are also recommended.

There are several SDI/TDI instructors working in Newfoundland; to find out more about adventure diving, contact them through our website or call us 207.729.4201

REMEMBER no dives outside your comfort and training should be undertaken without proper instruction and guaidance!


This year, International Training (ITI) will be exhibiting at the Outdoor Adventure Show (OAS), Toronto, Ontario.  The OAS is the largest consumer show of its type in Canada, with over 30,000 visitors attending last year’s event.  Cris Merz (National Sales Manager) and Steve Moore (HQ Training and Regional Manager Eastern Canada) will be representing the agency throughout the show, with the assistance of local SDI/TDI/ERDI facility staff.  Please come along and visit us at Booth 419 in the SCUBA World section of the show – we’d love to see you!

The OAS is being held in The International Centre, Hall 5, 6900 Airport Rd, Mississauga, Ontario on 24th, 25th and 26th February 2012.  Full details, including directions, can be found via the following link:

Cris is contactable via and Steve via

Editing Digital Photos 101

Check your concerns at the door……

Since the overthrow of film cameras, digital photos have taken off. There are many benefits to taking digital photos: you get more than 36 at a time, perform your own processing, easy photo manipulation and more wallet friendly… just to name a few. While there were some very affordable film cameras on the market, they took nowhere near the quality of images we are seeing today for an equivalent digital camera investment. But as we have learned time and time again, there are two sides to every story. For now, we are just going to focus on editing the digital photos you have taken.

Before we discuss the results of the photos you have taken, we are going to take a lesson from the playbooks of film photographers. Because film cameras only allowed you to take 36 frames, I know that for all you old-school film guys there were options for more film underwater, the photographer carefully selected and composed the photograph.

How does this apply to editing digital photographs?

If you take your time and compose the shot as best you can, it can mean the difference of culling and editing 300 photographs as opposed to 100. Believe me… the screen time of sorting through a third of the photographs will make all the difference in the world.

Now that you have the image what do you do with it?

The next step depends on a few things: how familiar you are with computers and how familiar you are with photo editing software, so let’s break this down.

The assumption here is that, if you own a digital camera, you already have a computer so the only advice we have here are two words – memory and back-up. When you start taking digital photos you are going to need a lot of memory. There are two different ways to accomplish this: you can get a computer with a lot of built-in memory, or you can buy external memory in the form of flash drives or external hard drives.

The flash drives and external hard drives already mentioned can play a duel role; they can also work as a back-up to photo storage. The end goal with backing up photos is to have your images in two places that are independent of each other. For those of you a little more tech savvy, the Cloud Technology is also a great solution as it allows you access to your images no matter where you are.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s talk about the software available.

With so many options on the market ranging from free to a couple thousand dollars we are going to focus on the interface between you and the editing program and the basics of what you can do with an image.

The interface, while it seems insignificant, is a very important part of the process, if you don’t understand what tools and options you have available, your experience will be less than enjoyable and you will not get the end results you are looking for. When selecting the software make sure you understand the icons and tabs that are provided or that the help functions are clear and explain how to use the product. One example of free software is Picasa by Google. You can get this as a free download and try it out.

Now for a little terminology, because as we all know…computers and the software they use have a language of their own.

Here are some basic terms and what they mean:

Crop – this is a function that allows you to change the size and focal point of the picture you took. Here is an example of what it would look like:

Contrast – this feature allows you to make an image darker or brighter in the case of under or over exposure.

Sharpen – lines in photographs even ones that appear in focus, can sometimes need to be sharpened or softened this function allows you to do both.

Straighten – this function allows you to straighten an image where the horizontal line of the image may be tipped to the left or right.

There are many other features to digital editing software – too many to name – but with these basic tips in mind, the best thing to do now is upload an image and play around with it, keeping in mind to save it as a separate image so as not to lose the original. Once changes have been made to an original image there is no going back, another good reason for a back-up.

If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, contact your local SDI dive center and ask if they have any digital photo editing courses scheduled or if they would put one together for you. Remember: select, compose, store and back-up. Happy photographing!

Get started on your “Imaging Adventure!” Visit to find a facility and instructor near you!

Boat Diving: Doing What Works Best at Home and Away

A little preparation goes a long way to more enjoyment

Boat DivingMy guess would be that the vast majority of our dream dive vacations involve boat diving. Certainly at this time of year, when some of us are dealing with frosty morning drives to the office, the appeal of any form of warm water diving is strong; short of actually having a bungalow on the beach with a reef break 20 metres from the water’s edge, boat diving is about the most straightforward and most satisfying diving around.

It’s easy to see why. Any way you look at it, a dive boat is the usual mode of transport – and often the ONLY mode of transport – to our preferred dive sites. For example, the best and most famous wreck dives – with the exception of a select few, such the SS President Coolidge, in Vanuatu – have to be done from a dive boat. Want great wall dives? You need a dive boat for almost all of them. Great critter dives? You need a dive boat for those, too.

Now, cave diving and dive boats usually do not go together, but there are even a few great cave dives that call for boat diving – Stargate Blue Hole, in Bahamas and Baltzell Spring, in Florida are two that come to mind.

Just like those two cave dives – which are about as different as chalk and cheese, and which demand very different “approach strategies” – dive boats come in every conceivable shape and size; from small bass boats and skiffs to 30-metre plus live-aboard fitted out with hot tubs, a wine cellar and flat-screen TVs.

However, regardless of whether you find yourself sitting in a RIB crossing the English Channel or lounging in a deckchair with martini in hand looking out over Truk Lagoon, there are a few tips and suggestions that can be applied to just about any boat-based diving adventure.

Here are a few you may find helpful.

  • Get the right baggage. Roller-bags are great for the airport but can be a royal pain for day-to-day service on a boat. Invest in two “boat bags,” one for stuff you want to keep dry and a mesh one for wet stuff. If you are on a live-aboard, you will want to keep your sleeping area uncluttered… and DRY! Getting the right bag is an essential first step to making this happen.
  • Space on dive boats – even big ones – is at a premium. Be sure to take just what you need and try to only pack things that will suit the environment – leave the Christian Louboutin heels at home. You might also take the time to label items that might get mixed up with similar “stuff” that your shipmates might bring along.
  • On just about every dive boat, each diver is allocated a spot/seat. Stick to your area and keep your clutter within the storage space associated with your area. Do not spread out, and be polite if your neighbor’s kit starts to mysteriously drift and mix with yours. Also – and this is important – return to the same spot after your dive. It’s likely the crew will have some set procedure for filling tanks and keeping track of whose are whose. One of the fastest, most efficient ways to upset the deckhands is to play musical chairs.
  • Listen. When you first board the boat, there will most likely be some sort of orientation from the captain, mate or dive supervisor. This little chat should cover safety tips – where first-aid and oxygen is kept for example – and some simple “need-to-know” info such as where the head is located and which areas of the boat are CREW ONLY.
  • Pay attention! When you arrive at the dive site, chances are better than good that someone will conduct a pre-dive briefing. If something is not clear – “did you say the current is six-knots! Really?” – ask questions. Not only is the pre-dive brief important from a safety standpoint, but the man or woman giving the briefing has likely dived the site enough times to know the must-see spots. If you do not listen, you’re likely to miss important stuff about what makes the dive special.
  • The crew will also deliver some tips concerning your entry and exit. DO NOT enter the water until told by a crew member it is OK to do so. Be aware that different boats may have very different procedures, and different dive sites and sea conditions can also have a strong bearing on the optimal way to get off and back onto a dive platform. Pay particular attention to the procedures for getting back on when there is a crop and the back of the boat (or the entry ladder) is moving up and down.
  • Do not be shy about asking for help if you need it. Some divers do not like any interference when they are kitting up for a dive (stay clear of CCR divers doing pre-dive checks for instance!), while for others a helping hand makes everything go much smoother. Do not make the mistake in thinking that only novice divers ask for help. From day-to-day, dive site to dive site, even the most seasoned old salts appreciate a hand now and then.
  • When you do get into the water, pay attention to how the boat looks. Boats do not look the same when you are at sea-level, and you want to make sure you can recognize it when the dive is finished. Do not assume that because yours was the only boat at the site when you hit the water that there will not be a half-dozen more when you surface.
  • Pay attention to how the boat is tied up and if the crew has put out lines to help divers get to and from the anchor line. Avoid getting lines wrapped around your tanks (or anywhere else). When you surface, follow the procedures outlined in the pre-dive briefing, and if there are drift lines use them while you wait for your turn to get back onboard.

Well, that’s a brief overview. If you are a new diver or new to boat diving, the best introduction to the full gamut of boat etiquette is to contact your local SDI Dive Facility and sign-up for a dive specialty course. Most SDI dive centers will bundle a boat diving specialty with wreck, drift or deep, which make for a fun-packed and very useful way to improve your diving skills and enjoyment.

To find a SDI Dive Center near you, simply visit While there, check out the great selection of on line e-Learning programs in preparation for your next adventure!

Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Discover the Maluku Divers Resort in 2012

A “Dream Destination” that will come true!

Maluku located in Laha, Indonesia is one of the must-visit locations in any diver’s exotic dive list. The only dedicated dive resort in Ambon, the facility was built specifically with divers in mind and boasts the most unique and comfortable accommodations in all of Maluku.

Ambon is undoubtedly famous for the world class muck diving, with a huge array of critters that can be observed and photographed during long dives at the shallow sites close to the resort. Diving in Ambon includes regular sightings of resident marine life such as rhinopias, many assorted frogfish, mandarin fish, ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue ring and hairy octopus, thorny and pygmy seahorse, stonefish, inimicus, to name but a few, along with literally hundreds of different species of nudibranch.

As the only dedicated dive resort on the island, Maluku Divers Resort is unquestionably the best possible facility for diving in Ambon.

Having been in operation since mid 2004, the dive team at the resort is by far the most experienced in the waters of Ambon, and since relocating the resort to the northern shores of Ambon Bay, the team has pioneered many new sites in the area. There are now upwards of 30 dive sites to visit in Ambon Bay alone, with a variety of habitats, with many more sites found on the shores outside of the Bay.

Resort Manager Marcel Hagendijk brings a decade of international diving experience to Maluku Divers Resort and has been the resident manager since 2009. Marcel assists with any necessary instructor related tasks and offers a unique tour of the “Duke of Sparta” wreck in Ambon Bay. He is also happy to assist divers with his photographic knowledge and has coached many divers interested in improving their skills underwater.

Contact STI today to find out more about the great travel opportunities. The willingness to work with SDI™ and TDI ™ facilities is quickly creating opportunities for many dive centers with Indonesia on their must-dive list.

There is no time like the present to start putting together your dive plans for 2012 and beyond. When doing so, you will find your local SDI™ and TDI ™ facilities to be a great resource.

To get started on your next adventure, contact Scuba Travel International today – or (888) 778-9073 ext 301 for the SDI™ and TDI ™ facilities near you or visit to find a facility near you.

Know before you go, visit Maluku Mumblings to learn more about this unique destination and the adventure that awaits you!

SDI™ Welcomes New Group of Instructor Trainers

Completing Florida ITW

MBT Divers in Pensacola, FL hosted an SDI™ Instructor Trainer Workshop (ITW) from September 22-27, 2011. Four very capable and determined individuals participated in the program, as shown in the accompanying picture: Fritz Sharar and Cathy Haley from MBT, Tom Duran from Scuba Club and Curtis Shoff from Bermuda Triangle Divers rounded out the foursome.

All of the candidates worked hard to prepare for the intense program and it definitely showed in their positive results. Long days lasting late into the evening seemed to be the norm each day, and everyone successfully completed the program.

The Instructor Trainer Rating is International Training’s highest teaching level. The program focuses on development of evaluation techniques in the classroom, confined water, and open water. Presentation ability and skill demonstrations of instructor trainer quality are also assessed throughout the program.

Upon successful completion of this course, graduates may teach instructor level courses for all approved SDI, TDI, and ERDI levels they are qualified for, including conducting the Instructor Evaluation Course (IEC) portion of the SDI™ Open Water SCUBA Diver Instructor Course. The course is intensive and challenging but very rewarding.

International Training adopts a friendly, informal approach to the ITW and encourages a relaxed atmosphere throughout the program but also expects that all candidates will work hard to meet the challenges of the agency’s highest level of leadership training.

Anyone wishing to receive further information about the future ITW programs should contact the HQ Training Department via or call 207.729.4201 for more details.

Avoid Surprises at Your Dive Site

The Ever Important Gear Checklist… Making it easy to get it right on game day

We have all been there. During the usual mayhem while getting geared up for a dive, you discover a critical piece of gear is missing. Over the years, I have seen everything from a missing drysuit to regulators left back in a hotel room, storage shed or car trunk. Some of the smaller “mishaps” – like a forgotten compass – can be overcome with loaner gear from shipmates and dive buddies, but on occasion, a forgotten piece of equipment can mean a wasted dive day. The situation is even worse when your diving takes you overnight or, better yet, overseas. There is nothing worse than standing at a dive site and realizing that something is not where you thought it would be… except, of course, being part-way through a dive when this thought occurs!

The answer to this very common conundrum is a checklist – a top to bottom “roll-call” for essential (and not so essential) dive gear that is suited to your style of diving and the dive trip you have planned.

At SDI we have been asked many times why we do not sell a pre-printed diver’s check-list-slate. The simple answer is that there is no really comprehensive generic list of gear that would make such a product worth the price while remaining relevant and applicable with our associate members around the world. Furthermore, the scope of an equipment checklist is directly proportional to the complexity of the dives being planned, how far the dive site is from the nearest dive shop, and how much room you have in your baggage allowance/vehicle! No single slate can accommodate the dynamism that makes diving so much fun and divers so individual.

But we can share with you what the staff at SDI HQ use to help keep their gear intact and in place, and we hope that it helps you to create – AND USE – a personalized equipment checklist. Here are some suggestions, but remember, your mileage may vary!

Start off by breaking down your list into three categories:

  • Essentials needed for every dive
  • Nice to Have on most dives
  • Non-Essentials to take if there is room

Let’s start with Essentials.

This list really contains three sub-categories:

  • Life-support: This includes a full set of regulators (First stage, long-hose on primary second stage, necklace bungeed backup second stage, SPG, LP inflator(s) with hoses and o rings inspected*), fully charged cylinders (analyzed and marked correctly with MOD and contents), buoyancy (BCD or backplate simple harness and wing), fins, two cutting devices.
  • Thermal protection and Propulsion: This encompasses your drysuit and underwear garments, socks, hood, gloves (right and left hand!), wetsuit, booties, fins, jacket, hat, etc to keep warm during the surface interval.
  • Data collection: These items include a mask, PDC (personal dive computer), compass, underwater notebook and/or slate, graphite stick or pencil, logbook, c-cards, dive insurance card.

Things that are Nice to Have include: primary light, backup light(s), backup tables (more and more sport divers are choosing to carry computer-generated ascent schedules in case of PDC malfunction), spare mask, DSMB and spool, surface signaling device (Fox ref’s plastic whistles are small and work when wet), and a “super-duper” Save A Dive Kit (SADK). There is enough material to discuss in a SADK to warrant a whole new article but should contain at minimum: various orings, oxygen compatible lubricant, adjustable wrench and allen wrenches, LP and HP port plugs, spare mask and fin strap, spare mask and fin buckle, bolt snaps, lengths of 3 mm equipment cord and shock cord, duct tape, markers, a few Band-Aids and a tube of polysporin, seasickness meds, and an SDI Rescue Slate with the five-minute neuro exam on it. For the record, my personal SADK barely fits in a Husky tool bag and weighs about the same as an aluminum 80.

Non-Essentials that got high praise and pack space from SDI staffers include: “a ton more stuff for the SADK,” Food and Drink (CamelBak™ filled with dilute sport drink or Diver’s D-Lite™, energy bars, Gorp** or Trail Mix, fruit, banana-nut muffins, and on and on!), MP3 player and ear buds, warm beanie, sun-block, bug-spray, spare dry socks and other clothing packed in a drybag.

You probably can add to all three categories, and you should! Draw up your own checklist and use it.

One suggestion is to keep your gear in plastic tubs and as you transfer it into your dive bags, use a marker to strike it from the list. Another suggestion: if you pack small containers, never assume a piece of kit is in that small container. For example, a plastic box labeled Dive Computer could contain last week’s peanut butter and jam sandwich – check contents as you pack.

Another invaluable tip is to pack smart. If you are diving with a buddy or group of buddies, share the load. For example, SADK can be spread out between two or more people to conform to luggage restrictions. Just make sure that pre-trip communications eliminates the likelihood of three people taking, say, allen wrenches assuming “the other guy” will turn up with LP and HP port plugs (and be aware that not all plugs fit all first stages!).

But perhaps the most important and valuable advice is to take the time to check and double check that everything on your list has been verified and loaded before you leave home. If you have an early morning start, pack and check the previous evening. If you are leaving at noon for the drive to the dive site or airport, run through your list at least one hour beforehand.

Be cool and be organized and you’ll get it right on game day. Most importantly, have fun and dive safe!

One last word – over on the TDI side of things, a simple equipment checklist takes on a whole other dimension and branches off into an additional “pre-Dive Checklist.” But that’s a story for another day.

* The regulator setup suggested above with a longhose and bungeed necklace is just one option for SDI divers to consider

** GORP is a snack favored by hikers and although the acronym stands for Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts, can be ANY mixture of tasty treats including almonds, walnuts, sultanas and M&Ms (the author’s favorite)!

So as you plan a particular dive outing, simply visit and visit the SDI™ TDI™ or ERDI™ facility locator for the area you will be visiting and contact them to ask about the particular dive site you will be diving in their area. Simply ask the question “Is there a unique item you add to your dive gear for this particular dive?” Listen carefully, you may be amazed what you hear! Your local facility is also a wealth of information – don’t forget to check them out.

SUDS Helps Injured Veterans; Adventure Scuba Helps SUDS

Ever tried scuba diving? If so, you can agree it’s a sport that offers an incredible feeling of freedom. The weightlessness of the water, the muted sounds of sea life, the excitement of exploring coral reefs, caves, and wreck sites — these are all reasons why scuba is such a popular sport.

But for injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, scuba is much more. It’s an effective form of rehab that promotes mobility and instills confidence in men and women facing new disabilities like amputations and traumatic brain injury.

A program called SUDS (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba) has helped young, wounded heroes by offering scuba dive training as aquatic therapy treatment. Since the nonprofit began in 2007, SUDS has awarded open water dive certifications to well over 200 injured veterans.

“These soldiers were all very athletic, active people before their injury, and now they suffer from amputations—some are triple amputees, and they see that if they can do something as challenging as scuba diving, they can do anything,” said John Thompson, founder of SUDS, which is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA and partner of the Wounded Warrior Project.

The dive certification is impressive, but it’s the intrinsic value of the program that has made such an impact on participants.

“SUDS helps keep you active and helps you to push yourself,” explained veteran Shane Heath, who lost his left arm and leg during his third deployment in Iraq. “The mental rewards are the biggest thing. It builds confidence in that just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you can’t participate in life. It’s been an absolute blessing for me.” Shane is now training to become a dive master and spends his free time playing disc golf and following his dream to be a singer and songwriter.

SUDS scuba classes are offered weekly at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Much of the training can be done in the pool, but soldiers take trips to the ocean to complete their dive certification.

“My favorite moment is watching these guys come up from their first dive and seeing how excited they are when they realize there really isn’t much they can’t do,” described Larry Hammonds, volunteer dive instructor for SUDS and assistant manager at Adventure Scuba Company in Chantilly, Virginia. “They develop a whole new attitude toward life.”

“The ocean trips are very therapeutic. It’s a good group of guys, and when we’re there, we don’t think about our injuries,” said Dave McRaney, who was injured during his service in Afghanistan.

These trips are much-needed getaways from wounded warriors’ normal hospital rehab routines, and destinations have ranged from Cuba to Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys. But trips and equipment are expensive, so SUDS relies on support and donations from a number of businesses and organizations.

A Helping Hand from a Local Business

Adventure Scuba Company is one of the businesses committed to SUDS and its mission. In the past four years, the business has supported SUDS in a number of ways. The owners have donated equipment, provided free maintenance, hosted raffles to raise funds for the cause, and given a percentage of profits from its open houses and dive trips.

Company owners Henry Johnson, Bob Potterton, and Peter Juanpere came across SUDS when they were looking for a way to use their business to give back to the community. Henry is a retired marine, Bob’s dad was in the military, and a handful of dive instructors are also ex-military, so SUDS was just the right fit.

“We wanted to do something that meant a lot to us,” said Bob Potterton. “We’re a small shop and we can’t help everybody, but we can certainly do what we can for our military guys and gals.”

In the past, Adventure Scuba Company used its status as a dive tour operator to help arrange a SUDS trip with the use of its condos in Key Largo. Next year, the shop will put together a live aboard dive trip for injured veterans in the Bahamas or the Florida Keys.

“The veterans risked a lot and we believe they deserve a lot in return. We’re going to continue to help out as much as we can,” added Henry.

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Megan Tyson is a freelance writer and cause marketing consultant. Contact her at or visit for more information about cause marketing copywriting.