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The First Step to Become a Scuba Instructor

Well you have accomplished the first step by getting certified as an Open Water Scuba Diver. What you will need now is experience, training and time.

Were You a Fan of Sea Hunt?

by David Houser:

VOIT regulator

My Navy VOIT double hose regulator.

Sea Hunt, a TV series originating in the late 50’s and running until the early 60’s, captivated the audience and may have motivated many young viewers to become future divers. I always wanted to go on underwater crime – fighting scuba adventures like former U.S. Navy Frogman, Mike Nelson. Fully equipped, he always wore a VOIT green label double hose regulator.

In the early 1970’s, as an airman stationed in Austin, TX, talk would sometimes lead to scuba diving. Sears carried scuba equipment, including Navy VOIT double hose regulators (right hose for inhalation and left for exhalation), VOIT 72 cubic ft tanks, masks and fins. It didn’t take long to make a decision that would affect a lifetime. With new equipment and full tanks, our destination was Austin’s own Lake Travis. I was hooked on the first dive.

Transferring to Florida in 1972, and ready to dive, the first hurdle was learning tanks could not be filled without a certification card. Hal Watts’ store offered classes. The certification was NASDS and…WOW… did I learn a lot! My instructor quickly became a good friend and I continued diving, getting my advanced certification and experiencing Florida’s springs.

david houser and crew going into Cisteen

Early 1970’s, preparing to dive into Cisteen.

Nearly every Friday evening we would go diving. Because most of the springs (Peacock, Orange Grove, Troy, Ginnie, Blue Springs, Ichetucknee, Little River and 40 Fathom Grotto, to name a few) were privately owned, we had to hike through cow pastures and woods to reach our destination.

While diving these springs I became fascinated with the underwater cave systems, and subsequently bought single hose regulators with an alternate air source (octopus), double 72 cubic ft tanks with manifold, Atpack (to replace the horse collar buoyancy compensator), and a new SCUBAPRO dive computer. The regulator was put on the manifold in the center of the tanks. The octopus, an idea Hal Watts came up with, was put on a swivel so if a buddy needed air, he could use it.

Switching from a double hose regulator to the single hose reduced the work of breathing, which was not affected by the diver’s position in the water. Another notable improvement included, bubbles being released from under the chin instead of behind the head.

homemade equipmentCave divers needed three independent lights, a primary and two backups. Ikelite and Scuba Pro made several lights, most requiring “C” or “D” batteries. Other divers were making their own lights using motorcycle batteries, so I decided to design my own using plexiglass and an aircraft landing light. The burn time was around 45 minutes to an hour, which was great for the time. However, due to its large size, the light had to be carefully balanced around the neck when entering caves to avoid damaging it.

We trained with several instructors in Peacock Springs, doing appropriate skills and practicing silt out drills. The phrase “plan your dive and dive your plan” was used by Hal Watts, and holds true even today. We planned and executed dives in Peacock 1, 2 and 3, Orange Grove, Olsen, Challenge, Cisteen sinks (all part of the Peacock Springs system); as well as Little River and Ginnie Springs. During some of the dives we would post signs warning divers that cave diving is dangerous without proper training, and attempted to connect tunnels different tunnels.

It was a pleasure to dive and spend time with some of the true pioneers of cave diving, especially Henry Nicholson. As a member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Dive team, I hold the highest respect and admiration for Capt. Henry Nicholson. *

The training was great back then, but it’s been amazing to watch how instruction and equipment has, and continues to, improve over the years.

My training and education continues today as an Instructor Trainer with SDI/TDI/ERDI and PADI Master Instructor.

Please remember, get the training you need for the type of diving you want to do.


* Henry Nicholson was Captain of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Dept. Dive Team. He founded IUCRR (International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery) along with Robert Laird, in 1999. The Nicholson Tunnel in Peacock was named after him, as was the Henry

5 Things Your Instructor Would Love for You to do Before Class…

by Lauren Kieren:

trimmed TDI diver

photo by: Thaddius Bedford

Being prepared for your next TDI diver course is critical to your learning during your progression in dive training. Whether you signed up for the TDI Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course or CCR Advanced Mixed Gas; learning at this level requires that you connect with the training and fully comprehend the theory development presented in the academic sessions, as well as actively participate in the in-water sessions.

A great deal of learning will happen after you successfully complete the TDI Diver course; however, you should expect to spend an equal amount of time learning outside of class as you spend working in class with your instructor. With that said, class preparation is a vital part to your overall learning experience throughout this process.

In the event you do not prepare for your next series in technical dive training, you can place yourself and others in your class at a major disadvantage. You will put yourself in the position of playing “catch up,” versus being actively involved and thinking ahead during training.

Here are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your course by showing up prepared and ready to learn:

  1. ORGANIZE YOUR EQUIPMENT – If your instructor sends you an equipment list and you are expected to show up to class with the items, do yourself and your instructor a favor by getting it organized prior to commencement of training. Lay everything out and double check your list to ensure you have the required items. This is a good time to verify the equipment actually works before you pack it in your gear bag for class. This is also the perfect time to make sure all your equipment, new or old, is labeled with your name.
  2. GET IN THE WATER – Before you start your next course, take some time to work on skills from previous courses. If all you can do is get in the pool and work on your buoyancy and trim, do it! Showing up with your basic skills fine tuned will help your technical training tremendously, especially if it’s been more than a couple of weeks since your last dive. It is common for TDI Instructors to require an assessment dive where students demonstrate they can perform skills from previous courses. If this dive does not go well, the instructor may require some remedial training that could delay or prevent the start of your course. If you are trained to dive in the equipment you will be using during your next progression in training, get in the water to make sure your equipment is dialed in; verify your harness is adjusted correctly and your hose lengths and routing are where you want them to be.
  3. COMPLETE YOUR HOMEWORK – Your instructor will most likely require you to complete some pre-course studies, such as reading the required TDI manual and completing the Knowledge Reviews. It’s possible your instructor might suggest additional text or materials outside of the TDI resources… read in advance and try to absorb as much information as possible before you start your course. A thorough pre-course review can help refresh your memory on previous course information, give you more confidence in class, and help you prepare to ask relevant questions, or make a significant contribution to the overall class by offering timely/appropriate comments. After reviewing the TDI manual and materials required by your instructor, make notes if you have any questions on the content, and hone in on the important points.
  4. HAVE AN OPEN MIND – Your next progression in technical dive training (regardless of the level) is critical to the overall safety and success of your future dives. If you already knew the information and had experience at this level, it’s very unlikely you would be participating in the course. With that said, pay attention and have an open mind. It’s important to be open and willing to receive the information your instructor is providing. If you are unsure of the information provided, ask your instructor for clarification or wait until after class to talk one-on-one.
  5. GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST AND COME TO CLASS PREPARED – Finally, get a good night’s rest before you start training, come to class prepared, and show up on time. Arriving for your first day of class disorganized, late, and unprepared sets the tone for the rest of the day, if not the class, and could diminish the overall objective you are trying to accomplish. Being prepared means you’re on time or early, you have all of the required pre-course studies complete, and you have all the necessary equipment (in working order) to start training.

Good class preparation will help you better understand the academic and in-water sessions, keep you confident in class and allow you to make the most of your time during your next series of technical dive training.

For more information on courses offered by Technical Diving International, TDI – Click Here! OR to find a TDI Instructor near you, go to the Find a TDI Instructor Search on the website. We are always open for questions so feel free to send us a message at training@tdisdi.com.

3 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Instructor

There really is never a bad question but always think about the question before you ask it; put yourself in the instructor’s fins. Questions are an important tool for instructors when teaching, they let the instructor know what the diver is thinking and chances are good that if one person has a question, others have may have the same but are hesitant to ask.

Deep Diving is an Experience, Not Just a Number

by Dr. Thomas W. Powell:

TDI Diver Bill Mac

photo credit: Bill Mac

In the diving world, a unique few choose to push their personal limits. This may include diving deeper, penetrating wrecks, or even diving with advanced equipment. With that being said, one may view going deeper as setting a new depth record. While some divers want to set private or universal depth records, most divers choose to go deeper for the experience. They may be seeking to discover what exists at depth, or they may want to see a wreck that sits outside of recreational diving limits. The truth of the matter is, actual depth is often not the real objective. Instead, depth is a factor the diver must understand and recognize during planning. Divers who love this sport focus on the experience, not just a number.

Despite technical diving being a complex realm, any diver can enter into it. However, one must keep in mind, factors such as the equipment, training, planning, and even price tags are different. These changes are all part of the “deep experience.” To begin, one must look at the equipment. Deep or technical divers often need more gas, bottles with mixed gas, multiple regulators, items like manifolds and doubles bands, mixed gas computers, side-slung or side-mounted cylinders, and redundancies across the board. This need for gear leads each individual diver to search for what works best for them, in regards to the most desirable items and their configuration.

Second, a diver seeking to go deeper and have more technical experiences may(should) seek out advanced training. This training introduces mixed gases, extended range capabilities, equipment configurations, as well as oxygen-based physiology and how it relates to decompression. To accomplish this training, a diver will often research what facilities and instructors he or she can best learn from. (Find a TDI Facility/Instructor here) This again, is all part of the “deep-diving experience.” Dive professionals and dive shop owners must remember that the experience does not just take place underwater. If the dive professionals involved work to provide the best possible experience, the diver will remain happy, the business may recognize more profit, and that same diver may become a loyal customer.

Third, the planning changes for the deep/technical diver when compared to recreational diving. During training, technical divers learn that emergencies may involve hard or soft ceilings. For this reason, the diver must learn how to “bail out,” or safely return to the surface using gasses carried to depth. This need requires the diver and his partner or team to develop a bailout plan for specified depths throughout the dive. If an instructor teaches the diver to be competent and comfortable in this task, the diver is more likely to enjoy it, and look forward to planning deeper dives. Again, quality and competent training will build a better diver who seeks to actively use the knowledge he or she has gained

Fourth, the price tag associated with technical diving can grow in comparison to the prices seen in recreational diving. The experience provided by instructors, boat operators, shop owners, and even other divers will make the expenditures less painful. However, if the diver develops a passion for technical diving, then the cost is justified.

Finally, technical diving skills open up a whole new world for divers. The diver can go places and see things that other divers may not have the knowledge or capability to safely see. Hidden wrecks, deeper marine life, and unique underwater formations become available for technical divers. In certain cases and with proper training, technical divers may even be able to explore places that others have never ventured. “Deep” is a factor related to technical diving, but only part of the overall experience.

Technical divers maintain a certain pride factor within their personalities. They have taken a step that few others choose to take, and for this reason, they enjoy the adventure of deeper technical dives. They also enjoy using complex planning and specified gas mixes to get to these deeper depths. Rather than just enjoying the marine life, diving becomes a complex adventure that demands close attention to detail, extensive planning, and thorough training. If the journey is positive from start to finish, the diver will get the complete experience. This “experience” is what keeps divers wet and encourages them to move forward within the world of scuba.


– Dr. Thomas W. Powell, Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC

How to Stay Out of Deco for Deep Dives

by Dr. Thomas Powell:

deep diver by reef

photo credit: Ray Bullion

Diving is a unique sport that can capture the hearts and interests of people of all sorts. For many, the urge to go further, learn more, and in some cases go deeper, will keep divers in the water. The problem with this mindset is, some people may push too hard, or go too far out of excitement or even bravado. These factors suggest that any and all recreational divers, at any level, must remember that one of our biggest objectives is to avoid decompression requirements unless we plan for them. Venturing beyond your no decompression limit (NDL) is a risk that any diver faces if he or she does not monitor their instruments and the overall situation.

To avoid this potential life-threatening problem of passing your NDL, there are various actions a diver can take.

Learn your computer! – Almost every computer today comes with bells, whistles, and alarms to let a diver know when a problem has occurred, or when the diver is approaching a problematic scenario. There is no excuse for any diver failing to learn the proper use of his or her computer. The computer is an essential item required for all SDI/TDI/ERDI divers. When lights flash or numbers change, the diver needs to know what this information means. Learning to properly read your computer and react to what it says, will help a diver get wet the next day. Similarly, the computer will track time as the diver approaches his or her NDL. This easily recognizable data can allow a diver to avoid crossing that threshold and going into a scenario requiring decompression.

Create a game – Take the time to use the information displayed on your computer to create a game. Monitor data, set goals, set limits, or even follow display data in a manner that forces you to look at your computer or gauges every short period. This action will force you to see your display and recognize information. A task as simple as this can force a diver to see NDLs approach or problems arise.

Make a deal with your buddy to check each other – Prior to any deep dive (or any dive for that matter), a diver can establish a plan with his or her buddy to check each other’s computers or gauges every so often. This action will ensure each diver has a redundant data check periodically. As NDLs are approached, and if a diver misses this information, the buddy may recognize the issue before problems arise.

Monitor your surroundings – Computers and gauges can tell us our depth. Despite this factor, if color changes or environmental factors alter, you may have drifted a bit deeper than planned and not yet noticed on your computer. Even if you plan to dive deep, we all know that going deeper will reduce your possible bottom time and therefore, your NDL. Pay attention to where you are, and use these observations to create a mental reference to check your computer.

Map out your plan in advance – Our training teaches us to plan deep dives in advance. Prior to any dive, set a route, walk through your objectives with your buddy(ies), and plan for possible problems. If you and your buddy set limits for max depth and understand your probable route, you may be able to foresee potential problems, or recognize when your buddy deviates from the proposed plan. Understanding when and where your team should be, will help all parties associated better pre-plan for avoiding NDLs.

The goal of any dive should be to have a good time, accomplish possible objectives, and be able to dive tomorrow. When we fail to meet these goals, bad things can happen and life-threatening problems may arise. As divers and dive professionals, we need to understand our actions, and ensure safety throughout a lifetime of enjoyment, no matter how deep someone chooses to go.


Dr. Thomas Powell – Owner/Instructor Trainer (SDI/TDI/ERDI) for Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC