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.

Deep Diving is an Experience, Not Just a Number

by Dr. Thomas W. Powell:

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