Lately people have been asking us about rebreathers and when they should consider going that direction…So I figured “When Should You Get a Rebreather” would be a fun topic to write about.
Rebreathers are a simple concept. A rebreather is in essence like breathing from a “sealed bag” is filled with a breathable gas mixture. As you breath each breath, you deplete the oxygen in the “bag” through the process of metabolizing the oxygen and putting back in the lung exhaled breath with a lesser partial pressure of oxygen until the “sealed bag” or “lung” would go hypoxic (think of breathing in and out of a paper bag as a concept), meaning not enough oxygen is in the gas you’re breathing to sustain life.
You would have to replace the depleted oxygen with more oxygen, but in addition to this, you’ll also have make sure that carbon dioxide is also being absorbed/eliminated from your rebreathed gas, so we need to “scrub” the CO2 out with a CO2 “scrubber”….Sound simple? It is overall.
Below we will discuss who should dive a rebreather, the different basic designs and features, key elements, dive planning and more.
There are 2 types of rebreather concepts. Semi-Closed and Fully Closed.
Semi-Closed is less popular for the vast majority because it’s a glorified gas extender with an efficiency ranging from 8:1 to as high as 10:1 efficiency. They can use the same lung that a life-support patient breaths from which passively allows excess gas to vent from the bottom of the unit while the lung is refilled.
The Passive Semi-Closed Rebreather is very popular for depths where open and closed circuit scuba are less reliable. PSCR Divers often use larger cylinders.
Fully Closed Rebreathers utilize smaller tanks, a greater degree of efficiency as high as 40:1 that of open circuit because when the efficiency is met, the diver recycles the entire exhaled breath and only has to inject the oxygen when the PO2 drops. They can be more complicated but are more popular at the time of this writing
Rebreathers ARE NOT For Everyone
With the Cost of Helium increasing, more and more people are looking to breath more efficiently, however, diving a rebreather requires a higher level of awareness, technique, buoyancy, trim, knowledge of the machine and what can go wrong and how to troubleshoot problems.
It’s only a matter of time until Rebreathers become more common practice to the masses, however, now is not the time for most people because they don’t have the training or the experience.
Helium keeps going up and up, but that doesn’t mean unqualified Divers should be jumping in blind and bypassing all the experience and fun that is had learning and logging the experience dives that makes a person a better Diver.
Here are illustrations of a basic rebreather design and semi-closed rebreather design courtesy of the NAUI Rebreather Instructor Guide.
Types of Closed Circuit Rebreathers
Choosing the right rebreather for the individual is key. There is no perfect one rebreather of everybody.
Automatic: Some Divers prefer an automatic rebreather than much like a dive computer, runs the dive for them setting a constant PO2 (oxygen set point) for them on descent and maximum depth injecting oxygen using a solenoid .
Unless the Diver remembers to set the computer to a lower set point on ascent, this can cause problems for the Diver as the unit will continue to inject oxygen as the depth reduces because as the diver goes shallower, the Po2 will drop, so if the Diver ascends from depth at a PO2 set point of 1.2ata the rebreather will try to keep filling the lung with oxygen, whereas, the diver needs to set their set point lower to 0.6ata and they can ascend without worrying about an out of control ascent and manually adjust their set point to their desired level.
Continuous Mass Flow and Needle Valves: Some rebreathers use what’s called a needle valve which uses a “Mass Flow” orifice on the regulator of the O2 tank. The Diver can set their oxygen set point based on their metabolic oxygen rate by adjusting the Needle Valve.
The needle valve will gently flow oxygen into the counterlung so if the diver becomes task loaded and isn’t watching their Po2 (which should never happen), they needle valve will prevent the Diver from going Hypoxic.
You’ll find the Mass Flow a great option which is why the original KISS Rebreathers are still one of the simplest designs, while the updated Needle Valve design of Fathom CCR is becoming so popular.
The Continuous Mass Flow system is limited by depth. The intermediate pressure of the regulator first stage can reach the same as ambient pressure meaning an intermediate pressure in the first stage of 10BAR/145psi will not put out any more gas past 81msw/260fsw.
The Fathom System corrects the by modifying a diaphragm sealed first stage with a stronger spring which allows for safe boosting of the intermediate pressure up to as high as 205psi/14BAR which is capable of diving to depths of 120msw/395fsw. The pressure can also be increased up to 290psi/20bar for up to 585fsw or 177msw!!!
Excerp from the Fathom Page: “Smaller fixed-orifices can also be used for deeper depths with higher intermediate pressures but the risk of a blockage is increased and the options are limited by orifice availability. A fixed-orifice requires that the first stage intermediate pressure be adjusted to achieve a flow rate that corresponds to the diver’s metabolic needs, typically around 0.6 to 0.8 L/min. Conversely, the needle valve allows the first-stage intermediate pressure to be set to any pressure since the needle valve handles the flow adjustments. More importantly, the needle valve minimizes the risk of a blockage from debris since it can be opened up to allow small particles to pass. The oxygen MAV, which contains the needle-valve, is ported directly into the exhaust side of the head so oxygen must travel through the scrubber and mix with loop gas before reaching the diver.
1(145 psi/14.7 psi/ata – 2 ata) x 33 fsw/ata = 260 fsw (Note: always subtract 2 ata when calculating the maximum operational depth of a CMF system.)”
Manual CCR: Manual Rebreathers are simple, easy to use, but require more attention to the instrumentation and require the operator to constantly inject oxygen based on their needs depressing an oxygen injection button allowing the Diver to adjust the oxygen as slowly or quickly as needed, in a similar fashion to how a diver would inflate their bcd.
When Diving a Manual CCR, the Diver will have to remember to monitor their Po2 and maintain the desired set point.
One of the more fun skills is “Volume Drop” which the CCR Diver will do in their initial training course to see how long it can take their mix to go near hypoxic from their targeted set point.
Keeping a consistent set point that mirrors a backup computer if there isn’t a second computer handset or NERD on the unit is a desired option.
Being diligent with keeping the oxygen level consistent is a must.
Simplicity and Reliability Should Favour Bells and Whistles
The more high tech of a rebreather, the more complacent some Divers get. Whether you’re flying an automatic or manual system you should always be aware of your set point and Do Your Pre-Dive Checklist!
A Rebreather is a very Serious Piece of Equipment.
A rebreather is essentially a nitrox or trimix gas mixing system that is designed to deliver a constant oxygen set point that acts as a gas extender to you diving more efficient.
With each exhaled breath you make on open circuit scuba, there is no way to get that exhaled gas back.
A rebreather recycles your exhaled air, which is typically 5-6% less oxygen than you inhaled.
When you exhale into a rebreather, you’re exhaling into a scrubber canister, which is essentially a “filter cartridge” that is filled with a carbon dioxide absorbent, a granual that traps the CO2 on granules that resemble kitty litter called Soda lime, which is used to remove CO2 from breathing gases to prevent CO2 retention and CO2 Poisoning.
The filtered gas enters a counterlung that allows you re-breath this recycled gas and as it continues to be re-breathed, oxygen has to be added on occasion to prevent hypoxia (not enough oxygen)….Some have said that a rebreather is “essentially slowly trying to kill you, so maintaining the oxygen levels is essential.”
With each breath in we drop our oxygen PO2 so as the levels drop, we need to add oxygen to “bump” up the levels or the oxygen percentage you’re breathing can go hypoxic meaning you don’t have enough oxygen to sustain life and can go unconscious and die.
Think of the Scrubber and counterlung as your cardiovascular system.
Radial vs Axial Scrubber
Radial Scrubber allows the gas to pass through he canister body and provides a lower work of breathing, but is more difficult to pack than Axial Scrubber canister.
As the Co2 Absorbent becomes wet through moisture/condensation, the absorbent can clump, which can make it more difficult for the gas to pass through it, thus increasing the work of breathing.
Axial scrubber size/length needs to be long enough to prevent channelling of gas and short enough to keep the work of breathing low enough. A longer Axial scrubber will increase work of breathing.
For longer dives, a longer radial canister is much preferred as the work of breathing remains excellent on most designs.
There are also pre-packed scrubber cartridges available for some models of rebreather for the Diver who doesn’t want the responsibility or liability of packing a scrubber canister. These are more costly, but effective.
Rebreather Fatalities are (approximately) 10 Times More Common than Open Circuit Scuba Fatalities
Diving a Rebreather is very different than diving traditional Scuba. You can’t control buoyancy the same way and they don’t deliver gas the same way. Some even have a very complicated bunch of electronics or bulky, dangling bits everywhere and a huge, bulky counterlung.
Many CCR Divers can’t do a “try dive” on the unit they think they want to buy, so unfortunately, we see many people making Very Poor Choices in their Selection.
Your best rebreather is ultimately the one you think you want, but honestly, the simplest, most reliable and mores streamlined rebreather is the one for you.
Avoid Bells and Whistle’s, and run the unit in “manual” mode instead of an automatic rebreather. Be In Control of Your Oxygen Levels, don’t trust the machine to do it all for you.
Get as polished as you can be and as experienced as you can be before you jump into a rebreather.
Who Should Dive a Rebreather?
If the CCR Diver is wanting to dive the a pair of shipwrecks within recreational limits and dump their scrubber after the dives are completed, the cost of absorbent and gas fills will cost more than Nitrox fill in doubles would, so unless that Diver is planning a longer than “No Stop” recreational time limits, or saving the absorbent after the days diving wraps up for another day of diving, there is no benefit to using a rebreather on those dives, other than practice.
Cave Divers can spend hours underwater just on a single dive, as can shipwreck divers, technical divers and research divers. This is who a rebreather is best suited for.
NEVER ABANDON HOGARTHIAN/DIR/NTEC PRINCIPLES AND VALUES
Your rebreather configuration should be as streamlined as your doubles setup. Simple, Streamlined, Reliable, Familiar. Long hose is always off the right post, necklace (or BOV) is always off the left post so they don’t roll closed when swimming through a restriction like a cave or shipwreck.
Most CCR Divers Don’t Mirror Open Circuit (Long Hose, Backmounted Diluent, SPG Left Hip, etc.), which makes the system more complicated and in a situation where task loading can become a problem, that’s never good.
You should NEVER have to re-orient your stage bottle rigging (Always Valves Up Not Valves Down), positioning of your stages (Always Left Side). Running your valves “Valves Down” means your regulators are going to hit first when you do a stage drop. Those diving in the Great Lakes also have to worry about Zebra Muscles slicing into your hoses. It’s also easier to do a bubble check when your stage bottle valves are facing you.
Valves Up? or Valves Down on the Main Cylinders? Diving 3L Cylinders you will trim out better with the valves upright like a standard K Valve, but the Valves Down is acceptable for some configurations too.
When Diving CCR with Aluminum 40’s or Faber LP50’s Valves Up is the Most Modern and Most Reasonable Option.
Diving PSCR Valves Up is the Only Option as well, since the cylinders are larger and your’re mirroring your Open Circuit Doubles Configuration.
You can also get a Sidemount Rebreather in PSCR or CCR. Many of them do not breath well.
Remember the DIR…NTEC Principles are based around the concept of “Doing it Right”.
Not Enough Bailout Gas
One of the most common problems with rebreather divers is that they do not carry enough bailout gas!
You’ll sometimes see a cave or trimix diver doing a technical dive with 1-2 aluminum 40 cylinders. In the unlikely event the diver is equipped with 3L (FX23 cubic foot) tanks, they should have a minimum of 2 stages.
Some Divers are also starting to use a Sidemount Rebreather as a bailout option.
Cave 1 Divers require a minimum of 140ft3 of bailout, while a Cave 2 level Diver requires a minimum volume of 225ft3.
This means that the average CCR Diver doing a cave dive with an aluminum 40 or a pair of 40’s isn’t carrying enough bailout in the event of a full failure of the unit where they’d be required to swim their bailout from the deepest point in the cave.
Even an AL80, AL40 and the 3L tanks aren’t generally enough for a cave 2 level dive, 2 80’s and bailout in fact aren’t either as that + the 3L cylinders is only 200ft3 of gas.
A recreational diver doing No Stop Diving can use a single AL40 from 40msw/130fsw.
A Technical Level 1 Diver 50msw/150fsw would require an AL80 and an AL40 to ensure they can hit the obligated deco stops ascending from max depth to first deco stops and in the second bottle should have at least a 50% nitrox mix to breath.
A Trimix 1 Diver (2 deco bottles in Open Circuit) generally certified to 60-72msw/200′-240′ should have at least 1 AL80 worth of bottom gas to ascent from max depth to first deco stops. A second AL80 to ascend form the 150-70′ range and then enough gas to get from 70′ to the surface.
A Trimix 2 Diver diving beyond 70msw/240fsw requires enough bailout to ascend from max depth to first deco stop, and then each additional phase of decompression.
A 91msw/300fsw would require roughly 150ft3 of open circuit bailout to the first required deco stop, which would be a trimix of a 21/35 or 23/25. That would have to last the OC Diver up to the next required deco phase which should be 70′ and 50% Nitrox or a hyperopic trimix like 50/25, while others may opt for a 30/30 trimix breathed up to 20′ which would require yet another AL80 for the decompression phase.
You’ll start to see why the little 3L tanks aren’t enough for deeper trimix dives unless you split the bailout cylinders with your team member(s) to minimize what you’d have to carry.
For “Light” recreational dives, double Aluminum 40’s are a wonderful option offering 80 ft3 of bailout on the back.
A pair of Faber LP50’s filled “Florida Style” with a bottom trimix is more preferred for experienced rebreather divers.
For the Same Dive the LP50’s would bring the diver into the 55msw/180fsw range easily, switching to the 21/35, then up to the next deco phase at either 21msw/70fsw or 30msw/100′ and up to the 9m/20fsw phase where another AL80 of oxygen would be required.
It’s so important to plan ahead and plan for the worst, as you don’t want to be left with any surprises, and while a flooded rebreather or a total loss of your PO2 monitoring equipment is rare, which can happen, as can regulator failures, burst disc ruptures and more, but that’s why they call them a failure. They’re unplanned.
Being Proficient in at minimum of 2 AL80 Stages is why I always encourage Divers to get to at least the Cave 2 or Trimix 1 level.
The pre-dive setup and post dive teardown of a rebreather could take far longer than the planned dive. Some units are easier to assemble and teardown than others, which should be a consideration.
Maintenance, pre-diving evaluation of all components which should be frequently inspected, as well as changing of the oxygen sensors every 6-12 months, servicing the regulators, fittings, o-rings, injection equipment should all be factored in.
If a leak is detected in the unit, it can cause more problems in the event of an emergency, as a flooded rebreather can have an unfavourable effect if the scrubber becomes wet, causing a “caustic cocktail” which can be an instant retching action that can cause the diver to go into a choking reflex as you ingest this corrosive, alkaline cocktail. If a Diver tries to bail out to open circuit on a separate regulator they may involuntarily inhale more water, while simultaneously retching and possibly drown, this is where a Bail Out Valve or BOV is a very smart piece of equipment. The BOV has a switch on the rebreather that allows you to open the breathing loop from closed circuit to an open circuit regulator.
The diver will then be able to breath or barf and breath through the second stage as they take sanity breaths for a couple of minutes. Students are taught to purge empty the rebreather from water on their CCR Course.
Instead of a BOV, some rebreather divers use a DSV (Dive Surface Valve) to allow them to breath surface air topside. This could be more risky in a caustic environment as the diver doesn’t have the ability to switch off closed circuit to open circuit in the even of a caustic cocktail, so utilizing a necklace under the chin reminiscent of how modern divers dive with a long hose/short hose configuration is the only reasonable option to get breathable gas if the unit is flooded.
People love the “Cool Factor”, but I wholeheartedly caution those who don’t cut it at the recreational or entry-level technical diving level to wake up and seriously ask yourself if you’re ready for all that CCR Diving entails.
A friend of ours who passed away recently ago used to say he never dove a rebreather because he had friends who were Doctors or Lawyers with more letters that were in front of their names who died on them.
Diving a Rebreather is more commonplace now, but unless the dives are super deep (below 150’ or more) or super long like those maybe a Marine Research Diver would be participating in, the reality is that diving Open Circuit is the more efficient choice for the average person.
Rebreathers require a much higher degree of attention, diligence and understanding of how the unit works. The simpler the unit, the easier it may be to fix on the fly in the event of an equipment related issue. You should always have multiple ways to receive breathable gas in an emergency, so always do your positive and negative checks, and test out the mushroom valves, regulators, fittings and practice drills regularly to keep your problem solving skills sharp.
Have a well stocked rebreather Save a Dive Kit of spare o-rings, regulator parts, breathing hoses and sensor(s).
Keeping Your Rebreather in “Dive Ready Condition” is a Must.
Pre-Dive Checks, Calibrating the Instruments, verifying flow rates (if applicable), packing your scrubber, then cleaning and disinfecting the unit is all part of rebreather diving. Don’t be lazy and don’t be complacent.
Diving a Rebreather requires diligence and being familiar with all the inner workings of the unit.
Things to Consider.
Which Side does the oxygen inject in from? Before or after the gas is analyzed? Does it have an ADV or a T-Block Piece? How many different ways can you get breathable gas if you need it? How does the unit breath flooded? Is the unit reliable? Does it work in cold water or just warm water? Is it lightweight for travel? Do you need to wear weights with it and how much? Is the cost of the unit agreeable?
What are the entry requirements to training on a Rebreather? Agencies who make it “too easy” don’t get the big picture. Train harder, skill up and then go to a rebreather. Don’t Take Short cuts. See my previous blog post What’s The Hurry, What’s The Rush?.
You’re making a decision that can cost you over $10’000.00USD. Do Your Research, but more importantly talk Us. We do get Demo Units as well sometimes as trade-in’s. We currently have a Sentinel CCR up for grabs.
Book a Try Dive with Us and see why our way is the best way.
All too often Divers go blindly into purchasing a rebreather and it’s not until they start putting the hours on their units do they realize they purchased the wrong one.
Rebreathers are a lot of fun, as you can extend your dive times, see more creatures up close and more personal, it buys you time in an emergency if you’re trapped in a shipwreck or a cave to find an exit in the event of a collapse making them a safer choice for extreme cave diving and the deepest shipwreck diving.
50-100 Trimix Dives will more than pay for the rebreather and the training, so get your hours up in Open Circuit, get proficient with multiple stage bottles and let’s help you become a Rebreather Explorer.
Scuba Certification What’s the Hurry? What’s the Rush?
by Matthew Mandziuk Cave, Technical, Rebreather Explorer and Instructor
Scuba Certification What’s the Hurry? What’s the Rush? It seems to be that an old trend coming back full circle in diving again, that one that strikes fear in the dive community who’ve seen it before, whereby the newer diver seems hungry for certification cards and not experience.For some divers it will be all about how fast to push and push and push through course after course after course without any real world experience dives in between. Its a scary thought thinking that people would want to rush through anything, while its even more scary how stores or instructors are willing to take on students who want it as fast as possible, but to be fair many look at it as a business opportunity to sell to a captive audience striking while the iron is hot.
The other side of the coin when it comes to Scuba Diving Certification is when a group of divers start pushing ahead after they’ve obtained a user level certification, and decide “they know it all”, then they begin utilizing other types of gear or gas mixes they aren’t certified to use in those environments. Either way, there are concerns we have with this obviously and without correcting these actions people may get hurt.
There is a pride and a sense of accomplishment in anything we do in life, whether its obtaining a pilots license, completing your first ski hill successfully, jumping out of your first airplane, or taking your first step as a diver and completing Open Water Certification.
In the business of diving, we have a couple of laid out progressions for us that guide us down a list of courses and experiences that get us to our end goal. For some its that they want to be a Master Scuba Diver, for others a Divemaster or Instructor, while other divers take a more serious path towards cave, wreck, or technical diving requiring more disciplined skill sets, better more streamlined equipment alternatives and are presented with a myriad of amazing course options after their first level of training which is a higher skills course like Intro to Tech.
Regardless of which path divers take they’re encouraged to dive to their highest level of experience, gaining some underwater hours at that level and when they feel they’re ready to start upgrading their skills and knowledge, they should aspire to take the next level of training.
In some circles, the training agencies are noted as being certification factories pushing divers through the ranks as quickly as possible, without really stopping to teach or remind divers of the importance of the small things like foundational skills, team awareness, air sharing or rescue procedures, while other agencies are more progressive, some even insist on taking a series of Specialty Courses after their initial entry level Open Water Course before they’re knighted with the title of “Advanced” Open Water Diver, which is a very interesting business model, because it encourages the divers to get out and log a lot of bottom time prior to engaging in more advanced training, but within that system, there are those few rogue divers who feel that they’re good enough to just “jump in” and try anything, and that’s where we as educators and we as divers need to step up and say something……What do we say? “Hey, don’t do that”? Maybe, maybe not, but its a good start in the right direction in an attempt to correct peoples poor diving choices.
The best way to learn from ones mistakes are to have a look at what needs to change, so we decided to add some things we feel can help you become a better, safer, more well rounded diver.
Mastering Your Foundation Skills
Trim – if you don’t know what this is, trim refers to your position in the water. Progressive divers should always strive to achieve a level of balance for their entire body of within + or – 10% midline of horizontal.
Fin Technique – all divers should be able to perform a modified frog, helicopter turn and modified flutter kick. Back fin is also a kick everyone should master. It’s easier to ascent using a backwards kick, as well, it allows you to hold and stabilize yourself and your position running line, deploying an smb or virtually any other thing you’d do.
Buoyancy – Buoyancy, Buoyancy, Buoyancy. If you can’t control yourself in the water without flailing with your hands you haven’t learned trim/buoyancy. Hover there, not moving, motionless. If you feel your body moving into a different direction, figure it out and correct it, it could be a need to redistribute weight, adjust harness tighter, crotch strap tighter, go to heavier fins if you feel your head drop, but believe us when it works, there’s no better feeling in the world. Hover 60 seconds or more not moving hands, minimal if any skulling with fins, which stay up higher than your hands do, so they prevent silting.
Mask Removal/replace/clear. Done in trim, neutrally with 1 exhaled breath to clear water out.
Regulator removal/clip long hose/switch to necklace, unclip and switch back to reg in trim, neutrally.
SPG useage unclipping from left hip d-ring, bring out around from behind to front of the body from back to front in trim, neutrally.
Sharing Gas Deployment of your long hose regulator holding the hose, passing off with the mouthpiece up, second stage purge button free for diver to clear, while simultaneously switching to your necklace regulator, once obtained, release long hose to primary diver while un-tucking long hose from weight pocket or canister light on the right hip to fully deploy it. Skill is done neutrally buoyant, in trim, staring face to face with diver in need of aid.
Ascents – Slow, max 30ft/min stopping at 30, 20, 15, 12, 9, 6, 3 for practice, staying in trim with proper neutral buoyancy and ascent speed.
Valve Manipulation Drills – Manifold shut-downs going through the sequence of isolation and switching over from failed post to backup. Should be done fluently, with trim and buoyancy, while maintaining team communication with your light to draw attention to you.
Primary isolation and shut down/switch over should be less than 30 seconds, or just simply shutting a post and switching to another post less than 15 seconds in an emergency.
Even Recreational Divers Should be taught how to signal their dive buddies, ask for their long hose or alternate air source in a free flow situation, where the diver or their buddy can then take a corrective action by shutting down the valve and sharing air up to the safety stop. If its a frozen regulator, it should be thawed provided the water is warmer at the 15′ stop, where the diver can then complete the safety stop on their own back gas or stay on the divers alternate.
Stage Bottle Handling – stage bottles are a fantastic addition when doing longer dives where you’d like to save back gas. A stage allows you to consume air from the additional cylinder before breaking into your main tanks, allowing you the opportunity to extend your duration and ground covered.
Muscle Memory – doing these skills until they become habit and you’re not thinking about which valve to turn off or how to pass of the regulator to the out of air diver means that you’re gaining confidence and proficiency and doing this until its habit is key, much like a martial artist works on blocking or break falls a diver should have the same sort of muscle memory for dealing with emergencies.
Taking our Intro to Tech Course or a Solo Diver (Self Reliant Diver)course will introduce you to these basic skills with 2 different levels of skill performance and equipment configuration requirements.
Experience in as Many Environments as Possible.
Diving is an enthusiast sport of exploration, where we go and see the world and the many amazing things beneath that worlds surface, but like anything there are new environments and new experience to be had in each of those environments, whether its mastering how to deploy an smb and be able to send it up in a challenging dive environment with a strong current, or using a flashlight and learning how to communicate with your lights to your dive buddy and not blind everyone, to how to use an underwater scooter or DPV, run a line in a shipwreck or a cave, how to take underwater photos but stay still in one position without moving up or down/front or back, there are a range of environments to gain proficiency in and diving in all of them is the only true way to master your skills.
The best cave diver may find themselves out classed and out of options on a shipwreck trip in the Northeast Atlantic diving the Andrea Doria if they’re not used to big waves and strong surface currents on decompression, or may feel overwhelmed diving drysuit in cold water with extra bottles and dry gloves.
The warm water reef diver may be comfortable diving in a 2mm shorty wetsuit, but a 7mm wetsuit with hood and gloves can be the most intimidating thing if they’re expecting to just jump into a serious dive, and in turn have a negative experience.
The fresh water diver who gets tired of the same boring down south reefs dons a drysuit and experiences what its like to scuba dive in Les Escoumins, British Columbia, Alaska or Newfoundland and finds that there are colours there that they never knew existed.
The Niagara River drift diver or quarry dive does their first dive in Tobermory or in Lake Ontario and experiences a thermocline but also their first dive with 100-200′ visibility.
What I’m saying is that there is no 1 dive worth doing over and over and over again, there are always new and exciting environments to explore, new bodies of water with new wrecks, new caves, new cave passages, bigger, better deeper walls and wrecks, big creatures to see up close and personal, photograph, video and more.
Working Up to Bigger Dives
In doing the spirit of diving as frequently as possible and in as many environments as possible, put in the time to train up to the depths you want to hit, using and mastering to the best of your abilities the specialized gear you’ll need to get there.
Working with 1 decompression/stage/pony bottle can be easy with practice to take on and off and gas switch to and re-stow the hose, whereas a second bottle can send you out of sync and make you feel like an open water diver all over again.
Making 1 minor change to any key piece of gear can alter your trim and comfort, so its best to work out the kinks in shallow water where you can surface, re-rig or make adjustments, don’t just jump into the deepest depth you’re certified to dive, its unrealistic and unsafe.
Don’t Get Cocky
Many Divers are Good and Many Divers are Cocky not realizing they are mortal. No matter how many superhero movies we watch, we are not Thor, or even Batman, we may be more like Robin.
Diving beyond your certification level is a ridiculous act of overconfidence. Yes, you might live, but what happens if a problem arises? Can you safely get yourself out of that dangerous environment?
Things to consider if you don’t have expert buoyancy, don’t go inside a shipwreck or a cave or on a dive with a sensitive bottom without running a line.
Don’t dive deep on air. It’s out dated, its not cool anymore and people shouldn’t do it. Get proper training in mixed gas diving with trimix on dives 100′ or deeper inside a wreck or cave and 130′ in open water. Narcosis is called rapture of the deep for a reason. People with way more experience than you have died diving deeper into shipwrecks or caves on air than you have.
Even at depths of 100′ divers are narc’d its manageable, most don’t notice until they’re given a task to do like writing, tying lines, communication with their buddies, any sort of mental task, but given a higher stress level or a higher work of breathing with increased CO2 build-up that level of narcosis can increase and so can the the severity of the impairment.
Factors that affect narcosis level can also include quality of sleep or lack there-of, seasickness, stress level pre-dive and on descent, as well as a number of psychological modifiers at depth ranging from cold, darkness, equipment you’re wearing, overall condition and size of the dive you’re on, visibility, etc.
Don’t think the rules don’t apply to you because they do. Divers become statistics usually when a training limitation is breached, a line isn’t run into an overhead environment, a mandatory piece of equipment is overlooked, gases aren’t analyzed, divers get complacent.
Keep up your edge! Maintain your skills! Stay active in diving and even if it seems silly to do a refresher at a higher level certification level, get the instructors to challenge you with more difficult tasks and skills. If they’re a progressive dive shop offering higher end gear and training this shouldn’t be a problem.
Don’t get complacent. Complacency kills.
Train With An Instructor Who Encourages Your Success Without a Continual Payout
As a Dive Instructor our job is to mentor divers, shape them, and encourage them to live the diving life and enjoy the greatest sport in the world. Selling is a part of diving, selling the next big trip, charter, piece of gear, continuing education course, but if you only hear from your instructor when they need another body to fill a class, are they really looking after your best interest or theirs?
For some teaching is a part time job or a hobby and they have a “real” big person grown-up job, while others teaching is their bread and butter, so a constant revolving door of students is important, but how can we as educators fulfill both student and instructor needs?
By providing amazing training, advice, engaging them on fun dives, encouraging them to dive as much as possible, while not on a course, but of course keeping in touch with them for all their training needs when you both together feel that moving to the next level is a viable option.
Career counselling for divers can be a fun, simple and easy thing to integrate into your dive store routine, while the students should always feel they have the ability to contact you about anything big or small.
By keeping an open line of communication and diving with your divers frequently, you can also see changes in their abilities and watch them progress, so of course you can invite them to come out and take their next level of training with you too.
Continue Challenging Yourself with Dives at your Highest Level of Certification
Don’t stop your training. If you’re comfortable in the water, keep going all the way from recreational to technical or cave. You’ll find your hobby lasts a lifetime rather than weeks, months or years when you strive to succeed.
Divers who see the challenge and embrace diving as their sport have a lifetime of happiness underwater and the training just keeps getting more and more challenging, fun, unique and the dives continue to upstage previous ones.
Certification Doesn’t Mean Expertise
When you finish a dive course you’re basically being handed a license that says on this day you met the minimum standard or higher at the specified level. It means you have the opportunity to explore in an environment and depth range to that of what you were trained in, nothing more.
Don’t read more into your certification course than the agencies who created the minimum standards.
They establish a safe limit for you to dive and enjoy assuming your level of proficiency is met.
You’re in no rush, there is no prize to breeze through certifications and there is no respect given or gained from rushing through courses.
The common trend these days is to jump from course to course to course, whereas this is the silliest thing you can do.
Many divers breeze through the first 400′ of Ginnie Springs Devil’s Ear/Eye Cave System to push into the back section not taking the time to admire the beauty and explore some of the other unmarked jumps around that first section, yet if you take your time and slowly gain experience you’ll see more in those dives than the divers who are trying to push as far and as fast into the caves as possible.
Taking your time and enjoying the dives are why we’re here, not to get a false title or to try to prove something to someone who really doesn’t care what your certification level is.
Given the choice of taking a diver who has been diving 3-4 years and averaged 200 dives a year and has taken the time to complete a course or two a year, or diving with a diver who has been diving 1-2 years and has 8-10 certifications and maybe 100-200 dives total, which diver do you think is going to be the better diver? Who would you rather dive with and who would you rather be? Lets hope in both cases 3-4 year diver because they’re taking their time, diving as much as they can and seemingly being safe about it rather than just paying for a rating.
There is no rush to become a dive professional, there is no need to fast track through courses. There is a perceived image that dive instructors make a lot of money in diving, but what you don’t see is the cost of all the dives that instructor should be doing to gain experience and mastery of their skills and environment, the upgrade costs for equipment and additional training, as well as the instructor development course costs that are associated with each level they upgrade.
There is also the need to experience through advancing through the levels. Rather than fast tracking from 0-hero and getting the “full meal deal” being able to teach every course, take time slowly going up the ladder teaching 25 students minimum at each level before moving on to the next level from Open Water to Advanced Specialties, from Specialties to more technical courses and at each level of technical class work at it for some time. 20-25 certifications may seem like a lot and that’s the point. Gain years of experience, intern some courses or co-teach with other instructors. Most agencies will even encourage you to audit another members course and teaching style with their permission.
If you don’t take your time and you rush through things you aren’t as thorough as you could be, you achieve a false sense of accomplishment and tend to have the reputation to fast track the classes you teach the way you fast tracked your learning yourself.
It takes not just time in the water, but also time perfecting your teaching style, your demonstrations, outlines, etc. There is no “fast way” to become a reputable dive instructor or dive professional, if there were everyone would do it.
The Blind Following the Blind
There’s a lot to be said for learning from a good mentor, but there are born leaders out there who have no skill or knowledge to pass on to new divers if they themselves have not had success in their training path.
Imagine a person who took part of a cave diving course trying to teach an open water diver how to run a line when they themselves didn’t succeed in their journey into cave diving? If someone didn’t pass a cave course why are they trying to teach someone else?
Now imagine both of those Divers exploring a cave system, silting it out, becoming lost, trapped, running out of gas and dying inside that cave?
The one Diver gave his other Dive Buddy a false sense of security and accomplishment and essentially had he lived, could’ve, would’ve, should’ve been charged with manslaughter, however, in this case both men died!
There are so many lessons to learn from a Diver’s Mistake. Books like the Last Dive help shed a lot of insight into accidents, as well as Deep Descent and the classic Blueprint For Survival book by the late Sheck Exley, one of our absolute favourite books and a Free Download!CLICK HERE
If you had a friend that was an experienced Scuba Diver, would you follow them or listen to them if they weren’t that experienced? I guess it’s like when an Instructor who doesn’t actually dive tries to use the phrase “but I’m an Instructor”. In reality, you’re only as good as your student level accomplishments have told you. A Divemaster can start becoming a Master at 30 Dives, an Instructor can become an Instructor with only 102 logged dives for certification. To put it into perspective, many of our DDS Divers yearly log over 100 dives.
I firmly believe and I firmly encourage anyone interested in being a Divemaster or Instructor to become a Tech Diver or Cave Diver First. As a matter of fact, all of our Active DDS Instructors are certified Cave and or Technical Divers. These are true role models and experienced professionals in the industry.
The Guy who was certified in the 1980’s and decides to make a valiant comeback to Diving 30 years later and says they’ve been diving for nearly 40 years isn’t a good role model. They’re old school and outdated and unless they take some modern diving courses and update their gear and knowledge, they’re a massive liability.
The Diver who has all the neatest toys and no certification to show for it is not a good role model to learn from.
A certified Trimix Diver who has remained active through the years who wants to show you how to fin backwards or let you test dive a set of double tanks is likely a good choice to take advise from, not some person who just got a set of doubles a few weeks ago and didn’t take training or understand how the isolator works. An old school tech diver wouldn’t be as good to take advice from because they maybe didn’t use a double tank set with isolator, in favour of independent doubles and redundant pressure gauges, which we certainly don’t endorse the use of in the 2000’s.
Trust Yourself, be smart and look after yourself and ask yourself if you feel safe diving with someone who is too eager, too excited, too pushy or too unaware of their own diving abilities and seek alternate role models.
Anyone can call a dive at any given time, don’t feel like you have to spend as much time as your dive buddy, if the No Deco Limits almost up, you should be heading up as a non-technical certified diver.
He With the Most Toys Wins?
Sometimes Divers have more money than brains. We get people brining in Spare Air’s asking how much bottom time they’ll get off of it because they bought a crappy little air tank system that comes with a hand pump on Amazon hoping it would be enough to explore the underwater world for an hour….24 breaths later hopefully they surfaced safely. This has happened a few times over the years and the most recent one just got an underwater scooter to go with his spare air type system.
If you were taught that it was cool to carry more tanks just because you “may need” the gas you’re an idiot! Proper Dive Planning will help you know exactly how many cubic feet you will consume at your target depth, for your target duration. Fact. Depth (ata) x Time x SCR. If you don’t know what that means make a point of learning more advanced dive planning.
There are some great courses without even going technical that will help you plan dives properly. Find where your passion lies and find a suitable and safe way to get there.
Take the time to do it right. Cookie cutter classes and fly by night dive shops and instructors are not ideal, and the cheapest isn’t always the best, neither is the most expensive. You can pay a lot or a little and get the same results, what you need is to talk to the trainers you want to train with and see how much more and how much better they can be for your needs, wants and desires.
Don’t follow the herd just because someone is telling you what to do. Find out the how’s and why’s for yourself and make a more informed decision.
For Every Toy You Purchase, You should take a course on how to use them.
Once in Lake Erie the weather kicked up as a storm was blowing in and they Divers lost their ambient light. One of them had a light, powered it on and they lost sight of the mooring line and didn’t know which part of the wreck they were on. One was a PADI Divemaster, One was a Rescue Diver. They decided to do a free ascent which they’d never done before. Horace being a Rescue Diver had an SMB that he’d never used before but carried it…Ralph the Divemaster had no idea how to use one either, but the Rescue Diver passed the bag and reel to the DM assuming a “master” should know how to do that. I was sitting on the bow of the boat watching the bubbles going away from the wreck and knew something was happening.
When their bubbles got bigger, faster, I knew they were going up too fast and they breached the surface holding the SMB’s limp and helpless in their hands and they blew the last minute of their safety stop. I had oxygen for them and they were fine.
Ralph became one of my best technical diving students not long after that, while Horace decided to become a PADI Instructor and faded away into obscurity.
Carrying even an additional stage cylinder requires proper procedures and the know-how how to use them.
Carrying extra stages just to be cool is excessive and embarrassing, especially if you don’t know how to use them in the first place.
Diving a DPV. Our DPV Classes are far more in-depth and advanced than most and we offer technical programs with DPV’s also, but some people just think it looks easy and they get one. DPV’s are no joke and they require a very disciplined and dedicated attention to buoyancy, bottom composition, trim, the trigger, other divers and of course the tow leash itself.
If you don’t have the right bcd, a DPV will be a huge liability and hinderance to you as well. You need a crotch strap with scooter ring.
Dive Computers are a great tool, but take the time to read up on the information it’s telling you. If you don’t know what Deco or Ceiling means, you should never see those words. A computer is something that helps keep you on schedule but should never be relied upon, always pre-plan your dive to get a feel for the schedule and anticipate delays, issues and problems and build those factors into your dive plan.
Do Not Rely on Your Dive Computer to Decompress for You, Only You Can Decompress for you.
Buying a Drysuit and just jumping in with it is risky, especially if the suit isn’t custom fit for you. Excessive amounts of air in the legs and rest of the suit can have very negative consequences. Not knowing you need a drysuit hose for it or forgetting to hook it up to the suit can have very fatal outcomes, as has happened in a recent lawsuit involving a shop in the US.
Accidents happen and they happen….when you don’t expect them to happen, which is why they’re called an “ACCIDENT”!
Be a Leader, Not a Follower. Don’t Be Like Hitler in one of our favourite Dive Spoof YouTube Videos. CLICK HERE.
Those That Can’t Do….Buy a Rebreather!?
One thing that always puzzles us is when a diver struggles in open circuit scuba during a Foundational Skills Course like our NAUI Intro to Tech (which is the most thorough Foundational Skills Dive Course Available). Intro teaches divers the fundamental skills such as buoyancy, trim, team diving, equipment configuration and familiarity, emergency procedures, safer ascents, descents, while refining your body position or trim in the water among many other wonderful and beneficial skills, yet we’ve had over a dozen scuba divers who couldn’t control buoyancy, or just want to fast track forward and get cards and not put fourth the effort, only to find out that after failing intro, they purchased a closed circuit rebreather and went the zero to hero route on a CCR from air diluent to normoxic trimix, yet still lacked the rudimentary elements that our divers are all taught!
If you can’t dive without silting out the bottom or ascending without being a fish on a fish hook on your safety/decompression stops, what makes you think diving a rebreather or tech diving on doubles with a homemade “deco mix” )because a shop won’t fill your deco bottles with 100% Oxygen if you’re not certified) so you home-brew some “deco gas” and bring in an un-marked cylinder to be topped with air at a dive shop to get your desired mix is safe?
Do they know that you’re putting the shop that’s filling their cylinder with “air only” at risk for liability and litigation in the event they get bent or they die!?
I remember diving the Forest City in Tobermory a few years back and a Diver who failed Intro to Tech decided it was “too much work for him”, so 6 months later he was a Normoxic Trimix Diver…..I remember watching him flutter kick down the starboard side railing getting towards the midship and he was stirring up the silt, diving by himself and was hanging vertical on the line after the dive, and I was just disgusted.
I had another student bomb Intro Skills at Sherkston Quarry, actually I told the students “Do Not Do Valve Shut-Down’s when my back is turned to you” I was working on valve shutdowns one at a time when I heard a “gulp” turned around reg out ready to donate and he was shooting to the surface, no reg in his mouth, we all grabbed his feet to slow his ascent and I got a reg in his mouth, but he was kicking as hard as he could and we all slowly ascended from 40′. He decided open circuit was too difficult as well and got a rebreather. We never saw him diving after that.
One of the main issues we see with rebreather divers is they don’t carry enough bail-out gas. If you’re carrying an Aluminum 40 of air bailout and you are on a decompression dive with decompression stops, you don’t have the gas or the time.
It doesn’t make sense to us that a diver who can’t hover still for 5 minutes within 10 degrees midline of horizontal or who can’t descend without hitting the bottom should be allowed to dive such a serious piece of kit as a rebreather or even doubles!
We typically recommend completing at least Trimix 1 or Cave 2 prior to going into a Rebreather and you’ll notice we backmout our bailout gas with LP50 Faber tanks or Aluminum 40’s if in a wetsuit down south with a 40 and 80 of Open Circuit Bail-out Gas or on a simple nitrox range dive like the Tiller.
Rebreather and Technical Divers need to be proficient with not only the gear on the back, but also additional stage/deco cylinders, which many inexperienced rebreather divers don’t wear as seen above in the pool pic.
Diving a Rebreather is awesome and very rewarding, although bare in mind that doing a basic Nitrox Dive at $15.00/tank, $30 for doubles is pretty cost effective vs owning a rebreather and paying for the Sofnolime as well as having to replace your 3-4 oxygen sensors yearly at over $300/yr. You have to justify the cost of the unit, the training and the dives. If you’re not doing deep helium diving or spending several hours shallow in the water outlasting what a set of twins or high capacity single can offer, then there’s little need for a rebreather.
Rebreathers are best suited to deep trimix cave or wreck diving, long scooter dives in deeper water and explorations.
Those That Can’t Do…..Dive Sidemount!?
The other amazing thing that we see is how non-technical divers are jumping on the the trend of Sidemount and how many shops are happy to offer an inferior technical diving class with mixed teams (Divers on Doubles/Sidemount/Rebreather) with no continuity in the equipment configuration. If you’re not cave diver or shore diving at a site with a long walk to access the water or are diving at a site with difficult accessibility to the water, or you’re not disabled (or have limited range of motion) Sidemount is Not For You.
The only reason Sidemount should be considered for technical diving is if a diver has had shoulder surgery and can’t reach their manifold or have fused their spine, bad knees, etc. and the body just can’t take the weight of the doubles.
Here at DDS we pioneered Modern Sidemount Diving. We use Sidemount as an expedition tool.
Sidemount is absolutely horrible on a dive boat. Divers who often join us for charters on Sidemount start gearing up first and are the last one’s in the water as they struggle to put on all the extra gear.
If you’re diving Sidemount, you needs to be a mirrored image of your doubles or a rebreather, if it’s not it’s going to cause confusion and task-loading to yourself and your team as you try to remember where you backup lights are on this configuration vs your doubles kit. On singles, doubles and rebreather your backup lights should be down your shoulders….in Sidemount they should also be down your shoulders.
In Doubles you breath off a long hose regulator…On your Rebreather you should have a long hose regulator but this is clipped to the right shoulder d-ring as you’re breathing off the loop. In Sidemount you should be breathing off the long hose and switching (which creates multi-tasking) every 300-500psi depending on the cylinder choice from primary to secondary. There is no guarantee that you’ll be on your long hose when an out of air situation may arise, but through practice you can prepare to deal with any situations as best to your ability as possible.
Sidemount for Tech Diving is just plain Dumb! If You’re interested in being a Sidemount Diver (or are a Sidemount Diver) or have buddies who are diving Sidemount, there is absolutely No Place for more than 1 deco cylinder on your body with this configuration (leashing additional won’t work because the oxygen is always supposed to be the bottle you have closest to you). If you’re being taught or encouraged to carry Decompression Cylinders Split up on the left and right sides (“Lean Left, Rich Right”) Ask for a refund! All of your deco gas should be off the left side, no exceptions and with Sidemount, life gets so much more cumbersome as the Diver gets wider with the additional cylinders….Hence the nickname “Widemount”. There’s a right tool for the right job.
Sidemount is an Expedition Tool for Explorers, not recreational divers who are tech diving or boat diving.
Recreational Divers Should Only dive Sidemount if they already have mastered buoyancy, trim, alternate fin kicks and are exhibiting demonstration quality execution of their Foundational Skills. Unfortunately many Sidemount Students who enroll at our store do not possess the skills or even the proper BCD.
Sidemount allows you to explore a new cave passage or a shipwreck that collapsed possibly, but there is nothing as a “New Cave Diver” that can’t be done on doubles. If you’re past the level of Cave 2, you can definitely benefit from Sidemount, but there is nothing in Cave Training at level 1 or level 2 that is “sidemount only”. Most passages are larger and you’ll often times see multiple teams at these sites diving through all at the same time because it’s large and open and awesome, so Sidemount is Not Needed.
Sidemount is awesome as an alternative to doubles in countries where you can’t rent doubles.
Sidemount is an awesome option when you’re repelling into a well or down a cliff to check out a lead on a new cave site, because you can have 1 tank dropped down, inspect the area and see if it’s worthy of dropping the second tank and pushing the site further, or simply just passing the bottles back up the rope and you can climb back up and out, but most divers don’t have this opportunity as a more “pedestrian Sidemount Diver”.
In Canada we find most Sidemount Divers with the exception of a couple training with friends on East or West Coast are a hot mess of hoses, accessories and danglies.
At DDS, we teach our Sidemount Divers to be as streamlined and simple as possible. All of your accessories are located in the same places as your back mounted kit, with the only difference being the location of your main breathing tanks.
We don’t permit more than 1 deco cylinder on the Divers and that bottle is often dropped and retrieved in a cave.
We don’t Sidemount off boats because it’s usually a disaster either with surface currents if the divers try to put their tanks on in the water, or they occupy so much more time on the boat gearing up because they don’t know how to do it smoothly.
Sidemount is most beneficial in shore diving situations and cave diving.
Those That Can’t Do…..Teach?
Sure you’ve heard that age old adage before, but when you think about it, could you imagine learning from someone who decided to teach Scuba Diving because they had to do something to “save face” and prove to themselves they were a great diver? Teaching isn’t it. Teaching is something many people are good at and naturally able to do, but what they can teach is the important thing.
Becoming a Scuba Diving Instructor is one of the absolute most beneficial and fulfilling goal a Diver can have, but we would suggest that it should be done for the right reasons.
We’ve heard several times that students who were mad they didn’t pass a class were going to get their instructors and teach for agency X, Y, or G, but if they can’t pass a specific class they think they should pass, what makes anyone think becoming an Instructor for said level of scuba classes is a viable option?
Teaching Scuba Diving isn’t a hard thing to do, minimum standards from the recreational agencies state that a person can enrol in a class for Divemaster with 30 Dives and can Certify at 60. An Instructor can be certified as an Instructor with 102 logged dives.
What is that Diver going to be able to demonstrate to a Student?
Here at DDS, we want all of our Instructional Staff to hold at least the level of Intro to Tech, while all of our Instructors are actually Cave Divers! This is a major reason why many of our DDS Students are more polished and better Divers than the other agencies highest qualified Divers.
If a person has a great personality and works with new Divers it’s great and we definitely encourage them to continue to mentor and to encourage the new Divers, however, if someone outright flunks out of some Technical Diving Courses, we would suggest they shouldn’t just enrol in a Leadership Level Course to save face. Think of it as breaking up with a significant other and going into an immediate “Rebound” relationship, it often doesn’t work.
That being said Technical Diving and Advanced Level Diving isn’t necessarily for Everyone! You Either Want to Challenge Yourself or You don’t. They say “Nothing Good Comes Easy Without a Fight”. While I would disagree, there is some truth to this also.
Have an accurate self image of Yourself and think things through, do what makes sense. Don’t become a “Rebound Dive Instructor”, be an Instructor who actually Dives and can positively contribute in this amazing sport. We are always looking to bolster our teaching staff, but we do have the highest standards.
Before a Diver becomes an Instructor, they should possess above average Diving Skills, above average Rescue Diving abilities, awareness and comfort.
The Rescue Diver Program is a wonderful Course, usually our students favourite, the Divemaster and Assistant Instructor programs are phenomenal too. The Instructor program is a great experience with a lot of up’s and down’s and some great lessons learned, don’t try and push hard and fast through these core programs.
A Rescue Scenario is expected in every single Technical, Cave, Wreck Penetration and Rebreather Class at DDS.
Those That Can’t Do…..(Try) to Cave Dive? (Or Ice Diving?)
Diver’s often think going to Florida or Mexico is a great idea because they saw a TV show, read a magazine or did a Cenote tour maybe and thought it would be cool to dive in a cave.
The basic rules of cave diving aside (lights, thirds, gear, training, team, etc.), why do people think diving in an overhead environment is a good place for them? Especially if all they know is diving in a jacket bcd with plastic fins, a clear skirted mask and flutter kicking?
Many Divers try and buy the right Cave or Overhead Gear…Often time making the poor choice of Sidemount Gear as is the trend lately and then they decide they want to jump into a cavern and cave class with this new gear.
Sadly most agencies don’t have a “Doubles Class” which is in poor taste, so agencies like NAUI and GUE did.
There never used to be a Sidemount Course for Recreational Diver’s, but as outlined above, sadly too many recreational instructors are teaching an inferior Sidemount Course, so the students don’t learn the basic skills that would help them move forward successfully in a cave course.
Bottom line: If You Don’t Have Horizontal Trim, Proper Gear, Frog Kick, Back Fin, or Helicopter Turn, YOU SHOULD NOT BE THINKING OF CAVE or OVERHEAD ENVIRONMENT DIVING.
Since August People have been emailing asking or Ice Diving Training. UNLESS YOU ARE A CERTIFIED INTRO TO TECH OR TECHNICAL DIVER IN A DRYSUIT WITH DOUBLES OR SIDEMOUNT, YOU SHOULD NOT BE THINKING OF ICE DIVING.
Any Dive Store or Instructor that thinks Intro to Cave in a Single is suitable or Ice Diving with a Single is Suitable are a) breaking standards, but are also delusional.
You need a Foundational Skills Class like TDI, NAUI or GUE offer. You Have No Business being in an overhead environment without the right gear and training.
We have seen more equipment failures in Ice Diving Courses than all levels of technical diving, recreational and cave diving courses combined. Diving Under the Ice is just stupid without the right gear and training.
Fit And Functionality
Regardless of where you go in your diving, do it right! Get the best fitted gear you can. Properly fitted equipment makes diving fun, not a chore.
Many people try and save a few dollars getting a less than ideal fitted drysuit or undergarment which hinders movement and mobility. If you don’t have full range of motion in your drysuit don’t make excuses or try and justify Sidemount or Rebreathers because the valves are at armpit-waist level vs doubles, when the issue isn’t the gear configuration, it’s the fact that you made a poor purchase buying a drysuit that doesn’t fit you properly.
Any Technical Diving Instructor should do a “Fit Clinic” as part of your technical diving path and help you fit your gear properly. If they themselves are taking shortcuts, you’re going to receive the wrong information or support.
Everything piece of gear a Diver dives with should feel like “home”. If it feels like a chore or it’s not easy to use, it may not be the right piece of equipment.
Even something so obvious as fitting a backplate harness properly is something we see overlooked by a lot of Divers we meet or re-train.
The Right Gear Doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it just has to work best for the end user.
Used Gear is not always good on important items like wetsuits, drysuits, garments, but a backplate and harness, a set of tanks, a dive computer, if you have to get used is a great option if it’s the right price. We often do find though that people online are often selling used gear for more than we sell new gear for in some cases and of course we sell our rentals off frequently too.
The correct shape of the doubles wing the Diver chooses, the right length bungees on a Sidemount harness, how snug or how loose a Diver’s harness is, how streamlined the drysuit is cut will prevent set-backs and promote fun!
Fit and Functionality is everything. Don’t Rush Into Making an Impulse Purchase just to get gear that gets you in the water, as it will cost you thousands of dollars to correct some of these mistakes. The Drysuit obviously being the most important piece of gear.
Think it through and do it right.
Get Back to Basics
Go Back to Basics, get proficient in Doubles once you’re ready to graduate from singles. Take a proper Doubles NTEC Primer with us. NTEC is a great pre-requisite to the Intro program and it gives you a preview of where your level of proficiency needs to be before trying to enrol in the next course.
When over 50-75% of our Divers don’t successfully complete Intro to Tech, it should make you wonder why? The answer? They don’t have the trim, buoyancy, fin kicks, awareness or experience and are trying to put the cart before the horse. Sometimes it’s not until they get held back that they have an awakening, but more of then not, the Divers are clueless or argue in disbelief and start getting into situations beyond their training.
If all Divers took advantage of our mentorship program and did Ntec, got good and they prepped and trained and dove with like-minded DDS Divers who could grow together and become a proper team, they could then enrol in the next level with our approval and not hold up the rest of the class or be a hindrance in training the competent Diver’s who are ready to progress forward. Don’t be the Diver who Hold’s Them Back!
Our Homegrown DDS Divers have never failed Intro to Tech. That being said when we share videos of our Newer Advanced Open Water Level Divers diving with Tech Divers from other agencies they’re often as good or better in the water.
Put the time and effort in, take it seriously, log your hours and keep diving.
Start with Singles, Get a Drysuit and Dive Doubles, Get Experience in Doubles. Train Up in Tech or Cave and go Rebreather, consider DPV Technical or Cave applications if you want more bottom time once you’re proficient with at least 2 deco bottles, then consider Sidemount for Advanced or Expedition Type Diving, but respect the hierarchy because it’s the path of least resistance.
We Generally recommend taking 1 major core course a year. An example of this would be: Open Water and Advanced (maybe some easy Specialties) Year 1, Rescue year 2 (and maybe some easy Specialties), Divemaster (and specialities) Year 3 or later. When you’re ready to make the jump into the more challenging Technical Programs, do Intro to Tech Year one year, Tech 1 and Cave 1 Year 2 and 3, Trimix Year 3, Rebreather Year 4 or 5. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither were great Scuba Divers.
We typically like 25-50 Dives to the students highest level of certification minimum before they move onto the next level and some agencies even mandate that, which fits with our mindset also. There may also be some exceptional exceptions, but we rarely see them because Good, Realistic Scuba Divers aren’t in a rush to prove anything.
There is no substitute for experience!
Get out and get your practice in. We teach Diver’s from all over Canada, the US and other Countries, let’s make You the Best Diver You can be. It’ll take time, but you’ll love every minute of it. Sign up for some classes with us. It doesn’t matter where you reside, we can come to you or youc an come to us, or we can meet your somewhere else awesome.
Cave Diving – How I Got Into Diving Caves by Matthew Mandziuk
A lot of people ask me about Cave Diving – How I Got Into Diving Caves, and the truth is that it wasn’t on purpose. It was once upon a time when I was in Mexico doing some instructor updates for TDI. I’ve been a Technical Diving Instructor with them for over 20 years and I was looking for a trainer that could teach me more than the people I had met or worked with here in North America were able to offer.
The Internet was relatively new to me…well most of us 20 years ago, but I had found a few trainers who kept coming up on WebCrawler and whatever other search engines I used…I think AOL. What drew me to Mexico was that the Instructor was seemingly offering something different in concept. His emails were more detailed even though English wasn’t his first language and the pictures looked like the gear was a lot tidier than my setup, which in those days was a very old school New Jersey Wreck Diving configuration, so I took a chance, hopped on a plane and went to Mexico.
We reconfigured my gear, as I was fascinated by how much cleaner and more streamlined the setup we were training new students on wasand I embraced it all 100%.
It was knowledge that made sense and it made the diving so much more functional. (See the example of how my gear may or may not have looked at one point further down the post).
The Seasickness Day
One day we were out in the ocean boat diving in 14′ waves, when I got thrown from the boat by with all my gear on. Here was as good of a spot as any to drop on the wall, so we decided to drop right were I did and we conducted a nice 300’ trimix dive. As we entered the decompression phase of the dive shallower, the surge was very strong and I started getting a little queasy. After the stops were clear, we got tossed back onto the boat by the waves and we powered back to shore, I crawled tanks and all up the sandy beach on all 4’s and and kissed that unmoving ground. I likely even told it I loved it.
When my face wasn’t green anymore my Trainer started thinking about other less windy options and one of the ideas that popped into his mind was to do a deep sink hole, something I’d never seen before. I was in.
An Inland Road Trip
I remember the site well, Cenote Angelita. We drove into the jungle and parked a car, walked down a dirt pathway through the jungle of beautiful big trees, and we happened upon what looked like a tropical oasis in paradise. There were some tree roots we could use to walk down to the water way a little more safety and you could see down quite a ways into the water as the sun was peaking high in the sky just before noon.
When discussing the dive plan, we were briefed on the site and I got to discuss the dive with the dives I was diving with.
We walked our decompression cylinders down to the water and tied a line off a series of strangler fig tree roots to clip the tanks to so they didn’t slip off the ledge down to over 200’.
We put our suits and double tanks on and on the surface we conducted our s-drill and bubble checks, clipped our additional cylinders on and away we went.
I remember looking into the air clear water and I could see all the way down to the bottom at 90’ where there was a hydrogen sulphur cloud and a beautiful reddish coloured rock in spots around the basin.
We explored the sink which was very reminiscent of Yoda’s planet Dagobah with the steam on the surface unearthing the trees sticking through the cloud, except this was now happening underwater and was one of the most mind-blowing and interesting things I’d ever seen in my life.
After taking in my new favourite site above the cloud, we decided to go in through the cloud. As we descended through the hydrogen sulphur cloud, I could actually taste through my regulator a flavour of sulphuric “rotten egg” which is a flavour everyone talks about. As I descended, I came into the darkness 40’ deeper and into a night dive like environment environment. HID Lights were just starting to come onto the market and it was my first time seeing a Halcyon 18w HID light in action. the blue light was so amazing. I was still using a 2 section car battery pack powering a 50w Halogen lamp, so my beam was yellow.
As I took the time to take in this new environment, I noticed a lot of branches, roots, a massive hour glass shaped debris cone, just like I’d read about in the many books I’d read on the Yucatan Peninsula and the water was even clearer below the cloud that above, which we could easily see the entire length of the basin above and below over 300’ of clarity on this day.
We kept following the debris cone downward towards the bottom which I could see getting closer and closer and we stopped at a cavern entrance with a beautiful speleothem hanging and all of the divers lit up the entrance with their high tech HID lights and my halogen lamp.
I Was Mind Blown…
I was mind blown and the entire dive had eclipsed all of my best dives in quality, uniqueness, clarity of water, cool things to see. I’d gone from never diving a sink hole to never seeing spelotherms, to being thrown into a new world of let’s discover what else is out here and a trip that was only supposed to be 1-2 weeks lasted a month, as I so excitedly and enthusiastically ascended after our decompression ended and smiling ear to ear they asked how I liked that site!? My reply was that it was the best dive ever. They later replied, if you like that we have some even bigger and better treats for you “Farmer” (in response to being seasick and kissing the sand the day before).
We did a second dive at Angelita was just as good, but a bit shallower as we broke 200′ of depth on the first dive. We had even more time to swim around and play in and out of the hydrogen sulphur cloud. It was very memorable.
Upon feeling renewed and excited, we did a bunch of other fun dives in the area and all these big deep sink holes just made me more curious about what else was inside them.
One day I was asked to teach a decompression lecture for a bunch of cave students and was convinced to join on the open water skills dive on day 1 of these students working on their cavern skills. It was pitched to me that I could learn how to use a reel better and it would help make the best wreck diving class in the world.
The day we did the class, then we started working on dry land drills and having never actually been taught to run line and only reading from the old NSS-CDS and NACD cave books, I was excited to see how they did things, so I sat and watched and when the students were done, I too had a chance to play with the reels and line following and then I joined the group during the simulated air sharing while blindfolded and communicating during “touch contact” and I thoroughly enjoyed being blind and feeling the way the line in my hands moved left and right and up and down and how I could use the sense of touch to feel the plastic navigational markers as a way of knowing roughly where I was and what direction was out.
I was done all of my TDI Technical Instructor upgrades and lectures by this point and it was time to immerse myself into something new. Cavern Diver Training!
My first cavern training dive was in 20’ of open water at a cent called Car Wash. It was the most intense dive of my life because I was taking everything so seriously. We have a great Cave 2 Skills Video summary of some of the skills online if you’re interested CLICK HERE.
For those who know me, I’m a pretty OCD and very thorough person when it comes to diving. I’m hypersensitive to things and usually very very aware and I liked this because it was challenging me in a new and different way.
For those who have done a Wreck Penetration, Intro to Tech, Cavern or Cave class with me, I’m sure you’ll remember our 20-30’ dives too. The shallow skills development dives set the bar for things to come.
On my Cavern Training it was not different. We spent 1.5 hours in 20’ of water doing air shares with and without visibility, with and without a buddy, we simulated a lost guideline deploying a safety/backup reel and had to relocate the line, tie-off our safety line and follow the mainline until we found an arrow marking our exit and make an exit in the proper direction.
Don’t Be Intimidated….
While many people find a dive like serious training dive to be intense or intimidating, it just made me want more. As a matter of fact, I took the next dives so seriously that it took me 20 minutes to even realize we were in a cavern because I was so focussed on the team, the communication, the line placements and etiquette, among the other pre-dive rituals we had ahead of the penetration into the cavern, that it felt more organized diving this way.
Once we tied into the main guideline I was able to break a sigh of relief that we found it and then I was able to stop and take it all in and this cavern became something that allowed my body and mind to slow down and take it all in as the stillness was enhanced, my breathing rate lower than the last 20 minutes had been and and I heard every heart beat, the sound of every breath flowing through my long hose towards my mouth and the lights all cascading a beautiful array of light patterns around this magical limestone paradise that were created millions of years ago.
As the divers began to signal the turn and exit and somehow one at a time had “equipment failures” with masks being removed, primary lights failing, people running out of gas, etc., I was watching and waiting for my time to exit and don’t really remember if/what the problems I would’ve encountered were, but again after sorting our gear back out when the scenarios were over, and our safety stop completed, we ascended into another monumental emotional diving bliss moment as we were all smiles and ready for the next challenges.
The thing I loved most about the cave diving training were the beautiful caves we were training in. Seeing the ice-age looking formations that resemble the frozen icicles at a waterfall were hypnotic, as were the stalactites and full columns (once I was able to start enjoying them and paying less attention to the main guideline or the equipment that I knew was going to “fail” on the exit).
The skills that we had to do on the class were addictive and I even “died” on my lost line drill, which is a survival skill we do as we simulate losing the primary line and having to tie off our safety spool on a rock and blindly feeling for the primary line, hoping to hook it with our reel, or even our equipment or body.
Skills that like were very sobering and they drove home the importance of paying attention to the team and surroundings at all times.
Learning to navigate a jump from one line to another cave line was another wonderful skill too, as it extended our range into these cave passages.
What I loved most about cave diving were the rules and how organized cave diving made me feel. I used to always say Wreck Divers used brawn and Cave Divers used brains. I’m a big advocate of diving smarter, not harder and Cave Diving was something that just made sense.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Mexican cave sites was the haloclines, a phenomena of waters of different density and temperature that can create a visual disturbance like mixing fresh water into a glass of saltwater resembling how a road shimmers in the hot summer heat. Here you’ll notice the fresh water layer on top pushing, mixed water in the middle with the salt layer along the bottom.
A thermocline can get more brackish as your pass through the layer and it creates a greater mix of the salt and fresh water which can obscure view of the main guideline. Learning how to dive in Halocline Formation is important.
I learned some valuable lessons on the cave class as well and helped reconfigure my equipment, as I maybe had some “wreck diving” equipment, but not stuff gear that was as streamlined or as functional as the gear I ultimately embraced. Even a little think like the importance of a good pair of fins. I was an advocate of Mares Quattro’s for years, they were a fantastic pair of fins, but couldn’t figure out why I was having to kick to keep up with some of the other divers, given I was running 5 km’s/day, my friend Nick said to me straight up “it’s your fins. They’re too big, bulk and too inefficient”. I switched to Jet fins after I got to try them minutes later and never looked back.
Technical Diving at DDS Looked Reminiscent of this in the ’80’s and ’90’s. Lots of Gear and Task Loading with hoses ,tanks and gauges galore. Be Blessed You’re Learning the Right Way from Open Water On. This is Why Divers Come From All Over North America to Train with DDS.
The importance of the right equipment that suits the team’s mission and members best is very important and another favourite aspect of cave diving, as those team members can help with the line tension, retrieving arrows or cookies if asked, while having their gear rigged the same way in the same location always.
I remember on one of my first cave trips back to Mexico, I got to dive in one of my favourite Mexican cave, where we navigated through 3 different cave systems on 1 dive! Now of course each cave once it’s connected becomes part of the biggest cave system, but once upon a time they were 3 separate cave systems.
With proper dive planning, great gas consumption and the right safety gear, cave diving can be one of the most enjoyable and stimulating styles of diving ever.
Cave Diving is Not Dangerous. Breaking the rules, exceeding your level of training or experience is. The caves have been here for thousands and millions of years before divers started exploring them, they’re not the hazard, human error is.
In Cave Diving they use the expression “There are Old Cave Divers and There are Bold Cave Divers, but No Old Bold Cave Divers”. Having lost friends diving, it’s not fun, but at some point a rule was broken or a training limitation in the majority of the losses I’ve had to endure. Thinking of your friends and family first will act as insurance in wanting to return home safely, so that you don’t make unnecessary risks and you can keep your mind in the game.
Don’t Make Unnecessary Risks, it’s not worth it.
From Student to Teacher and Explorer
My cave training opened me up to a lot of amazing adventures, but the faster approach to the training was something I wasn’t as keen on.
Many divers do a “zero to hero” cave class in certain places, it’s not to say it can’t be done, I did it, however, I was the only diver who knew how to frog kick, turn or fin backwards along with 2 students who’d done open water and advanced with the same instructor in a backplate/wing, but reverse frog wasn’t a required skill, nor was any previous experience in doubles and this is still the case in a lot of the more mainstream agencies.
I really felt like the other students could’ve benefited from a foundational skills class which really was just starting to become a thing 20 years ago. It was rare that divers would have learned the foundational skills and have proper horizontal trim. A Cave Instructor in Florida one day told me they are there to teach a student as much as they can in a week so they don’t die in a cave. Many have never worn doubles, been horizontal or frog kicked, so they do the best they can and they offer them the opportunity to re-take the course within 6-12 months of they practice and get the diving in, but what they really should do is teach them the foundational skills first and then focus on the cave skills/training next. On my cave class the others were new to all the gear and techniques and the open water dives we had done prior to the cavern dives were designed to try and teach them the basics of modern diving.
Complex Navigation involves multiple navigational decisions, entering and exiting in different places, doing circuits, T’s, traverses, set-up and clean-up dives to execute the dive properly.
It wasn’t until I got out on my own exploring new caves, some known, some undiscovered cave sites that I started to gain or retain the knowledge and apply it. I had the skills, I could do the drills, but putting them to practical use was really what made me feel like a cave diver and made me a better diver.
Many divers are quite content just following the main guideline in and out, it’s enough for some people and definitely how you’d want to start off if you haven’t done a cave dive for a while. Ease yourself into the dives doing easy navigation or what I often call diving like a “pedestrian cave diver”, as the simple tour is a nice way to reacquaint yourself with the caves and running the reel and tying into the main guideline, you can assess the conditions and note the navigational jumps or places of interest for future dives.
When it came time for me to be teaching Cavern Diving, I had no interest in teaching Cave Diving. I had a few friends in Florida and Mexico who I’d send friends to dive with and train and that was good enough, but none of them really stuck with it and my local divers were getting more and more keen to go to see these amazing springs and cenotes.
All of the years I spent in Florida and Mexico started mounting up, I started seeing the masses who were cave diving and they were destroying the fragile stalactites in Mexico or breaking the limestone features of the Florida caves. My favourite decoration in Ginnie Springs got destroyed last year I named it “Scooby Doo” Rock and one day someone decapitated Scooby likely with Doubles or a Run Away Scooter.
As more years went by, I started seeing people flutter kicking even in a no flow cave in Split Fins destroying the visibility, hand swimming and vertical diving habits, along with people pulling hard on the cave guidelines which should never be pulled or heaved on, and only held with caution letting the line slip effortlessly through your fist as you grip it in a touch contact hand position. Most divers didn’t know how to run line properly or at all, while some people were just running a single long line for 200’ into the caves and tying in to the main line with no regard for the other lines, divers, teams or anything.
During those days, it was our Divers loved ones who were telling me that they didn’t trust anyone random person to train their loved one’s and they insisted when their loved one was ready to step it to the next level that I’d be teaching them because if I was the only one they trusted 100%, which was flattering and I accepted eventually, which turned out to be a great move.
For the last 13 years I’ve enjoyed teaching caverns and caves, but finding a cave agency I could relate to and enjoy working with was a serious decision too. I teach for 5 different agencies, but what I wanted out of an agency was a brand that suggested divers get more diving in between each level, much like I had wished I’d done vs the “Zero to Hero” approach, so I looked at all the agency standards and all of the prerequisites that each agency insisted on and none of them were requiring experience in doubles, or a foundational skills series of skills such as fin kicks or horizontal trim, posture, buoyancy, which is why I looked at NAUI as my preferred Cave Diving agency. Seeing the NAUI Standards was a game changer for me.
NAUI allowed divers to dive a 1/3 of their gas in, out and exiting with 1/3 for reserve, while the majority were doing 1/6th in/out and 2/3 let for exit. No jumps off the mainline, or 1 at best. Being able to participate in multiple navigational decisions was also a great offering, as was the depth limit of 100’ max, no stop limits and insisting certified Cave 1 Divers had to log 20 logged Cave 1 dives after their certification above and beyond their cave training dives, obtain a technical certification before engaging in Cave 2.
There were gaps left in my basic cave training that I saw as a bit of a short coming with some of my dive buddies on my cave class not knowing how to fin using a modified frog kick, not having experience in doubles, trim, reel handling or line awareness prior to a NAUI Intro to Tech Class, no experience with stage/deco/ bottles prior to being handed them in a cavern/cave setting, lack of familiarity with canister lights and back-up lights, rescue diving scenarios dealing with oxygen toxicity and more.
Cave Diving has given our Canadian Divers another way to keep their skills sharp during the winter months and while most divers fade in and out of the recreational diving spectrum, I do find that those who commit to an Intro to Tech/Cavern course and actually pass, never stop diving, as Cave 1 and Cave 2 become their next classes and then as it’s been now 11 years later many of those Cave 1 and 2 divers are still joining us on our trips today.
Cave Diving offers some amazing exploration opportunities, some great personal challenges and some different opportunities for photography and other offerings too.
Avoid Rushing Through Basic Training and Into The “Trendy Toys”
There is never a substitute for experience. Getting your skills in place and your hours up are the only true way to become a proficient diver. It doesn’t happen easily or overnight.
Surround yourself with a group of Divers you can learn from. We use a mentorship mentality that helps prepare new DDS Divers who aren’t trained in the DDS philosophies and we encourage our “home grown” Divers to stay as active as they can and to get involved as much as they can.
We are trend setters and people that were responsible for helping establish many of the protocols and procedures now taken as the bible of diving.
We innovated the most modern Sidemount Configuration before anyone started diving long hoses and embraced the most modern CCR Rebreather Configuration with back mounted diluent and off-board O2 before it was the norm.
A lot of divers jump into certain concepts because the wrong people are promoting the wrong progressions, maybe it’s because they themselves couldn’t dive the right gear for a physical reason like shoulder surgery or bad back, but nothing is better off a boat or driving a scooter than doubles.
Sidemount is a tool to get you into a place you can’t fit on singles or doubles or for shore diving. It is better suited after Cave 2 when the divers have extensive cave experience, the ability or desire to do tighter passages or “no mount” passages even. Sometimes caves are not accessible on doubles, so Sidemount is the Correct Tool Here.
There are many caves that are simply too tight to get into with doubles, so once you’re familiar with all the cave diving has to offer, Sidemount becomes another tool you can use for expeditions where you don’t know if the cave will widen or narrow further.
Sidemount is Not for Mixed Gas Diving and is a horrible choice when diving off a boat, especially if people are diving an unrefined Sidemount configuration which is typically what we see locally from most shops/instructors/divers who are not cave divers.
Sidemount is amazing in places where doubles aren’t available for rent, because you can maintain the redundancy. Sometimes on shipwrecks or in caves, doubles don’t fit, so Sidemount is the tool of choice as well as for those who medically can’t reach their valves due to spinal or shoulder injuries (having an ill-fitting drysuit/undergarment are no excuse).
Rebreathers with small little 2-3 litre cylinders are also an issue we have. Most Cave Divers Do Not Carry Enough Bailout Gas. A Cave Level 1 Dive = 140ft3 bailout minimum. A Cave Level 2 Dive = 225ft3 bailout Minimum. This means said Cave Diver Needs to be excellent with multiple Decompression Cylinders. In NAUI Cave 2 Divers Learn to use 3-4 additional bottles plus doubles.
Get Good on Stages and Doubles Before Venturing into Sidemount or Rebreather. Once you’re proficient in those styles of diving You can do DPV Overhead/Cave Course which may be safer on a CCR for gas time and efficiency as you’re travelling further back in the cave, but you should always swim it first on Open Circuit First and See how many cylinders it takes for if/when the DPV fails and you may swim on out of it for real.
Taking the right training, buying the right gear, putting in the right amount of time practicing is essential for any divers success. Don’t Rush into caves, technical diving, rebreathers, sidemount diving. Don’t Take Shortcuts in Your Training.
There are so many amazing dives sites at every depth level and ever training level you succeed at. There is always a next deepest, and next best as well.
Don’t even attempt to dive a Rebreather in a Cave unless you can hover motionless for 5 minutes no skulling horizontally, Knees Up, Fins Up, Arms Out in Trim and complete all the Foundational Skills with 2 Stage Bottles On. I say this because several people have been unsuccessful in Intro to Tech with us and jumped into a Rebreather and somehow got Normoxic Trimix certified standing and kneeling on the bottom, ascending holding the anchor mooring lines and flutter kicking silting out the ships just like their Instructors do.
Your Best Option for a Rebreather is Manual not electronic, so you’re in charge of your PO2 and can control your ascents easier without the set point screaming at your as the PO2 reduces on an automatic unit as it goes shallower while still trying to achieve it’s constant PO2. Run it at a .6 PO2 on ascent or manually. On Deep Cave Exploration a constant mass flow valve or needle valve modified from the original KISS Rebreather design is another great option.
Cave Diving is for Divers Who Have Elite Skills and Discipline and a Desire to be the Most Polished Divers They Can Be.
Spending a lot of time in Florida, Dominican, Mexico and enjoying the recreational and exploration aspects of cave diving have been very fulfilling. I throughly enjoy expedition style diving, having been featured in magazines, YouTube videos, agency and personal expedition projects, including helping friends map the largest cave system in the world, just a couple of years ago, in a land so far away from this Covid pandemic are what keep me motivated and keep me going forward.
If Cave Diving Interests You, Do it Right. Take a Foundational Skills Class with DDS. If you’re curious about doubles, take a NAUI NTEC Doubles Workshop with Us, which will start you down the right path in equipment configuration basic foundational skills, while our NAUI Intro to Tech Course is the best Foundational Skills Class there is. It offers the right skills, information and adventure. Intro to Tech dovetails seamlessly into Cavern/Cave 1 too, so do it right and take the best training path. Don’t leave gaps in your training. Don’t Rush and Never Accept a Certification Card You Yourself Do Not Feel You Earned.
Our Cave, Wreck, Overhead and Technical Diving Courses are The Best in the industry! No other training agency offers a more through and complete Cave Diving Education and having such a small number of Cave Instructors keeps the quality high and the demand high.
Going from a Left Post Breathing Hose Stuffer to one of the First DIR Based Diving Instructors was the best move we made as a shop. Divers come for the best training offerings from around the Canada, the USA and other countries. I’ve been a Top Certifying Technical Diving Instructor over the last 20+ years and with your help will continue to offer the Highest Calibre of Recreational, Cave, Technical, Sidemount and Rebreather Training Possible.
Seeing the benefits of Divers learning in backplate/wing from open water, encouraging continuity in gear configuration, improving team diving communication and functionality and being able to up the game whenever possible are just some of the ways we’ve helped set the standard higher.
I am frequently involved in cave and shipwreck and other random dive expeditions of known and unknown entities and we continue to challenge myself and others through new environments and equipment whenever possible.
If You Want to Learn More About our Modern and Progressive Training Offerings, CLICK HERE
Challenges Will Reward Your Longterm Scuba Diving Goals by Matthew Mandziuk
In life nothing good comes easy without a fight or working to earn it, unless you win the lottery. The same can be true moving through a more Progressive Scuba Diving training philosophy where the divers are taught a higher level of knowledge, skills and techniques. Your Personal Challenges Will Reward Your Longterm Scuba Diving Goals.
At DDS we pride ourselves on staying ahead of market trends and instead we lead the charge forward towards better diving. For nearly 20 years we’ve taught our open water divers about the benefits of learning and buying the right gear and the right skills and techniques after over 20 years of doing it the old school way.
We pride ourselves on teaching divers a different (better) way to do things at the open water level where they can move forward with better skills, finesse and discipline allowing them to struggle less, maintain the visibility of even the siltiest environments or most fragile coral reefs, while continuing forward progressing successfully into deeper, more advanced courses, environments and experiences with more comfort and efficiency as they challenge themselves with training that is more exciting, more disciplined, more regimented and more rewarding than some of the “more traditional” courses which have become stale or outdated as we power ahead into a new age of diving.
As human beings we can always learn more and the same is true in scuba diving, except most dive training has become outdated and boring. All divers should be more aware of their dive profiles, gas requirements with proper gas reserves built in, no stop time limits and what is happening within their bodies as they spend more time underwater and as they ascend or descend.
Many of these common concepts are lost on the masses because theory is passed over quickly as we tend to suffer from a condition that demands “instant gratification” and dive shops that depend more so now on eLearning doing the work of the instructor for the shops and instructors, so the personal element of sharing stories and experiences with the students is lessened (or in some cases completely lost as there is no classroom sessions), so the students don’t create an emotional bond with their instructors, classmates or Divemasters.
If divers took more time to learn about dive planning, gas calculations, gas consumption, decompression theory and dive sciences, they would be much more ready to take diving to the next level. This knowledge can help us not just in diving, but also in every day life.
Divers who are taught to manage stresses underwater are more able to handle the every day curveballs life throws at you on a daily basis, as well as how to focus better on challenging tasks, yet the number of divers who progress through Advanced and Rescue diver courses drops as students seem less engaged in some graphic regions than before.
Where a diver can go training wise and the training opportunities available to them make or break the likelyhood of creating a “Lifetime Diver”. If a diver only dives once a year or 3, they’re better off just doing Discover Scuba Diving Experiences.
A certified diver who goes from Advanced, Nitrox, Drysuit to Rescue is doing things better, but the key is to find a trainer who can teach you what you need to really know. If as a diver they tell you it’s okay to be standing, kneeling on the bottom, to rely on holding onto an ascent line and be vertical on an ascent or safety stop as you take up 6-7′ minimum of line with your fins dangling down kicking the divers below you, that’s okay to overweight yourself so you sink or that violating thirds (your gas rule you should be ascending at), that it’s okay to flutter kick and silt out the bottom, wear flimsy floaty plastic fins, split or hinge fins and have stuff dangling off you like a Christmas Tree, it’s time to find a new instructor.
A diver who progresses towards more foundational skills classes like our NAUI Intro to Tech program will have the chance to perfect themselves better than any recreational diver, regardless of if they ever become a tech diver or not, as Foundational Skills Development courses like “Intro” offer the most through and engaging training possible with a combination of dry land drills, confined water drills and open water dives.
Divers who learn the foundational skills to make themselves a better diver and put the time in to become proficient in all aspects of their diving often become a much safer, more aware diver with superior team diving skills, refined buoyancy, flawless horizontal trim, proper ascents and descents, better fin techniques (utilizing a modified frog as their primary kick, modified flutter, ability to turn 360 degrees and do a reverse frog kick to go backwards) rather than flutter kicks, and exceptional problem solving skills. You even master surface marker deployment, rescue techniques, valve or regulator failures and more.
Your biggest assets in diving are TIME IN THE WATER and BUOYANCY, BUOYANCY, BUOYANCY.
DON’T try and fast track your way through training. Learn the foundational skills, start diving in the proper gear, train and dive with divers who are better than you are.
NAUI offers the highest standards of any training agency in foundational, technical, cave and overhead training, which is the reason they’re our primary agency for those courses, but we offer training from several other agencies too.
A properly trained DDS Diver working on trim and buoyancy during a NAUI Cavern/NAUI Intro to Tech Foundational Skills course.
Fitness in Diving
Some new divers complain that lead weights and tanks are heavy, while more Technically Advanced Divers dive with Sidemount or back-mounted double tanks.
Diving with a drysuit creates more buoyancy, drag and resistance while swimming through the water, so there is an element of fitness required to dive. Carrying tanks to the water, stage bottles, rebreathers, camera systems, scooters, all these things have weight to them. It’s part of diving, so get fit and get ready to handle the gear you’ll be using.
To get more comfortable handling these items a strength building program to strengthen arms, legs and abs are very beneficial. 30 push-up’s a day, 100 ab crunches and a light jog even 1-2km a couple of days a week will help make a difference in your strength and overall well being, while also improving cardiovascular health.
Swimming will help give the body a resistance free total body workout too and if you can’t take the impact from running or rowing, may be a better option for you and its fun!
Some dive courses require a specific distance to be swam before a specific time, don’t lose out on some great diving because you can’t make the cut. It IS worth it and it WILL take time.
How Did We Get Here? It Wasn’t Over Night
Dan’s has become the go to shop for recreational, advanced, technical diving education over the last 20+ years. DDS was established in 1974. We are Canada’s Oldest PADI Dive Shop and 2nd oldest worldwide currently.
With the help of a Canadian Diving Pioneer John Reekie (passed away several years ago) we helped introduce the Canadian Diving Market to Technical Diving and Cave Diving gear and procedures as early as 1986! We were one of the first North American Dive Stores to offer Nitrox as an alternative breathing gas in 1992 when the traditional agencies were Anti-Nitrox and causing riots at dive shows because they honestly believed Nitrox to be Voodoo Satan Gas! True Story!
By the mid 1990’s we were offering old-school technical diving and rebreather courses. By 2000 we were introduced to more progressive diving and upgraded our training, which allowed us to see a different side of diving, one that was less limiting and more progressive.
We began offering Progressive Doing it Right based (DIR Diving) training and equipment, including the offering of backplates to new open water sport divers a part of basic training and introducing recreational divers to the long hose/short hose regulator configuration or the Hogarthian method of diving.
In 2007 we began offering more modern and progressive Sidemount training. We are happy to be offering training on several different rebreather configurations, especially the modular and most versatile machine on the market, White Arrow Explorer Rebreather System, capable of any configuration.
Every recreational diver can benefit from our experience, the new skills that we offer and every day diving techniques that we introduce from basic open water programs. Horizontal Trim, Buoyancy, Team Awareness, S-Drills, Bubble Checks, SMB Deployments, Air Sharing horizontally in neutral buoyancy with a long hose regulator, Team Diving Protocols and more.
While not every diver is introduced to this from every instructor around the world, we also offer Foundational training to start experienced divers off right as well, as many of the concepts we teach aren’t taught elsewhere unless the divers have been taught by a certified cave or technical instructor. At the end of the day we want everyone to learn to be better and dive with more confidence, comfort and awareness, so we offer workshops like NTEC which is a great way to prime yourself to learn the foundational skills you should know in a class and pool setting showing you a better way to do things in the right gear. This also prepares you for a glimpse into your diving future should you want to progress towards Wreck Diving, Cavern or Cave, Ice, Technical and more.
Our experience in expeditions and exploration projects have also helped shape our divers into the best divers in the water.
Get More Technically Correct
When a diver starts to get more “technical” it helps them become a more complete diver. It doesn’t mean they have to aspire to achieve a new super deep world record sort of depth where they hang for hours on decompression stops, however, it does break through the misconceptions, boundaries of conventional training and opens you up to a lifetime sport with the ability to go anywhere with your diving.
We believe Technical Diving is simply extending your range both with respect to knowledge, but also extending the scope of your abilities beyond what is known and offering new challenges along the way.
Our NAUI Intro to Tech Course has been called the “Best Dive Course” by nearly everyone who’s taken this amazing foundational skills class. Regardless of whether a student completes the course successfully the first time or not, “Intro” is where better diving begins.
Our Intro course begins with the tightening up of the divers buoyancy and trim, cleaning up and streamlining the entire equipment configuration, introducing new surface protocols and pre-dive regiments like safety drills, SADD checks, Bubble Checks and Heat to Toe checks which improve safety and awareness.
Intro also begins to stress the team concept of diving, which is something talked about but rarely enforced in traditional recreational diving. We introduce the benefit to 3 person buddy teams, which are often taboo in traditional training as well, as we believe a second set of hands to help and eyes to see are very important should a diver require assistance.
After classroom sessions are complete students are introduced to a combination of dry land surface drills that allow the instructor to demonstrate skills such as trim, fin kicks, flat horizontal body posture, air shares, valve shutdowns, diver rescues, lift bag deployments and many other skills topside as they can talk about each skill attribute and show it off before the students are expected to demonstrate it both on the surface and then the skills are executed by instructors and students under the water in a shallow pool or confined water area suitable for this sort of training. Upon successful completion of the pool sessions candidates are then taken to open water and will complete all skills in a shallow open water environment where No Stop Times are not an issue.
During Intro to Tech a staff member will video record the students skills throughout the program so they can break down their progress frame by frame and discuss thoroughly throughout the course dives in debriefing sessions.
Students love the fact that this style of training is done intensively as repetition helps them improve and learn at a quicker rate, especially upon review of each dive during de-briefing when we break down all of the skills done that day with video review.
Through clear and concise de-briefings the students know exactly what it is they need to work on and how to improve as we take corrective action with them and continue to show them how to properly execute each skill breaking down the skills as clear and concise as possible.
Just the Beginning
Many divers love the challenge that Intro brings and those divers who work hard and succeed will enrol in their next challenge.
Divers will be using more equipment which creates a need for better fitness, stiffer fins, stronger dive abilities and confidence.
Intro to Tech is a stepping stone to bring divers more safely into the realm of deeper diving or overhead environments as the foundational skills and trim learned here ensure that those divers are going to be able to perform the rudimentary skills like horizontal buoyancy, frog kick, modified frog kick and to be able to fin backwards for 10′ without hitting the bottom or silting out the dive site because Zero Impact Diving is such am important skill to possess as it saves the reef, fragile clay patterns, maintains the water clarity (especially in a wreck or cave where a diver will have to navigate safely back out of a zero visibility environment) and makes the diving more pleasurable for all. The other important skill is something we teach at Open Water and again at Advanced Open Water and Intro to Tech, which is being able to deploy and send an SMB up to the surface ascending on a reel stopping every 10′ and then ascending to 15′, 12′, 9′, 6′, 3, surface many of those divers will engage in their next adventure.
Intro to Tech is simply the holy grail of recreational diving because you see what is lacking when you compare it to someone who’s been coaxed into taking a different more traditional Master Scuba Diver sort of approach. Rather than being taught to dive properly, most divers are taught to pay for an instructors time, a paper manual and a plastic certification card. While there are some phenomenal recreational specialty courses (Nitrox, Equipment Specialist, DPV, Cavern, Drysuit) most dive stores don’t have the talent or the ability to teach some of these more useful classes and favour a quick payout instead of committing their divers to more in-depth training.
The most popular courses Intro graduates challenge themselves next with range from Wreck Penetration to a Cavern/Cave 1 class, DPV class, Technical Decompression with Helitrox (Tech 1) Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures.
Growing Your Experience
Regardless of the certification level a diver achieves it requires regular diving to maintain that level of proficiency and regular dives to that highest level of certification. We usually recommend 20-25 dives annually at that level before moving to the next level.
At DDS, We are NOT a certification factory that tries to push our divers from Intro to Tech to Trimix Rebreather in a month. It’s not about numbers, its about the quality of the diver and those divers that are making poor choices have no real world underwater dive skills and often lose buoyancy, panic or are a complete embarrassment to the sport.
DDS Divers are some of the highest trained divers in the country and they show a lot more finesse and discipline than most. Those divers who choose to work hard and grow their diving abilities are often asked to join in on bigger, better dives, as well as for support projects both local and abroad.
Expedition projects are conducted yearly and it’s always great when new members can be integrated into the Divers Edge family, which is our training and exploration group. We have partners worldwide through several organizations that we do international projects with for caves and shipwrecks.
Regardless of your goals the key in anything is to keep involved and dive with divers who share the same views and the same goals in training and equipment.
We have taught and continue to teach divers from around the world and are more than willing to put on a presentation for groups, clubs, other shops as we’ve been doing for decades.
If you’d like to get involved and benefit from better training, equipment configuration and future diving opportunities, reach out and let’s get you involved with DDS Today.
We have trips, charters, training year round. Your first step is to reach out and make contact, the rest comes easily from there.
Diving Dry with Doubles. Have you ever noticed that the most active divers on the dive site are the one’s who are Diving Drysuit with Doubles? Quite often its the same 10-12 divers who sign up for a lot of the same trips and who often prefer diving together with the group. The reason for that is comfort, with their kit, with the group, with themselves in the water, whereas the other 10-12 guests are a revolving door of divers with a ranged diving background.
In this blog we are going to talk a little about the benefits of diving Diving a Drysuit with Double Tanks.
By the end of this reading you should have a clearer understanding of the partnership between diving with a drysuit and doubles, the benefits of diving with a drysuit and doubles, some of the training offerings with divers in a drysuit and doubles and where diving in a drysuit and doubles can take you.
Why should you start Diving Dry with Doubles?
At first it sounds a little much, diving a nylon or neoprene full body suit, hood, gloves and then more weight than we even used in a wetsuit? Drysuit divers wear approximately 6-8lbs minimum in fresh water (more in salt because of the added buoyancy) more weight than a diver in a single piece 7mm jumpsuit (or about the same weight as they’d wear with an old school farmer John and Jacket).
That added weight can be inconvenient at best.
Where does one put that extra weight?
Most of our DDS Divers utilize a backplate and harness system which promotes better horizontal trim, posture and streamlining , it’s expandable and fully adjustable to accommodate the drysuit much easier than a jacket bcd can and is far more comfortable.
To learn more about backplates in general, please click the hyperlink above.
Divers diving in Canada with a single tank often times use a stainless steel backplate with a weighted single tank adapter, that system has a total negative buoyancy weighting of approximately 10lbs. Nearly enough to sink anyone in a 7mm wetsuit with 2-3lbs maximum per side additional, however a drysuit diver is going to require an additional 6-8lbs minimum depending on the undergarments they wear.
In an attempt to promote proper horizontal trim, the diver will want to re-distribute the weight evenly around the body with a maximum of 4-5lbs per hip pocket and up to that much weight on each of the single tank straps for a total of up to approximately 20lbs of weight plus the backplate system = 30lbs. Doesn’t that seem like a little much?
In an attempt to minimize the weight the diver wears, many will go to a single steel tank which can be 2-8lbs negatively buoyant by todays standards diving with a Faber steel cylinder.
A few years ago Worthington cylinders were preferred for their additional negative buoyancy characteristics with the X7-100 and X8-130 being the 2 most popular options. In Faber the FX100, FX133 and LP85 are our most popular sizes. Strangely enough the 100’s and 130’s were also the most suitable tanks for doubling up for deeper dives.
Faber FX100 swings from -8.41lbs full to -0.59lbs empty. Faber FX133 swings from -9.08 full to +1.45lbs empty Faber DVB85 swings from -3.8 full to + 2.32 empty
Worthington X7-100 had a swing of -10lbs to -2.5lbs Worthington X8-130 had a swing of -11.7 to -2lbs
Having a tank that is negatively buoyant allows divers to reduce overall weight required and keeps some of that negative buoyancy behind you which helps improve your trim rather than having all that weight on the hips, but you don’t want to overweight yourself with tanks too heavy and underwear too thin. Try and find the balance. Many divers will even favour aluminum tanks for shallow shore diving with thin garments.
Adding an extra tank minimizes or eliminates the need for additional weight while adding a safer configuration that builds on our progressive single tank system utilizing a long hose/short hose and spg on 24″-26″ HP hose and it gives divers the ability to solve a catastrophic failure thanks to redundant regulators.
Aluminum twins are popular option for divers looking for a great wetsuit set that can be used with a drysuit, however, they are more suitable for use on shallow dives. When worn with a drysuit the diver will have to wear a heavier steel plate, a v-weight with lead down the centre of the tanks and a compact and streamlined wing. They are easy to dive with little learning curve.
Steel tanks will take the diver further through deeper dives, caves, wreck penetration and offer more reserve gas on the divers back to deal with emergencies.
Many divers prefer the additional gas capacity of the steel tanks as well as the larger sized tanks allow divers to dive deeper and stay longer in comparison to the standard aluminum 80 tank which is still the most popular scuba diving tank on the market.
Drysuit Divers and DDS Divers have better trim because a drysuit surrounds the entire body with a little bit of air (less is better).
Redistribute weight, minimize weight and enjoy easier diving.
As divers tend to dive more off the dive boats and spend more time on their favourite dive sites, divers start looking at how to get more bottom time.
Diving Nitrox allows divers to gain up to 50% more bottom time on sites around 100′ and deeper, while yielding even more bottom time shallower, however, the limiting factor at that point tends to be their breathing rates and the sizes of tank they use, so a steel tank will in fact increase their bottom time an allow them to achieve their dive plans up to the Nitrox NDL most dives.
For divers who find even on Nitrox, the NDL isn’t always long enough, extending their range into decompression diving often is the trick, as a diver learns how to properly and safely plan their dives with a little bit of decompression utilizing advanced nitrox mixes to accelerate decompression times. This is where doubles are most beneficial.
When a diver combines the drysuit for maximum exposure protection and comfort along with a set of twin tanks, they no longer have to worry about switching out their tanks on that rocking dive boat in between dives, they no longer have to worry about adding weight to their hips or anywhere usually on their body, and they can certainly benefit from the increased balance and comfort that doubles offer.
You’ll also find divers enjoy just going out and working on foundational skills is easy to observe as our divers are always out in open water honing their skills.
Diving Dry with Doubles allows for more even balance in the water as the tanks are placed over top of each lung rater than down the spine like a single tank, while giving the diver a more comfortable suit to don and doff.
Drysuits are easier to put on than a 5-7mm wetsuit.
Drysuits are more effective for warmth retention.
Crushed neoprene or trilaminate Drysuits don’t compress with depth like wetsuits which get thinner with each atmosphere making the diver heavier because of the initial weight they start the dive with, as well as making the diver colder because those thick suits become much thinner every 30ft/10meters they descend.
Are Doubles For You?
If you can carry them on your back, reach your valves and dive with them comfortably, the answer is yes!
Look at the number of accidents that have happened in recreational diving situations with single tanks, especially on deeper dives. Most recreational diving accidents occur in a single tank with no redundancy (pony bottle, sidemount, h-valve, doubles) or lack of training.
A diver breaths their tank empty, their buddy runs out of air and they didn’t reserve enough gas for them and their buddy to ascend, they went in cold water and the regulator froze up, they hit the regulator or tank valve off a shipwreck or overhead environment creating a catastrophic failure, the BCD freezes, their dive computer blows off the end of their high pressure hose (another reason to wrist mount your computer) so they panic seeing bubbles streaming out of the high pressure hose, etc….
Minimize the risk, Increase the Fun and Learning and be more mentally and physically prepared with more advanced training.
If you’re interested in diving deeper than 80′, cavern or cave diving, technical diving, ice diving, mixed gas diving or wreck penetration, you should do it on doubles. To many people did it wrong and it cost them their lives.
Be the best diver you can be. Get involved with DDS and we’ll make you the best diver you can be with our training, experience dives, trips, charters and exploration offerings.
We’ve found these factors to be some of the most beneficial tools to extend your diving into a more fun and exciting world:
Dive Planning: Plan Your Dive, Follow Your Plan, Have an overplan, bailout plan, but don’t deviate from the main dive plan
Gas Management: 1/3 down and around, 1/3 back, exiting water with 1/3 of your gas supply
Redundancy: Doubles allow the ability to shut down your regulator in the event of a failure, free flow, freeze-up, burst disc failure etc. Isolation manifold allows to shut down and switch over by isolating and shutting down the offending post or just shutting down the offending post.
Narcosis Management: Don’t Dive Deep On Air. You’re narc’d at 130ft/40meters whether you know it or not. Don’t dive deep on air, it’s silly, outdated and unsafe with education and helium training available now.
Team Diving: Serious Diving requires divers you can trust in an emergency and in an pinch. Don’t just dive with the randoms you find on a boat down south, they’re usually once a year divers with horrible habits and inferior training. Dive with divers you have a positive history with or as ask us and we can refer you to more progressively minded shops
No Solo Diving on Deep Dives: Solo Diving is popular now, we’d likely choose this option if diving south with random divers instead of having to buddy up with people that we don’t feel comfortable diving with, however, deeper dives require piece of mind, extra equipment and a proper plan with lots of “what-if’s” to be safe guarded against. It’s not worth solo cave, solo deep (exceeding NDL) or solo overhead environment without buddies
Analyze Your Mixes: Always, Always, Always analyze your mixes when you pick your tanks up, make sure they’re labelled and if diving with a fill that was “just filled” and you have to grab and go, analyze it again before your day of diving begins.
Practice , Practice, Practice: Complacency Kills. Work on trim, buoyancy, bottle handling, dealing with simulated emergencies, smb deployment, alternate fin kicks, etc. Be the most polished and best diver you can be.
Fit is Everything
Don’t just jump into drysuits and doubles blindly. It requires the right fitting suit and undergarments first and foremost. Many brands of drysuits are inferior in fit and quality, even the brands offering “custom fit”.
You’ll notice most shops try and pedal the cheaper suits that are like garbage bags or garbage bags wrapped in lycra to cover up the garbage bag look. This is like buying a drysuit from McDonald’s! Don’t Waste Your Money
If you truly want to LOVE your drysuit and want to enjoy using it, take the time to get properly measured and properly fit. Don’t just let the dive store hand you a suit off the rack and tell you that it’ll fit you perfectly, we’ve had that happen to several students from out of town that couldn’t complete their required skills during Intro to Tech Training and ended up renting suits from us to finish the class, then ultimately buy a brand new suit from us.
Do it Right.
We are partial to Diving Unlimited International because they offer the best quality, service, workmanship and there is an actual after sales service with them. They are our top choice for hard to fit people too. It’s all about comfort and fit with them.
DUI have great value priced suits with their Coronado, San Diego and Yukon II suits and the new Cortez (2019) suits obliterate most brands “top of the line suit” for quality, features, performance, as well as coming with user replaceable quick change ZipSeals, meaning you don’t have to send the suits away for service unless you damage the suit or zipper! No brand can compete with that!
Santi offers a great quality and great looking suit. We do their stock and modified stock suits. You’re allowed up to 4 alterations at no extra cost with them and they do offer custom too. Suits are very tough and stylish with a beautiful Euro look of elegance and colour. They do take some time 2-3 months typically (sometimes less sometimes more).
Fourth Element offers the most flexible drysuit on the market. It’s durable and looks great and they’re using technology to their advantage instead of dive stores who can miss measure someone by using BIOMAP technology to digitally create an image of the person to cut the suit for. Great suits for a great price with great service…it might just take a bit more time to get the suits made 2-3 months typically.
BARE offers a great stock suit at a good price depending on what you get with the suit from your LDS. Just but it from DDS and you’ll be happiest.
The Drysuit Underwear is as important for fit and mobility as the drysuit itself. Santi offers modified stock and custom underwear, DUI offers DuoTherm ultra stretch polartec suits for custom fit as well as a great selection of stock sizes in up to an XM450 material which is exceptional underwear for cold water. Fourth Element offers an amazing range of suits for a range of conditions made with some of the nicest feeling and fitting materials.
Learn more about diving doubles by stopping in or sign up for a Discover Doubles NTEC night with us.
NTEC will introduce you to the doubles configuration, foundational skills you should master, emergency drills and more. It’s a perfect prep-workshop that introduces divers to the principles that will help lay the groundwork moving forward towards more regimented training with the right guidance, education, exercises and more to help ready you for our NAUI Intro Class.
Our NAUI Intro to Tech Course is a Rudimentary Elements of Diving Course that will highlight the foundational skills and develop them from a recreational perspective that will dovetail into more advanced and technical diving activities and show recreational divers a preview of what their diving can be like by testing and honing a divers finesse, comfort, trim, buoyancy, effortless skills, problem identification and reactions, team diving, smb deployments, buoyancy refinement, fin techniques and so much more.
NTEC and Intro are the 2 most exciting, modern, challenging classes that will help improve your skills and enjoyment in the drysuit the most. Tie in NTEC and your PADI Drysuit Specialty Course together and see diving with a different mindset than what you’d hear/see/learn in a traditional PADI system of diving education.
Diving Dry allows for longer bottom time in cooler water or more dives per day. A more comfortable gear up experience from a boat.
When you look at our DDS dive trip pics on Facebook or Instagram you’ll notice aside from a pool or an open water course weekend, the majority of the divers you see on our trips and con-ed classes are all in drysuits and you’ll notice that a lot of the same divers come out year after year on our charters and trips because their level of enjoyment is substantially higher than a wetsuit divers.
A friend of ours had a shop in Massachusetts and they trained their divers exclusively in drysuits. They offered by far the most expensive open water course from NY-Maine and everywhere in between, yet their continuing education rates were 400% vs a national industry average of about 25% of divers who go diving and train after open waters.
So they found enormous success training their divers and promoting colder water diving trips because like DDS, they realized the best diving in the world was around the Great Lakes, Atlantic wrecks, Florida and surrounding areas. They were right.
Drysuits will last you longer than a wetsuit, will give a diver buoyancy control that is easier to maintain when you where a little “squeeze” on the suit vs a wetsuit which compresses and changes depth the deeper or shallower you go.
Drysuits will allow for colder water immersion and more dives per day, while in between dives the divers will warm up faster, so the energy that is rejuvenated is much higher, especially with todays’ warmer Thinsulate’s and heated systems.
Combining a drysuit with a set of doubles sets a diver up for a lifetime hobby where anything is achievable.
The divers can spend more time under the water enjoying their hobby. They don’t have to change tanks awkwardly on the boat in between dives like single tank divers do. They add a larger gas source to deal with emergencies such as low on air or an equipment failure, while also adding redundancy in the event of a regulator or valve failure.
Aside from a little extra weight on land, there isn’t much difference between a single tank and a lot of lead to sink a recreational diver and a set of doubles.
For divers who can’t wear a set of doubles, try Sidemount! Sidemount is a great option for divers who don’t have the ability to reach back to shut a valve down or who have had back surgery or a physical limitation that negates the ability the wear doubles on their back.
At Dan’s we believe in a more fun progression, so training our divers the right way from the very beginning is so imperative and gives them so many more options moving forward beyond Open Water, Advanced, Drysuit, Rescue, Divemaster and Instructor. Don’t get caught in the boring progressions that the recreational agencies endorse, there is a much more fun, challenging and enjoyable progression ahead.
Experience more in the world of scuba diving instruction with Dan’s and let us show you a better way to do things that makes more sense and creates better divers.
Dan’s is an innovator of progressive recreational and technical diving, bringing the most modern skills and philosophies forwards before anyone in Canada as we continue to lead and offer the highest standards and most exceptional dive training for recreational and technical diving and have helped shaped some of the finest explorers in the world of scuba diving too. Train with Dan’s and see a brighter diving future.
Unmasked A Modern Look at Scuba Masks And Snorkel Masks
Today we’re going to talk about Scuba and Snorkel Masks, which also hold true for FreeDiving applications.
Many Divers and Snorkels ask us “What’s the Best Scuba Mask?” Our answer is simple….The one that fits you best. Read on and learn the additional features that will make your dive mask the best.
Question For You:
Have you ever been to a resort where someone just hands you a snorkel mask our a dive mask out of a bucket and tells you to go and enjoy the water? For some that can be a wonderful eye popping experience and for others it can be painful, irritating, uncomfortable or downright unnerving.
Today we are going to discuss some of the key features, technologies, materials, styles and levels of comfort you can come to expect from a good quality scuba or snorkel mask.
Hopefully this will help you pick out the best scuba mask or snorkel mask for your every day water related activities.
Some would argue that the more expensive the mask is, the better it will fit you or the better quality it is. This isn’t quite the case.
The best mask on the market is the mask that fits your face first and foremost.
Factors that affect the fit of the mask are face shapes, facial hair, buckle or strap design, single or double lens, type of mask skirt material, lens glass and frame shape to name a few.
Generally speaking the bigger the face the larger the mask skirt and frame will have to be. Someone with a narrow face like a woman or small child can fit a small to mid size frame, while most average size faces would benefit from a standard fit, larger faces may require a wide fitting mask.
There are a handful of brands who offer small/medium fitted masks, as well as wide fitting masks, while the norm is to make a mask for the average face.
Once you’ve determined the size of mask you may need its time to weigh options, for example, if you have facial hair, you may favour a stiffer mask skirt with a frameless designed that will sit slightly higher above the moustache versus one that lays across the hair preventing a full seal against the upper lip and under the nose.
The Moustache: Moustache divers or snorkelers can be one of the more challenging people to fit, so we often gravitate to a few good “moustache masks”. These masks are shorter and stiffer in the upper lip area and aren’t as affected by the facial hair which can break the seal of a softer skirted mask.
Avoid The Dreaded Purge Valve! Rather than going for a proper fit, some people choose to go for a mask with a purge valve in the nose that allows you to simply blow out to evacuate water, which is great, when they work, however, we believe a purge valve mask is an excuse for an ill-fitting mask.
Purge masks also tend to fail over time having the valve curl or simply falling out causing the mask to fill up with water, so for this reason we simply don’t recommend or endorse the use of purge valves in masks, but are happy to add one into any mask you desire should you want one.
Wearing a Skirt?
Guys and girls both wear skirts when wearing a mask. So what’s the difference in mask skirts? Mask skirts can be made of a number of different materials including Rubber, TPR (transparent rubber), PVC, Silite, Silflex, Silter, Silicone, Crystal Silicone, Liquid Silicone, Liquid Crystal Silicone, Gummybear Silicone and more.
Rubber was the most common type of material throughout the infancy of snorkeling and scuba because it was inexpensive, created a seal, was black which helped the person see clearer without glare and refraction of light, but it was not a product that had offered a lot of longevity, however, in the late 1970’s silicone started to become more popular due to the fact that it didn’t break down in the sunlight, was more comfortable and chlorine resistant.
Alternatively TPR, PVC, Silite, Silflex, Silter are all harder skirted alternatives that cost less, are replaced more and are often found in the department stores. Some manufactures promote a silcone mask/snorkel combo, however, a mask can be class as “silicone” with as little as 5% in the skirt.
You can tell how much silicone is in the mask vs. plastic or other materials by holding the clear skirt up to the light. If the mask has an opaque colour that looks “clumpy” or more white it isn’t pure silicone. If the mask skirt has an odour the smells like chemicals, its not pure silicone.
Many of our dive mask brands offer both “sport” quality and “dive” quality. Both can be suitable for snorkeling and in some cases diving too, however, fit and comfort are the 2 most important factors affecting your decision to purchase one over the other.
Pure Silicone mask skirts are still the most comfortable, last the longest, do not break down with repeated saltwater or chlorine immersion and are UV resistant.
Silicone masks can come in skirts that are acid washed to be perfectly transparent or they can be coloured black or other unique colours. At DDS we prefer black silicone because it offers better vision through the process of eliminating excessive amounts of light which flow in through the normally clear skirt and then cause glare and refraction of light when compared to their black skirted brethren who provide eye and glare protection and less overall strain and eye fatigue.
Black skirted masks also age better maintaining their black colour, whereas clear skirted masks only stay clear for a little while, that is until the uv rays, dirt, sand, rubber and other factors start to cause a yellowing of the skirt and they become opaque over a rather short period of time, meanwhile the black skirted mask is still looking as fresh and good as it did the day it was purchased.
Regardless of the mask you choose it’s all about fit and comfort. You can read review after review, but the mask should be fitted by a professional who understands your needs, wants and has a good selection.
We sell virtually every brand of mask, but have cherry picked among our entire staff the masks we feel to be the best fitting masks on the market.
Keep the gimmicks to a minimum.
Make sure when you’re wearing your mask you can equalize your ears by squeezing your nose pocket, this will ensure you can get to the nose pocket when you need to.
Make sure the mask strap isn’t too tight. A proper fitting mask only needs to have the strap snug, not tight because the water pressure is going to keep the mask on your face for the most part too.
Make sure the mask doesn’t sit against the brow area putting pressure on it if its a 2 lens mask (men generally have a protruding brow).
Make sure the nose pocket doesn’t dig into the bridge of the nose.
Wear the mask strap just over top of the ears centering it around the middle 1/3 of the skull. Wearing it too high can cause the mask to push up under the nose causing chaffing and making it raw over time, so really pay attention to centering it and keeping it adjusted comfortably.
When wearing the mask you can check for proper width by looking in a mirror. You don’t want to see the skirt too narrow that it sits on the eye, but you also don’t want it so wide that it lets water in through the top or sides.
Breath in through your nose without using the strap, see that the mask sits comfortably on the face. If it does, put the strap on, snug it up comfortably and with the mask against the face exhale. The exhaled air should go out the bottom of the mask not the top of the head by the temples or above the eyes.
High or Low Volume? Which is Better?
Low Volume is always best. The lenses sit closer to your eyes. There’s a smaller airspace to equalize the masks internal airspace which is something you’ll notice when you go down on breath hold or on scuba. With increased pressure the mask will suck to your face more and more and more eventually causing pain and discomfort. To avoid this you’ll need to equalize the airspace by simply blowing some air through your nose into the mask to keep it from squeezing down.
Lower volume masks are more comfortable and are easier to clear water out of as well. Imagine a big round window shaped mask and how big and how much water can fill that mask up. Now picture a streamlined mask that has a similar surface area to that of a pair of swim goggles but with an enclosed nose so you can blow into it.
Which mask is going to be easier to clear the water out of ? The one with more or less water in it? If you guessed less water in it you’re right. The smaller the masks overall internal volume the easier its going to be to blow the air out of it.
Frame or No Frame?
Divers have long gravitated towards plastic framed masks that press the glass, plastic and frame all into one package with a lens retainer. They’re durable, comfortable, most popular.
Frameless masks are a more modern concept that has less overall parts and simplified construction by simply moulding the silicone frame over the tempered glass lenses and bonding the silicone to the skirt.
The Different Mask Lenses
The market for different dive lenses have changed a lot since the initial introduction of simple tempered glass or polycarbonate lenses.
Tempered Glass lenses are still the industry standard because of their durability, relative cost effectiveness and the fact that they don’t shatter inwards due to pressure. They can break like anything else, but generally the glass will stay together.
Tempered Glass is durable, they aren’t affected by scratches in the water, but they do have a greenish tinge to the glass which cuts back on light transmission.
Polycarbonate is plastic, scratches very easily and not suitable for scuba diving or much more than pool playing. They’re typical of your department store masks which are cheap and not designed to last.
Ultraclear Glass Lenses introduced by Atomic Aquatics
Ultraclear glass is an optical quality glass with exceptional clarity and high light transmission, with no colour distortion.
Standard float glass (tempered glass) lets through approximately 86% of the available light but UltraClear lenses can allow up to 92% light transmittance. Combine that with the increased colour vibrancy and clarity and you’ll never want to dive with a standard lens again.
ARC Lenses or Anti Reflective Coating Lenses Introduced by Atomic Aquatics
Between 4-14% of light can be reflected back or “lost” by the standard “green float glass” mask lenses used by the more traditional mask makers. ARC technology lenses are especially important for SCUBA divers underwater, where available light is quickly absorbed by the surrounding water because they help amplify available light.
Atomic Aquatics ARC Technology to reduce reflected light and actually increase the amount of available light transmitted to a diver’s eyes. The result is a greatly improved transmission of 98% of available light, compared to a loss of more than 14% of light with standard green “float” glass used on the majority of masks on the market.
ARC uses a multi-layer metal oxide coating process applied to both sides of the UltraClear lenses. This allows more light to enter the mask by reducing light reflections off the inside and outside surface of the lens. The metal oxide coating is only a few microns thick.
Anti-Reflective Coatings or ARC is a multi-layer metal oxide coating process applied to both sides of the Ultraclear lenses. This allows more light to enter the mask by reducing light reflection off the inside and outside surface of the lends. Clearer, crisper vision. Reduces eyestrain, glare and prevents ghost images on the viewing area of the lens. A must for night diving and limited visibility conditions and underwater photographers.
Some Divers like the idea of mirrored lenses, however, they reflect back at the fishlife and can cause unwanted confrontations. They also hide the divers eyes, which are essential when assessing diver comfort underwater, so for this reason we’d suggest staying away from mirrored lenses.
Types of Mask Straps
Most mask straps are made of the same material as the mask. They’re designed to fit comfortably, not overly tight around the back of the wearers head and have side adjusters that allow you to often times pull the mask strap by tabs to tighten it.
The straps can pull hair or can tend to be uncomfortable. One way we fix this is by adding a neoprene mask strap backing or replacing the entire strap with a neoprene adjust-a-strap which uses Velcro on the sides and neoprene on the back of the head.
You don’t need hair to enjoy a neoprene mask strap, they’re the best option for ease of donning or taking your mask off, plus they also float a little bit, so if you drop you mask into the water you may have faster response as it may not sink immediately .
We can get a number of masks with prescription lenses. We carry lenses in + or – diopters, as well as custom ground lenses for people needing lenses for different pupil distances and special features.
The costs of lenses for negative diopters are very reasonable. Positive diopters are more expensive. Standard bio-focal lenses are also available.
We generally recommend TUSA or Atomic for prescription lenses. They’re easy to install and the masks are the best quality you can buy.
When purchasing a mask consider the fact that this product will last you 20-30 years if you look after it. My personal TUSA mask is one I’ve had since 1996. Dan had a 30 year old TUSA mask. When you buy quality products from reputable manufacturers who make their own masks (NOT OEM with a Log slapped on) you purchase a product that is going to have parts and service around for years (or decades) to come.
Mask clips can commonly break if dropped or stepped on. Lenses can chip, mask skirt scan rip, lens retainer clips can break if you’re cleaning the mask and mask skirt on a regular basis.
Brands like TUSA, Atomic Aquatics, Mares Diving, Problue and Scubapro keep a range of clips and replacement parts in stock.
Pre-cleaning Your Mask
Pre-clean your mask with toothpaste rubbed on the inside of the glass and take a toothbrush with mild abrasive and brush the inside glass to remove a protective silicone residue that is tacked on the inside. You can also carefully burn it off with a flame if you have a steady hand and trust yourself around silicone.
Pre-cleaning the mask will help prevent fogging and will give you a better chance of fog-free diving.
Defogging Your Mask
Mask defog is your friend. Not because we’re a dive store, but because you don’t want bacteria ridden saliva in your mask that you may or may not fully rinse out. We’ve seen divers with eye infections from using the communal “spit bucket” on the dive boats down south where 10-20 divers are all spitting in their mask and then rinsing in a communal bucket.
Commercial Mask Defog is awesome! It lasts years and years despite the small affordable 2oz bottle it comes in. McNett Sea Drops and McNett Sea Gold are the best defogs we’ve used. No bacteria or eye irritation and you also don’t have as much black mould or bacteria growing in your mask after 6-12 months of using it vs. spit.
Spitting in your mask is a good temporary solution, but defog will prevent things from growing in the mask and give you the best fog free solution.
To use your defog properly though follow these steps.
Apply defog to mask lens dry 2-3 drops per lens or 5-6 drops overall if single lens max.
Leave defog on the mask until you’re ready to hit the water
Rinse defog off with your finger and water
Put mask directly on your face or keep filled with water until ready to wear
Keep mask on face, do not take off and let it air dry
If taking mask off fill it up with water and leave lenses wet, don’t air dry
Maintenance For Your Mask
Your mask over time may get dirty, mildewed or saturated with salt crystals or sand which can get between the lenses. Every 1-2 years or sooner, you should consider taking your mask apart and with hot water, some dish soap and a toothbrush, gently rinse and scrub every bit of the mask frame, skirt, lenses, and lens retainer clips (This isn’t possible with Frameless masks which do not come apart).
The best mask on the market is the mask that makes you feel like its a part of your face, it fits naturally, it doesn’t hit off the brow, press on the bridge of the nose and doesn’t need to be overtightened. It can come with a range of different lenses and price points, but at the end of the day its the mask that feels the best and has the features you want that’s the right one.
While technologies change, the fit criteria should all the same. Comfort, ease of adjustment, ease of clearing because its low volume and it should look quasi-stylin’.
Diving a Backplate The Best Option for New Recreational Divers – They Don’t Tip You Facedown by Matthew Mandziuk
There is a common misconception in the world of scuba diving that backplates and wings can push a diver facedown on the surface. Those people are wrong. Diving a Backplate is the Best Option for New Recreational Divers and unlike the majority of brands with front loaded weight pockets, most recreational jackets with back buoyancy WILL tip you face forward, a backplate will not.
In this blog we will outline with real life experience and even some fun video evidence how a properly setup and weighted backplate does not push you facedown, but in actuality it is the most comfortable, efficient, streamlined and safest buoyancy system available.
The false mindset that backplates tip you forward on the surface has ultimately come from divers who were using an improperly balanced back floatation bc with a horseshoe wing shaped bladder that was wider/thicker on the bottom of the wing and narrower/thinner in shape closer to the top. Other causes could be that there are high capacity integrated weight pockets located horizontally across the waist area of the bcd causing the force of gravity to shift. This is why we opt for a vertical pocket that sits back towards the hip area. Or they just plain have never tried it.
A back floatation bcd with an improperly shaped wing design as described above coupled with front loading weight pockets that put the weight pocket closer to the front of the body laying the pockets from the middle of the body to front of the body rather than how they should be oriented, which is from the back of the hip moving from the middle of the body to the back of the body towards the backplate can create a very troublesome scenario with respect to body orientation and tipping. As a matter of fact, some jacket bcd’s will even push you facedown.
A backplate doesn’t generally have this problem because it is a more balanced rig offering a wing that generally allows for even air distribution around the bladder like a circle or a doughnut that allows the air to move unrestricted and doesn’t trap air. Some units even offer a weighted single tank adapter with up to 6lbs/2.2kg of lead placed inside the STA with little to no weight needed with even the thickest wetsuit in salt water.
Divers may experience a tipping sensation on the surface from any bcd due to the action of over inflating the wing or a jacket bcd, however on a backplate and wing style system like a Halcyon Infinity MC System you don’t generally have this issue as shown in the video below.
Join the Zero Weight Club
Ideally You’ll want to get to a point where you aren’t wearing much/any weight with a wetsuit and have a balanced enough setup that you can simply just swim your gear up without having to kick hard to get there. The more weight you have on the surface, could pull you facedown if the weight pockets are in the front of your harness and the wing is overinflated.
If you’re using a drysuit you may need a little more weight, but a steel tank is also a suitable option or a set of doubles. They balance you out even better and for diving locally offer redundancy in the event of a regulator failure.
How do you tell you’re overweighted? Go up to 10 feet/3 meters with a 1000psi in your tank and see how much air is in your wing. If you reach back and can feel a substantial amount air try venting the air out while laying horizontally and lifting your rear up, orienting your head slightly downwards to get the air to the highest point and use the back dump to vent the gas. If you start going down quickly you’re overweighted, but this is another conversation to discuss in another blog post. You should basically have no air in the wing and be able to hold a stop at 1000psi in an aluminum 80 at 10-15′.
The Unsung Hero
Backplates are the most streamlined, balanced, and versatile diving system for recreational divers, cave divers, technical divers and rebreather divers, offering you ONE uniformed diving system that grows with you throughout your diving career, making it the best option for a new scuba diver who doesn’t know where their diving will take them because they won’t outgrow their unit. It can be dived with any exposure or tank configuration, in any environment, while offering the most streamlined swimming profile and neat and tidy equipment configuration when rigged properly for modern and progressive scuba diving activities.
A backplate can allow you to minimize bulk and clutter if you keep the harness clean, also streamlining your body if you are utilizing proper trim and posture, which should allow for you as a scuba diver to maintain horizontal orientation in the water when swimming and when just sitting there hovering horizontally, even on ascent and descent, rather than being pushed or pulled vertical, which is the position a jacket or a bcd with the weights in the front of the harness generally do by pulling your body knees and fins down towards the bottom.
Backplates allow for motionless hovering keeping the diver within 10% midline of horizontal underwater but allowing you to lay perfectly flat and comfortable with head out of the water on the surface.
Simple and Streamlined
Backplates are more robust than a more traditional bcd, which are often ladened with excessive fabric, padding, straps, d-rings and breakable plastic buckles, whereas a Backplate simply has 1 release buckle if rigged properly, which is located just off to the right side of the waist and is right handed release like a weight belt buckle uses.
Clips and Buckles on a jacket bcd can increase task loading and may prolong rescuer response in comparison to a backplate, as you’ve got a minimum at least 3-4 clips and a cummerbund to free the diver from their gear in a jacket compared to a simple right hand release buckle on the waist followed by pushing the harness free of the divers body.
Since more clips create a delay in freeing the diver in an emergency divers may want to avoid a jacket style bcd with fancy clips, gadgets and clutter in favour of diving more simple and streamlined.
Some backplates offer adjustable cinch harnesses to allow for easier donning and doffing, while not compromising the structural integrity of the harness with breakable plastic clips. To operate the cinch you simply pull the waist straps to tighten shoulders or lift the shoulders up to loosen the harness. There is no sternum strap to compress your chest and inhibit breathing, so you aren’t starved for air on the surface, the backplate thanks to a crotch strap and a proper fit prevents the bcd from riding up on the surface, and there is no chance that the backplate can crush your stomach and ribs like a jacket bcd with a wraparound aircell can when fully inflated.
Progressive Dive Training
Many of our divers are mindblown when they begin their journey into scuba diving and they see the poor job that the vast majority of dive stores and instructors are doing with scuba diving certifications.
Training with a more progressive dive store is a great way to get solid diver training, however, they are few and far between.
At the time of this article Dan’s Dive Shop is the first and only dive store in Canada to be offering entry level training in a backplate system and a long hose/short hose regulator configuration at the Open Water Diver level.
Buoyancy and Trim and the most important skills a diver will learn and as such, those skills, along with air sharing, proper horizontal ascents and horizontal descents are things that need to be perfected.
Progressive Diving means to have the right skills, abilities, diver and team awareness, safe diving practices and understanding that they need to maintain their skills through practice and repetition on a regular basis.
In some circles this philosophy is known as Hogarthian, DIR, Doing it Right, NTEC and more. In all cases these methods have made diving safer, better and more enjoyable.
Buy it Once
If someone told you you could have 1 BCD to take you from singles to doubles, wet to dry, down south dives and on warm reefs and walls to the most beautiful cold water shipwrecks, cold water reef and walls or ice diving, would you listen?
Take a look on Kijiji or any of those used gear websites and you’ll see something that often states Jacket Bcd used only 6 times or 12 times. When you talk to the owners a lot of the time you find out they upgraded to a backplate, or they bought a drysuit or a 7mm wetsuit and their original jacket doesn’t fit.
Not only is a backplate the most stable diving system, but it is also built to be the first and last bcd you ever need.
The Proof is in the Pudding
If you have been told that backplates tip you face down please take the time to share this video with the source of this misinformation. Not all back flotation bcd’s are innocent, some will push you facedown, but a properly shaped wing and proper weight distribution and pocket design will not.
Best Fins For Scuba Diving Review The Real Best Fins and Why by Matthew Mandziuk
This Best Fins For Scuba Diving Review The Real Best Fins and Why is a rewrite of a previous fin report I did up a few years ago. This is a great overview of dive fins, especially for the diver who only wants to buy their fins once and learn about the Best Fins For Scuba Diving. Learn what most of the Other Dive Stores and Other Brands Brands Won’t Tell You.
When divers are searching for dive fins there is a lot of miss-information, too much choice and too few actual “experts” out there who try all of the different fins in a real world environment using different exposure suits, diving in different environments and with different equipment configurations.
It never ceases to amaze me the things divers put on their feet and attempt to kick underwater with and the amount of energy the exert, the extra air they consume and the additional CO2 they create in the process, not to mention the fact that many dive stores look at the almighty dollar instead of customer satisfaction.
We are at a point in our educational path where we really can’t handle students showing up on referrals or open water courses with the wrong gear.
What makes it the wrong gear you ask?
Inability to perform in the environment that the students are diving in. Inability to propel oneself through the water in an efficient and streamlined manner without stirring up the bottom and inability to maintain proper trim and buoyancy, the ability to move at a reasonable pace without over kicking or over breathing.
Each year we get divers from different dive stores on Open Water “Referral” dives where they often time show up in fullfoot fins (Slip-on fins people wear barefoot) or lightweight, flimsy plastic fins.
The problem with this is the fact that the divers can’t actually maintain proper horizontal trim with these lightweight buoyant fins as they generally speaking have their feet floating up inverting them away from a horizontal position to a vertical foot up head down orientation.
The fins also lack propulsion to actually properly move them through the water.
When a diver kicks what you want is to push the water off the end of the blade of the fin, which is only about the first 13-15% of the blade, while the rest of the fin is designed to be rigid and provide a stable platform for the water to roll down off the end of the blade, so when you put a very lightweight plastic or rubber blade on the end of a foot pocket it just bends and twists and requires side rails to keep the structure of the fin intact.
You need a stiff blade to move more water a soft blade will not displace as much water.
The problem we find with most divers is their inability to kick properly, their inability to stay perfectly still in one spot without moving hands or fins frantically or their lack of awareness.
Many divers use a flutter kick because that was what they were taught in Open Water, but its inefficient and often times they kick from the hip or the knee straight down rolling the knee/ankle and using excessive energy, while silting out the entire dive site kicking silt up as they channel the water down towards the sensitive bottom fanning up silt and sand one leg at a time, or worse, the divers cause serious damage to the reef as they’re bicycle kicking vertically like a rototiller towards the fragile coral.
At Dan’s, we teach our students a different kick, a more efficient kick, well actually a series of kicks. Modified Flutter Kick, Frog Kick, Helicopter Turns and Back Fining . These kicks allow for greater control and comfort in the water, while offering more finesse and easier mobility in the water, while eliminating the need for people to hand swim, which is inefficient and a terrible open water diver habit that occurs from divers who aren’t maintaining proper trim or balance in the water.
Why don’t we teach flutter kick?
Most stores teach their diver to flutter kick because that’s what they’ve always done. We don’t recommend using the flutter kick as your main kick because it creates more drag through the water moving 1 fin at a time causing increased air consumption and energy usage, as well as the most logical problem of it channeling the water straight down to the bottom which reeks havoc underwater with the visibility creating massive clouds of silt that resemble a nuclear mushroom cloud.
I was in Tobermory one July 11th weekend and I heard an instructor instructing a student that they needed to get their entire leg into it and kick from the hip straight down. All I kept thinking to myself was what does the visibility look like after these 2 have fluttered through the water? Split fins, hinge fins, fins with funky angles, Seawing Nova fins or really flexible materials are not ideal for diving unless you only ever plan on diving a single tank and flutter kicking. Most fin blades over flex and don’t become useful with divers who have good leg strength. I can over power most fins on the market from the gimmick filled brands.
Nothing offers a better, more efficient, more powerful fin kick than the following APPROVED fins for more progressive diving use: Scubapro Jet Fin, the original, tried, tested, true high performance, high efficiency fin. OMS Slipstream Fin a lighter version of the Jet Fin, Hollis F-1 fins, Dive Rite XT Fins plastic fins with exceptional thrust, Mares Quattro a good fin that is longer, but less efficient that the above mentioned fins, Mares Plana Avanti X-3 lighter kick than a quattro, Mares Super Channel stiffer kick than the x-3, Mares Quattro Excel Fins offer the most precision fin techniques of all Mares Fins but the blade is long and they’re less efficient than some of the above mentioned fins. Mares Power Plana (New Rubber composite material) offers good thrust, while the short blade makes it one of the better Mares Fins for more progressive diving, but it is a lighter blade than the Jet or equivalent. The XS Scuba Power Fin offers similar performance to a Scubapro fin, as well as their XXL and XXXL Turtle Fins which are both jet fin inspired options, Hollis F-2 fin a shorter, lighter fin than the F1 that allows for the standard kicks with less power and propulsion, not recommended for high flow currents/caves/heavy gear.
The above list of fins although relatively short, cover a broad spectrum of options when you figure there are over 100 different fin models on the market from the major brands at the time of this blog post.
What fin technique is better?
Here at Dan’s we teach “Frog Kick” or “Modified Frog Kick” to our divers as their main propulsion method because it is an effortless way to swim around your favourite dive site.
You Simply Kick….Glide…..Kick…..Glide. With a good frog kick you can kick and the push you get will allow you glide for several feet afterwards, allowing you to re-load position of your feet and kick again, often times breathing on the gliding portion and exhaling often on the kick.
You’re channeling the water straight behind you in the same direction the fins are moving. In between kicks there is a glide effect as your momentum moves you forward on your rest stroke and continue on from there.
The biggest issue we have with fins is watching divers floundering around with no control. In an effort to try and keep their knees bent while arching their back to keep their fins at the high point for proper trim, they have a serious lack of control because they can’t seem to do anything with these fins. At that point, the hands come out with sculling to try and stabilize, the flutter kicking starts which is usually followed by a silt out.
Some plastic fins are positively buoyant, so when you’re in proper position which should be 10 degrees midline of horizontal, they can bring your feet up too high and keep reaching for the sky so to speak, bringing you inverted and to the point where if you don’t correct it to a point where you turtle flipping and rolling.
A little bit of weight from the fin, not in the form of ankle weights (which will bring you legs down too low) may keep your feet in the perfect position.
I am a big fan of the Scubapro Jet Fin for this reason. It offers the best quality fin, lifetime guarantee on the fin even against breakage, and gives me a nice stiffness in the blade, while allowing me to dive it with singles, sidemount wetsuit, drysuit, rebreather or doubles and allowing me to maintain perfect trim offsetting my “floaty feet”.
So how do you know if you have floaty feet? Many people male and female who are thicker through the calves/ankles likely have a bit more need for heavier fins, as do drysuit divers who have buoyancy in their thick undergarment socks or a neoprene boot.
If you don’t suffer from Floaty Feet, find that you don’t need a heavier fin, have a look at the Dive Rite XT Fin. You won’t find a fin on the market that gives you as much speed and performance in a plastic material than the XT Fin. Its outperformed virtually every fin on the market in real world and simulated testing.
For more on the XT Fins or a good second opinion of fins have a look at the Dive Rite Blog posted by Lamar Hires back in 2007.
Try getting into the water in your normal setup with no fins on and see which way your body floats, most times your head will drop and your feet will go up if you’re using a proper buoyancy control system and are distributing your weights properly (NOT ON YOUR HIPS). Do this with a tank that is at its lowest tank pressure (if you’re diving aluminum 80’s try it at 1000psi).
If you’re finding your feet go up in a balanced rig for singles or doubles, you can add a trim weight, tail weight or you should try adding a rubber fin to the mix. If you find your feet drop downwards, you have too much weight on the waist, remove and re-distribute and try again. If you find your feet still sinking something isn’t right and a Rubber Fin will make it worse.
You can really benefit from additional training as well. Courses like Intro to Tech or a Fundamentals style course can really improve your skills, knowledge and understanding of the concepts of buoyancy.
Likely one of the most often overlooked features of fins are the strap and buckle assemblies. Fins with plastic buckles and plastic buckle posts and inner roller pins often are made of a breakable plastic material and the loose straps can often find their way into an area of entanglement.
Purchasing fins with spring heel straps makes more sense, you have an near unbreakable stainless steel spring and a stainless or delrin post that is pretty well unbreakable too.
The boots you wear whether wet or dry will stay in place as the stainless heel strap will tighten up as the boots compress with pressure from descending to depth and loosen off as the boots expand back to normal size upon going shallower and the neoprene expanding (if diving wet) or the drysuit boots being filled with a little more gas in them.
Worst Fins for Scuba Diving
The Worst fins without really discriminating against all major fin brands is more of an overview; Avoid the majority of overpriced, overly expensive fins that have hinges, splits, are very light weight, offer unfounded claims of propulsion and performance and of course you can ask us.
Stay away from fins that dive stores are classing as “beginner” fins, there shouldn’t be a designation of “Beginner” or “Expert” diver when it comes to gear configuration. Every scuba diver should be taught to dive the same way, utilizing the more progressive kicks in the more progressive gear and not be limited by their equipment or their training.
My unwritten rule is if the gear is really pretty or has a lot of hype or bells and whistles it’s likely not that good.
A True Story
Once upon a time I was introducing my ex-wife to double tanks, but she had pretty Pearlescent Pink TUSA Tri-Ex fins, which were very buoyant and I told her she should leave behind at the store as I was loaning her my wetsuit Jet Fins. When we arrived at the dive site, I got her all buddy checked and I entered the water.At the last moment with my back turned she had a second thought and grabbed her horrible pink fins and put them on in the water and we began our dive.
Seven minutes into the dive she aborted the dive because she was tired and out of breath. I asked her what the problem was? Knowing full well as soon as she fell behind what the problem was and I noted the pink fins.
She called the dive and told me she wasn’t going anywhere in her fins, so i asked the princess what fins she was wearing and she smiled at me innocently and uttered the words “my pretty ones”. I told her to get out of the water, grab the Jet Fins and get back in, so she did and she loved them. For 3 years she dove those fins. You’ll actually notice them in the top right photo in the background with the pink tanks.
The moral of the story was that she noticed right away how inferior her fins were, how despite the look of the old Jet Fins that they outperformed her newer, more sleek looking fins and that when it came to diving, one little modification like getting better fins can make a world of difference and no longer limits your progress forward.
I’ve always been an advocate of simple and streamlined and doing it right for a reason.
We believe in good fins and proper finning techniques
Maybe it’s because we teach our students a different way of diving, but these divers whom we’ve retrained end up having to buy new fins because their fins just didn’t live up to their diving needs at the open water diver level.
We believe in teaching diving the right way and giving you the tools to make a more informed decision when you purchase your equipment and additional dive training. After learning the pros and cons the customer is able to make a more informed decision. We are happy to sell anything we have or can get if people who insist on them, but it doesn’t mean we recommend or endorse the products at that point. Here are a few photos of us teaching proper fin techniques, proper trim and fit and functionality to new open water and advanced divers.
Our methods and training teaches you how to dive right from the beginning, purchasing the best gear and training available. Check out our training section for more information your next diving course.
Please don’t be insulted if you read that your fins are no good. They’re likely good fins for flutter kicking with a single tank on a reef in a shorty wetsuit, but add a drysuit, a large single tank or a set of doubles, a mild current, more weight to offset that wetsuit or drysuit and now you may find your fins don’t cut it anymore.
Diving is about versatility, evolving and personal development of skills is a big part of that. All divers both recreational and technical should know proper frog kick and they should all have fins that will enhance not hinder in water performance.
If you read our blog and like what we’re doing, we’d appreciate your feedback and business as we share the most up to date and modern information available. Come diving with us, train with us and harness your maximum potential.
One a most recent trip ocean diving in Cozumel 2 divers on the trip were equipped in the wrong fins. One a pair of TUSA Split Fins and the other a pair of Sherwood Elite Fins. Neither were able to swim against the surface current back to the boat and had to be rescued.
So why did this happen? Simply put, they had the wrong fins!
It doesn’t matter how much cheaper a pair of inferior, lightweight, plastic Sherwood fins are when you have the fear of your life and panic, which is exactly what happened to the diver in these fins.
The other diver, an experienced DDS diver decided to favor weight for travel over performance and thrust and when they were returned safely to the boat, they said they wished they’d brought their Jet Fins and uttered the words, “Never Again”.
Don’t put yourself in harms way, don’t favor your pocket book over your life, do yourself a favor and get the right gear the first time and the best stuff you can.
Your fins are the most important piece of gear you’ll have as a diver. Don’t make the same mistakes thousands of new divers a week around the world do.
Buy The Best Fins
Dan’s Dive Shop offers the best selection and pricing you’ll find on scuba diving and snorkeling equipment in Canada or the United States, so please, if you feel that this article has helped you and you would like to purchase the best fins, take a browse through our online store and add a set to your shopping cart today.
Thank you for reading this. If you have any questions about gear, training, diving techniques, please email me.