Bored? When Scuba Diving?

diving sea whip

On our last adventure I overheard the captain say to his newest crew member; “aren’t you bored with diving yet?” Her answer was perfect, “how can you be bored when diving, because you never know what you will get on every dive”. Every month we go to the crater for certification dives and every month a student will say to me aren’t you bored with the crater. My response is while the drive bores me, the students more than make up for it with their wonder and amazement and we are diving in very warm water.

As Mia said to the captain, “how can you be bored”? America sang that the ocean is a desert with its live underground and we get to explore that wonderful hidden world. As your skills improve with diving you can get closer to the reef and find even smaller creatures, such as the sea whip shrimp or the squat anoneme shrimp. One of our divers has started carrying a magnifying glass while diving to even help her find the smallest hardest PICT0287to see creatures. The joy and amazement that she shows when she discovers something so small when diving is fun and energizing and makes you want to get back in the water as soon as the captain says that the pool is open.

diving clown crab

Bored diving? On our last adventure I watch one of our divers get closer and closer to the reef. She is even head down now looking under the ledges. Heck her buddy even let her borrow a magnifying glass to look closer. Watching people discover different creatures while diving or nailing a skill is exciting and fun and I can honestly say that it never gets old. Oh, sure the drive to the dive site might get stale and putting that cold soaking wet exposure suit on for the 4th or 5th time in a day might feel like work, but the awe and wonder that awaits us on every dive is breath taking.

Bored diving? Never, as Mia said; “you never know what you will get on every dive”

See you under the boat

scuba joe

Scuba Signals and Air Management

scuba signalsBy now you are all familiar with the basic scuba signals and some of you have probably even invented your own scuba signals for a special creature like that very big shark that is behind you. And I know you know the signals for out of air, but how about low on air and how do we tell the dive master how much air we have left in our tanks?

Flashing fingers to signal our air supply just confuses me and most dive masters, because I can’t count that fast. There is an independent instructor that likes to have his students signal with fingers on their chest with how much air they have left.  The problem with that is that the scuba signal for low on air is a fist/hand on the chest.scuba signals low air  So if you are touching your chest to me that is the scuba signal for you are low on air and I will be taking you to the surface at that point.

The best and easiest scuba signals for telling your dive master and dive buddy how your air management is going is the simple ok sign.  This tells your buddy that you have been watching your air and you are ok and have plenty of air remaining. The other preferred way, especially for a new diver is to signal with your fingers on your arm for your remaining air in thousands and with your fingers for hundreds. So for say 2400 psi in your tank the scuba signals would look like this; 2 fingers tapping your arm and then hold up 4 fingers. A simple and non-confusing scuba signal for letting your dive buddy and the dive master know how much air you have and that you have been watching your air supply.

Digital Camera

scuba signals






What are some of you favorite scuba signals?

Getting high with Altitude Diving

Altitude diving

Living in landlocked Colorado at almost 5000 feet we are experts in altitude diving, since if we dive locally at all we are definitely diving at altitude.

Student: But Scuba Joe isn’t diving well just diving?

Scuba Joe:  Sure diving is diving, but the dive tables and all decompression theory is all based on being at sea level.  Do you remember from the first chapter in your PADI open water class the discussion about pressure, volume and density?   Let us start with pressure, at sea level we are under 1 full atmosphere of pressure, that is from space to sea level equals 1 atmosphere. Now, in altitude diving we are under less pressure. Think about it this way, as we drive (ascend) to our destination (surface) we are off gassing, because at sea level we are consider to be balanced in our nitrogen levels. So as we “ascend” nitrogen is coming out of solution, much like on a dive in the Caribbean.

Student: But isn’t water in altitude diving affected also?

Scuba Joe: Not really, water is water and is about 800 times denser than air. Think about it this way, that slab on concrete you fell on the other day is just as dense at altitude as it is at sea level.

Student: Ouch

diver at lakeScuba Joe: (laughs) yes Ouch! So we understand that our body is under less pressure in altitude diving and that water isn’t affected at all. What this means to us in planning our altitude diving day is that we must plan our dives as they are deeper than our actually depth, because our body will be absorbing nitrogen at a faster pace than at sea level, for example on our advanced open water deep dive this weekend at the crater our dive to 66 feet is the equal to over 90 feet.  Add to this that as we ascend from our dive that we well are off gassing faster also, so we will need to ascend at a slower rate.

Student: How do we plan for altitude diving?

Scuba Joe: We can follow special dive tables or even better set our computers for our altitude.

scuba joe

Why do I need a scuba certification to go diving?

scuba certiificationA C card or diver scuba certification card is standard equipment in today’s scuba world, but every once in a while someone doesn’t think they need a card to go diving.  After all, dad or a friend is a diver and they will be watching out for me, right? Besides I am an all star swimmer, what could go wrong? Or, they did a few resort courses or even better, they were in the Navy and did a lot of diving.  Heck they may have even been a Navy diver.

We can look at an accident like the one in Florida on Christmas day, when a father and son died while testing out the new scuba gear they got for Christmas on a dive in a cave to at least understand a little why we want a scuba certification card.  Dad was a certified diver, but the son was not.  Even, if they had made the dive with no issues it was way beyond the 15 year old son’s experience and training to be even diving in a cave let alone diving without a professional.

Your basic open water diver card is validation and proof that you have the training DIGITAL CAMERAand skills to go scuba diving.  But, there are limits to this certification level. If you recall from your open water class the entry level scuba certification is for up to 60 feet and in conditions that you were trained in. This means for most of us warm and rather clear water.  Makes sense, since most of us did our training dives in the warm waters of the tropics or the crater. We are comfortable and confident in our abilities in such water.

This doesn’t mean that we can’t go deeper or at night or in colder or even murky water. But, we should probably get some training for those conditions or at least go with a certified dive professional.  I recall our friend Rock and his first night dive.  He was anxious and nervous as he had never done a night dive. After the briefing on the boat, the dive master asked if this was anyone’s first night dive (he knew as we had told him it was Rock’s first) and Rock, like the good sport he is, raised his hand.  It was decided that Rock would lead us into the water.  Well, since he was at the bow of the boat he walked past all of us to the back and as he was about to make his stride into the water, as he placed his hand over his mask, opps he had forgotten his mask.  We all had a great laugh as he walked back to get his mask and we had a wonderful dive.  The point is, he was nervous and anxious, but his instructor was on that boat with him for his first night experience.

When you are ready to go beyond your scuba certification level it is a great idea to go with a dive professional to help you get use to new and different conditionsscuba joe

Our Aquatic World, some fun facts

aquatic world

Take a look at a globe, what do you see? A lot of blue that defines earth as an aquatic world. We know that water makes up over 70% of the surface of the earth, but the aquatic world that we live on is so much more special and amazing than we think.  There are 2 different types of water that make up our aquatic world, so let’s take a little look at both.

When we are out fishing or diving in our fresh water lakes and rivers we assume that they make up a large part of the aquatic world, after all just look how big the Great Lakes are and the Nile River and the Mississippi River, they are huge; but all the fresh water in the world is less than the amount of water in the Indian Ocean basin. Just a scant 3% of all the water on this aquatic world is fresh with right at 75% of that frozen in polar ice caps and another 20% of all fresh water is in ground water.

aquatic worldThere are 2 primary fresh water ecosystems. Lentic which are inland depressions with standing water formed by glacial erosion and depositions, rock and debris that block streams or earth movement that caused land to sink and flood. These systems are influenced by temperature which cause biological stratification and are divided into 4 zones.  The second major system is the Lotic ecosystem that are the running waters of our rivers and streams.  These environments are subject to constant change and demand a continuous supply of nutrients from land based sources.

The second source of water on our aquatic world is the oceans.  When we look at the globe and all that blue we see different names and we think that there are different oceans.  Actually it is all one big ocean, the names come from a time when we didn’t know much about the world and they are also  an easy way to label different regions of the ocean.

There are also 2 zones in the ocean, the aphotic zone that is the zone of perpetual darkness and the photic zone or the zone whereaquatic world light can reach. As divers we also think that the ocean is a generally warm place but the average temp is a chilly 38 degrees and the temp ranges from 32 degrees to a balmy 98 in the Persian Gulf. The average depth of our ocean is approximately 2.4 miles and the world’s longest mountain range is found running from the Arctic Ocean through the Atlantic and past African and Asia to the Pacific and the west coast of North America, a little over 10,000 miles.

With the Pacific Ocean alone being 25% larger than all land masses it is easy to see what an important  role the aquatic world place in our day-to-day being.

Happy diving! and feel free to leave a comment

scuba joe

Spotting the smallest creatures in an Anemone

How did you see that little creature in that Anemone? I mean that small thing was what maybe an inch? You hear this type of conversation on every dive boat. Maybe having two awesome spotters, one with a magnifying glass, helps when trying to get pictures of the smallest creatures in the aquatic world, but there is more to it than that.

The more we dive the more we see. Simple, right? Think about your own diving. When you first ventured into the underwater anemoneworld you saw the dive master, your dive buddy and the biggest of fishes and creatures.  You may be squat anemone shrimpnoticed some of the bigger corals and formations. Most of the time on those first few dives you didn’t see the anemones and other smaller things.

But, as you dove during the week or years you started to notice smaller things such as the anemone and other smaller animals. And you got a closer look at them. As you got some closer looks you were going slower over the reef and not covering as much ground.  You may have even been part of a conversation that went something like this, “Did you see that big eel under that rock?” and you reply “No, I didn’t”, because you were looking at the smaller things, such as the Arrow Crab in the anemone and forgot to look up.

Then you find that happy balance of going slow and spotting the small things and looking out for the big creatures, but the truly tiny are still hard to find. You ask how to find them and all your dive masters just sort of shrug and say you just get lucky when you see them.  Well, it is a bit easier than that. Let’s take a look at our anemone.

The anemone is a simple creature that has tentacles that give off a little deadly sting to any fish that gets to close so it can eat. But, if we know that inside the anemone we just might find say a cleaner shrimp or crab we can get closer and carefully look deep insideanemone crab or even on the edges of the anemone and then we start to see the smallest creatures.  It is not just Nemo that protects and cleans the anemone, but little crabs and shrimps are also protected by the anemone and they in turn help the anemone stay clean and healthy.

You can learn more about the smallest creatures and their relationships with their host in a PADI Fish Id class or Project Aware class.


Happy diving

scuba joe

4 Things I have learned from my Scuba students

Hurray! I have been an  scuba instructor for exactly one year now. Let’s celebrate and look back at the life-lessons I have learned from my scuba students in the past year (and hope they learned at least as much from me).

People will always come up with ways to surprise you.

Even when you think you’ve seen it all and are prepared for every possible scenario, one of your students will come up with something that just leaves you thinking “what…the…hell..??” Like my first Open Water student who decided that the best way to remove and replace her weight belt underwater was to pull it off over her head. Wait. What? Yes, over her head. Why you would do that? No idea.

scuba diver

Everyone feels stupid when they are learning something new.

Trust me, everyone makes silly little mistakes when they are learning something new, and pretty much everyone will feel at least a little bit stupid.

You are no exception. Whether you’re the student that puts the alternate air source upside down in his mouth, or the student that just doesn’t get the dive planning tables, or the one that keeps forgetting the steps of the buddy check, be assured: you’re not the first, nor will you be the last.

It’s ok. Especially with something so unnatural as diving (people are still not made to breathe underwater), it takes some time to get used to the new environment and all the things you have to pay attention to. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Even more so: embrace them! Learn from them! Laugh about your stupidity. Trust me: we have probably seen worse.

Typically, the students who feel worse about their performance are usually the best, so you should probably only worry if you think you are doing everything absolutely perfect.

Do something because YOU want to, not to please someone else.

Some things in life just need to be done. Like washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, and filing your tax return forms. Not because you necessarily want to, but just because you have to. Right?

Diving is not one of these things.

We get a lot of couples or small groups here that want to do their course together. Usually you’re able to tell from minute one that it is only one of them that is really excited about diving and that the other one is just joining to, you know, not to ruin the holiday or something.

This is a really bad reason to start diving.

It usually works out alright. Sometimes the person that was a little hesitant ends up loving diving anyway, but usually you know right from the beginning that they will probably never dive again. Such a shame! I mean, diving is not a cheap hobby, so why waste all that sweet money and time on something you knew you wouldn’t enjoy from the start, just because your S/O pressed you into it?

People are great at overcoming fears

Most people have (or had) some fears about the ocean. After all, it’s not a natural environment for us mouth-breathing human beings, it’s full of things you couldn’t even imagine in your worst nightmares and unpredictable as fuck. And then there’s scuba diving, where you rely on equipment in an essentially hostile (although incredibly beautiful and fascinating) environment.

It’s very normal to have some reservations about all this. Or in some cases, be terrified.

Almost every student has this voice in a little corner in their brain that whispers “what if…?”

But almost everyone manages to quiet that voice, overcome their fears and enjoy diving. when you think about it, this is truly impressive. It can also be a great confidence-boost in other areas of your live. “Well, if I manage to get over my fear of sharks, then surely I can get over the fear of asking for a raise?”

So thank you, my dear students. You are all wonderful inspiring and fear-kicking people! Rosien


I have borrowed this post with permission from Rosien, you can follow her here

Hunting for a Pirate Ship full of Sunken Treasure

I think every diver has some pirate in them and I know every diver dreams and would love to find an undiscovered pirate ship full sunken treasureof gold or sunken treasure.  So today I want to have a scuba dream and we discover an old pirate ship full of sunken treasure!

Now what?

I bet we are not telling anyone about our discovery, or are we sharing this with anyone outside of the most trusted circles and I can promise you I am not blogging about it or making it my status update on face book.  But to validate this discovery we will probably have to bring something back to prove what we have discovered.  So we are going to need some advanced scuba skills.  What advanced specialty scuba classes should we consider?

  • How about Underwater Navigation—I know we have found the pirate ship, but it will probably be broken up into many pieces and we are going to need to navigate and map out the area
  • Deep Diving—it is possible that this pirate ship is in water 100 feet or so.  Deep diving training and planning would be good to have
  • Night Diving—We might want to do some of this discovery work at night so people can’t see uslift bag
  • Wreck Diving—I think this one is too obvious
  • Boat Diving—Of course
  • Search and Recovery—I think this one is very important as we are going to be needing to know how to find and recover items from the pirate ship to prove what ship we found and I am rather confident that the items that we are going to need to recover will be heavier than 8 to 10 pounds and probably a little bulky and hard to carry up in our hands.  So the proper rigging of a lift bag and how to use it safely might be a necessary skill set to have

WOW, so many special skills that might be useful in my scuba dream.  Guess, I better get to scuba class and get ready to live out my scuba dream


My Scuba Adventure by Jessica Martinez-Burkey

TurtleWhat got me interested in Scuba? I really don’t like to answer that question. I am a Colorado girl born and raised. I ski and snowboard and we live nowhere near an Ocean. I am a mountain girl. The truth is – it was my husband John’s idea to get scuba certified and I really did not have much interest in it at all. I began my scuba adventure trying to do something that I knew my husband loved and I, frankly, could not have cared less about. My confession: I really only got certified to spend more time with him doing something that I knew he enjoyed.

After I got certified I spent the first several dives afraid to take my eyes off of the Divemaster who was leading our dive. My eyes were glued to the Divemaster’s fins. Imagine my surprise when I finally relaxed and looked around – what I found was a whole other world! I was still on this planet, but I felt like I had been entirely transported. When I looked around I saw the most amazing and beautiful DonnaWalllandscapes with hills and caves and swaying plant life; so many vibrant colors and entire ecosystems of fish and marine life. This, I realized, is a part of the same planet, but it is a separate world and I am a mere visitor. I felt awe and wonder at this strange and beautiful underwater environment and I could not wait to explore, but I was also a little fearful and tentative.

Once I relaxed I began to enjoy scuba so much that I always wanted to be in the water exploring. I wanted to see everything! It did not take long for me to realize I needed to work on my skills. I was a guest in this beautiful underwater world and I needed to stop being so clumsy with my fins. I also needed to improve my buoyancy so that I could more easily explore without disturbing or damaging their beautiful home. Learning more about the basics like how to conserve air so that I could have more bottom time, (relax) and ways I could continue diving if my dive computer stopped working, (dive tables) was imperative. John and I decided to start furthering our education and working on our skills so we took classes with the goal of becoming Master Scuba Divers. It was a lot of work, but well worth it when we finally reached our goal and became Master Scuba Divers! My newfound knowledge and skills completely enhanced my dive experience. Diving became so enjoyable to me that I wanted to share it with others. I did not realize how much I wanted to be a part of the journey of others until my husband and I went to a PADI Pro Night at Joe’s Scuba Shack.

We initially went to the PADI “Go Pro” Night because it was a Scuba Party where we could talk about diving with our Scuba friends. Little did we realize a light would turn on in our heads that night and we would connect the dots – John and I could do what we love and help introduce others to have this same amazing and life changing experience through Scuba! That very night we had a plan. We would immediately get to work on our Divemaster certifications. John knew that night he wanted to continue on and become an Open Water Scuba Instructor. I, however, was not sure if I wanted to move past Divemaster. I knew a Divemaster certification would enable me to lead dives with certified divers and also assist a Scuba Instructor with students. My main goal at that time was to get the additional Divemaster certification so that I could introduce people to scuba by conducting Discover Scuba sessions. I began to really enjoy helping the instructors with their students. I became an important part of something new and exciting for the students. It was a surprisingly fulfilling experience for me when I saw fear become accomplishment as students gained confidence.Crab

We had so much fun completing our Divemaster certification with Donna and Joe and working with the Assistant Instructor candidates as well as helping students to have fun and learn new skills that I decided I wanted to move on to the next stage – Assistant Instructor. It was a challenge completing our Assistant Instructor certification and I gained a whole new level of respect for PADI and their complete emphasis on safety through exemplary student training – lead by example and by not deviating from the well-designed PADI system of learning. I thought Assistant Instructor would be my final certification. Who was I kidding? Well, apparently I was only kidding myself because I am very proud to say that I am now an Assistant Instructor. It did not take me long to realize there is no way I am stopping before I become an Open Water Scuba Instructor!

My scuba journey is only just beginning and there is nothing I find more exciting and fulfilling than helping others discover their own scuba adventures.


Too Old for Master Scuba Diver?

Two times in the past 24 hours I have heard, “too old for Master Scuba Diver” or Specialty classes? I am just an old “fill in your own blank”.  But too old for Master Scuba Diver?  Too old to learn?  I keep seeing the slogan from Dive Training Magazine, “ a GOOD diver is always learning”. Or look at it this way, most of us in our “day” jobs take a training class or attend a training meeting at least once a year, we are always learning something to make our jobs easier; so why should your diving be any different?

lift bag

Maybe the Master Scuba Diver Challenge isn’t for you, but by adding on continuing educational opportunities such as Altitude Diving or drift diving, since we are going to Cozumel next month, you expand your knowledge of something that you love and enjoy doing and generally that knowledge increases or enjoyment of the sport.  Master Scuba Diver is a challenge, it includes advanced open water and rescue diver plus 5 specialties and you need to have logged 50 or more dives. By taking the Master Scuba Diver challenge you increase your knowledge and abilities in the water and greatly enhance your enjoyment of a sport you already love.

Maybe becoming a Master Scuba Diver isn’t on your radar, but as Jethro Tull sang you are never too old to learn (ok so I paraphrase a little). Dive Training Magazine’s slogan is one to take to heart, “A GOOD DIVER IS ALWAYS LEARNING”. It may not be a formal class or program such as the Master Scuba Diver, it maybe something as simple as sitting on the boat and talking about your dive with a dive master or instructor. Maybe you saw an article in the magazine or overheard something on the boat? Take the opportunity to challenge yourself and raise your skill level and your enjoyment of diving

So my friends we are never to old for Scuba