How is your scuba fitness?

Scuba Fitness? What exactly does that mean? Well, think about it this way. Seams like these days everyone has a personal trainer. And one of the first things that trainer ask you is what are your “goals”. Then they attempt to design a workout plan to achieve those goals. Well, we can do the same thing with our scuba fitness goals. Afterall the better our fitness the better our diving.

scuba fitness

So how do we design our scuba fitness plan? I think we should break down diving into the core “movements” and muscle groups that we use. Starting with cardio. It is no secret that the better our cardio the better, well everything is better. Our air will last longer. The currents aren’t as tiring. The long walk to the entry point with our gear on is easier. So hit that elliptical trainer and improve your cardio. Why the elliptical? Well you can set the resistance and incline to also work the largest muscle group that we use in diving. The legs are our pistons. The are the driving force within our scuba fitness. They carry us and our gear to the boat or entry point. They propel us under the water and allow us to visit the beautiful landscape that we all love.

What other muscle groups might be better off with a little focus on scuba fitness? Well the arms and shoulders are easy targets to guess. And I will make a small wager that you are probably already targeting those muscle groups in your every day workout routine. But there is one major area that most don’t pay much attention to in any work out. Your lower back and core muscles need some love in your scuba fitness routine.

Think about the stress and strain on your lower back and core. Just climbing up the boat ladder. Walking with all that gear on. Just about everything we do while diving. Now I am not saying that your trainer or your workout programs are wrong or not effective. But just maybe we could add an exercise or two.

 So how is your scuba fitness?

Do you have an accident management plan?

An accident management plan is a vital tool for any home, business or adventure. We all know accidents happen. But do you know where everything is? The nearest medical facility? The first aid kit? But, don’t we just call 911 and let them do everything? Well, I guess we could, but how long will EMS take? So, let’s look at how an accident management plan might look like.

And since we are divers, we will assume we will be dealing with a diving accident. The first two things we want to know is where is the nearest medical facility and is a chamber nearby. A few other items to know and have listed on our little slate is where is the emergency oxygen and first aid kit. Is there other life saving equipment at the dive site, such as a back board? After that I want to make sure I have the emergency number for DAN handy. DAN is the second call after EMS.

If you have taken our Rescue class, then you have a diving accident management slate. The number for DAN and the Coast Guard VHF channel is on this slate. This slate is invaluable in help us manage a dive accident. It also breaks things down into “mild” and “serious” symptoms. Obviously if the symptoms are mild then we would take the diver to the medical facility ourselves instead of calling EMS.

accident management

But if the signs are serious, I would in all likely hood be calling EMS and providing emergency care as needed. Administer emergency oxygen and if necessary, CPR.

A few other things that you should have on your accident management plan would be gathering and recording as much data that you know to be factual. Things like the depth and time of the diver’s last few dives. What signs and symptoms is the diver experiencing and approx. what time they started?

And the last thing you want to make sure you do in case of a diving accident is gather the divers gear. You can rinse it if you have time, but do not disassemble it. Send it along with EMS or take it to the medical facility with the victim.  DAN will want to get the info off the diver’s computer and possibly examine the gear for a potential failure to help determine the cause of the accident.

Hope we never need to put our accident management plan into action, but at least we are prepared.

Fish id, just the basics to help you enjoy your dives

fish idFish id is a fun and passive way to spend our dives. Hunting for different critters that we have never seen is definitely one of the highlights of all of our dive adventures. So far we have been very lucky and usually manage to fine 1 or 2 that we haven’t seen before. Or at least that is what we claim. So how do we identify the ones we haven’t seen? Well having a slate helps and a camera is even better and there are so many books with awesome pictures in them to help.

But Fish id does have some basics that you can apply without all those hand reference tools. With over 21000 species of fish and over 4000 of them found on coral reefs, just about only the most astute scientist can id them all. But you can use a few fish id tools to help you id most of them.
This about it this way, you spy a fish you have not seen before. What does it look like? All the fish are divided into roughly 30 or so “families” and they are then broken down into only twelve common groups. This will make your fish id dive much easier and more fun. We are not trying to be perfect, just getting close will help us when we get back to the boat or resort and can start looking at the reference books.

fish idThe twelve family groups to help you in your fish id dives are:
1. Butterfly, Angel and Surgeon fish
2. Jacks, Barracuda, Porgy and Chubs
3. Snappers and Grunts
4. Damselfish, Chromis and Hamlets
5. Groupers, Seabass and Basslets
6. Parrotfish and Wrasse
7. Squirrelfish, Bigeyes and Cardinalfish
8. Blennies, Gobies and Jawfish
9. Filefish, Triggerfish,Puffers, Trunkfish, Cowfish, Goatfish, Trumptfish and Drums
10. Eels
11. Sharks and Rays
12. Flounders, Scorpion, Lizard and Frog fish.

By thinking about fish this way, you can see how it will make your fish id adventure easier. But lets just take the first of these family groupings.
Butterflys, Angels and Surgeon fish usually have rather thin bodies and are oval or disk shaped. They are all generally brightly colored and have interesting patterns. So, how to distinguish them. Well in true fish id techniques, Butterfly fish are generally smaller and more round. They may have a longer mouth. Angelfish are generally darker in color, have a more rounder forehead and long dorsal fins. Surgenfish, aka Tangs are generally a solid color and have spines that stick out at the base of their tail.
And there you have the basics of Fish id.

Fish Surveys, Divers as researchers

fish surveysDid you know that you can do fish surveys on any dive? If you are a member of REEF  you can.  A few weeks ago on our trip to Costa Rica, a lady was doing fish surveys. I knew about them, but thought they would be rather complex. But turns out I was wrong in that thinking.

Reef is free to join but like most organizations they survive on donations. But by joining for free you can become part of the “world’s largest citizen science program”. Which in and of itself is cool, but you can then participate in fish surveys.

It is the volunteer Fish Study program. Diver scientist are grouped into 5 different levels and you can level up by doing fish surveys and participating in on line quizzes. Sounds like a cool on line game. You can even level up by completing the Aware Fish Id Speciality. These fish surveys are done by what they call the “roving diver technique”. As you enjoy your dive and see all the wonderful fish, you make little notes on your underwater slate. Angelfish, Butterfly fish, what sizes and how many. All types of fish. And if you are unsure of what type of fish you saw, use the fish id books and slates that are at just about every dive place we go. Or just use the on line resources to help you identify fish.

Simple, right? Then just go on line and complete the on line forms and submit. It is that easy. There are even on line tutorials to help you and they are only a few minutes long.

fish surveysOn our last adventure to Little Cayman, the staff there was talking about some of the groupers and turtles that had been tagged. Turns out that this is all part of REEF. The Grouper Moon project started in Little Cayman on 2002 and of course there is a Sea Turtle program as well.

Every dive can be a survey if you wish or maybe just a few per trip. It is easy and fun. So who is ready to join me in doing some fish surveys?

Why a dive computer should be your first purchase

One of the most common questions we get is, “what piece of dive equipment should a new diver buy first?”

Well, that is an easy one. After a good set of mask, snorkel and fins, a new diver’s first purchase should be a dive computer. Unless one gets cold really easily, then they should add a nice wetsuit to that order.  I know that you can rent a dive computer and or a wetsuit any where you go diving. But, here is why these items should be 1 and 1A on your wish list.

dive computerA dive computer is the most important piece of diving equipment a new diver should have, because there is a learning curve with every dive computer on the market. If you are spending extra time or worst yet not even bothering to learn what your dive computer is telling you. Well, you are putting yourself in danger. All dive computers function basically the same, but how you access that information is different on every one. Some are 1 button where you press, press and then hold to access the sub menus. Some are 2 or 3 buttons. But they are all different. By having your own dive computer you take that learning curve out and you will know your dive equipment. I tell every new diver that once they make the commitment to purchase and own their own dive gear, they instantly become a better diver. Why? Because they know their equipment and can operate it without thinking about it.

As for 1A, well if you get cold easily then a nice fitting high quality wetsuit should be right there on your list. There is nothing worse than being freezing cold on a beautiful dive. Being so cold that you cannot even enjoy the beauty that you are there to see and the playful fish is just no fun. Being warm and comfortable and knowing your dive gear does make for many happy dives.

When you are ready come on into the shop and we can show you all your options.

Instructors Creed or Instructors Manual

instructors creedAs I have written a few times before the instructors creed is an awesome thing and the fun little thing is I get to see it happen almost every weekend? Overcoming fear, turning “I cant” into “I can”. Turning bad into fun and wonderful. But I see and hear so many instructors that are bent into one way to do a skill and that is just not fair or right. There is no where in the instructor manual that tells us how a student must perform the skill other than they must have “mastery” of said skill. I take that to mean the student must be able to do the skill in a manner that they can repeat comfortably and again and again. There is also no place in the instructor creed or manual that states a student must enjoy the skill and we all know that some skills are just not the most fun anyway.

So if I marry the instructors creed with the instructor manual on say mask clearing, what methods do I come up with to teach? Well there are so many ways. First we have our traditional way. That is you have no issues and water maybe up your nose doesn’t bug you and you just simply exhale out your nose and mask is cleared. But if you have the once in awhile thought to breathe in your nose and snort some pool water this little skill will drive you crazy. So, while it isn’t “text book”, but if you have the urge and need to hold your nose while you take your mask off and even flood it, that is ok. You will need to let go of your nose at some point, but if that is what it takes for you to get the timing down so you can clear that mask, ok with me.

The instructors creed guides me to allow you to hold your nose. The instructor manual allows me to let you do this also. So I tell you I don’t care if you need to hold your nose because to put your mask back on you have to let go of your nose. You relax and next thing you know you are removing and clearing your mask, heck you might not even be holding your nose. The instructor  creed and instructor manual allow for what ever the student can do time and time again to be a safe diver.  If I have imparted this to you my student and fellow diver then I am happy and have hopefully lived and seen the instructor creed come to life.

So which dive computer is right for you?

A dive computer is a wonderful and very useful piece of equipment to own. I would say right after mask, snorkel and fins your next purchase should be a dive computer or a wetsuit. Just as there are many different types of people there are many different styles dive gear for you to pick. And a dive computer can come in many different styles. And they are all nitrox compatible right out of the box. All dive computers track your nitrogen loading and your safety stop. Most water activate and have altitude adjustments.

dive computerThe basic “puck” style of dive computer is first up. A very popular entry level option, it can be worn on your wrist or in a console attached to your first stage. The come in 2 basic styles, the one button or two buttons. Both are very easy to learn to use, but the one button does take a little bit extra to learn.  When you reach the setting you want to change you need to hold the button down for a few seconds. It takes just a little to get use to it. The Aqualung i300 has come along and made the two buttons even easier to use. They labeled the buttons advance and select.

Next is the watch style or wrist dive computer. And of course with in this style there are 2 main types, air integrationdive computer with a transmitter and non air integration. I have personally dived both and own both. For teaching classes I use the non air integration style. It gives me all the information that I need and I have an SPG for air pressure. For my dive travels I am even more stream lined by having all my dive info on my wrist and no console or hose.

 

 

Finally we have the air integration console style computers. Most of these have quick disconnects so you can take the computer off the hose for easy logging of your dive info. Most will have bigger screens for those of us that might be a little eye sight challenged.

With just about any dive computer, you can download your dive information into an e-log book. Some have blue tooth capability. With one dive computer you can upload 3d maps of the dive sights and some have color screens. Most now have user changeable batteries and one even has a heart rate monitor.

So which dive computer is right for you? Well that depends on you, but I can offer one suggestion. Take the time to visit with your local dive shop as they can show you your options and walk you through the differences for each style and in our case even a few different manufactures.

Your dives count with Dive Against Debris

Dive against debrisProject Aware and Dive Against Debris is one easy way that we can all help save and project Mother Ocean. I am sure that most of you have heard some horror stories about how there will be more plastic and trash in the ocean than creatures in 30 years. So how can we do something about it? The following is taken from the Dive Against Debris survey guide.

First safety is our primary consideration. If you are unsure about any item please leave it in place. If you see weapons or ammunition, leave it and mark its location and inform the local authorities. Also take great care with rusty items as they may be sharp or could leak chemicals that maybe harmful.

Consider the material the item is made from. Glass and steel cans are not going to cause much more harm than they already have, but if they have been long enough they just maybe home to some creatures. Also consider that eggs maybe attached, if they are mark the location and return at a later time to safely remove the item. Remove non-natural items such as plastics. These items break down into smaller parts and can cause more harm. Use your judgment in removing these types of items, it may be better to remove it even if doing so will cause some harm as the impact will be less than that of leaving the item.

On a Dive Against Debris, items such as car batteries and other containers that contain chemicals should be removed but only if you can safely remove them. Remember that we should be using lift bags for object that weigh over 10 pounds. If you are removing larger and heavier items it might be a good idea to take the Search and Recovery specialty  class or if you have hitting the pool for a little practice time with the lift bag.

dive against debrisFinally on our Dive Against Debris, we have all seen videos and pictures of sea life caught up in fishing line and other items. These items are a menace and should be removed, but coral could have grown around it. You might need to cut around such a growth and remove just what is easily taken and leave the rest imbedded in the coral. Trying to cut it out of the coral will only cause more harm. Using trauma shears is better that a dive knife as they require less of a sawing motion and are general sharp enough to cut even wire.

Just a few ideas to help all of us protect Mother Ocean and Dive Against Debris

Are scuba classes on your 2017 resolution list?

padi idcHappy New Year! That wonderful time of the year when we all resolve to be better at something, are scuba classes on your list?

Now I know scuba is fun and for most people the thought of education is anything but fun. But scuba classes are different. First you are diving, well in most of the classes you are. But you are talking about diving and improving your knowledge about diving and therefore having more fun diving.

What scuba classes can give you all that in the middle of winter? Well how about Enriched Air, aka Nitrox?  Gain the potential benefit of having longer time underwater when using Nitrox. Or maybe one of the Project Aware scuba classes to help you identify different types of coral or learn more about our water planet.

One of the more popular scuba classes is the PADI advanced open water program. In this one you get to pick some of the more fun dives to experience such as search and recovery. Learn to tie knots and play with a lift bag underwater, it is a challenge and big fun. Or maybe taking underwater photos or video is more your style. You can develop better filming techniques, angles and different lighting options to help you on your spring or summer dive adventure. Or just maybe you want to be a better dive buddy? Then the rescue diver program is for you.

Maybe one of your 2017 resolutions is to gain some leadership training or even maybe develop a little future opportunity for increasing your income. Along with the Dive Master and Assistant/Instructor program, how about becoming an Instructor for CPR and 1st aide?

As you can see, there are many different options in scuba classes. From the simple and easy to the most challenging of options, I hope scuba classes are on your resolution list for 2017.

Happy New Year and Happy scuba bubbles

Dive Master and the gear exchange

dive masterDive Master, just those words bring many thoughts to your mind. Dive Master, the one that leads you on a dive and shows you the little critters. Dive Master, the one that fixed that problem you had with your regulator. Yes, Dive Master brings so many different attributes to the daily life of scuba.

But the one attribute that people never consider that their favorite Dive Master has is critical thinking. Did I lose you for a second? When I was in Cozumel in July, there was an instructor doing some training with two of his students. He mentioned to me that he hated and thought PADI should get rid of the gear exchange in the professional program. He went on to say that the time would be better served teaching them how to dive. Sorry, if you have to teach them how to dive at that level, then maybe they shouldn’t be in the program. We even had two students this year that claim the exercise was unfair and that the old ditch and don was better.

The honest truth is that this exercise is perfect because it makes the students think. It makes the students think and solve problems under a bit of pressure. The gear exchange is supposed to be a secret, but if you are in the dive master program, you know it is coming. And the stress that it brings. What it does is make you think and solve a problem with another person. It makes you slow down and work through the steps to accomplish the task at hand. It simulates a major problem with a diver underwater and provides steps in critical thinking so the divemaster candidates can solve that problem.

Dive Master, critical thinker and problem solver. Not just the boat driver and dive leader and tour guide.