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Fitness and Diving on the Technical Side

Posted on September 3, 2017 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Fitness and Diving on the Technical Side


By: Joshua Norris


Everyone knows that we should get in better shape. America as a country has gained a reputation for healthy consumption. This idea is beaten into our heads day in and day out. From television commercials to magazines, to internet memes, and pretty much anywhere else we look we know that we should get in better shape. The most ironic part of this might be that the more physically fit one becomes, the more they feel the need to improve. In some instances, this can lead to some serious health problems. This is no excuse to avoid a proper diet or hitting the gym a little bit harder. Just like every single guy on the face of the planet wants another inch, deep down inside of us all there is a mini Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Dana Linn Bailey trying to get out. The excuses as to why a person cannot get in shape are endless. With that, we ran a little experiment here at our shop to start proving some people wrong.

The beginning of the, “Get Up and Be Better” weight loss and fitness plan was pretty fun.


Thomas Powell and myself, Josh Norris, decided that we were going to show just how easy it is to lose some weight. I knew that I had two minor surgeries coming up that were going to put me out of the gym for a while (stupid carpal tunnel), so we decided to go ahead and start on the same level. I went from 220ish lbs. all the way up to 265ish lbs. so that Thomas and I would be the same weight. From there, we underwent medical checks, planned out our diets with the doctor, and started our diet plans at the same time. There was only one difference between the two of us. Thomas was going to hit the gym as hard as he could while I got to sit back and relax while only changing my diet. So basically, modern medicine gave me a reason to not go to the gym. Sweet, sweet, science.

How does this relate back to diving?


There will be far more to come on the results of our journey, but how does this relate back to diving? The bigger question is how does this relate back to technical diving? Like any great mind in the year 2017, I started googling some stuff to find out if any information was already out there. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of information but nothing conclusive. To begin, you must realize that Technical Diving is still mostly theory. We have a decent understanding of physics and physiology, but the effects on the body under pressure are very difficult to test in extreme situations without risking human life. Sometimes there is no way to prove or disprove improvement while conducting this sport. While the internet is always right about everything at all times, just check out all of the diving related forums and you will see what I mean.

The Fat Times


There is some very basic knowledge that relates to diving as a whole and fitness. Starting out big and fat at 265 meant that I not only had to drag my dive gear around with me, but I also had to carry an extra 45ish pounds everywhere I went. It is literally like grabbing a 45lb plate from the gym, stealing it for a while, and taking it everywhere with you. This is not an activity that I would recommend to anyone. My flexibility was gone, and I could not walk up and down steps wearing gear without wanting to huff some O2 for a while. Aside from all of that, my blood pressure went from just fine to borderline high. My sleeping habits were drastically impacted by the extra weight as well. This was mainly due to an added trait known as snoring. This was not something I did before the weight gain. While the snoring did not wake me up, my significant other certainly did. I got to know the couch pretty well during what I now call, “The Fat Times.” With my blood pressure out of whack and my overall cardiovascular health going down, it was concerning to learn that I would not be able to get rid of excess CO2 as efficiently as before. The added fat and stress related to doing everything also meant that my heart was working overtime compared to how it had behaved prior to the weight gain. The risk of having an actual heart attack became a very real thing for me. Most still say that I am a young man being only 33 years old. If I were in my 40s or 50s, I would not be able to safely gain a bunch of weight on a whim, so you have to take what you can. Luckily, some say anyway, I did not have a heart attack and made it through all of our diving during “The Fat Times” just fine. I could tell a drastic difference in the diving itself. Buoyancy was different and much harder to control with ease. I felt different during and after the dives. Exhaustion was a common threshold that could easily be reached. I was essentially always more tired afterwards and the list goes on and on.

So what have we learned from this so far?


Basically that some fat guys in North Carolina got really tired of hearing the reasons why our students just could not lose any weight and get into shape. We diced to make a personal change that could prove there was no excuse to avoid making yourself physically healthier. For some students was as if weight loss of any kind just was not an option. We had found the busiest people on the planet that only had time to eat fast food and three bags of sugar each day. Proving to them that losing weight is not that bad and everyone is capable of doing it was our goal. I would say that overall we accomplished this in such a way that no one should have an excuse anymore. This is a multi-part article, so check out the next one and see where I landed after a few weeks of diet change, and where Thomas found himself with diet and exercise. One a side note, I can now see everything again when I look down and I see that as positive progress.


Owner/Instructor Trainer


Air Hogs Scuba, Clayton, NC


Cave Excursions, Live Oak, FL


Orlando Scuba Partner, Orlando, FL


Team Teaching: A Tech Diver???s Perspective

Posted on September 3, 2017 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)



Team Teaching: A Tech Diver’s Perspective

By Chris “Doc” Radley

So you’ve been diving for a while and you love it. Each trip to the water makes you want to do more. Maybe you’ve already stepped from Open Water Diver to something a little more advanced. But some things are still out of your reach. No problem though; you can clearly see the answer. You want to be a Technical diver!

Choosing Your Instructor

You watched and listened to the Technical divers on trips you’ve made and with just a bit of jealously wished you could be doing the things they were doing. You’ve done some homework and you know that there are training agencies and instructors that could provide what you need. But you’ve also developed a few concerns. If you’re going to commit the time and money to be a Technical diver you want the right program that addresses those concerns and makes for a fun experience that keeps you coming back for more while managing the increased risks.

You’ve read about specific instructors and their “system” for doing things. What if that doesn’t feel right? How do you get alternative perspectives? Can there really only be one right way? If it’s not working for me who do I turn to?

You’ve got to make plans for the training time; what happens if the instructor isn’t available, gets sick, or for some other reason can’t do your training as planned?

Two Can Be Better Than One

The answer is to find someone who offers “Team Teaching”. With two instructors you gain important benefits that address your concerns and more.

Different perspectives on approaches to skills and choices in equipment. Sometimes just having a different person show you or explain to you the exact same concept can change uncertainty to clarity.

Differences in setting up your gear, how you gear up, how you enter and exit the dive. Even small changes can mean the difference between something that just works and something that feels right for you.

With two instructors you have a higher probability that your training will move forward as planned. If one instructor has a conflict or gets sick you still have the other instructor. Even in the event that something happens while diving (even instructors can have ear problems) there is still another instructor to carry on.

Chances are no two people will be alike not just in their perspectives and teaching styles but even their physiology. Beyond the benefits of the different perspectives, you may find that one instructor is better able to relate to your specific issues that may be related to height, weight, age, etc.

Team teaching doesn’t change the requirements you have to meet to become a Technical diver. It also doesn’t change the fact that for some things safety will always dictate that there is only one correct way to do it.

Team teaching does afford the benefits of providing multiple resources that have multiple experiences and perspectives. When there is room for differences of opinion and making choices you’ll have a better chance to get it. You’ll also have a built-in backup plan to help you get your training done even when one of your instructors isn’t available as planned.

Finding a Teaching Team

Team teaching is not the norm in technical instruction, but certainly can be and is practiced by some instructors. Reach out to other technical divers in your area and ask about any local instructors that offer team teaching. This is often the best option and can limit extra expenses. If travel is necessary, or just a desirable option, throw the net wider. And ask local instructors if they have another instructor they would team teach with. Often times, there is more than one technical instructor at a facility and they may be willing to work together by student request. That also allows more freedom for the instructor to video students, observe them first hand, and remove themselves from the team dynamic underwater, and that alone can make for a better course for the diver.

One last point that should not be overlooked; at the outset of this piece, many of the concerns revolved around the singular view that one instructor could have. Think of this as the “do it my way approach”. You’ve probably noticed that in practice there are many different ways to do things. Keeping an open mind doesn’t mean adopting every new idea that comes along but it does mean at least being willing to consider what merits it may have. It might come as a surprise to many newer divers that things which are commonplace today, whether equipment (BCDs, Aluminum tanks, single hose regulators, even dive computers); gas options (Nitrox, Trimix, etc.) and gear configurations (Sidemount) were once viewed with suspicion.

Team teaching in a technical diving course offers many direct benefits to the diver in that course. When it helps you to learn and keep an open mind it also makes you a better diver. Something we should all aspire to be.

What???s the Right Age to Certify My Kids

Posted on August 14, 2017 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

By: Stephanie Miele & Sean Harrison


“What is the best age to certify my kid?” This is a question we hear quite often SDI, and as you can imagine, it’s a pretty loaded question. So, to help shed some light on this topic, we wanted to get two perspectives to weigh in, so we asked a mother to give us her opinion about certifying her kid and then we asked a father for his opinion. Below is their response.

From a Mom’s Perspective




I’m a parent, therefore, I worry. I’m constantly trying to toe the line of being protective of my son, but still allowing him to have experiences that will shape his life for years to come (not an easy balance as many of you know). I must admit that when I had him, I thought that the first few years were the toughest with just trying to survive the sleepless nights, and the life style that comes with having a very active toddler. I was in for quite the shock as he got older and more adventurous that the balance of worry vs. experience intensified.


As he got out of the toddler years, started listening and maturing our lives began to change. I found myself not planning my day around naps or having to lug around a diaper bag full of stuff and we began to go on “adventures”. I loved seeing the world through his eyes and we started to explore different things together albeit carefully. He has been hiking at the Grand Canyon, kayaking with seals in Washington state, windsurfing in Bonaire, and snorkeling in Florida, but when the idea of scuba diving was broached I had to admit that I was the one that was hesitant.


My son just turned 8 and he was able to partake in the SDI Future Buddies program. For his birthday, he specifically asked for a snorkeling party at a local dive site and the opportunity to learn how to scuba dive. There was a request for a barracuda themed birthday cake, but that is a story for another time. I knew he wanted to dive and the time was coming, but I could not believe he was actually old enough to do it. I did have to ask myself if he was ready and make that judgment call on his behalf.


To see if he was ready I asked myself the following questions as I do with any new activity.

1. Is he mature enough to partake in the activity?


I have witnessed my child in many situations and for him to be able to scuba dive I had to make sure that he had the attention span and the physical ability to do it. Jack has been swimming for many years and, at this point, he is a stronger swimmer than I am. He naturally took to freediving to the bottom of the pool and last year, when we were on vacation, he was freediving to about 15 feet to the ocean bottom. He is naturally at ease in the water so the physical comfort was easy for me to feel ok about.


Now, the attention span was a different story. Since the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, in this case, his attention span was something that I was hesitant about. We started watching videos before he even got in the pool and we bought a fish identification chart so that we could identify what we were seeing in the videos. His attention span for these videos and identification chart was amazing and it made me feel better about him getting in the pool. This had a very positive effect on his attention span, allowing him to hold an interest in the activity and demonstrate to me that he was capable of retaining important information about it. This made me feel much more at ease about him moving on to the practical pool sessions where the most crucial concepts are introduced.

2. Do I get a good feeling from the instructor taking him in the water?




Well, my husband was the instructor and he has his son’s best interests in mind. There was a lot of pressure on him to make sure that the experience was positive. That and if he messed it up, he would have to answer to me. Nonetheless, my husband is an excellent instructor and has so much experience with teaching kids scuba programs that my mind was at ease that my son was in good hands.


Had I not known the instructor that was taking him diving, I would have taken a course with him/her to see if I liked their method of teaching and if they would be a right fit for my son. Also, I would have asked to talk to his/her past students for feedback about their experiences. Additionally, I would take my son with me and visit the facility where the training was taking place to see if he felt comfortable. Choosing the instructor would have been an interview process and my son would have met the instructor so that I could see their interaction above the water first hand.

3. Is his interest genuine?


For me, I needed to know whether this is something he wanted to do or if he was doing it because of what mommy and daddy do for a living. We offered him all sorts of other options for his birthday gift and he kept coming back to scuba. He was so excited to try scuba because of his genuine interest and not doing it because he thought it would please me. My mind was made up after I realized that he was mature enough, his attention span could be held and I felt very comfortable with the instructor. It was worth a try.

Each child is different and as parents, we need to the research to make sure that we are making the best decisions for them. I think there are some children that are naturally adventurous so having little mental checklists when deciding what may or may not be a fit for them can be helpful.


In the end, he was ready and honestly quite a natural at the sport. I was beyond impressed with his skills in the water and …… Seeing him experience breathing underwater for the first few times was a memory that I will never forget. Plus, now I can actually get back in the water without feeling guilty about leaving him behind. As a parent, I am constantly second guessing myself with all of the choices that I have to make for him, but the one thing that I am certain of beyond doubt is what he is ready for. In my heart, I knew he was ready but it was good to put the time in and really think if it was right for him.

From a Dad’s Perspective




Sitting in a marketing meeting, don’t you just love meetings! and the topic of articles comes up. Normally I turn off at this point. I have written plenty of articles in the past but I can’t hit deadlines and if I don’t do a massive brain dump while I am formulating the thoughts for what I just committed to, it probably won’t happen. So here I am, 30 minutes outside the meeting and doing a brain dump.

My wife always said, if our sons did not like water, they were going to have a rough life


My perspective on when someone should be certified will certainly be different from others, being on and in the water has been my life. My wife, also a water person, always said, if our sons did not like the water, they were going to have a rough life. So here’s what we did to one, make sure they were safe around the water and two, make sure they had an appreciation for the water. Both of those create comfort.


We started our sons in the water shortly after birth, nothing major or crazy, but they were in pools, lakes, and the ocean whenever the opportunity presented itself, which was often. Both started swim lessons pretty early, for those parents that have done these “swim lessons” you know they are really more about getting the parent comfortable with their child in the water and retraining the child not to breath underwater. Eventually, our little guppies moved up to the point where they passed the basic swim test so they could swim in the deep end of the pool. The lessons were heavily supplemented by their mom swimming and teaching them even more. Okay…I will admit, mom did the majority work. Summers were and still are filled with swimming pool and ocean swim time, snorkeling, and yes, the occasional ear infection.



The final test to ease up on some of the supervision (even though we are always within sight) while they were in or around the water, was the self-rescue fully clothed. Here is how we did it, although I am certain there are other (maybe even better) ways of doing this test. The boys were full dressed: long sleeve shirt, long pants, shoes, and socks, they jumped in the pool and had to swim to the other end and back, float for five or so minutes, then get out of the water without a ladder. Needless to say, both our boys passed with flying colors. Our youngest, he was three at the time, continued to swim fully dressed for the next 45 minutes. He thought it was fun.

It’s not just as simple as saying “my child wants to scuba dive, so I thought I would sign them up for dive lessons”


I write all of the above because I believe it’s not just as simple as saying “my child wants to scuba dive, so I thought I would sign them up for dive lessons”, they first need to have that comfort and respect for the water. The path we choose is of course not the only one: sailing, water skiing, surfing, boogie boarding, white water rafting, and the list goes on, all lead to a comfort and respect for the water. The final component and this one needs to be assessed by the parent (be honest) and the potential scuba instructor, is maturity.

SDI minimum age for scuba certification is 10 years old, but that does not mean all 10-year-olds are ready, it also doesn’t mean all 18-year-olds are ready.


Scuba diving requires constant assessment and situational awareness. There are gauges to watch, buddies to keep track of, an exit point to find, and water conditions to deal with. Parents with kids that are interested in scuba diving should visit their local SDI dive center and speak with an SDI instructor, try to find an SDI instructor that enjoys teaching children. Make an appointment ahead of time so you, your child, and the instructor can really spend some time together. The SDI instructor can let your child try on gear, hold the equipment they will be using, and answer those questions rattling around in their head like: “Did they ever find Dory?” and “can I dive to the deepest part of the ocean?”.


I am happy to report that our oldest son is progressing well in his scuba class, rock solid in the water if we can just get him to do the homework! Good luck getting your children certified, it is a blast to share the sport with them and see the look of amazement in their eyes. It’s also very cool hearing them say to their classmates “I scuba dive” they quickly become the coolest kid in school.

Improving Your Sense of Direction Under Water

Posted on August 14, 2017 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

By: Kate Heller


Where’s the boat? Did we pass this part of the reef already? Should we just go up? Whether it happens to a new diver or an experienced one, there will more than likely come a time where navigating under water will become difficult. For a new diver who’s excited to experience the underwater world without an instructor, the difficulty might come when it’s time to head back to the boat or when the buddy team gets turned around. An experienced diver might have trouble when diving in a new place where conditions are not what they are accommodated to. For instance, a diver who is used to the visibility in an ocean and travels to a quarry and experiences less than decent visibility for the first time. All the silt from the bottom that’s been stirred up from the day before could cause the diver to lose track of their surroundings. This is when being not only being able to navigate underwater with a compass comes in handy, but when other methods of navigation can and should be utilized as well.

1. Know your compass


A diver should know what the parts of a compass are and what they are used for.


The card is the part of the compass that always points to the north. It will display N, S, E, and W on it. The card is shaped a bit like a dome with degrees shown on the face. These numbers will allow the diver to see what direction they are traveling, for example, 45 degrees SW.


The lubber line is used to point the buddy team in the direction they want to go. The person in charge of the compass should hold it out in front of them and in line with their body.


The side window of a compass is used along with the lubber line. When the lubber line is pointed in the direction the buddy team wants to travel, that window shows the degree to which the team is heading.


The bezel remembers the original degree the team wanted to travel. Once the lubber line is set in the direction of travel, the leader of the buddy team will have to turn the bezel to where the card points to North. Make sure to put the “N” between the two tick marks on the bezel.

2. Listen to the boat briefing or ask a dive shop about a particular shore site.


Knowing a bit more about the orientation at any given site will not only help you plan your dive based on what you want to see but also help you with navigating. Often times a briefing from a crew member on the boat will include what to look for from any given point of the boat (bow, stern, port, and star port side).

3. Elect and follow a leader.


When planning a dive within a buddy team you’ll want to delegate a person as the leader. This person is going to be in charge of the compass. So as to not leave the other member of the team out, they will need to help guide the leader by looking out for obstacles, as well as possible landmarks.

4. Monitor your time.


On a boat, the captain will normally give you an amount of time that they’ll allow divers to stay underwater. Using and dive computer as a reference of time will help you to do a little math to figure out how long the buddy team has to look at the underwater world as well as having enough time to return. If a dive is being planned for a shore dive, the buddy team will want to decide on a time collectively. In both cases, the buddy team will need to make it a point to set their air limits to stay safe.

5. Get to know your surroundings.


Keeping in mind the dive briefing for the site the team is at, the next step would be to look around at your surroundings and keep in mind what you’ve seen around the boat. Once the buddy team has decided on a direction to travel, made a note of the degree you’ll need to travel back to the boat on your compass, and set your lubber line for the direction you want to travel, the team can continue on their adventure. Once you’re on your way, look for the landmarks along the way and either make a mental note of them or write them on a slate if you have one. This will help you to follow a path if one is not apparent underwater. However, sometimes there are paths underwater. If you’re on a reef you might find yourself swimming between a couple rock formations with corals and schools of fish hanging around. You can follow this path and make a note of the things you see to keep yourselves on track. In the same respect, on a shore dive, you might be able to follow a trail made in the sand by waves. Remember to check your compass as well as your air and time to be sure you’re staying within those limits.

6. Stop, Look, Listen.


If for some reason the bezel on the compass got bumped and you can’t remember the directional degree the boat was, then you’ll want to keep in mind these tips. First, stop and think about your dive thus far. Second, look around for the landmarks that you made notes of along the dive. Third, listen for the boat’s engine. Remember sounds travels 4 times faster underwater than on land and although it might be harder to depict where the sounds are coming from, you might be able to pick out the general direction of the boat. If all else fails and you think you might be way off course, ascend at the appropriate rate and look for the boat at the surface. Once you spot the boat, take a new heading in the direction of the boat and follow that. If you are doing a shore dive you can look at the pattern in the sand and follow that to shore. You’ll quickly notice that your depth gets shallower and shallower.

7. Practice.


Like anything else in life, the best thing you and a buddy team can do for your skills is to practice. To do that all you need to do is get out and dive. Remember to incorporate your compass and other navigational skills into every dive you do and you’ll keep getting better and learning more about navigating in an underwater environment.


Navigating under water to new divers can seem intimidating without a guide or knowledge of the dive site, but with these tips in mind, it will become easier. Eventually, navigating under water will become second nature.

Keeping Your Ears Safe While Diving

Posted on August 14, 2017 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Keeping Your Ears Safe While Diving: Ear Equalization Basics


By: Dillon Waters


So you are thinking of signing up for your first scuba diving course, or even better, you’ve already made the commitment to start your new adventure, but you aren’t sure about your ears. Swimming down to the deep end of the pool is something you’ve done before and you aren’t sure if your ears will be able to handle going any deeper than that on scuba. Do not worry though, your scuba instructor’s job will be to teach you the skills necessary to dive and that includes the proper ways to equalize the pressure in your ears underwater. If you want to familiarize yourself beforehand, you have come to the right place.

Why You Must Equalize


Your middle ears are dead air spaces, connected to the outer world only by the Eustachian tubes running to the back of your throat. In normal everyday conditions, or when the outside pressure is within a normal level, the Eustachian tubes are closed. During a dive the pressure from the surrounding water is higher than the pressure exerted on us by the atmosphere of air we are used to on land. So we must equalize the pressure of our middle ear with that of the pressure around us, also known as the ambient pressure, by opening the normally closed Eustachian tubes. Opening the tubes usually requires a conscious act by the diver.

How to Equalize


There are many ways to equalize the pressure in your middle ear; some of which are listed and explained below. During your course you will be able to determine the one that works best for you.


Swallowing – one of the most effective and preferred methods of equalization, using the throat muscles to open the Eustachian tubes.

Valsalva Maneuver – the “go to” equalization technique of divers for years. Pinch your nostrils and gently blow through your nose. This results in a slight over pressurization in your throat, which normally forces air up your Eustachian tubes.

Frenzel Maneuver – Close off the vocal cords, as though you are about to lift a heavy weight. The nostrils are pinched closed and an effort is made to make a “K” sound. This should force the back of your tongue upward, forcing air against your Eustachian tubes.

Toynbee Maneuver – with your nostrils pinched, swallow.

Lowry Technique – with your nostrils pinched, swallow and gently blow.

Edmonds Technique – Pressurization by either the Valsalva or Frenzel maneuver, combined with a jaw thrust or head tilt to more effectively.

Beance Tubaire Volontaire – Muscles of the soft palate are contracted while upper throat muscles are employed to pull the Eustachian tube open. Tense the muscles of the soft palate and the throat while pushing the jaw forward and down as if starting to yawn.


When to Equalize


Early and often is the golden rule here. Many divers like to start very early in the day before even arriving at the dive site by swallowing to ensure their Eustachian tubes are opening. Also, pre-pressurizing your ears before descent may help with equalization after you’ve submerged. From here on throughout the dive, your ear equalization will vary based on your body and the dive profile you are following. You should equalize when you feel any slight pressure in your ears throughout the dive, as well as when you reach a depth that you will remain at for any extended period of time. If your ears begin to hurt you should ascend a few feet in the water column and try to equalize again.

Practice Makes Perfect


For those that are still concerned whether or not they will be able to equalize their ears, or for divers who are having trouble doing so, you may find it helpful to practice several equalization techniques. Many of them can be difficult unless practiced repeatedly, but it is one of the few scuba skills that can be practiced out of the water and almost anywhere. Begin practicing it in the mirror to observe your throat muscles, and then practice anytime you have a free second. Before you know it you will be a pro, and the almost endless scuba diving opportunities around the world will be at your fingertips.

openwater class

Posted on March 22, 2015 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)