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my journey from brand new diver to rescue diver

Discussion in 'New Divers and Those Considering Diving' started by tenacious, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. tenacious

    tenacious Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: 7 miles from the gulf stream
    I've decided to share my experiences in this forum to maybe shed some light on what a new diver can expect or encounter when first getting into diving. If any mods feel this isn't the correct forum, feel free to put it where you feel it belongs. I had no knowledge of diving prior to joining this site and asked a bunch of questions and received some great advice, so this may answer some questions a new diver may have. Maybe since everything is so fresh to me, it will be beneficial to someone.

    I took my SDI open water class in October, this was the first time I'd ever tried diving. I purchased 99% of my gear prior to ever "getting my feet wet". Opinions on here varied on renting gear vs. purchasing my own and I wont harp on that one way or the other, but the only thing I have rented to date is the wetsuit I wore during my open water dives. I would not change that, I'm very glad I bought my own gear.
    To me, open water is very basic knowledge of diving for beginners like me who knew nothing of it. I took the time and attended extra pool sessions that my instructor was giving to students that had issues. These weren't required of me, but they got me underwater more and allowed me to hone my skills and they were free to boot.
    The first few dives were skill demonstration and practicing. Things like being underwater with no mask, no regulator, taking off your BCD, sharing air, etc. in a controlled environment, so you know how to correct those situations and are comfortable if they happen in real life.
    The open water dives after the pool sessions were used to demonstrate these skills as well as emergency ascends, towing your dive partner and being towed yourself. The final dive was another demonstration of a lot of these skills, then "fun" diving for the rest of the dive. This gave me my first real experience scuba diving and it was everything I thought it would be and more.

    After getting my OW cert, I had to immediately go back to NJ to finish selling my house and finishing some work obligations. I got all that sorted out and officially moved to Florida on December 23rd. I took the time in NJ to complete my PADI AOW book work so that I would have it done upon my arrival in Florida. In addition to the AOW book work, I also took SDI's rescue diver online course. I asked some opinions on that on here as well and I can't honestly say that a majority here agreed with me doing things that way. I however thought it was a good thing, and if nothing else couldn't hurt me.

    I did a few fun dives in the beginning of January just to get underwater time and experience. I then was given the opportunity to complete my AOW dives in Key Largo with my instructor. There was no logical reason to say no to that, so off we went. I did a nitrox class prior to leaving for that trip.
    I would have to say that of all the classes I took, nitrox was the only one that afterwards I thought to myself, "maybe some these certifications are a hustle". I didn't think that because the class or instructor (a cave diving course director) were bad at all. I thought that it was kind of a hustle because I had already had knowledge of everything taught in it by doing simple online searches prior to taking the class. The one helpful thing I did get from it was how to do the math in metric rather than standard measurements which was much much more simple, so it wasn't a total loss. The class was informative and easy to understand but like I said, The same can be had with online research for free minus the cert card.

    Upon going to Key Largo, I dove the Duane, Spiegel Grove, and the Molasses reef. Those dives were absolutely awesome. They blew all of my previous dives out of the water by a long shot. Wrecks are much more interesting to me than reefs for now, and those two gave me plenty to take in.
    After that trip, I was given the opportunity to help out in some instructor training exercises, which was great also. There wasn't any "fun" diving involved in these dives, but it helped out some future instructors and got me underwater for free:). I also believe that in life, one hand washes the other. My instructor must believe this as well because I was rewarded with some free boat dives for helping out with the instructor candidates, a win win situation...
    I went ahead and bought a speargun and lobster gear now that I had a few dives under my belt and felt comfortable in the water. I attempted to catch some bugs off of pepper park with a local charter guy in the area. I was lucky enough to be the only guy that showed up for the trip, so I got a private lesson on lobstering from the Captain. I ended up catching a couple bugs, but none big enough to keep. I haven't had a chance to fire my speargun yet because of a K-9 induced broken finger (long story), but I look forward to it.
    I met a 2nd generation commercial lobsterer in the same area and went out with him. This time I was successful, I caught a few bugs, one of which was around 4lbs! This guy has been commercial for 25 years. He stopped logging dives when he was 22 and had 4000 dives logged. The funny part of all that is that the guy is only junior OW certified. He has been mixing his own nitrox for close to 15 years, has been 230' on local wrecks and sees water more than most people will ever in their lifetime. I guess you could say that he breaks a lot of the "rules" taught in classes, but he's been doing it everyday for 25 years and is still around. I wouldn't say that he did anything unsafe persay, just different.
    The gear he used was different than mine as well. He really didn't dive anything fancy or expensive. He strictly dives aluminum tanks. I was always told, "friends don't friends dive aluminum". I own 2 steel hp 100's myself because of everything I read and was told about better buoyancy, and all the other good stuff about steel's.

    I know it may seem that I kind of rambled on about that experience but it wasn't because I caught bugs, (even though that was awesome!). I said so much about it because it showed me that many of the gear questions I had were kind of unnecessary. I don't regret buying atomic regs, steel tanks, a scubapro BP&w, Henderson wetsuit, or anything else I bought at all. I got real good deals on everything, but seeing a guy (with more underwater time than I will probably ever see) dive pretty much the exact opposite of what I dive with showed me that you can make pretty much any gear or configuration work for you. If you can buy all your own gear, even if it isn't the latest and greatest, you can get underwater and safely enjoy diving efficiently.

    From there I did some more beach dives and some boat drift dives in and around Palm Beach. I experienced my first bull shark on a dive to the Princess Anne. That was pretty sobering, I didn't freak out or anything, but I think seeing that majestic beast up close for the first time will stay ingrained in the awesome section of my memory for a while. I also assisted my instructor in removing some "bad things" from a wildlife preserve. That was a different experience, since I'd never used tools or removed anything from an underwater environment before.

    I completed my rescue class today. I felt like I learned a lot through the online portion of the class but todays exercises showed me quick that reading about how to do something is no comparison to physically handling a diver in need of rescue or a panicking diver, etc.. I see a lot of people describe rescue as the most rewarding course to take, and I wholeheartedly agree. I gained confidence in my abilities to possibly save a life. I cant honestly say that had there been an incident with someone on any of my previous dives, that I would have been of much use to them if I was the only one available to provide emergency assistance. This instructor was new to me, I'd never met or dove with him in the past. He was very experienced (he has 1 year of underwater time, not 1 year of diving, one year of time underwater). His class was by far the most extensive and important class I've taken so far. My other classes were good at teaching my how not to hurt myself underwater and dive safely, but this one showed me the skills needed to save others and not just be a sideline observer if **** ever does hit the fan. I would recommend rescue to anyone that dives. I don't agree that you need to be AOW certified in order to do rescue, I feel like it should be available to divers of any certification level. Knowing how to save someone else at any depth or cert level should trump the need for any other certs in my opinion.

    As of today, I am a couple of dives away from being able to start my divemaster program. I have been offered a job on a dive boat this summer pending the completion of my divemaster program. Some may look at my circumstances as "zero to hero", but again I would disagree. I have faith in the instructors that have taught me and the instructor that has offered me the position on their boat. I have made it clear that I have no interest in collecting a bunch of cert cards just to say I have them and that I want to have a full understanding of what I am supposed to be learning before proceeding any further with training. My instructor has said since my first few dives that I have very good control of myself underwater and am confident and absorb information better than almost everyone they have taught. I look forward to starting my divemaster program and maybe someday becoming an instructor.

    Now for the fun stuff... Spending time underwater gave me the opportunity to observe up close and personal all the things that most people will never see. I've seen dozens of giant turtles, moray eels, lobster, more fish than I can count, sharks, rays, shipwrecks, etc. All of the stuff you see in pictures, movies, magazines, etc. really do swim around down there in easily accessible local water. I still have plenty more to see and the great part about diving is that on every dive you never know what is going to show up and put on a show for you. The fun hasn't worn off for me, diving the BHB, which I've dove a bunch of times, still gets me excited.

    The only "bad" things I have observed so far was some lionfish stings. Two very experienced guys got stuck on the same trip. I will tell you that what they were going through did not look fun at all. I did learn the hard way why the seat next to the wash hose on the boat was empty.... I had a guy blowing his nose on the deck while washing off and watched his snot slide across the deck into my gear..... I wasn't shy about my feelings on that and it didn't happen again, but my ass will not be in that seat on any boats I go on for that reason. I also got a mouthful of water at 100' on one of my dives. I was swimming and looking behind me at the same time. for whatever reason I got some water in my reg. I was able to clear it immediately and it never happened again, but I had my ss1 in my hand and didn't panic. I have coughed, sneezed, and blew my nose underwater. they were obviously new experiences for me but I didn't have any issues related to them. It just was unfamiliar to be doing them underwater.

    If you made it this far in this mini autobiography, hopefully I helped answer some questions or helped clarify some things you wondered about before reading this. I will be more than happy to elaborate on anything I've written or any other questions you might have. I don't have a dog in this fight, I'm not trying to sell you gear or training and I feel like my opinion is 100% unbiased and maybe unintimidating, since I'm still new to this myself.
  2. nolatom

    nolatom Captain

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: New Orleans
    Thanks for the writeup, it's a good reference for beginners.

    I like the part about how pretty much any reputable gear will work for you. New folks seem to think they have to get just the 'right' stuff or else just not buy any. To me, that's like worrying about what the best pen is to take a test. now there may indeed be a "best" pen, but you don't need it--just one that writes.

    The other thing is you took advantage of opportunities to get more dives in, and help the instructors.
    tenacious likes this.
  3. fnfalman

    fnfalman Orca

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southern California, USA
    NAUI doesn't require AOW as a prerequisite for Rescue.

    To me, it's not about the card carrying level of certification, but the actual experience and skill of the divers themselves before they take Rescue. I see too many people who haven't even mastered the basics of diving skills yet trying to take Rescue classes. Hey, it's their money and their time, but they aren't doing themselves any favor by trying to learn new skills while the basics aren't even there yet.
    beaverdivers likes this.
  4. Diving Dubai

    Diving Dubai Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Dubai UAE
    I totally agree. I'm more than happy now in big washing machine currents, down and up currents as that's what I encounter every few weeks diving, and therefore my experience and comfort levels have risen to that level. I take my camera out on most dives and am happy holding my position in the water column just by breathing and no holding on or finning etc. DSMB operation - again easy as pie. So imagine the awakening I got as I took the BSAC buoyancy workshop which give you different achievement levels (Bronze +/- 2m, Silver +/-1m, gold +/-0.5m and black +/-0.3m) In my mind I was a dead cert for Black first time - however you're not just maintaining buoyancy you're being task loaded (mask off, OOA, Buddy breathing etc) at the same time which makes things considerably more difficult.

    My point here is that it's "easy" to complete skills in a training environment , however when bad stuff happens unexpectedly things go to pot (unless you train, train and train some more until it's all second nature) which means diving and getting time under water experience. I make no secret of the fact I think that entry to the DM course should have say 50 hrs of unsupervised diver time (note NOT Dives HOURS) and that certification and training dives shouldn't count toward this count.

    Why? Simply because I think that its better to log quality hours underwater gaining experience of different conditions and different situations which may crop up (I had my LPI go into free flow on my 101st dive - never practiced it before and I'll admit it threw me for a minute and made me realise that while my basic dive skills were good something untoward would throw me off kilter more than I'd appreciated)

    My message to the OP is congrats in achieving what you have already - but maybe, just maybe you should slow down on the certs and get some more time underwater enjoy the experience and learning from your mentor on each dive and of course enjoy diving too before jumping to the next cert level too quickly
  5. beaverdivers

    beaverdivers ScubaBoard Business Sponsor ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

    Thanks for sharing.

    Good Luck & Good Diving!
  6. Jim Lapenta

    Jim Lapenta Dive Shop

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Canonsburg, Pa
    That's because a number of rescue skills are taught in the NAUI OW class. As they should be. Taking them out of the basic class as some agencies have done has contributed to more than one fatality.

    Sent from my DROID X2 using Tapatalk 2
    tenacious likes this.
  7. SailNaked

    SailNaked Dive Charter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: between 30° and 10°
    great post, you obviously love the water and will do what you need to be in it. people say a lot of things that they parrot from other posts, and ideas that they have but don't know why. experience is the only way to learn something and everyone has a different requirement for how much is needed to learn. learning is the goal and the experience. obviously some people get into trouble maybe doing things they are not trained for, and many people do things they are not trained for and learn in the process, the original cave divers went into caves with a flashlight and a tank, they had no gauges. today that would be considered suicidal. and thanks to these pioneers and some engineers we are much safer in caves.
    thanks to the internet we all get to express our opinions, and thankfully you are free to ignore them and have as much fun as you can stand doing what you love.
    so congratulations on finding something to love doing and great job doing it as you see fit. 0 to hero is an internet thing, not a real world thing, in the real world if you are a DM on a boat, everyone will judge you from the moment you stand in front to deliver the briefing, they will have no idea how much experience you have or don't have. certainly you will have divers with thousands of dives to your 50, so what. you will know the site and you will do your thing.
    tenacious likes this.
  8. Locus

    Locus Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    A couple of days ago I went out for the first time with a diver less experienced than myself. Up until then I had always been the greenhorn of the bunch, the one the others keep an eye on (for which I am always greatful), but now I was the one hanging relatively motionless, watching someone else struggle exhaustively for trim and buoyancy, and go off on runaway ascents. There was a diver of long experience with us as well, but he couldn't give the newbie his constant attention, and I found myself in the uncomfortable position of watching closely the bitch of a time the newbie was having, and not knowing what I could do to help him that would keep me safe as well. Point being, yeah, I would REALLY like to have had a rescue component, if not in my OW, then in my AOW for sure. Looks like Rescue Diver is next for me.

    TONY CHANEY Loggerhead Turtle

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Mount Holly, NC
    Very nice write up and sorry to tell you this but you are hooked for life. And that is not a bad thing!
    tenacious likes this.
  10. tenacious

    tenacious Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: 7 miles from the gulf stream
    Its definitely not about cert cards for me either. I am by no means saying a diver with 5 dives would be the perfect rescue diver with all his rescue skills mastered. I however put things into perspective with real world situations and think about how I would have reacted in a bad situation.
    the first lobster charter I went on was just me and the captain. I understand he has tons of dives under his belt, but $#%& happens. I was way more likely to do dumb things and be a victim of something, but what if it was him? At that point, we were diving in 30 ft of water alone, I had never made someone else buoyant, taken their gear off, dealt with an unconscious diver, given rescue breaths. Had he became unconscious, I probably would have towed him back to the boat and called for help because I didn't have a clue what to do. In the mean time seconds and minuets tick by while the guy would be dying in front of me since I didn't have a clue where to begin with rescuing him. It would be a hard pill for me to swallow knowing that taking a couple hundred dollar class could have saved the guys life. Pretend that scenario did occur and think about what would be said in the "accidents and incidents" forum. I would expect it would go something like this, " Its sad that his dive buddy didn't give him some rescue breaths as soon as it happened, after the 12 minutes it took the other boat to get there it was too little too late. he could have been saved if he got those breaths immediately".
    To me its not doing myself a favor at all, its doing everyone I will dive with in the future a favor.

    ---------- Post added February 25th, 2014 at 01:22 PM ----------

    that is a great example of a real world scenario about things going wrong. luckily your situation didn't turn into something more serious, but what if it did? what if the other diver panicked an you were to only one around to help? I'm sure having someone become combative and ripping your mask and reg off while you were trying to help them would be a new situation for you as it was for me.
    The rescue course put me in those situations and taught me what I should do under those circumstances. I think you are spot on in your desire to learn rescue skills, you will not regret it at all. They say in the class that you give rescue breaths because "they cant hurt", I feel the same way about the rescue class as a whole. Even if you only dive twice a year, the class could be the difference between watching someone die or saving someone's life on your next dive.

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