Friday, July 30, 2010

Mares Diving to Sponsor Members of USA Spearfishing Team

A photo of a spearfisherman hunting dogtooth-t...Image via Wikipedia

Mares Diving, a leading scuba diving, free diving and spear fishing equipment company, has announced today the sponsorship of three of the leading competitors on the USA Worlds Spearfishing Team.

The company, which produces equipment ideally-suited for spearfishing and competitions, will immediately get behind Justin Allen, Sean Moreschi and John Modica as the trio continue their preparations for the World Spearfishing Championships scheduled for Mali Losinj, Croatia in September.

According to Steve Lamphear, General Manager, Mares Diving, it’s a natural fit for Mares to sponsor these competitors. “Each of these incredible athletes has the skill, experience and ability to bring home a title for the US team. Mares is pleased to be associated with them as we get closer to the World Championships this September.”

The competitors include:

Justin Allen: The native of Pembroke, Massachusetts was the 2009 National Team Champion and the 2008 Individual National Champion. Of his place of the team, he says, It’s truly an honor representing Team USA in the greatest sport in the world and I couldn’t be happier with the talented, dedicated team we have. I’m looking forward to making the most of this adventure and remaining a presence in the spearfishing community as a competitor and promoter of the sport for many years to come.”

Sean Moreschi: The 24-year old from Charleston, Rhode Island has competed in two US National Championships and spends the winter months training and competing in Florida. After having traveled all over the world free diving and spearfishing, Moreschi says, “with over a decade of surreal experiences while diving, it is still my primary passion. Spearfishing is no longer a hobby for me. It is a way of life.”

John Modica: From Pomfret, Connecticut, Modica is the alternate for the 2010 USA Team. A competitor since his early teens, John has participated in two US National competitions. Of his passion for the sport, he says, “I didn’t consider taking competition to the next level until another local diver told my group that it would open opportunities to meet other divers, explore new waters, and gain recognition for our skills. A few months later we participated in and won the 2008 U.S. Spearfishing Nationals at Kings Beach, Newport, Rhode Island.”

About the World Spearfishing Championship: The Worlds are a 2-day championship where divers harvest fish for about 7 hours per day. Each day, the diving is done at a different location. Typically, 20-25 teams qualify to compete at the World Championships. And because too many teams want to participate at the Worlds, sometimes there are regional qualifiers for the World Championships per Continent. The America’s Qualifier is the Pan-American Spearfishing Championship lastly hosted at Isla Margarita, Venezuela in November 2009 for the 2010 Worlds.

The World Championships are boat-based meets and each team is allowed to have three divers hunting. The Championships are run somewhat like a mini-Olympics where there are opening ceremonies and a big closing banquet. It is not uncommon for thousands of people to attend the opening ceremony where each team has their own national uniform. At the opening event there is a parade of Nations where each country carries their nations’ flag.

Mares products available @

Kathy Dowsett

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Jaws "Were gonna need a bigger boat."

"SHARK WEEK" ON DISCOVERY CHANNEL starting 1 Aug Sunday night @ 9:00 p.m.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No thanks, no tanks, I’m snubling

A view of the southwestern beach at Grand Turk...Image via Wikipedia

Snuba, a sport that serves as an introduction to scuba diving, gets its name from combining the words “snorkel” and “scuba.”
Instead of wearing air tanks on your back, as in scuba diving, in snubling the tanks are placed on a rubber dingy on the surface, with the diver getting air via a long hose between the tank and his or her regulator.
On a cruise in January, I experienced snubling at Grand Turk in the Caribbean. John, our guide, worked for Oasis Divers. An experienced diver, he moved to Grand Turk, came to love the water surrounding the island and wouldn’t live anywhere else. He immediately put us at ease with his sense of humour. On the way to the snubling site he pointed out a nice big mud area and a “pond,” joking that was where we would snuble.
At the site, he took us to what he called “my office” – a fallen tree trunk where we received our instructions and signed a waiver. We were provided with fins, regulators and masks. I had brought my own mask .
I soon found I wasn’t the only Canadian escaping the winter back home. Canada eh? I met another Canadian couple on the snubling expedition. But with the water temperature at about 82 degrees Fahrenheit, we left the pleasantries for later because the water was so inviting. I took off quickly, leaving one of our guides behind. We completed a circle 50 or 100 yards out and around . Visibility was good as we swam up to 20 feet below the surface. There were lots of colourful fish and some red coral – stay away from that – so it was a good chance for people with underwater cameras to take photographs.
Snuba is particularly popular in locations such as the Caribbean because no dive experience is necessary, which opens up great potential for cruise ship passengers to try something different. The snuba experience, in turn, can prompt people to take the next step and train as a scuba diver.
As well as not having to carry a tank on your back, the air hose back to the tank on the dinghy helps assure that novice divers won’t stray too deep and get into trouble. Of course, such dives are also closely supervised by trained staff.
Given the nature of the sport, with lots of first-time divers and the fact that the dinghy on the surface can be difficult to pull if there are strong surface winds, snuba operations are usually in sheltered water.
It was those same strong winds that denied me an opportunity to scuba dive on the cruise. That was scheduled for our stop at Princess Cays. However, our ship did not stop there as planned because the only access to it is by tenders (the lifeboats on the ship) and high waves at the time would have made tendering difficult and uncomfortable for passengers.
Fortunately, I was able to snorkel at St. Thomas, go helmet diving at St.Martin and, of course, the snubling at Grand Turk, an island I loved, with its real home feeling, with no crime or litter, and friendly people.
I enjoyed snubling, although it takes some practice to avoid getting the air hoses tangled up in your legs, especially when turning.
Snuba and helmet diving enable novices to experience being underwater, without the rest of equipment required to dive. It’s a good test for people to find out if they are going to be claustrophobic, or if they want to progress to scuba.
If you’re ever at Grand Turk, look up John from Oasis Divers. He will show you the ropes . . . er, hose.

Kathy Dowsett

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scuba Diving History

Divers Preparing for Work. Front cover illustr...Image via Wikipedia

Man has always held the fascination of the underwater world. The wish to spend some time in the depths of the seas and oceans had captured man's attention. This inspired him to come up with ways and means which will enable him to explore the marine world.

Diving can be traced back to more than 5,000 years were early divers were involved in collecting food, sponges and pearls from the ocean beds. The earliest recorded salvage operations was made by the Greek historian Herodotus, who noted that in the fifth century B.C, the Persian King Xerxes had employed a diver named Scyllis to recover a sunken treasure.

In the Mediterranean ports, the salvage industry had become so evolved and organized, that by the first century B.C., a law acknowledging the risks involved, compensated divers with a share of the recovered goods according to the depths at which the treasure lay.

Many inventors were keen to develop equipment assisting underwater exploration. Ideas and equipment developed during the 1500's leaned towards a diving bell. This equipment was basically a bell-shaped apparatus with the bottom open to the sea. The first diving bells were large and heavy weighted to sink in a vertical position, therefore trapping enough air to allow a diver to breathe.

Edmund let us start with the chronological events on the history of scuba diving.

The first recorded reference to an actual practical diving bell was made in 1531. However, it was within the late 1600's that great strides were made in this technology. This meant that now divers were able to spend hours underwater.

In 1690, an English astronomer named Edmund Halley developed a diving bell in which replenished air was sent to the divers by sending weighted barrels of air down from the surface.

The next evolution in the history of scuba diving was the deep sea diving suits, which at that time were referred to as the diving dress.

In 1715, an Englishman by the name of John Lethbridge developed what was to be the first diving dress. This was basically a barrel covered in leather equipped with two arm holes with water tight sleeves and a glass porthole enabling the diver to view underwater. This apparatus was lowered from a ship just the same as a diving bell.

Although several designs were used in later years, this gear still had the same limitations as the diving bell because the diver was restricted in his movements.

In 1828, John and Charles Deane developed the first revolutionary diving dress and heavy helmet which originated from helmets used by firefighters. The helmet rested on the diver’s shoulders, held in place by its own weight and straps to a waist belt.

Later a man called Augustus Siebe improved the Deane Patent Diving Dress.This helmet was connected to a hose that ran to the surface and supplied the diver with constant fresh air.

An interesting fact in the history of scuba diving is that in 1836, the Deanes issued a diver’s manual, which may be the first of its kind to ever be produced.

Later a man called Augustus Siebe improved the Deane Patent Diving Dress by attaching the helmet to a water tight suit. The result was the direct descendant to the legendary MK V deep-sea diving dress.

Although there were great advancements, the equipment developed by these pioneer inventors were limited in the fact that the diver still had to be attached to the surface via air hose thus restricting movement.

The only way forward was for the diver to carry a portable self contained air supply. However during the 19th Century, the cylinders were not strong enough to hold air at high pressure

Old regulator
An important fact in the history of scuba diving is the invention of the first scuba regulator which was developed by Benoit Rouquayrol.

The regulator will later become the main piece of scuba equipment responsible for regulating the flow of air from the tank to meet the diver’s breathing and pressure requirements.

It wasn't until 1933 when a French Naval Commander named LePrieur, developed an apparatus using a tank of compressed air.

However, LePrieur designs had its own limitations as it did not include a a regulator. The diver had to manually control his air supply.

Finally in 1943, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan created the first efficient and safe open circuit Scuba known as the aqualung. This scuba equipment combined an improved version of the demand regulator with high-pressure air tanks.

Following World War II, with the help of the aqualung, great strides in developments were made in relation to diving techniques and thus creating new forms of diving. More sophisticated equipment would later make it onto the diving scene with greater improvements to existing scuba equipment.
Kathy Dowsett

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Scuba Diving Certification Agencies

Project AWARE logoImage via Wikipedia

In addition to providing all levels of diver training, agencies also regulate and represent diving professionals such as divemasters and dive instructors, regulate dive operators, participate in research in dive medicine, promote marine conservation, and market diving as a sport.

What is the Difference Between the Agencies?

The main difference between agencies is where they operate. Some agencies such as BSAC and CMAS are closely related to their countries of origin, while other agencies such as PADI are truly global organizations. All of the most popular agencies offer very similar courses from beginner through to professional level and will all recognize each other's qualifications at recreational level. They may not recognize each other's qualifications at professional level.
How to Choose an Agency?

When choosing an open water course it's important to remember that all courses are quite similar and an open water certification card from any main agency will be recognized by dive operators anywhere in the world. Your choice of agency should be dictated by which agency is active where you want to learn and which agency your preferred instructor is certified by.
Which are the Biggest Agencies?

PADI has dive centers and instructors almost everywhere people dive and is the biggest agency. Some other agencies such as SSI and NAUI are also wide spread but tend to be concentrated in particular geographical areas. Below is a brief overview of the main agencies. Of course there are many other local agencies that also provide quality training and globally recognized qualifications. You can verify any agency's credentials with the World Recreational Scuba Training Council.

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors is by far the biggest and most recognized dive certification agency in the world. It's usually possible to find a PADI instructor in any diving destination and more beginning divers are certified by PADI than by all of the other agencies combined. PADI is very active in marine conservation through their Project AWARE operation, as well as being the biggest promoter of diving through advertising and sponsorship, and is also involved in technical diving training. PADI also operates Emergency First Response, an organization providing CPR and First Aid training.

Scuba Schools International's 2000 authorized dealers and 225 Regional Centers can be found in 90 countries around the world. SSI's diver education system is very similar to PADI's system. Headquartered in Colorado, USA, SSI training facilities are in particular abundance in North America and South East Asia.

Founded in 1959 in the USA, the National Association of Underwater Instructors is one of the biggest global certification agencies. NAUI's diver education system is quite similar to SSI and PADI. NAUI has also had a technical diving division since 1997. NAUI dive centers can be found primarily in North America.

When the YMCA closed its scuba program of 50 years, Scuba Educators International was formed to continue along similar standards.

The British Sub Aqua Club was formed in the United Kingdom and is still one of the most popular agencies there. It is also possible to find BSAC training facilities in other countries, particularly those that are frequented by British divers. Known for having very high standards of training, BSAC was always known for requiring extreme levels of training to achieve certification. In recent years BSAC has implemented courses that have bought it into line with other agencies training requirements.

Confederation Mondiale des Activites Subaquatiques is the world's oldest scuba certification agency. Originally founded in Brussels, Belgium, CMAS is now headquartered in Rome, Italy. CMAS has quite a different rating system than other agencies that is based on star levels. CMAS can be found in many countries around the world but is primarily active in Europe.

Kathy Dowsett

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tackling underwater rugby at 74

By age 74, the closest many people come to sports is watching it on television from their recliner chair, remote control in hand.

Not Tom Elliott of Brantford, Ontario. He not only runs the underwater rugby club in Brantford, but is a player – tackling and being tackled in the pool. He also plays underwater hockey and is a free diver – a sport in which participants descend to great depths without scuba gear.

“I have a personal trainer who puts me through strenuous gym workouts,” says Tom. “I also run for cross training.”

The health advantages that an active lifestyle promotes are well known. So are more traditional fitness sports such as running, tennis and gymnasium workouts. Less known is underwater rugby, which is played by people of a wide age range.
The Brantford underwater rugby club is one of two in Canada, the other being in Montreal. It is much bigger overseas. It was started in Germany, but is popular in Scandinavian countries and Eastern Europe. In the United States there are clubs in: Boston, Mass.; Newark, N.J.; Greenville, S.C.; and Austin, Tex. It`s also played in Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, with the latter country just starting is program.
The Brantford club is composed primarily of underwater hockey players and free divers, with the latter comprising about one-third of its players. Elsewhere, the free diving component is not nearly as prevalent. The Brantford exception is because many members of the club Freedive Toronto decided to join. Underwater rugby and free diving, as well as underwater hockey, are logical extensions of each other, helping to train the body to extend the time one can stay under water. These players are comfortable working hard underwater.

Like its hockey counterpart, underwater rugby players prefer a constant-depth pool. That is where the similarity ends. The playing area in the rugby pool is a maximum of 18 metres long, compared to 25 metres for hockey. Rugby requires a shorter playing area because it is played in deeper water, which provides plenty of playing space. The depth enables players to get vertical separation from opponents. The pool’s depth must be 3.5 to five metres. The Brantford pool, at the Wayne Gretzky Sport Centre, is almost the maximum allowed. For hockey, depth is a factor because if the pool is too deep it requires too much breath hold to get to the bottom and if too shallow, it is too crowded and injuries increase. The ideal depth is two to three metres.

The round underwater rugby ball is made of a vinyl material and is 50 centimetres in circumference. It is filled with salt water, giving it negative buoyancy, but at the same time the weight necessary to enable passes up to two or three metres under water. Passes above the water surface are not allowed. Whenever the ball is raised out of the water it is ruled out of bounds.

To score, a player must put the ball in the basket on the bottom of the pool in the opponents’ end. The diameter at the top of the basket is 40 centimetres. This makes scoring more difficult than in rugby played on grass because it concentrates the scoring area. “They (defenders) surround the basket,” says Tom. “It can get quite hectic. You have to wait for an opening (such as when a defender has to return to the surface for air). ”

Teams consist of six players in the water and five substitutes.

“You work hard and then get out,” says Tom, explaining that a player`s shift in the pool usually lasts one to two minutes. But because of the intensity of the sport they use up oxygen quickly, which means they may be down only 10 seconds before resurfacing for air and then quickly going down again to rejoin the fray.
“There are some amazing feats with high-level players, swimming from one side of the pool to the other (with the ball).”

They must try to avoid being tackled by an opponent. Players may not grab a player’s equipment or swim suit, hold an opponent in a manner that might cause strangulation, intentionally kick someone, or do anything that may cause injury. They may only tackle the ball carrier.

The injuries that do occur are usually minor, such as scrapes or bruises. In underwater hockey, with a heavy puck and a stick in the hands of each player, the injuries can be more serious.

As in hockey, men and women often compete together on underwater rugby teams. In hockey, smaller players have the advantage of agility. But in rugby, size and strength are positives.

Brantford has an underwater rugby program, which Tom runs, for players as young as eight. Players of high-school age also play. Most of the adult participants are in their 20s, 30s or early 40s, but some are in their 50s and very few in their 60s.
Then there is Tom, who like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps going.

“At age 41, I got serious about fitness and never stopped,” he says. “Last fall, I played a tournament for underwater rugby in Colombia and one month in Denmark. Two years ago I played for a month in Spain. It is an excellent way to experience other countries. There have been many years of underwater hockey travel before that.”
A retired musician who played the bassoon in symphony orchestras, Tom has spent a lot of time on top of the water – in a canoe – as well as under the water. After snowshoe camping in the winter months, he turns to canoeing trips in the spring.

“Last April I did a solo canoe trip, from Buffalo to Hamilton, in six days, camping along the way. That was the fourth such trip in recent years between Brantford/Hamilton and my mom’s house east of Buffalo. It’s a unique adventure using various water routes.”

Put all the activity together and it begins to make sense how Tom Elliott can still be battling for the ball deep in the pool at age 74.

Kathy Dowsett

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