Saturday, December 29, 2012

THE HEART OF A SOLO DIVER: Once unheard of, Solo Diving is starting to gain acceptance

(DiverWire) Contributing Editor John Flanders talks about the growing acceptance and changes in the industry when it comes to Solo Diving.

I’ve taught many divers to be self-sufficient and written several articles on Solo Diving. Several years ago, this topic was taboo and even scorned by many. The buddy system was rooted firmly in most divers’ minds and only radical non-conformists would even dare think about breeching this tried and true practice. However, as time grew on, the debate took on a depth outside of the normal constraints that solo diving was figurative practices more than a literal practice. Even with a diver right next to you, there was still a possibility that you were a solo diver. The concept of solo diving evolved to a higher level and the pundits, while still holding firmly to their buddy system, even agreed that the idea of practicing emergency drills without the aid of a buddy was a good idea.

Welcome to 2012. Just about every major agency has embraced a self-reliant or solo diver course. Charter companies are reviewing standards and procedures for solo divers. More divers at the recreational level are thinking about self-sufficiency, redundancy, and fault tolerance. Some would say the solo divers have won. But you have to ask … have they?

It wasn’t too long ago I was on a charter boat in California. One of my former “solo diver” students was sitting on the deck preparing for his upcoming dive. I saw him as he handed over his solo diver release to the boat captain (who accepted it with a grimace of suspicion, but accepted it nonetheless). I watched him as he dressed for the cool waters of Southern California. I watched him closely as he wobbled his way to the swim step. It was at this point I stopped what I was doing, walked back to the swim step and stopped him. I asked one simple question: “Where is your buddy?” He laughed, a bit over-confidently, and stated, he was solo diving today. I looked him square in the eye and said, “no you’re not.” At this point, he chuckled uncomfortably. “What do you mean”, he asked. “I am a certified solo diver, don’t you remember?” I told him I remembered his class quite well, but he obviously did not. At that point, I corrected all the problems I saw in my brief inspection.

I could list all the things he did wrong prior to our brief interaction, but his preparation was faulty at every level. The simple fact is, he had a solo diver card and he thought that entitled him to dive without a buddy any time he wanted. However, what he forgot was all the equipment, planning, and preparation that go into solo diving. Simple and obvious points he was missing included (but were not limited to) spare mask, appropriate cutting devices, qualified redundant air systems, and filing a dive plan with the boat crew. He was a solo diver that was breaking every rule in solo diving. But, most of all, he was missing the heart of a solo diver.

The heart of a solo diver is a simple concept. A solo diver is prepared to come back from every dive. In fact, all the planning, preparation, equipment purchases, and mental practices are geared to one objective: Come back from every dive … alive! A solo diver is not someone who just dives on their own, on occasion. A solo diver is someone who is prepared at the highest levels with a host of contingencies for even the most remote problems that may occur. A solo diver does not just review a quick checklist and jump in the water. A solo diver spends weeks, maybe months, reviewing their equipment, reviewing dive plans, getting site briefings from local experts, and learning all the angles that go into a particular dive. A solo diver is someone who attacks every dive with the highest degree of complexity. Yes, even that 30 foot reef dive has protocols of redundancy, self-sufficiency, and fault tolerance. The heart of solo diver beats in one rhythm: Be prepared, come back alive! A solo diver is not just a solo diver when they are alone, but the heart of a solo diver beats on in every dive, regardless of their buddy plan. It never stops beating. At the beginning of every dive, a solo diver knows he can count on himself or herself first should any problems arise.

Thank you John Flanders

Kathy Dowsett

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Website goes virtual so divers can go deep

When Greg Davis’ father relocated to North Carolina, he lost his dive buddy.

Now he has a dive buddy almost anywhere he wants to dive, thanks to, a website he acquired in 2006.

While dive shops often post names of people looking for a dive buddy, Greg found that was inadequate and was determined to offer more.

“DiveBuddy was a listing service going back to 1998 . . . a website to post email addresses everyone could see,” he said. “It was a central repository but was not dynamic and it had to be updated by the webmaster. It was very rudimentary.”

His skill as a webmaster and SQL (a type of database) developer in his workplace was a big advantage in his desire to take to another level.

“I worked my magic on it. I loved to dive and I wanted to create a better service. It is not just a ‘find-a-buddy service,’ ” said Greg. “It’s a total community – sharing photographs, articles, adding dive sites and maintaining a virtual dive log.”

The website is accessed at and to see the map that locates dive sites, click on “Scuba Earth” at the top of the Home page.

“I probably put 2,000 development hours into it. We have over 20,000 members on DiveBuddy. That is divers, dive centres, charter services, resorts and manufacturers, but most are divers and instructors.

For Greg it’s a hobby that pays its own bills but is not a revenue maker nor was it intended to be one. “Social networks are free. It is the ability to have a dive buddy in any state or country . . . I have friends in every location, a cool group of people all there for one purpose.”

He started with an “open source” listing of dive sites. He didn’t want to input everything himself because that is very work intensive. Also, by opening it up to others, as Wikipedia does, any member can add a dive site they are familiar with and “because we have so many divers, everyone double checks each other. I keep track of all the changes.”

So far, about 81 percent of the members are in the U.S., three percent in Canada, three percent in the United Kingdom and the remainder are in “the rest of world; over 150 countries are represented on”

In the U.S., Greg says the four largest areas in terms of dive sites, are Southern California, all of Florida, Texas in the Gulf region and the tri-state northeastern states of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In Canada, he sees the main areas as Ontario and British Columbia.

Greg pinpoints scuba areas similar to how Google Earth locates streets, houses and other buildings. He believes his website does a better job locating dive areas than one operated by PADI. He suggests that scuba divers view them both and decide for themselves.

There are also forum discussions on diving, underwater photos and he has added a special centralized section for stories written by his members on dive sites with which they are familiar. “It’s a member-driven community.”

Greg’s personal favourites are wreck-diving off the coast of North Carolina and the Blue Lagoon near Huntsville, Texas, an old quarry that is not too deep and is a popular training area. An open water instructor, Greg has certified more than 400 students. Blue Lagoon is one of several inland dive sites in Texas, he says.

His two favourite sites represent rather dramatic contrasts. “Wreck diving is an adrenalin rush – that excitement of being on a wreck and cruising through it. It can be complicated. On the flip side if you go to Blue Lagoon there’s serenity. Your ears can relax while you enjoy a peaceful day on the water.”

Thanks Greg for the interview.

Kathy Dowsett

Thursday, December 6, 2012

6 Things to Leave at Home on Your Next Dive Trip

Scale-tipping gear bags don’t have to be your fate as a dive traveler. Stroll onto the dive boat with less stress and a lighter load with this list of our six favorite things to leave behind.

» Scuba Gear Depending on the situation — for example, you're only going to be able to squeeze in one dive on a family vacation — some gear might not be worth lugging. There’s no shame in renting — good dive operations have quality gear that gets regularly cleaned and serviced. Alternatively, buy a set of travel gear — lightweight, high-performance BCs and regs are a big part of many manufacturers' gear lines — for your dive vacations, and perhaps another set of "regular" gear for your local diving. It might cost a little more in the short term, but bringing your own travel gear adds a factor of safety and comfort.

» Beach Towels Towels from home inevitably make the return trip either unused or still wet, while hotels and dive boats usually provide them. Still find yourself lacking? Buy an inexpensive sarong on-island for a multipurpose, space-saving beach blanket.

» Foreign Currency Changing money before a trip is a hassle, and airport exchanges are a rip-off. Hit the ATM at the airport after you land to withdraw a cash stash for tip money and cab fares. You’ll get the best exchange rate and pay a flat transaction fee rather than a percentage.

» Mask Defog and Other Liquids Every dive boat in the world has defog — guaranteed. Not to mention that a bottle stored in a mask box can trigger a bag check or pose a potential luggage leak. Ditto for basic toiletries. Ever been to a hotel or dive resort that didn’t have free shampoo? Us neither.

» Shoes Pick one pair of all-purpose shoes — such as canvas sneakers or boat shoes — to wear on the plane, stash lightweight flip-flops or sandals in your carry-on, and leave the rest at home.

» Jewelry Dive-boat fashion is all skin-tight neoprene, split-fins and wrist-mount computers — no one takes the plunge to check out a tennis bracelet. Between the potential for small items to go overboard and the possibility of theft back on land, jewelry is better off at home.

Thanks to Sport Diver----always a "wealth of scuba diving info"

Kathy Dowsett

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jimmy Buffett narrates Manatee awareness video

“Preventing the risk of extinction of manatees due to human related encounters is critical to all of us in the dive industry who have enjoyed snorkeling and diving with these majestic marine mammals,” said Tom Ingram, Executive Director of DEMA. “DEMA feels privileged to work with Jimmy Buffett and the Save the Manatee Club on this important endeavor.

”The Diving Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA), a non-profit trade association for the scuba diving industry has teamed up with Save the Manatees to release a new Public Service Announcement. Narrated by well-known performer Jimmy Buffett, the PSA is aimed at increasing awareness of the need to protect the manatees.

Often referred to as Florida’s mermaids, the PSA provides tips on how to enjoy but not endanger these gentle giants and was released in support of the State of Florida’s November Manatee Awareness Month.

The video provides divers and snorkelers with fundamental knowledge on how they can keep the manatees safe and highlights the rules of sharing Florida’s oceans, rivers and springs with Florida’s official marine mammal.

Manatee Awareness Month was created to expand efforts to raise awareness about the presence of manatees in Florida’s waters and to reach more people in Florida and outside the state about how to prevent harm to the manatees. You can find more detailed information about Save the Manatees and how you can help at

Thanks to Divewire

Kathy Dowsett

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trubridge Powers Through to a New Constant Weight Freediving Record

Today was the penultimate day of Suunto Vertical Blue. And like the seven other days of competition that came before, it did not disappoint. The official top time for the event’s host William Trubridge came at 11:10 am eastern and just about four short minutes later a new national record for New Zealand appeared as he completed a dive to 121m under constant weight in Dean’s Blue Hole. As a freediving event Suunto Vertical Blue has become historic in its proportions garnering an incredible 53 national titles so far. This is Will’s first national record at the elite competition.

Great anticipation has surrounded the Kiwi freediver as onlookers have watched William and Russian freediver Alexey Molchanov battle for first position in the category of constant weight (CWT). Coming into the comp Alexey held the world record for constant weight, and after a few days at Dean’s Blue Hole he retained it by making a dive to 126m. Trubridge is the current world record holder in both free immersion (FIM) and in the sport’s most arduous discipline constant no-fins (CNF).

After a shortfall and a black-out on his own 126m attempt, today was a welcomed good day for the soft-spoken champion. “I just wanted to get a decent, solid CWT dive out and get a white card. The world record escaped me this competition.” Will said matter-of-factly. Upon his ascent to the surface on this 121m dive Will reached for the comp line (the GloRope) but lunged and missed it because he was wearing fluid goggles that distort his vision.

“I was determined to keep my airway above the surface and not get a DQ – my mind was ticking over the 15 seconds – I was lucid.” And as he counted the seconds he managed to masterfully keep his body upright as you will see in the video below. Once the requisite surface protocol was complete Will was in the clear; “ I felt a little bit of relief!” he mused, “the monofin felt less like an appendage and more like an angry dog gripped to my flailing leg! I think my training peaked just before the event, and I’m on the downhill slope energy-wise…“ As for the last day of the competition, Will is planning a ‘fun” dive so he can relax and enjoy the success that surrounds him.

Thanks to deeper blue for this article

Kathy Dowsett