Monday, October 27, 2008

The Weight of Training Scuba Divers

(picture courtesy of earl53 at

A sure-fire way to cause diver trauma is by shooting to the surface. Thank goodness the divemaster was strong as the student struggled to right himself and keep from floating up to the surface. Neutral buoyancy was a skill to still be learned by the newbie, as was about a jillion other things. But the calm dive master candidate reached over and grabbed the student's BC and dumped the air from the purge valve, all without moving from his spot. Later, Mr. Daisy (the dive master candidate) said, "It's a good thing I have strength in my arms and weight on my side. Otherwise, Student X would have dragged me to the surface with them."

Face it. Most students learn to dive while being over-weighted to keep from shooting to the surface. While in the pool, they learn the proper technique to find neutral buoyancy in their training. First, dump all the air out of your BC while at the surface and hold a normal sized breath. You should hover/float right at eye level and sink when you exhale that breath. But nervousness, full tanks getting lots of heavy breathing, and lack of underwater comfort can later transfer into "fishing bobber" look-alikes. That full tank becomes positively buoyant as it empties!

(picture courtesy of penywise at

Despite all the weight, students can still become positively buoyant. Sometimes it is because they haven't quite mastered their BC controls yet. This can lead to dangers for them AND for the dive master candidates. And if a DMC isn't "properly weighted," they can have difficulty doing their job.

Being a dive master candidate means being prepared. And in water that means having
1. enough strength to compensate for both of you while attending to a positively buoyant student OR
2. enough weight in the belt to compensate for a positively buoyant student.

So, DMC's have worked hard to perfect the art of neutral buoyancy to make it look easy for students, yet they are many times over-weighted when helping out the very people they most need to be role models for.

Scuba diving tends to be a man's sport. PADI, one of the largest companies educating scuba divers, believes that worldwide, only 28% of divers are female. This can cause issues with both weight and strength. In a question about gender and who is a better diver, Lawrence Martin wrote, "The long answer is that women, on average, have smaller lungs, a lower aerobic capacity, a greater percentage of body fat, and less upper body strength than men, and these differences have some effects on diving." ( , October 27,2008) It should be noted that he was discussing recreational diving, rather than women in diving education roles.

The fact remains that I weigh a lot less than most of the students, male or female. And while I work at remaining in shape and staying strong, I cannot overpower and muscle my way through. I have to use other tactics, such as overweighting, to be able to help my students and keep them safe. Having had this discussion with various instructors, one said, "You gotta do what you gotta do."

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Ah, okay, I told you the next post would be about the next day. But I am not there. I have been dreading that post like I dreaded that cold water. It seems flat and boring and I want something more "now."

So, I got a monkey. He goes underwater with me. No, not really, but I got a monkey on my back about finishing this divemaster thing. The rest isn't fun or a challenge. 7 skills demonstrated in the pool. Boring. Retake the dive table exam (which I should point out, I know and have known for 10 years, but misinterpreted the questions). So, get it done.

Ahhhh - time is killing me right now. So is motivation. Tune in next week . . .

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sometimes The Start is the Hardest

So, we returned from Jamaica. A month later I decide, "Oh, I want to be certified too!" Boy am I a dork. I had the best place to dive (warm, clear ocean water with tropical fish, spectacular reefs, and an excellent dive crew) BUT NO, I have to wait until the end of September in the midwest to decide that's when I will learn to dive.

We found a close shop and went in and checked it out. They were friendly and it wouldn't take that long to become certified - 2 weekends in the classroom, 1 weekend in the pool, and 1 long weekend doing my 'open water dives.' They were SSI designated (Scuba Schools International) and it all seemed great.

The classes went well. The instructor was great! I did my book work and was diligent (which my husband hadn't been while on vacation and getting certified in Jamaica - but who could blame him?).

The pool session was interesting to say the least. My husband was kind enough to join in all the water sessions with me. We also had some "refreshers" and a few other newbies. Getting all the gear on was a nightmare in 7mm suits and hoods. It was at that moment that I realized what a big mistake I had made in waiting to come home and get certified. The added bulkiness of the suits was insane. And the hoods??? Oh yuck. (Needless to say, no more hoods for me, even if the water is in the 50's.)

Despite the suits and gear, I enjoyed it. I began to grow in confidence.

The next weekend was the real test. We dove at Bon Terre Mines in Bon Terre, Missouri. Yes, the same place Jacques Cousteau dove. We arrived on a Friday night, lugging probably 150 lbs. of equipment each. That's when we found out we had to go down an enormously long flight of stairs (some crazy amount, like 300, which felt more like a thousand) - which no one had bothered to mention. Yes, with all the gear.

Thank goodness we were both young and my poor hubby carted more than his share down to the bottom of the mine. I should have just geared up in my 7mm suit and bounced down the stairs - it would have been less grueling.

The mine is enormous and beautiful. It was well-lit and the dock was nice and large for everyone's gear. The inside temp was around 62* which was a smidge chilly but not too bad. It wasn't till much later that we realized there were no bathrooms. OOPS!

We were gearing up and I had to put my hood on first because it was a hooded vest. I thought my husband was going to just throw me in like that when he saw that on my first attempt, I put the dog gone thing on backwards! I couldn't see and began laughing hysterically, while he was so embarrassed :) He finally got it off of me (there was no way I could have done it myself) and we finished gearing up.

About that time, someone asked about water temperature. I just about died. 56* - 59*! And I HATE the cold. Of course, they all said it sounded worse than it really was. NOT!

THAT FIRST JUMP IN WAS INSANELY COLD - LIKE A GIANT BRAIN FREEZE FROM ICE CREAM! Then it began sneaking into the suit and it was like someone had unzipped me. (Did I mention all the instructors wore dry suits??)

We swam over to the 'saddle area' and dropped down into a half circle (which wasn't near as easy as it sounds). Then began our skills for the first check out dive. We did the second check out dive a bit later, and after that, everyone else did the third dive but me - I just couldn't take the cold anymore.

Check in on the next post to see how the next day went :)

Monday, October 20, 2008


So where do I start? At the beginning of the journey? When I snorkeled over my husband when he was 60 ft. down and I couldn't get down because of my ear? And how bad I wanted to be down there with him? Or maybe my first dive just 2 days before that, when the divemaster at the resort (Breezes Runaway Bay Jamaice - great dive people) worked painstakingly slow to get me to the bottom because I wasn't a good equalizer?

I still have that video of my very first ever resort course dive. I had a death grip on the poor divemaster. But look what he has done for me! His patience was immense, and my desire to dive was just as strong. And now, I am just a smidge away from being a divemaster myself.

That first dive I was hooked as soon as I got down and by the time it was over, there wasn't a death grip anywhere. What an amazing transformation that took place in my mind. Being weightless (although not so good at that part back then) and the peace, quiet, and beauty of the alien world before me. Seeing things that not everyone gets to see. I think that was a big attraction for me at first. The wonder and curiosity of what was really down there.

During that time my husband was actually getting his certification. He fell in love the first day, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't ready to pour all the money into something I would do maybe once a year. (Yeah, right)

So, I came back from Jamaica and realized a month later that it WAS something I wanted to do. So I began the journey of my certification here in the midwest. But that will be for the next post :)

My intention was to start with my divemaster course and explain the difficulties and successes that have come with the coursework. But I felt I needed a slower introduction, and a bigger view to the path. Because it really has been an amazing journey.

I hope you return to read about the journey and I hope it inspires you on your path, whatever path that may be, whether it is diving or not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hello to You (and Me)

Hello all. My husband and I are scuba divers who live in the Midwest of the United States. There aren't a lot of warm tropcial spots here - we mostly have cold murky quarries. But we sure do enjoy it.

We are just about to finish our divemaster program. (I have to retake a test and demonstrate 7 more skills to a class and I will be done). I have journaled about the process we have gone through and wanted to share it with those who are interested, so that will be the subject of many posts.

I will also be writing about dive spots, dive trips, gear, working with students, and a myriad of other topics - all related to diving. Check back regularly, as I am a good poster (meaning I post often) and comment returner. (I currently have another blog unrelated to diving)

I just set this blog up tonight and wanted to make a post to say hi to everyone. Check back soon for a real scuba diving blog post!

Happy Bubbles .o0O%.o0O

Diver Daisy