Tag Archives: Professional Association of Diving Instructors

All Diving Certifications Are Not Created Equal

I always believed that scuba certifications from the various mainline agencies were basically all the same, just depended on which agencies name you wanted on the card. That is, until today.

I just found out that the Master Scuba Diver certification from NAUI is nowhere near the same level of training and experience as the Master Scuba Diver certification from PADI.

To achieve the PADI certification you have to have Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver, and 5 specialty diver certifications which take an additional 1 to 4 dives each to complete, and at least 50 logged dives.

For the NAUI Master Scuba Diver certification qualifications I looked it up on the NAUI website. Their course requirements are shown below, copied directly from their website:

“A minimum of eight open water dives is required. A maximum of three dives per day shall be applied toward course requirements. No more than one skin dive may count toward the eight dive minimum.

Required Dives

  • Emergency procedures and rescue
  • Deep/simulated decompression diving
  • Limited visibility or night diving
  • Underwater navigation
  • Search and recovery – light salvage

Elective Dives

  • Skin diving
  • Review of basic scuba skills
  • Environmental study or survey
  • Air consumption (practical application)
  • Boat diving
  • Shore diving
  • Hunting and collecting
  • Special interest

Prerequisites For Entering This Course

  • Age – Minimum is 15 years.
  • Diver Certification – NAUI advanced certification or the equivalent is required. The instructor is to ensure adequate student knowledge and capability before any open water training and shall use skill or other evaluations to do so.
  • Equipment – Students shall furnish and be responsible for the care and maintenance of their own diving equipment. The instructor shall initially assist the student in checking all student gear to insure it is adequate and in proper working order.”

So in other words, if a NAUI Advanced Open Water Diver wants the MSD rating, he can do it in just 3 days time with only 8 more dives? Thats less than ¼ as many total dives when you add up all the various specialty class dives required by PADI.

That is a HUGE difference in diving experience between NAUI and PADI certification requirements for the Master Scuba Diver rating. I thought the PADI MSD rating was quick to get, I should have just gone for the NAUI one, I could have had it months before I earned the PADI one.

This will make me take a good hard look at the qualifications for all of the other “mainline” certification agencies out there before I choose to dive with someone from another agency again. Apparently their Rescue Diver certification only takes one dive to complete instead of three days and multiple dives.

I clearly see that all certifications are definitely NOT the same.

Dive 85

Date: July 4, 2013            Repetitive Dive: 1 of 4

Time In:  13:10    Time Out:  13:40      Time:   :30

Location: Koko Craters,  Oahu, Hawaii

Dive Shop:  N/A

Purpose: Solo Kayak Dive

Dive Type: Kayak    Environ: Ocean / Salt

Conditions:  Moderate Current      Weight:  14lbs.

Visibility: 80-90′

Air Temp:   84       Bottom Temp:  77.6

Max Depth:  38.0′       Average Depth: 26.2′

Safety / Decompression Stops: None

Start PSI: 2,975    End PSI: 1,627      Air/EANx:  32%

Exposure Protection: 5-Mil Full Wetsuit, Hood, Boots, Gloves

Equipment: Spare Air, iGills

Notes:

Decided to do a few solo kayak dives to celebrate the 4th with. Saw a few Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles today and a Crown of Thorns for the first time at this site. Since I am diving solo today I wanted to keep my dives short and not push any limits.

iGills Snapshot

Product Review – Aqua Lung Nautilus

Dive safety requires the use of a snorkel, and PADI requires every diver to have one in all of their classes.

One drawback to a snorkel is that it causes drag in the water which can be annoying, and also cause your mask to leak. This is why many divers choose not to wear one while diving.

Aqua Lung has introduced a compact folding version of the snorkel that rolls up and stores inside a seashell shaped plastic case that can be attached to your BCD.

The snorkel is deployed only when it is needed, thereby eliminating the unnecessary drag and mask leak problems.

I decided to try one of these snorkels out for myself because I hate wearing a snorkel, especially when I am using my DPV because of the extreme drag that it causes. Every time I try to use my DPV while wearing a snorkel my mask leaks severely which makes me take it off. thereby eliminating its intended safety function.

 The Nautilus is attached to one of my BCD d-rings and is out of the way until it is needed. Then I can simply pull it out of its housing and attach the snorkel to my mask strap when I am on the surface. No more drag while underwater.

The only drawbacks that I have found to the Nautilus is that it is not a dry snorkel nor does it have a purge valve. If you are used to using a dry snorkel like I am, be very careful as you breath with this snorkel as there is nothing to prevent a wave from entering and flooding the snorkel. It also requires two hands to snap the snorkel keeper around the mask strap to secure it.

My Product Rating: 

Rethinking Divemaster Training

To become a PADI Divemaster you are required to complete several prerequisites including being at least 18 years old, having completed Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, and Rescue Diver certifications, attaining at least five PADI specialties, and having a minimum of 40 logged dives before you can begin the course. By the end of the course you must have a minimum of 60 logged dives. Since I meet all of the prerequisites by attaining the Master Scuba Diver with 10 PADI specialties, and over 70 logged dives, I have already started my Divemaster Candidate (DMC) course and am working on completing all of the necessary internships and course requirements.

The other day while I was at our Hawaii Kai dive shop getting signed up to intern a couple of classes one of the instructors that I had for one of my classes a couple months ago asked me if I was ready to be a Divemaster. When I said yes, he walked away shaking his head. This has bothered me ever since, at the time making me very upset.

Another instructor stated that I needed to be signed off on setting up a dive site, to which I stated that I already had completed that part of the training the previous week and was already signed off on it with a near-perfect score (44/45 points). He asked where I did it and I told him on the North Shore on a shore dive and he said that doesn’t count because I did not have to tie off a boat at a mooring during the dive site setup, so he asked who the instructor was. When I told him that I chose to work with Michelle at the Scofield Barracks location because I knew her longer he said “isn’t she a new instructor?” smirking and walking away.

A DMC can work with ANY PADI Instructor on their course requirements, another reason I chose her is because she is a fairly new instructor, completing her Instructor Development Course at the beginning of this year. To become an instructor she had to perform all of the skill requirements that I am required to perform, all to demonstration quality as I have to perform them. So I knew that her demonstration quality skills would be sharper than an instructor that had to perform theirs years ago that may have become lax in their quality over the years. I also know that the examination is performed in front of PADI Instructors who are coming from the mainland and since she had recently performed hers in front of them, she may be able to give me some tips as to what they are looking for now that may help me with my testing.

The one that really ticked me off was when an instructor the other night said that he was worried that I was rushing through my training. This same instructor was taking his Divemaster training when I was taking my Rescue Diver course, and now not quite two months later he is already an Open Water Scuba Instructor! In the past month and a half he has completed Divemaster, Instructor Development Course (IDC), and this past weekend he completed the Instructor examination and is already teaching new students. PADI requires that a new instructor wait until they have received their certification and have it in-hand, which takes about a month, before they start teaching classes. Yet somehow the very next day after he finishes his testing he is teaching an Open Water Diver class, before PADI even has a chance to start processing his certification. The comment that I seem to be rushing my training, coming from him of all people, really got to me, I have almost as many dives in as he does.

Michelle made the comment last night that the Hawaii Kai shop is in one of the most challenging areas to operate a dive shop because of the strong currents that are there year round. That’s why I am grateful that almost all of my dives have been out of that dive shop. The South East Coast of Oahu has some ripping currents year round that we have to deal with, which is why we do so much drift diving down there. Almost all of my dive training has been in those currents, which I feel has made me a better diver and a better DMC.

I feel like I am being targeted and harassed because I chose to pay cash for my training myself instead of going through their “Hawaii Scuba University” (HSU) eight week course and letting the government pay for my Divemaster training which they would receive more money for. When I paid for my Divemaster course I was told that if I go through HSU for the course, it was a scheduled eight week course, and I would be required to meet at the Hickam shop two nights a week, but if I paid for it myself instead of letting the VA pay for it, I complete it on MY schedule, so that is what I chose to do. However after paying them the money, that’s not how it has been working out. I wanted to start my DMC course on April 3rd, right after receiving the Master Scuba Diver certification, however I kept getting put off every time I asked the instructors about how to get it started. I kept getting told that I had to wait until the next HSU class started, to which I would reply that I am not part of HSU and am not bound to their schedule and that I complete everything on my own schedule.

I was finally able to get the course started by taking it upon myself to ask Michelle to start working with me on the course and my internships because no one at the Hawaii Kai shop seemed to be interested in it. But even now I still run into problems with getting skills checked off because since I am not part of the HSU program and am doing it on my own schedule, I don’t have access to a pool for my skills. I will have to perform them out in the ocean and deal with surge and silt getting kicked up while I try to do the equipment exchange skill. I feel that I am clearly being discriminated against because I chose to pay for the class myself instead of letting the government pay a higher price for the exact same training.

With all of the flack that I have been getting this week from other instructors I am starting to rethink even becoming a Divemaster. If this is the type of person that I will become when I become an instructor, I don’t want any part of it. Right now, I have no interest in continuing with the training. As a DMC I dive for free for the next year, so I plan on using that benefit so that I do not have to pay for dives. As far as getting certified as a PADI Divemaster, I don’t think so.

As a Divemaster I would be required to carry additional professional liability insurance on top of what I already carry as a First Aid & CPR Instructor. I would have to pay an enormous fee to PADI every year just to stay active as a Divemaster. The chances of being hired as a Divemaster by one of the dive shops here is extremely remote because they all would rather hire Instructors who can teach more classes than a Divemaster can. Instructors here barely make more than minimum wage each year. After adding it all up, it doesn’t make financial sense for me to get certified as a Divemaster, so why bother with it.

On top of all of that I am tired of putting up with all the BS from some of the other instructors from Island Divers Hawaii. Several of the instructors from the Hawaii Kai shop have stated that they will not sign off on anything that you do once or twice as a DMC, you will have to do it multiple times before they will even consider signing off on it. This is not PADI’s procedures, and doesn’t make any sense to me. Once a person completes an internship, they should get graded on the internship, and if they receive a successful grade, the internship is complete. This doing the same internship over and over again, hoping that the instructor will finally be in the mood to grade you on it, one of these days, is complete hogwash.

Many other dive shops on the mainland and around the world offer the DMC course as an 8-DAY course. If I ever become interested in completing my Divemaster training again I will go to one of those shops to complete it, without all of the BS that comes along with it here. For now, I am fine with just keeping the Master Scuba Diver rating.

Divemaster Mapping Project

As part of my PADI Divemaster training I am required to create a map of a dive site to teach me underwater mapping and reinforce the underwater navigation skills that I learned in the Underwater Navigator Specialty course that I took last month.

For this task I was allowed to choose Koko Craters, a popular dive site off the South East coast of Oahu. Because I dive this site very often, and had already started a rudimentary map of the location in the Underwater Navigator Specialty dives it would save me some time.

Normally the mapping project is done by a group of Divemaster Candidates (DMC’s) who collaborate on a finished map. Since I am doing this mapping project alone I would have to do everything myself, which would mean multiple dives at the location to get measurements, compass headings, etc.

Unfortunately we have been getting hit with a south swell for the past couple weeks that has made diving on the south shores almost impossible. Most of the dive boats have cancelled their dives and everyone is shore diving up at Sharks Cove for the past two weeks. In order to work on my map today I was forced to do a solo kayak dive in very rough waters.

I ended up getting rolled 4 times today while trying to get out to the site. Once I was offshore out at the site the seas were much calmer and I was able to get some diving done. Unfortunately the visibility was very poor for this location, normally we have around 100′ visibility at Koko Craters, but because of the south swell today it was only 10 to 15 feet, which made working on my map very difficult. There was also a strong current which also added to my challenge, luckily I had strapped one of my DPV’s to my kayak in anticipation of the strong currents and surge. Using the DPV I was able to overcome the current and get some work done on my map.

Here is the map I made of the Koko Craters Dive Site. Hopefully it will be good enough to pass and I can get signed off for this project. I don’t see how I can make it much better.

KokoCratersDiveMap

You can download a Printable .pdf version of the map by clicking here or a larger .jpg image by clicking on the map above.

DMC Course Update

After we completed the last of the required dives today for the Open Water Diver course a couple of the students had to retake their written exams, so I used this opportunity to take Part 1 of my Divemaster Final Exam. I had already completed Dive Theory Online so that will take the place of Part 2 of the exam, keeping me from having to take another exam.

Since my score on the Dive Theory Online exam was a perfect 100%, I was very nervous about todays exam. I needed to make another perfect score. Unfortunately that is part of my Type – A personality I suppose. I have always been very hard on myself, and demanded only perfect scores for any exams that I take.

As I took the exam the nerves and butterflies in my stomach started in, which made it difficult to concentrate on reading the questions. I was finally able to complete the exam, now I just had to wait what seemed like an hour for the score (it was actually only about 5 minutes). I told her that I may have missed one question that I was not sure about, but I know the rest were all correct. She said “I bet you missed more than one” and went inside to grade the exam.

I waited outside the classroom while Michelle graded the exam, and when I went in to check on my score she had a disappointed look on her face and said that she couldn’t help me with the exam, because I got a 100% on it. I was starting to think I had failed the exam somehow, she scared me.

Afterwards we went over my Divemaster Application packet to see what I had already completed in the past couple of weeks, and what I still needed to complete. As she went down the list checking boxes and signing off on items listed I started to feel better about my progress in the course. Basically I have about half of the course requirements completed, and now I know what I need to work on next.

I will try to complete my Mapping Project this week. In it I have to create a dive map of a dive site. Michelle let me choose the site, so I chose Koko Craters, because I dive there often from the boat out of the Hawaii Kai shop and it would be easier to get enough dives at the location to create the map by myself since I am not working as part of a group on the Mapping Project.

If things stay as scheduled now, this next week I will complete my required water skills on Thursday evening. Hopefully Wednesday or Thursday I will have a chance to check off some of the other requirements that I still need, that is if the boat goes out from Hawaii Kai then, it has been canceled this week due to the high south swells that we have been getting the past few days.

Solo Diving Hypocrisy

For about the past month I have been interested in Solo Diving and attempting to find more information on it. Every PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) instructor that I have spoken with about my interest in it say the same things, “solo diving is dangerous and should never be done” or “PADI does not allow solo diving“, or my favorite “as a certified PADI professional I will pretend I did not hear that“, yet PADI themselves offers a Distinctive Specialty for this exact same thing. They just named theirs the PADI Self-Reliant Diver Distinctive Specialty which is taught at many PADI dive shops around the world.

So that makes me start thinking, if solo diving is so taboo and dangerous and you should never do it, then why does PADI have a Distinctive Specialty teaching you to do what they say you should never so in the first place?

There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy concerning solo diving when it comes to PADI. So I started looking outside of PADI for information on solo diving and I discovered that Scuba Diving International (SDI) teaches a course on solo diving, and guess what, they were even bold enough to name it a Solo Diving Course.

Solo diving is no more dangerous than any other form of recreational diving. It needs to be done correctly, and with the proper equipment and training, just as any other form of recreational diving needs to be. Even diving incident statistics for the past decade do not show that solo diving is more dangerous than any other form of recreational diving.

I am not saying that “Buddy Diving” is bad, or that there is anything wrong with it, but I have been paired up with a “dive buddy” on a boat dive that I have never met before, have no idea what kind of a diver he or she is, and have no idea of how competent they would be in an emergency situation.

I do know that from past experiences I do not allow myself to rely on my “dive buddy” in an emergency. I rely on myself, my training, and the equipment that I carry with me on every single dive, including a completely redundant air supply. If I am going on shallow dives I always carry a 3cf Spare Air system, and if I am going on deep dives I carry a 30cf pony bottle with separate regulator and gauge. I also always dive with a spare mask in my BCD pocket, just in case something happens to mine on a dive.

As soon as I am able to I plan on taking the SDI Solo Diver Course. One of the prerequisites for the course are a minimum of 100 logged dives, which I will be able to complete in about a month or so, I am already at 72 logged dives.

Below is a very good video that was recorded at the London International Dive Show in April of 2012.

I believe that instead of making everyone believe that solo diving is taboo and dangerous, we should teach the correct ways to solo dive, and the proper equipment that needs to be used for a solo dive. Its like a police officer giving you a ticket for speeding, then the same officer speeds when not on an emergency call. Its complete hypocrisy, and that is one thing that could make new divers leery and untrusting of diving associations and what they say and teach, and question other things that are taught to them for safety.

Confined Water Dives 3, 4 & 5

Yesterday I completed the PADI Divemaster Online course and am finishing up the last chapters in the Divemaster Manual this weekend. I’m not sure why I am required to do both the online course, and the knowledge reviews in the book since they are both the same course, but alright, whatever it takes to get it done.

I assisted with the last Confined Water training session for the Open Water Divers class at the MWR pool last night. Extra equipment was brought just in case, and sure enough it wasn’t needed. Equipment only seems to break when you don’t have replacements handy. This time I was able to get in the water to assist Michelle with the class instead of watching from the side of the pool.

Once the classroom portion of the training was completed the class was divided up into two separate classes with 8 students each for the pool sessions. Our class was down to just 5 students for tonights class, which would make the class go much quicker than Wednesday nights class did, or so I thought.

Some of the skills the students would work on tonight were the alternate air source ascents, controlled emergency swimming ascents (CESA), mask clearing, weight removal and replacement at the surface, and BCD removal and replacement underwater. Just before getting in we went over the procedures for the skills that we would be doing while the students were getting their gear ready and doing their buddy checks.

One of the students upon entering the deep end of the pool almost immediately gave the out of air signal and started heading back to the surface quickly. At first we were thinking “we’re not ready to do that skill yet”, but when Michelle reached the student she realized that the students dive buddy husband had mistakingly turned her air back off during the buddy checks. Apparently he had forgotten which way to turn the valve on the tank. I remembered once when a dive buddy of mine in my Open Water class back in January had done the same thing to me, and the panicked feeling that it quickly brought.

Along with supervising the students that the instructor was not working with at the time, I also demonstrated the Fin Pivot and Hovering skills to the students. While I watched them struggle through their skills tonight it reminded me of how I struggled with those very skills just a short four months ago, and now they seem like second nature to me.

After the pool session was completed we headed back to the Island Divers Hawaii dive shop on Scofield Barracks to rinse the gear and refill the scuba tanks that were used. We finally got out of there just past 11:00pm once again, and because of the late night again without eating dinner, I am fighting another migraine this morning.

The open water dives that were supposed to be held this weekend have been postponed until next Saturday and Sunday because the surf conditions were going to be too high for the shore dives that were planned. Unfortunately that means another whole week before I can get signed off on anything for my DMC training.

Confined Water Class Fiasco

Last night was the first night for the Confined Water skills portion of the PADI Open Water certification course that I have been assisting with this week for my Dive Master Candidate course. All in all everything went well. I showed up at the Scofield Barracks dive shop and loaded 20 scuba tanks for the 16 students while the instructors assisted them with getting their wetsuits, BCD’s, and weights, then we went over to the MWR pool a few miles north of the base where we would hold that nights class.

The students started off with their laps and other swimming skills before putting their wetsuits on for the scuba portion of the class. Once all of the swimming skills were completed I demonstrated the correct assembly and disassembly of their equipment and described each piece and what it does. Then the students were required to assemble and disassemble their own equipment three times.

While the students were assembling their equipment we found that an o-ring on one of their submersible pressure gauges had blown and we searched for a replacement for it. Luckily Davie, a female instructor recently added to the dive shop from Australia, had brought a backup regulator assembly and we were able to switch the student over to it.

Just as we got that student’s situation resolved another student found that they had a blown o-ring on their alternate air source. So once again we were scrambling around trying to find a resolution to the problem.

Unfortunately we could not find a replacement o-ring for the student so our only option was for me to disassemble my rig and let the student use my regulator assembly for the class, which meant that I could not be in the pool with them to assist with the class and demonstrate the regulator recovery and mask skills to them so that I could get signed off for my DMC requirements.

At the end of the class Michelle asked me if I would assist the students with disassembling their gear while she worked with one student that would not be able to attend class on Friday night, so while I helped everyone get their gear loaded back up for the trip back to the shop she worked with the last student completing confined water dives 3, 4 & 5 so that she would be ready for the open water dives with the rest of the class this weekend.

I have today off to prepare for the rest of the class starting tomorrow. I need to decide today if I am going to finish assisting with the class even though I won’t be credited for it, or if I will just skip it and wait two weeks for the next class to start. It’s a tough decision.

Dive 70

Date: May 5, 2013         Repetitive Dive: 3 of 3

Time In:  13:28  Time Out:  14:13    Time:   :45

Dive Location: Sea Cave,  Oahu, HI.

Dive Shop:  Island Divers Hawaii

Purpose: DMC Practicals – Con Ed.

Dive Type:  Boat / Drift  Environ: Ocean / Salt

Conditions:  Mild Current    Wt:  16lbs

Visibility: 100′ +

Air Temp:  80° F  Btm. Temp:  77° F

Max Depth:  77′    Average Depth: 46′

Safety / Decompression Stops: 3 Min @ 15′

Start PSI: 2,840    End PSI: 472      Air/EANx:  35%

Exposure Protection: 5-Mil Full Wetsuit, Hood, Boots

Equipment: 3cf Spare Air, 2 Dive Lights, Scuba Pro Jet Fins

Notes:

After switching over the students scuba tanks and eating lunch we decided on doing a drift dive at Sea Cave. For a drift dive from the boat we would use a “negative entry” meaning that we would empty all the air out of our BCD’s and descend from the surface as quickly as possible so that the group is able to stay together.

After a site briefing on the boat and quickly checking the students to make sure their equipment was ready the captain maneuvered the boat into position for our entry. Once in position, everyone quickly entered the water one after another similar to paratroopers jumping out of a plane.

As we descended I looked around and counted that we had everyone in the group together then Nate headed toward the Sea Cave leading the group as I followed along behind. We reached the entrance of the Sea Cave at about 50′ and stopped for a moment to check the current patterns, then proceeded inside up to about 20′ depth at the back of the cave. Frequently we find the highly endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals playing around inside the cave and I was hoping we would find some on this trip, but unfortunately there were none to be found today.

We were able to find one of the area inhabitants that are rarely seen in the area though, a Dragon Moray Eel. Because people can sell them for a lot of money we don’t often see them so it was a treat to be able to see one today. I will try to check in on him on future dives here.

After checking out the Sea Cave for a few minutes we headed back out to continue our drift dive of the area.

Normally when I have dove this site as we leave the Sea Cave we always drift to the West along the wall, but todays currents were backwards so we drifted to the East along the wall at about 70′ deep for about another 20 minutes before we deployed a delayed surface marker buoy and started to slowly ascend and make our 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet.

Once surfaced we realized that the seas had changed over the last 45 minutes that we were down and it had become quite choppy on the surface. Once the boat had maneuvered back into position we all swam for the current line trailing behind the boat and made our way back up the ladder.

Unfortunately the only injury of the dive came while floating on the surface waiting to get back aboard the boat when I was stung on the back of my hand by a jelly fish because I had forgotten my gloves onboard when I was assisting the students and reading them for their entry. I am severely allergic to jelly fish and insect stings/bites so I was very concerned. I had no idea how good he got me so as soon as I was back on the boat I readied my EpiPen just in case I started having an anaphylactic reaction to the sting. My chest started tightening making it difficult to breath easily but it was still manageable so I held off on administering the shot and applied a hot compress to my hand which was temporarily partly paralyzed from the sting and continued to monitor my breathing and pulse rate.

About half an hour later my breathing improved as we headed back into shore and I started to be able to move my hand again. Since the feeling was coming back into my hand, unfortunately so was the searing pain which subsided after I kept applying hot compresses to it for the rest of the night along with taking a Vicodin for the pain and 10 Benadryl tablets to help stop the rest of the reaction from the sting.

If anyone was to get stung on the dive I am glad it was me and not one of the students or other customers that we had on the boat today, so all in all it was a good day.

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