Newbie With Doubles (A Year later)
I am ending my second year of diving. This put me at just over 100 logged dives. There are some dives I haven't bothered to log. If they were too basic and I really didn't learn much from them, they didn't make it to paper. After my bad dives in NC with doubles, I was rightly advised to get more formal training. I've done that. My diving has improved and I've discovered some interesting facts. This little paper is an attempt to capture a few observations of mine and recap where I am.
I don't tell other folks how to dive, nor do I puff my chest and swagger by OW students. People can read this and agree or disagree with it. I will continue to do what I do.
Fact #1: I always need more training. I also need time in the water to digest, and practice the skills I've been taught. I'll be seen taking a stage bottle with me in the quarry to 90' and just swimming with it, fine. I do that. Some other folks wonder 'Why does he have that third tank ?'. The answer is, I'm practicing. I am increasing my task load so I can function normally with it. My canister light is in the same category. If I wear it in a quarry it is overkill. I know that. But I want my gear to be a part of me underwater. If something feels wrong I fix it at the water's edge. Smooth operation is what I expect and demand of my gear, and myself in the water. I am not there yet. I will get there with practice.
Fact #2: Everyone has advice, and some advice is bad. Reading the published books, web pages, and communicating with various divers with different levels of expertise has both enlightened and confused me. I watch the more experienced divers closely. Some of their gear looks clean and functional. If I see a DIR rig I pay extra attention. When I see an experienced diver don a real cluster of regs, tanks, and other oddities, I stop and try to figure out what is going on. I am not so quick to believe I am seeing an idiot gearing up for a dive. But I have learned some people have been trained to configure their gear in unsafe manners. Call them what you want, they are just people following bad advice (possible their own) or they know something I don't. I listen to many people. But I only take advice from a few. I am ultimately responsible for what I do.
Fact #3: Diving has both physical and psychological demands that must be met for safe participation. I am 38, overweight and out of shape. In my prime I could *blah-blah blah* ahhhh bullshit. That doesn't help me now. Exercise and diet are part of my training. My shoulders are not fit for upper body work. After swimming my joints hurt due to bad tendons. I went to physical therapy to get trained in how to build up my shoulders. My SAC rate is lousy. I take walks and swim when I can to get basic aerobic exercise. I don't like to run, but I do have a bike to ride now too. So far, the 24 hour day has kept me from really exercising like I should. Between kids, work, and school I'm lucky to get much done. But a key thing is, I'm trying. Even salad has made it to my table from time to time. I grab carrots and apples instead of chocolate bars. Grapefruit juice is more often in my glass instead of soda. I am the most important gear that goes in the water. I must take care of me.
Fact #4: The difficult dives are great training that makes the easier dives more enjoyable. My instructor and I jumped off a dive boat at 2:00AM for an ocean dive on a wreck in the mid-atlantic. That was my first ocean night dive. That was one spooky environment to me. The wreck was not a debris field. It was a hulking monster of metal, full of areas for penetration. My light had a 100 watt bulb and it seemed to do little to show me the environment I was in. I was wondering if I'd swim off into a hold without even knowing I'd penetrated. I'd swim a few feet from the anchor line and then peer into the dark afraid to go further. When my instructor turned the dive I was relieved. As we swam back I reeled in and discovered my line had found a line trap in the form of some jagged wreckage. Incredible ! This was only 30 or so feet from the anchor. Back on the boat, I discovered the stress was gone. But, it had been replaced with the urge to try again ! I wanted to night dive again soon. Maybe not this wreck. But rather a low lying debris field where I could get more practice in in the dark ocean. I have since gone back to the quarries at night and had long relaxing dives. Each time I push my personal limits, they grow. As long as I can safely do that, I will continue.
Fact #5: Narcosis is very real and dangerous even at shallow levels. On more than one occasion, I've surfaced and thought, "What was I thinking ?". This is my usual response to doing something stupid, like snarling my reel, or not taking advantage of my opportunity to grab a lobster. At 100' in a cold dark section of a quarry I signaled my buddy to ascend. The murk was making it a less than fun place. As I ascended, I noticed my drysuit exhaust valve wasn't venting. I manually pressed it, and then turned it to open more fully. It still failed to vent. At 80' I realized I was closing it instead of opening it. Now, bear in mind, I dive dry constantly. At least two dives every other weekend. So why did I fail to do what I normally do all the time. The dive was stressful because of the dark, murk, and cold. But I think that alone would not make me lose clockwise, counterclockwise skills. The best answer I have is, mild narcosis set in. In the forgiving environment of a quarry, that *mild* is acceptable. But it does point out that many dives involve some degree of impairment. Practiced skills are more likely to function while a diver is impaired. So I got to practice more. Not all environments are forgiving. Conclusion (for now...) I could continue but the odds are I'd be beating one of many dead horses in tech diving. Or worse, I could start to rant about the things in the dive industry that piss me off. But that's not the purpose of this paper. I have noticed some others divers are extending invitations to dive with me. My dive buddies ask for me again and that is a good feeling. They have some faith that I wont get them killed. I take all that as a sign I am improving. If you are struggling to grasp the basics of diving, you're not alone. Write down your observations. Post them. Ask your questions and argue your points. A lot of us students are listening, reading and hopefully learning from other experienced divers, the pros, and maybe each other.
Good luck on all your dives.
**** Since this is my web site(JT), I will add a few comments about this diver who remains nameless. If you have read all the stories titled "Newbie w/ doubles" you should for just a moment put yourself in this divers fins. Most would have long gave up and took up a much easier hobby. But here is a diver who has shown me that success is not measured in depth, distance, and time, but the overpowering will that he has to do his very best. Hard work and training have taken this diver to new goals, as he has already past his previous goals.