Before reading this please note: This is my personal experience of how my perspective towards diving has changed and how i plan to approach diving going forward. Please excuse me if my terminology is not 100% accurate, corrections/criticisms are always welcome.
Since i started diving in nov 07, i have always been around technical divers mainly because at the time hollywood divers used to have a monthly charter to oil rigs and couple of times i was the only guy in wetsuit with rental gear. My 8th or 10th dive is on the oil rigs and i have always wanted to explore the depth of the rigs.
For the past couple of years my dive time has been restricted by risk of going into deco rather than limited the amount of gas (note the change in terminology 🙂 ) i have in my tank. This has been one of the main reasons that i want to get into technical diving i.e. to increase my bottom time and not necessarily going deeper.
For technical diving I wanted my instructor to be Karim Hamza from Hollywood Divers and for that i knew i had to go through the GUE route. I waited a while to take GUE Fundies because i thought i could do it in doubles only and i don’t see myself getting into doubles anytime soon.
When Jim and Thomas who were my buddies for the north carolina trip decided to take fundies and the fact that i could do it in singles, i decided to join them even it meant that i had to take vacation mid week.
Instead of describing what we did in the course, i want to mention how taking this course has changed the way i will dive in future and the things i learned that will help me become a better diver and an instructor in future.
While going over the class theory it was surprising to me on how the calculations of SCR, Bottom time etc were made easy and while being aggressive about diving it was conservative at the same time.
The calculations of minimum gas using the all useable rule, 1/2 and 1/3 rd rules was made easy and it made sense. Me and my dive buddy randomly calculate at what psi we should be ascending but now i can make an accurate and safe calculation for the same.
The rule of 130 with 32% Nitrox is easy to remember but i love to go little deeper than 100 ft, not by much more like 110-115 so i will have to adjust little bit or just rely on my dive computer to go with deco times. It will be interesting to find out what my dive computer has to say about the rule, it will depend on the algorithm i suppose, and whether or not i will always go into deco according to my computer.
I will definitely stick to the min deco plans and i already have been doing level stops on all the dives but it will be tricky to calculate multi level profiles, the rule says that 90 min SI will reduce the loading by half but getting 90 min SI is not always possible.
So i plan to use my dive computer mainly but also keep in mind the rule of 130 and not to exceed it.
Next thing i want to focus is the dive gear. When the dive goes well it doesn’t really matter but the whole point is to minimize the chances of failure and specially in technical diving the error margin gets even smaller.
i have had a steel backplate and a donut wing but the harness isn’t a single piece webbing and it has a quick release buckle. The buckle is to make it easier to get out of the harness but i haven’t used it even once so i don’t see point to it and if it breaks underwater then i will have a hard time with it.
My regulators are poseidon xtreme which work great but they are upstream regulators so if the first stage fails there won’t be any free flow through the regs. again game over if it fails at depth and buddy isn’t close.
After the course i changed the harness to have a single webbing and invested in a new pair of regulators. Granted my gear hasn’t failed on me “yet” but why do i want to take a chance. Not to mention that the purge button on my poseidons is on the side instead of the front and imagine someone trying to purge it in case of emergency and would be like why is this not working. I have had people tell me this when they used my regulator but i never paid much attention to it.
Having the right gear isn’t enough but how to use it correctly matters too, i have been using long hose since i started diving but i didn’t know until the fundies on how to deploy it correctly and share gas with someone out of air.
Prior to the course i would have definitely donated my primary but i didn’t know how to properly deploy the long hose and not get it tangled with my light cord etc.
Every time i dive the oil rigs i carry a safety sausage but it can be deployed only at the surface.
i can definitely think of one situation where carrying a smb alone with a reel and deploying it would have given me a lot of relief but luckily for me the current didn’t sweep me away on that dive and i surfaced close to the boat. Now i carry smb with me along with a reel all the time and have the knowledge/confidence to deploy it in case of an emergency. Same is the case with mask, a spare is carried all the time.
The finning techniques i learn’t have definitely helped me as i work towards being a divemaster and being in a class with students. using the back kick, helicopter turn i can adjust my position all the time. I might not have the most efficient kicking techniques but its a work in progress.
I did put back on my transmitter for air pressure but i can see how easily it can be a hazard while doing valve drills, for now i would like to keep it so that the dive computer can calculate my SCR but eventually i plan to record starting and ending psi and calculate SCR myself. I have also blocked out the part of my dive computer which shows the air pressure so that i can practice looking at my spg for air pressure and i try to keep track of it mentally too.
Buoyancy in dry suit specially at 10 ft stop has always been an issue for me since sometimes i just can’t get air out of legs. it will require more work on my part for this but i can definitely feel that my trim has improved though it needs to be more consistent. I have been lazy about trim but do not plan to be like that anymore.
One of the first things that you would learn while diving is never hold your breath which is not entirely true, you can hold your breath while diving just make sure you don’t ascend while doing it.
While performing all the skills specially regulator removal or switching to backup to maintain buoyancy you can’t exhale completely, some bubbles are ok but if you let a whole breath out then you are going to descend. I had trouble with that and had to control my habit of blowing out bubbles even while mask removal and replacement. It is a bad habit that i have to get over and make sure that my buoyancy and trim remain the same while doing all the skills.
Finally i really like the emphasis placed on fitness, i am not a smoker but this class doesn’t allow anyone who smokes due to health reasons. Not only that but to consistently maintain trim, carry all the gear you have to be in good physical shape.
One of the reasons i didn’t pass, apart from my spectacularly failed swim test at this time i can’t swim even 100m and i am working on it, was failure to maintain my trim consistently which involved arching my back and on the last dive my tired body couldn’t take it anymore. I just have to keep working at it.
Overall after taking GUE Fundies there is no doubt in my mind that i have become a lot more safe and competent diver. The journey is not yet over, it has only begun….