My Training Background
My initial Open Water Scuba Instructor certification was through NASDS, in 1987. Since then, I have also trained divers through NAUI, IANTD, SDI, and TDI. Currently, I am an active technical instructor through SDI/TDI, and became certified as a SDI/TDI Scubability Instructor, for special needs divers, in 2015.
I have held a surface supplied commercial diving certification for both air and mixed gas since 1983, when I graduated from the Divers Academy of the Eastern Seaboard. IAND (before they became IANTD) certified me as Trimix Diver #61 in 1992, and as a Trimix Instructor in 1996. Starting in 1998, I earned my first rebreather certification for the AURA CCR-2000, and have since been certified on fully closed circuit rebreather diving for the Inspiration, Evolution, Ouroboros, and Megalodon, as well as Trimix rebreather diving to 500 feet, rebreather diving in caves, and I am Full Cave certified.
I held a 200 Ton Masters certificate issued by the United States Coast Guard, and I have operated numerous dive boats going as far back as 1987, when I crewed for Captain Bill Nagle on the dive vessel, Seeker.
Perfection is impossible, but striving for perfection is, well, perfect.
Like it or not, we are what we repeatedly do.
This would make excellence, or failure, more of a habit than a special event. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said something similar. If we are going to be successful at diving, we need consistency. We need to learn what it is that we should do, and then try to do it the same way, every time we go diving.
Habits form naturally. It is part of our human psychology. Since we are creatures of habit, we want to develop good habits, not bad ones. Once habits are formed we cannot eliminate them, however we do have the ability to modify them. Over time and with repetition, we can replace bad habits with good habits. We essentially have to outsmart ourselves.
I know I am not perfect, and I do not expect perfection from others, but I do expect students to learn from the minor mistakes they will inevitably make, just as I do. I train my students to be prepared for their dives, both physically and intellectually. I want them to plan dives thoroughly, well within all of their limitations, and then be committed to executing their plans. I emphasize self-reliance, as opposed to dependency. You can be self-reliant 100% of the time. You can only be dependent when you are diving with someone else who has nothing better to do than take care of you.
Stress comes in multiple forms, and it is bad for divers. Actually, it can be lethal. Stressors are circumstances, conditions, or events that demand some sort of adaptation on our part. So, if we want to be consistent, it is stressors that will work against us in the water. If you understand this, then you will understand the importance of minimizing stress.
Stress management is 100% preparation.
Utilizing our experience and education, we need to fully identify and understand what real potential stressors we may encounter for any particular dive. Identifying what can potentially go wrong allows us to prepare in ways to avoid those stressors as much as possible, while still having a contingency plan to deal with them should they ultimately occur.
Don't plan to run out of gas!! Plan and conduct your dive in a way as to not run out of gas, but also know what sensible contingency options are available, should you or someone else be so incredibly selfish as to run out of gas.
I will try to make this not sound like a rant, but I love to rant on CO2. Sorry.
Years ago when I started doing a lot of deep air diving on the Andrea Doria, I discovered that when I was working hard or swimming hard on the dive (so therefore under stress) I had a lot of narcosis, and I felt like crap. Some days it was difficult to even remember what had happened on the bottom, despite the fact I was actively trying to stay focused! On those dives where my physical exertion was minimal, I was relaxed and comfortable. On these dives, the effects of nitrogen narcosis were almost nonexistent, and easily managed.
Basically, with minimal exertion I felt better and got more done. Eventually, I figured out what worked, and what did not work. I tried to consistently minimize my expenditure of energy, but also understood that exerting myself, although counterproductive, was sometimes necessary. I learned to identify problems, develop ways to avoid them completely, and should I fail at that, minimize the impact of stressors by having a contingency plan.
What works, works. I knew what worked, I just did not know why? More recently, science has explained what I already knew. The problem was not nitrogen, it was CO2! Not only does conserving energy and minimizing overall stress greatly lessen the level of narcosis, and make the diver feel better, but it also reduces the chance of oxygen toxicity and DCS. On this subject there are two brilliant papers by Dr Johnny Brian, which are required reading for my students, Carbon Dioxide, Narcosis, and Diving, and Mechanisms of Hyperoxic Seizures. I try to train students in ways to conserve energy, be prepared, be self reliant, and to minimize overall stress.
Having a dive plan, not just a simple dive profile, is imperative for deep decompression or wreck penetration dives. You need to understand the dive, so you can properly plan the dive. If you cannot properly plan the dive, how can you make the dive without relying on luck? Simply surviving a dive does not prove you know anything, if you were just lucky.
There is an expression in commercial diving.
Never do anything in the water, that you can do topside.
In essence, maximize the diver's safety and productivity underwater by making sure everything is as prepared as it can be, prior to the diver getting in the water. The diver's time is valuable. On deep wreck or technical dives... isn't your time valuable? Make the most of it by being totally prepared prior to splashing.
Develop a solid plan, including contingencies, within the limits of your education, equipment, and experience. Implement the preparation from the plan, so you are ready for the dive. In the water, stick to the plan! It is not hard, it is not rocket surgery, but it takes effort and discipline.
On the subject of decompression, my perspective it is pretty simplistic. Diving physiology is molecular, variable, and very complex. Decompression algorithms are just numbers, approximating all that complex stuff. Regardless, there is one, and only one, single cause of decompression sickness, and that is........ not doing enough decompression!!
If you do enough decompression, you do not get bent.
Once you have left the bottom, you need to do the decompression for the particular bottom time you just did. I train students to figure out how much deco is enough, by understanding the dive ahead of time, understanding human physiology, and interpreting the dive on the fly.
Doing more conservative profiles, or doing additional decompression beyond that required by the profile (shallower than the Magic Depth of 30'), is cheap insurance against DCS. Track your dive using a quality dive computer that gives you all the data you need, if not more, and be willing to adjust your decompression as needed.
IMHO Deep Stops, or Pyle Stops, do not work. I believe they increase, as oppose to decrease, the inherent risks of DCS. It appears that the US Navy Experimental Diving Unit basically agrees with me in their paper on the use of deep stops, Redistribution of Decompression Stop Time From Shallow To Deep Stops Increases Incidence of Decompression Sickness in Air Decompression Dives. This is another paper which I think every diver should read.
All of us do not see diving in exactly the same way, and this is even more true when it comes to technical diving. Which technique, piece of equipment, procedure, or philosophy is best? It depends on a lot of things and is as simple as.. one size does not fit all. There is seldom just one right way, or just one wrong way, to accomplish or fail at something.
Becoming expert at diving is dependent on understanding exactly that. I don't teach my courses today the way I did 5 years ago, because I do not dive today, the way I did 5 years ago. Diving itself is dynamic, and evolving. Our goals, equipment, techniques, and what we know, will evolve over time. Times change, and diving will continue to change, for the better. We are all part of that change.
For example, researcher Dominic D'Agostino has been experimenting with rats, Ketones, and oxygen toxicity. His research has shown that Ketone esters can greatly reduce the rats susceptibility to ox tox hits. This research is ongoing, and happening now!
Can what we eat help protect divers from oxygen toxicity? How does this research relate to what we know about Oxygen, CO2, DCS, physiological depth limits, and gas selection for our dives? Only time will tell. Our diving is changing because the science relating to our diving is changing.
Training in 2018
My home is in South Florida, and I regularly dive out of Pompano Beach, for fun. I enjoy working with students, and I teach as much as scheduling and the seasons allow. I offer my own version of Advanced Wreck, Decompression Diver, Basic Trimix, and Advanced Trimix, and an Intro to Tech course with Alec Hutchinson. All of these are all 3 day courses. I also teach a Combined Advanced Wreck/ Decompression Diver course that is a 5 day course.
All of these courses are for Open Circuit divers, with the exception of Advanced Wreck, which is for certified Open or Closed Circuit divers. For all these classes, we work hard to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Prior to the start of the class, I provide students with lots of information for them to review. This helps students to arrive prepared and comfortable, not stressed. I am all about minimal stress.
I also train individuals and small groups who prefer working privately with me, often wanting to prepare for specific destinations, like the Andrea Doria or Truk Lagoon. About a third of my classes are private classes.
The courses I teach are a reflection of the lessons I have learned over time, and the practical insights I have derived from my diverse diving background. I teach what works for me, and has enabled me to survive and thrive in the deep wreck environment.