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What’s your favourite dive site?

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SDI/TDI/ERDI

Top 13 Dive Sites According to SDI/TDI/ERDI Staff

by Cris Merz

I was asked to put down a list of the top ten destinations in the Caribbean according to Yelp and decided against it. You can “Yelp” it yourself.

Instead, I wanted to make this article a little more personal, so I went from office to office here at TDI/SDI/ERDI World HQ and asked everyone what their favorite dive site was. Everyone has a favorite dive site or destination and there are usually different reasons for it; historic and sentimental reasons, the awe of the magnificence and amazing, or simply the fact that it had an impact on them personally, career wise or emotionally that was a life changer. As I asked the question, I gave no one time to think about the answer – “First place that pops into your mind – GO!!!” I commanded.

“My Favorite Dive Site” according to World HQ’s Staff, in their own words

Sean Harrison – Nigali Pass, Fiji

Nigali Pass is a narrow passage through a barrier reef on the island of Gau. The site is dived on an incoming tide, and when the tide is right, it’s a fun ride that is action packed. The drop is just on the outside of the reef and as you drift in through the narrow pass (maybe 150’ wide) you are greeted by every possible sighting known, and unknown, to the South Pacific marine life. On these dives there were: schools of Mobula Rays, Potato Groupers, schools of every Anthias there is, Garden Ells, nudibranchs, corals (hard and soft), and sharks – you name the shark and it would be in there. The sharks were of course the biggest attraction.

The walls of the pass were like stadium seating and as divers tucked into their spot on the walls, the sharks got comfortable – and I mean really comfortable. Due to the current flowing through, the sharks were able to swim slowly ahead and pass within an arm’s reach.  At the end of the dive you left your spot on the wall and drifted over into the lagoon over a shallow patch of the most beautiful Cabbage Patch Coral I have ever seen teeming with even more marine life.

Stephanie Miele – Fort Wetherill, Rhode Island

Fort Wetherill brings back many fond memories for me. It was where my first open water dives were done while in college and where I met my husband.  Since those initial open water dives I have been back to Fort Wetherill with my own students, with fun dives with my husband and now I am taking my son to experience the area as well. The water temperature is chilly but I have been able to get some great visibility and experience some very playful seals while diving, which was epic. All in all it is a great site for open water divers, those looking to practice skills, and a very cool pleasure dive.

Ryan Conery – Lowrance, Pompano, Florida

Sitting upright in 210’ of water is the Lowrance. This 420’ Canadian freighter was sunk as an artificial reef off the coast of Pompano Beach, Florida in 1984. Throughout her life, she had several names including the Ciudad de Cali and the Rio Amazonas. Hot dropping this wreck is an exhilarating feeling. As you descend, it seems to take forever. You continually wonder whether or not you missed it. Finally, at the last second, the massive ship appears out of nowhere. Teeming with life, schools of Amberjack encircle you. Giant Goliath Grouper pack into the cargo holds. The ship is littered with swim-throughs and penetration opportunities, but you have to weasel your way past the Grouper to fit down the narrow hallways. Barracuda stealthily suspend themselves above the deck, looking for some bait that strays too far from the shoal. This deep wreck houses an enormous diversity of pelagic species. Make sure to bring a cutting device as fishing line drapes across the super structure. Hands down, it is my favorite dive.

Darren Pace – Isla Mureres, Mexico        

Hola Amigo! Okay, so this isn’t an actual scuba dive site, but swimming with the whale sharks off the coast of Isla Mureres is a once in a lifetime experience. Every year, the world’s largest concentration of whale sharks migrates off the Yucatan Peninsula in the summer months. These gentle giants – which can reach 40ft (12m) or as large as a school bus, are hungry migrators, feeding on plankton and small fish eggs. This unique time and location presents an ideal opportunity to swim with these docile creatures up close and in their habitat. If you’re ready to scratch whale sharks off your bucket list, come down to the Yucatan and spend a day snorkeling with these beautiful fish. Got a couple more days?  Drive south about an hour and swim/dive the cenotes in Tulum, and don’t pass up the opportunity to eat great authentic Mexican food along the way. My vote is the fajitas, yum!

Jon Kieren – Indian Springs, Florida

Nestled in the quiet woodlands of Crawfordville, FL is beautiful YMCA owned Camp Indian Springs. The campgrounds were built around the 56 metre/185ft diameter spring pool, which serves as the entrance to my all-time favorite dive site.

The cave system at Indian Springs is gigantic, both in penetration distance and passage size. Best enjoyed on a scooter and rebreather, the majority of the bright white cave ranges from 30 metres/140 feet to 53 metres/175 feet deep until 1300 metres/4300 feet back where the cave opens up to a massive room named the “Wakulla Room”. The bottom of the Wakulla room is at approximately 75 meters/250 feet, where the passage continues further back and even deeper. The end of this beautiful cave has yet to be found, and is currently being explored.

My first dive at Indian was with my favorite dive buddy, my wife Lauren, and our good friends Dan, Jon, and Sandra for a photo shoot. Subsequent dives have been progressively larger dives further and further back. Our last dive there we explored back beyond the Wakulla Room to the Stargate Room, at a maximum depth of 84 meters/275 feet and a total run time of approximately 4 hours including decompression.

Special permission, Full Cave and Trimix certifications, and a guide are required to dive this site/ More information can be found on the Cave Connections website.

Lauren Kieren – North Star, St. Croix, USVI

My first thought for my favorite dive site was Indian Springs, in North Florida. After giving Cris my response, I quickly received a frustrated sigh followed by some strange grumbles. It seems that my answer was not suitable since Jon Kieren gave the same response earlier that day. After a few minutes of banter with Jon trying to get him to pick another site, I settled to discuss my second favorite dive site, North Star in St. Croix, USVI.

North Star was named after the old sugar plantation on shore. Accessible by land or boat, the site starts around 7 meters/25 feet plunging down a beautiful dramatic wall over 600+ meters/2000+ feet. Whether you are snorkeling, on the first dive of your life, a technical diver or anything in between, this site has something for you. For example, on a deep technical dive, you can find a large beautiful cavern around 82 meters/270 feet. Inside this cavern, there is a vertical chimney rising 15 meters/50 feet through the wall, opening at the top.  While decompressing and making your way to the shallows along the wall, you are likely to see schooling fish, barracuda, eels, sharks, eagle rays, the occasional pod of dolphins, seahorses, nudibranchs and more. You can even find large Danish anchors embedded in the coral! Up in the shallows lies a field of soft and hard corals with even more marine life to see. This is certainly my favorite reef dive and second favorite dive site.

Dennis Pulley – Bonaire, Netherland Antilles

Bonaire  is commonly referred to as one of the “ABC” (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) islands in the Caribbean, just off the coast of Venezuela. I fell in love with Bonaire the first time I visited there in the early 90’s. It is such a relaxing and laid back location to visit and affords topside sights to see in addition to the diving. Washington Park with parrots and flamingos is a sight to behold!

While you can dive off of boats, the shore diving is so easily accessible that I prefer it over the boat diving. Imagine grabbing a cylinder, setting up your system on the dock, walking to the end and jumping into crystal clear water that is 5 metres/15 feet to 6 metres/20 feet  deep. You make a very short swim to the top of a wall that drops to over 30 metres/100 feet.

The wall is teeming with marine life and you can quite literally spend an entire trip shore diving from your hotel area. Even the wreck of the Hilma Hooker located in 30 metres/100 feet of water can be easily reached from the shore.

Sally Camm – Tunnels, Jupiter, Florida

Close to home and easily accessible by boat, Tunnels has become my new favorite site (the previous being the OJ Walker in Lake Champlain). One of the cool things about Tunnels are the swim throughs (hence its name) and even someone like me, who is claustrophobic, can partake in the larger ones.

The top of the reef is filled with a variety of colorful corals and schooling fish; and if you swim beside it you will see a multitude of large sea turtles resting under the shelf. But don’t be so focused on the reef that you miss the excitement, because if you keep an eye out to the east and west of the ledge you will more than likely see Goliath Grouper, many sharks, and if you look closely – stingrays. Take your time and you will really be able to enjoy the abundance of life there.

Tunnels tops my list at #1 because it’s an “all in one” spot for seeing an assortment of large marine life, and averaging about 70ft/21m deep, it is a pretty nice, easy dive.

Paul Montgomery – Madison Blue, Florida

Seriously? You want me to pick one? How about one region? Will that work? All joking aside, my favorite dive site and favorite all time dive was at Madison Blue in Lee, Florida. And, it was my first dive there that sticks in my memory as if it were yesterday. My cave instructor had taken me there to be my “first dive on my own”, so my cave buddy Rob and I were really stoked. I had the reel. After a decent pre-dive briefing between us, we entered the basin and entered through the “Rabbit Hole”. After all, no need to use that giant opening right next to this restriction, let’s follow Alice. Nice little tie-off and off we go. Off we go just a little low and to the outside! From here, let me fill you in on some details. This dive was probably around 1997 or so, when Madison Blue was managed/operated privately. The management had taken over what had previously been a dumping ground and transformed it into an amazing dive site. Parking, tables, stairs to the basin, landscaping. Everything a cave diver could possibly want for. And on this particular day, we had the entire system to ourselves. As we arrived, the only other dive team was packing up to leave.

As I mentioned, I went just a little wide and from the corner of my mask, I saw the most amazing area of light. I had come to stop just inside the main opening but what made it amazing was that the basin surface was completely still, without a ripple. With a clear sky and beautiful landscaping, the reflection that I saw below the surface was breathtaking, actually, it was mesmerizing. Well, the dive just got better from there.

One of the reasons I became a cave diver was the influence of video footage of the Diepolder systems and its huge rooms. If you’ve been to Madison, you’ve no doubt been to the Godzilla Room, aptly named in that Godzilla could fit in it. Dropping thru the floor of the tunnel and then through a second hole, I found myself suspended in the room, pirouetting to take it all in. Perhaps a skilled writer could describe how I felt; I still am at a loss to describe it.

It wasn’t a long push, nor deep. It simply was one of the most amazing dives I have ever done.

Jordan Greene – Zion Train, Jupiter, Florida

One of my favorite dive sites happens to be a local spot off the coast of Jupiter, FL, just down the road from SDI/TDI/ERDI World HQ. Sitting in about 90 ft of water, the Zion Train has an interesting yearly event starting in the early summer months. As the Goliath Grouper spawning season arrives, you can expect to see dozens and dozens of VW Beetle-sized behemoths congregate around the Zion Train, making this wreck come alive with a forest of giants, often dwarfing the average-sized diver. A co-worker of mine (Jon Kieren) will sometimes dress as one of these Goliaths in hopes of getting in on some of the action.

An already thriving wreck filled with sharks, turtles, and tropical Caribbean fish, this site is thrilling in itself without the population of Goliaths that come along. The addition of the aggregation makes this a natural wonder and a top 5 dive spot in Florida for me. If you haven’t been to this site yet during this time of year, contact the local dive centers (Stuart Dive Center or Jupiter Dive Center) and ask about any upcoming trips, it’s one you don’t want to miss!

Cris Merz –  Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos, Ecuador

I spent 10 years diving there almost every week and it was “home”. It spoiled me for many years and it wasn’t until a few years back that I was able to appreciate diving for what it was again, blowing bubbles underwater and seeing great stuff.  Darwin’s Arch really left an impression on me because of the big animals, sea lions, yellow-fin tuna in bait balls, schooling hammerheads, and the majestic Galapagos shark – but the whale-sharks, such large but gentle creatures, made the place magical. “The Bus” we called them as we sat at our bus station on “The Platform” at 55ft waiting for them to swing by.

It often looked like they were moving so slow but once alongside them, you’d feel your legs kicking harder and harder just to keep up. It was simply an incredible and humbling place that allowed us to actually scuba dive with them until they decided it was time to go. The best was catching several sightings at once. It’s time to go back and see all my friends again, underwater and above.

Brian Carney – Narragansett Pier, RI

This dive site is a special place for me because of how many times I dove there and how many people I was able to experience this site with. It is a relatively easy entry and once you get in, depending on the time of year, you are greeted by a number of small animals. If you are lucky, schools of Striped Bass frequent the area. So much so, that I have been in 15 feet of water there, remaining still, and have had a school completely engulf me for 15 minutes.

It was also a place that I went to when I needed a little quiet time where I could just put my nose in a spot and look at all the small creatures that were abundant. The biggest hazard there is that it is occasionally used as a boat ramp,so diving right in front of the ramp is not a good idea, but by moving 200 yards up the coast in the rocks you can pretty much avoidboat traffic – but diving with a flag is a must.

Shawn Harrison – Night Dive on oil docks in Edmonds    

This is a very hard question to really answer because we all have had some incredible dives in our lifetime somewhere. To me, Alki Beach Cove #2 was some of the best dives I experienced (but I know there have been changes to this location over the years). This spot at night would always come alive with many different species: Dogfish, Spotted Ratfish, Squid, Six Gill sharks, and the famous Pacific Northwest Giant Octopus. You would see so many different things on each dive, every time. In fact, once on a dive with two other people, we came across this 55 gallon metal trash can sitting upright at around 60ft with nothing around (odd, yes) so we looked inside and sleeping in there was the largest Octopus any of us had ever seen – of course none of us had a camera with us. We hovered watching it for a while before we started off in another direction… but this was just one dive out of many that made this an incredible dive site.

staff-dive

There are such an amazing amount of experiences and stories from our staff that I am thinking I should write a book; I don’t believe it should be too difficult seeing that we are a company that focuses on dive training and are all divers, instructors, or instructor trainers. While some offices may have the water cooler talk on a Monday morning discussing last night’s “Big Game”, Monday mornings at SDI/TDI/ERDI usually start out with, “Where did you go diving this weekend?”

Now, we want to hear from you…what is your favorite site?

What is your favorite dive destination? Let us know in the comments below.

To find out more about International Training, visit www.tdisdi.com.

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From its humble beginning in 1994 to today, the group of training agencies Scuba Diving International (SDI), Technical Diving International (TDI), and Emergency Response Diving International (ERDI) form one of the largest diving certification agencies in the World – International Training. With 24 Regional Offices servicing more than 100 countries, the company today far exceeds the original vision the founders had when they conceived the idea on a napkin, sitting at a kitchen table in the early 1990’s.

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 3

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy as we publish part 3 in his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Today was planned to be our first day of open water diving in the Red Sea on the Roots’ House Reef. The Dive Centre and the House Reef are literally a 5-minute walk from the camp.  If some beneficiaries are unable to make the walk then transport is provided.

All your kit, weights, cylinders etc are laid out ready for you to assemble your kit.

For those who use wheelchairs there is a paving stone pathway from the dive centre to the entry point for the reef. This, as with the provision of four fully accessible rooms in the resort, was built by Steve Rattle and his team to meet Deptherapy’s needs and to make the resort and reef accessible to all divers with disabilities.

A point here: in many Adaptive Teaching/Disabled Diving Manuals it is suggested that dive centres might wish to purchase a beach wheelchair.  To justify the cost, you would need a considerable number of disabled clients who were unable to walk to the ocean entry point as they cost circa £3000.  Using an individual’s wheelchair across sandy beaches is difficult and not a good idea. Many wheelchairs, such as Corey’s, cost thousands of pounds and getting sand/grit in the bearings can result in costly repairs.  So, at Roots the staff have adapted and overcome the challenge, with the beach wheelbarrow.  A foam pad is placed in the bottom and a towel draped over it.  It is effective and allows divers like Corey to be taken to the beach, the wheelbarrow is pushed into shallow water and the diver either gets out of the transport himself or is lifted out by the Roots team.  Everyone finds it a lot of fun!

Your transport awaits!

Working with those with life-changing mental and/or physical challenges does require careful risk management, not just in the general risk models for groups of divers but individual risk assessments.

On the Deptherapy Education Professionals’ Course and adopted in all our programmes is the ‘Three Tick Model’. Before taking an individual diving, each of the following must be ticked off:

  • Doctor certifies student fit to dive
  • Student signs assumption of Liability and Risks
  • Instructor is happy given the medical information to instruct the student.

As an Instructor, or as a dive centre owner you may wish to check that your insurance covers you for working with those with severe disabilities.

The instructor will meet with the student and complete a personalised risk assessment and will review whether there have been any changes in the student’s physical or mental health since their consultation with their doctor (in our case an AMED or Dive Referee).  They will also check that the medication or its daily dosage has not changed.

In terms of those with severe challenges, an AMED or a Dive Referee may require full disclosure of medical records before making a decision.  For Deptherapy we also reserve the right to refer a final decision to our two medical advisors, Dr Mark Downs or Dr Oli Firth, both of whom have considerable experience in dive medicine.

At the end of Day 1 the team were happy for Keiron to move forward; he is a strong, fit man and a capable diver who gives 100%.  Corey is an amazing guy and was very quickly embraced as a member of the Deptherapy ‘family’. But sometimes there has to be tough love and in Deptherapy we are always very open with our beneficiaries.  Some reach a level of certification beyond which they cannot progress.  For Corey there was a serious discussion with the teaching team. He had completed his skills in the pool and met the standard required BUT none of us, especially me, had any confidence that he was the standard to be an Open Water Diver.  A hard message to give to a young man who already had a certification card that said he was an Open Water Diver.  He had either not been taught properly and certified without having met the required standards or he had forgotten all he had learned.  My view is he is a bright young man and that the former reason must be correct.

Corey, Keiron and Swars between confined dives by the Roots pool

The RAID definition of mastery:

When a student/learner can comfortably demonstrate proficiency and competence, when completing an entire motor skill including all the components of the skill in a manner that demonstrates minimal stress or hesitation.’

Each mainstream diving training agency defines mastery in similar terms. It was not Corey’s ability to do the skills, it was his ability to ‘dive’ that concerned us.

If weather conditions are right, the Roots House Reef meets the requirements for a ‘confined environment’ and on Day 3 it did.

Entry to the reef is through a channel and it goes from extremely shallow to 3-5 metres.  There is a rope that allows a diver to control their descent and for use at the end of a dive if the current is running.

Most instructors will have seen nervous divers who say they have ear issues, not at a depth when there is any noticeable change in pressure, and those who continually fidget with their masks and other kit in an attempt to avoid descent. Corey displayed these traits.

We made the decision to move to the open water as it would give Corey more of an opportunity to get himself in a horizontal position rather than the upright position we saw in the pool.  We struggled to get him down the line and into the sea.  Eventually after much hard work we got there.  He maintained the upright position and was using tiny arm and hand movements to propel himself forward.  His buoyancy was poor.  We decided to end this session and return to the pool.

A note here on trim and posture in the water for both amputees and those with paraplegia.  When working with a leg amputee, especially a bilateral amputee, their balance at the surface is often poor, they tip forward, backwards and from side to side. This is often to do with weighting but also the fact that they do not have legs to weigh them down or to balance them.  They also are often unaware of where their stumps (the term for the part of the limb remaining) are, and their stumps come up at right angles to their body.  We have exercises to make amputees aware of this.

Those with paraplegia adopt a different stance, often they are upright in the water and their legs trail down, even when in trim their legs hang below the rest of their body.  The team needs to ensure that the diver is properly weighted and that the horizontal position in the water in reinforced.  Spatial awareness also needs to be created in the diver so that their legs and feet do not drag along the bottom or come into contact with coral.  They need to become aware of where their legs and feet are in the water.

This was very hard for Corey and I was quite honest that he needed to improve considerably and learn to dive properly before I would allow him to move forward. He was gutted but up for the challenge, and what we saw over the next few days was a man committed to succeed!

Michael and Keiron

So back to the pool with Oatsie and Michael. We went through all the skills for RAID OW20 twice and focussed on buoyancy, performing the skills neutrally buoyant, getting Corey in trim and teaching him how to swim underwater without the use of his legs.  It is a pity that Chris Middleton, one of our divemasters and a bilateral amputee had to miss the expedition because of wisdom tooth surgery. Chris is a role model of how to swim underwater without the use of your legs.

Although I, all our Instructors and our DMs/TDMs can demonstrate how to swim underwater, not using your legs and using a modified free diving stroke, it is far better for someone with no legs or no use of their legs to demonstrate the skill.

By the end of the day Corey had progressed substantially and the Red Sea awaited him on Day 4.

Keiron had progressed well with his instructor Moudi and Swars and was getting added value with extra work on advanced buoyancy and SMB and DSMB deployment.

Tomorrow I will talk a little more about our TDMs; we expect very high standards from them.  Michael and the two Toms have over 100 dives each. Michael dived with us in Chuuk Lagoon and both Toms have been on Red Sea liveaboards. We look for them to go beyond DM level and to progress to Instructor level.  Swars had delayed the start of his DM programme, initially because of work and then COVID. He impressed, and here again, veterans have some advantages as they are used to briefings and therefore when you give them a model for a briefing they can quickly pull a high quality briefing together.

RAID Skill Briefing Checklist and OW20 slates

Throughout the week I found the RAID skills briefing slate excellent for the TDMs and the plastic skills slates are a great aide memoire for the whole team.


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 2

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Join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy as we publish part 2 in his Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

So here we are at Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt, and it is our first day of diving.

We have two students – Corey who is new to Deptherapy, and Keiron who is undertaking his RAID Master Rescue Course and has progressed from learning to dive with us. We also have three trainee divemasters: Tom Oates ‘Oatsie’, Tom Swarbrick ‘Swars’, and Michael. Each has progressed from OW diver with the charity.

Michael prepares Corey for a deep water entry into the Roots pool

As all our programme members are open about their mental and or physical challenges these are the challenges they face:

Corey is 20 years old and was involved in a horrendous car accident while he was training to be a soldier with the Royal Anglian Regiment.  The accident resulted in his spine being broken at T1 and T4.  He is now paraplegic, unable to walk and he has no sensation in his legs.

Keiron was in the Scots’ Guards and served two tours in Afghanistan. He has Chronic PTSD.

Oatsie was in the Scots Guards and served one tour in Afghanistan. He has Chronic Complex PTSD.

Swars was in the Royal Anglian Regiment and he served two tours of Afghanistan. He has survivor guilt and Chronic PTSD from his first tour, and on his second tour he was shot by a sniper, losing five pints of blood and his life was saved by the excellence of battlefield medics. That tour compounded his PTSD.

Oatsie and Swars are both Deptherapy Ambassadors.

Michael was in the Royal Engineers and he has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Chronic PTSD. Michael is a Trustee of the charity and looks after Programme Member Liaison.

Corey and trainee divemaster Tom Oates in the pool

Every Deptherapy beneficiary has to undertake a ‘fit to dive’ medical with an HSE Approved Medical Examiner of Divers (AMED) or a Doctor who is a ‘Dive Referee’. A GP ‘sign off’ is not acceptable to Deptherapy as some conditions and medications are contraindicated to scuba diving.

After sorting out kit the whole team were required to undertake a Scuba Review as, with the exception of Michael and myself, none had been diving since last year.

Adaptive teaching requires a special mindset from instructors and divemasters. There are no experts in adaptive teaching, although some profess such expertise. Some, like myself, are very experienced in working with those who have a range of life-changing mental and or physical challenges, but we do not have all the answers.  There are no “I know the answers” in adaptive teaching, every student is different, every student is an individual.

The huge danger is that ‘experts’ say I have already taught a paraplegic so teaching this paraplegic is the same; it is not!

The physical or psychological manifestation of the injury or illness is a mechanical issue, the skill is to see past the challenges and see the person you are working with – the real person. 

Many have been living with their conditions for many years and have adapted to overcome the challenges that their injury or condition presents them with.

An example: Can you tie a neck tie using one hand? I bet not!  I know two Deptherapy programme members who can do that and tie their shoelaces in the same way.

Your job, as an Instructor, is to allow the student to achieve the standards necessary for them to be certified as a diver. In Deptherapy we work to full mainstream certification; for us, the base is RAID Open Water Diver.  We do not use the RAID Restricted Certifications of D1, D2, D3.

Veterans have a can-do mindset and very much want full certification and not a certification card that has the word ‘disabled’ on it.  Do not look at what our beneficiaries achieve and think then that every person who wants to learn to dive and has a physical or mental challenge will apply themselves with such vigour.  Veterans are used to ‘drills’ so skills are easy for them to learn and to master.

It’s important not be afraid to ask the student “This is what you have to do to achieve the required standard for a skill and ask how they might perform that skill.”

So, we prepared for the pool! Keiron is a known quantity for us, he is a good diver who had completed all his RAID on-line learning, quizzes and the final exam. Corey was new to us having qualified as a PADI Open Water diver on a trip to the Florida Keys with another charity last year.

Oatsie asking if Corey is OK during the RAID OW 20 Confined Dives skills

Our intention was to put Corey through his RAID Advanced 35 Course. He had completed all the online learning, and passed the quizzes and exams. Corey is a lovely person; he has a great personality and a determination to succeed in everything he does.  As a person, the whole team absolutely loved him.

When kitting up and about to complete a deep-water entry into the pool it became clear that Corey, who is a bright young man, had never carried out some of the skills to the standard required to be an Open Water Diver.  We therefore decided to take him through the RAID OW 20 Confined Water dives with our TDMs Oatsie and Michael, who have excellent skill demonstration abilities, running the sessions under my close supervision.

While Oatsie and Michael worked with Corey on Day 1, Swars worked with Keiron whose instructor was Moudi, the Roots General Manager and a very experienced instructor, through the pool dives of the RAID Master Rescue Course.

Keiron, trainee divemaster Tom Swarbrick, and instructor Moudi in the pool

For those with physical challenges such as paraplegia or missing limbs, weighting becomes of absolute importance.  Paraplegics who have no sensation or movement in their legs swim with a leg down posture.  If not balanced with correct weighting they swim underwater in an upright position and not horizontally.  Corey assumed this upright position.  In Deptherapy we use ‘Bright Weights’ that are attached to the BCD at chest level to help get the student in a horizontal position.  Corey had never done a forward descent but had done ‘legs down’ descents and had only dived with support.

Michael and Oatsie did a tremendous job in building up Corey’s skills and confidence. Deptherapy has very high standards when it comes to qualifying divers and we insist on pushing boundaries.  Because of the negative stance that many in the diving industry take about divers with disabilities, our expectation is that our students will exceed the required standards.

An Instructor who shows pity or sympathy for a disabled individual and allows them to qualify as divers when they clearly have not met the required standards firstly puts that student at risk, it puts their buddy at risk, and it damages the reputation of all those disabled divers across the world who have met the required standards.

Despite starting from a low base, our determination was by the end of the week to turn Corey into a more than competent RAID Open Water Diver capable of safely being an independent diver, diving with and being able to support a buddy if they required assistance.

Corey, being Corey, accepted the challenge and knew that he had a lot to do. It says a lot about this young man that he faced the challenge square on.

Keiron meanwhile had successfully navigated his way through his confined water dives.

A relaxing and positive evening followed where everyone got to know each other and to talk openly about their challenges and how they dealt with them.

Check back tomorrow as we move to our first day of Open Water training on the magnificent Roots’ House Reefs.


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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