New PADI Divers

38th Parallel Divers at NamaeIt was an early start for all of us on Saturday morning and all met up at Gangneung bus terminal from where we departed to Namae Dive resort. It was a hectic busy day with more scuba divers in Namae than locals. Things were very busy and chaotic and before long Krystal and Peter were off to their first open water dive. Between all the chaos and busy bees we could not have had a better time with model students Krystal and Peter.  We ran through all the skills like they were scuba diving for years. They rarely made any mistakes and had no problem with any of the skills. Water conditions were fantastic with an average visibility on Saturday of 12m and water temperature of 23 degrees Celsius.

We rocked out 3 dives on Saturday and then headed for our accommodation at Program Motel and to drop our bags and then headed straight to Gangneung for dinner. We feasted on some Pork BBQ with a variety of delicious side dishes then headed for a Mango Bingsoo at Mango six just to round off the whole night and make it complete. After returning back to Program motel both students only needed to do the final test which went very well and all passed out. Sunday morning greeted us with a delicious breakfast that Sora made for us followed by the final dive of the students which went excellent as ought to be. It was a great weekend spent with some really nice people at a really nice place. Hope to dive with you guys again and welcome to the PADI scuba diver community.

New Students

preparing for mask clearing

preparing for mask clearing

Yesterday we had the privilege of working with two new divers and helping to refresh another diver’s skills.  Carel worked late into the night making sure the divers had all their knowledge reviews and quizzes completed the night prior.  Saturday morning we all met that the Suwon World Cup Pool, I had the pleasure of meeting Ian, Crystal and Peter.  Since we were early we all took the time to introduce ourselves and get to know each other.  We went over what the students could expect from the day as well as what would happen at the ocean during training.

As we were checking in with the pool staff we met a friend of ours (the pool manager) who recently finished his PRISM2 training!  We were ecstatic to hear that there we new PRISM2 divers in the area because up until now there was hardly any PRISM2 divers in the area.  He was kind enough to open up their shop and show us all the new PRISM2’s!!  It was great to see the new electronics, new Petrel and new HUD on the unit.

Although the day was long everyone had a great time and really learned a lot.  Each diver drastically improved from their first descent.  At the end of the day we were able to have some fun and play underwater basketball and swim through some hoops.  Being at the Suwon pool sure makes for some fun diving due to 5m depths and a large area to swim around.  Thanks again Ian, Crystal and Peter, we look forward to seeing you at the ocean and welcome you to our diving club!!

Diving Education & Training During the Winter

Diving LibraryRecently we were asked for recommendations on books, videos and any other educational material about diving.  This weekend we combed over our materials to develop this list of information.  We divided it into four major categories:

Within each of these topics is a short write-up on what we thought of the materials and how we rated it on a scale of 0-5.  Zero meaning we haven’t yet read/watched it (but heard good things so we bought it) thru 5 meaning we recommend this as a MUST HAVE for every diver’s library at home.  We also took the time to link to Amazon (where appropriate).  This does two things:

  • give you a direct link to the product that we have
  • helps us generate a tiny (and yes we mean tiny) amount of revenue to help cover website costs (remember we are a club without membership dues)

So please, if you are going to make an Amazon purchase, use our provided links.  Ok enough our plugging our links.

The second part of this quick blog is once you have the knowledge how does a diver (in Korea specifically) practice any of these skills in preparation for the upcoming dive year?  This is really important for all those warm water divers or divers without drysuits.  We know you want to practice however not to the point of freezing in 4° C waters.

Will he just answer us already…where and how can we practice?  OK. OK.. it is simple continue to check our page (Facebook Events Page) for events for pool sessions.  Any time that we have pool sessions feel free to come along and practice buoyancy, SMB, and any and all other skills related to diving.  If you want to see a specific skill clinic simply ask.  We are more than happy to get in pool with you to assist in developing your skills.

Hollis SMS75 Review, Open Water

Hollis SMS75Ocean Review

My apologies to my readers for being lazy and originally putting this blog as an “update” versus a stand-alone post.  I took the SMS75 out to the East Coast on our most recent trip and dove it all weekend as a recreational sidemount rig.  Overall the BCD still retains my approval and it is a really good BCD however the lack of a rear dump valve in combination with the poor placement/design of the only dump valve (top left shoulder as the diver wears it) knocks this BCD down from being perfect.

I would love to see Hollis put a dump valve on the rear of the wing facing away from the diver, this would enable the diver to deflate and not break trim.  Several times during descents and ascents we had to break trim  to obtain a head’s up positioning to deflate the BCD.  The BCD did however have very quick inflation/deflation response time which made the requirement to break trim minimal.  The other issue is with all the gear that technical diving requires we found that the pull cord for the existing dump valve seemed to wind itself around just about everything making it difficult to easily locate and use consistently.

With that being said the donning/doffing of the BCD is SUPER fast and it rides very comfortable.  This BCD seems to be a mixture of several components from the Elite 2 harness, the SMS100 (only streamlined) and some similar attachment points that can be found in their PRISM2 counter-lung setup.  For me this was great to see because Hollis has taken (in my opinion) some great features of each of these BCDs and incorporated them into the SMS75.  I am sure that the xDeep and Razor enthusiasts out there will be saying, “the SMS75 is so big, it has to drag in the water” … my reply is simple, “You’re wrong”… the bcd may look slightly larger than most sidemount harnesses or lately but the SMS75 performs great in the water.  Attachment points are very convenient and easy to reach, it is comfortable in and out of the water.  Everything (except the dump valve) was easy to operate under task loading which made for effortless diving.  All-in-all I would repeatedly buy this BCD again.  (hint hint… please Hollis fix the dump valve issue).

Who would I recommend buy this product? Any instructor that teaches both recreational (single tank) backmount and recreational and technical sidemount.  This one BCD can quickly and easily switch between the two modes and is equally capable in either setup.  If you our your students/customers are diving in open water (ocean, lake etc.) then this bcd will be great.  I cannot speak about advanced wreck penetration or cave diving as I am not a cave diver and there simply aren’t large wrecks to penetrate at my normal dive locations.  However based on my knowledge and understanding I would fully expect that this bcd would perform well in either situation with only one drawback; the SMS75 still only has 1 bladder for lift.  It does have 40lbs / 18kgs of lift according to the website.

Response from Hollis

Prior to me writing this post I had sent a message to the Hollis Distributor and expressed my concerns regarding the BCD.  Moments before my original posting of this blog (when it was just an update) I received an email relayed to me from the President of Hollis Gear (Nick Hollis) stating, “…can [you] let Larry know we are adding his points to our next product discussion and will likely add a 2nd OPV on the lower left as requested.”  This is exactly why I love AUP Gear (specifically Hollis gear)…the company is willing to listen and, if appropriate, make changes to better suit divers.

If you would like to see the overall setup and review post check it out here.

2014 Labor Day Weekend Dive Trip

This weekend we took advantage of the 3 day weekend that most of us had and we headed to the East Coast for some fun diving and training.  Our newest instructors (George, Larry and Mike) had multiple students and certifications to conduct.  We had Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Deep Diver Specialty, Peak Performance Specialty and the AWARE Specialty.  This was definitely a great way to kick off our first weekend training event post-IDC.  We also linked up with some fun divers and students from Aquatic Frontier’s group who got some of our swag.  Thanks guys!  It was great diving with all of you as well.

Mike cooking the bacon for the egg, cheese, bacon sandwichesWe started Saturday morning off by cooking our divers breakfast making sure to feed the grumbling stomachs and fuel the divers for a busy day.  We broke out our cast iron skillet and our Korean portable stove and went to town on some thick cut bacon and eggs… and even some turkey bacon for those health focused people out there.  With bellies fed we started into our dive shop orientation and dive briefings for the skills.Sunrise on the Korean East Coast

Saturday we had excellent warmth and visibility.  Saturday finished up Michael’s Peak Performance Buoyancy and half of Mandy’s Advanced Open Water (AOW) and JuJu’s Open Water (OW) courses respectively.  Our students had such a great day we were honored with requests to add additional specialties to their trip.  Sunday finished up Mandy’s AOW, JuJu’s OW and all but one dive of Michael’s Deep Diver specialty.

Sunday evening after diving we headed into Sacheon beach for some great Pat Bing Su (Red Bean Shaved Ice with fruit and ice cream) and coffee’s.  After that nice treat we headed back to the dive shop to start the grill to grill up some cheese burgers and some adult beverages. We finished up an AWARE Specialty at dinner time too.  After we were fed and ready to head to bed we met up with some new instructors form the recent (finished that day) graduates of the Korea IDC/IE.  We went over to congratulate them and they invited us to have some food and drinks with them.  It was a great night to sit around the table with people from all over the world and share this love of diving.  Congrats new instructors and thank-you for sharing!

Mike and Larry before the Deep DiveMonday morning came early…we had one last dive to conduct for our Deep Diver Specialty, a 30M dive!  We woke up around 7am to fire up the stove and get some food on the skillet (eggs, bacon and hashbrowns). Now that we were fed it was time to gear up to dive briefings and pre-dive checks.  Once again we had some great visibility and warm waters this time we had a strong current.  For this dive we had all the new instructors, the shop owners, most of the shop workers and even the Course Director go with us.  We had a great dive, it was awesome getting a chance to dive with everyone that always makes sure we have great trips…the crew at Namae Dive Shop is amazing!  With that dive complete our final student of the weekend finished his Deep Diver Specialty…congrats Michael!  You did some great diving this weekend, it is great to see the improvement you have made since our first Scuba Tune-up session, stay wet.Seorak Mountain View

Since we were traveling back on a Monday versus a Sunday we decided to take the scenic route back.  We drove through Seorak Mountains and were able to take our time and enjoy the beautiful weather.  What an amazing weekend.  Thanks again to all of our students that we had as well as the new friends we met from Aquatic Frontier’s group.  Hope to see everyone in the water soon!

Most people think that Labor day (beginning of September) signifies the end of the summer…for us (38th Parallel Divers) this marks the beginning of the best diving in Korea.  From now thru November-December the water is warmer than any other time of the year.  The ocean is generally more clear and better weather.  So come join us…check out our Facebook Event page for more details.  We have an Open Water course starting shortly (confined water 13-14 Sept / Ocean 20-21 Sept) AND an Advanced Open Water / Specialty Diving weekend 27-28 September.