PADI’s new Smart Phone App

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 15.01.59I am so pleased to see that PADI finally gave their smartphone app a facelift because the previous version was outdated from it’s initial release.  The app finally provides some needed and highly useful functionality.  The user interface is sleek and more closely matches the online experience now that PADI also recently updated their website.

One of the nicest features of the PADI app is the SSO (single sign on), it should be linked to your existing email address and password from previously established accounts (at least this is true for PADI Pros).  As many pros (should) already know that if they sign-up for Scuba Earth all their certifications will be available via PADI eCards (it will take a few days after initial signup for availability).  This is one more reason why it’s better to be a PADI Pro versus just a PADI Diver.

The new app is easy to navigate and offers instant access to pro check, tools (utilities) like knot tying, hand signal reviews, checklists, e-cards and even a digital logbook.  There is even a spot to get local weather.  The one tool I would ask PADI to incorporate into the next app update is a diver check…I understand that this can be done via login thru the web portal (via the app) however it would just be nice to see a button to access it as easily as the “Pro Check”.  There is no doubt this is a step up from the previous version…finally the PADI app is a useful tool that I am happy to have on my smart phone.

Final Verdict: This is a MUST have for all levels of PADI scuba divers!

PADI Mobile Apps Site:

What is GUE diving?

Iwakuni Divers

Contributing Author: Mitchell Singler (Iwakuni, Japan)

I was recently asked for my thoughts about what GUE diving is and what it isn’t. First GUE is short for Global Underwater Explorers and there is a little bit of misunderstanding online (and offline) about what GUE is.  I suppose the best way for me to explain it is to just talk about this team based diving concept and why that appealed to me enough to seek out an Instructor and get some training.

I took a GUE Fundamentals course a couple of years ago because I was looking for dive training that was more skills based than much of the training I had taken up to that point. At that time I had taken some PADI courses along with a YMCA (now defunct; it has since become SDI) recreational course. I had also taken an Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course with a TDI Instructor.

Now the YMCA course I took was very good; it was an Open water 2 dive course. It actually covered gas planning, which was sorely missing from many PADI courses. As for the PADI classes I took….the emphasis on individual diver skills was non-existent. Performing skills while being neutrally buoyant was not a requirement for any of the PADI courses I took. I recently became a PADI Instructor myself; so I do realize that PADI is moving in the direction of emphasizing buoyancy control. That is likely a long way away in terms of being a true performance requirement.

The TDI advanced nitrox/deco procedures course I took was very challenging, as it should be; since it is a technical diving course. Prior to taking that course, I worked on my own buoyancy control during my normal dives, and had it pretty well dialed in prior to taking this course. I do feel that this should be emphasized as an actual performance requirement for the entry level, recreational dive courses.

After completing my TDI course, I gave a lot of thought to where I wanted to go in my further dive progression. I knew that I wanted to progress into more technical diving; my goal being to do more wreck diving. It was around this time that I started looking into taking a GUE Fundamentals course. I really wanted some training that would actually challenge me in terms of buoyancy skills, all while being task loaded with additional skills to manage while being neutrally buoyant. My thinking was that once I had that solid skills platform to work from, I could build from there. I am a firm believer in this today.

I went into my GUE Fundaments course thinking it would be all about buoyancy control, the equipment configuration, and learning how to back kick. It did include all of those things….but I discovered that it offered much more than just those things.

I discovered right away that GUE training is all about team diving. Not just lip service paid to the usual advice to always stay with your buddy…..but a true emphasis on real team diving and planning. It was centered on this team mindset, a complete team attitude. This was the foundation the training was built on.

All skills were performed as a team. Every drill, skills demonstration, the simulated failures while holding the minimum deco stops……everything was performed while in a team formation. The emphasis was always on focusing on the team. It was much different than any of the other recreational courses I previously took.

I am of the opinion, based on my experience in my course, and in seeing the local divers that later completed the Fundamentals course; GUE training produces the best dive buddies. Since my Fundamentals dive training, I have organized other classes. There have been 19 GUE trained divers in Iwakuni, Japan to date. I have seen the consistent result produced by the fundamentals course.

It is very refreshing to dive with people that don’t swim off on their own and get separated. With the GUE trained divers I have been diving with, my dive buddy is always there. From the new divers that took GUE Fundamentals right after open water class, to the more experienced divers; they all stay with their dive buddies. They actually pay attention to each other. Diving is a lot more fun when divers pay attention to each other and stay together. That is a definite advantage to diving with people that have a true team diving mindset and attitude. Having consistent buoyancy control skills to be able to hold all stops is another trait shared by all that have completed the course.

Another aspect that like about the GUE training is that it actually teaches actual gas planning. I’m not referring to the typical thing that divers are told, about getting back on the boat with 500 psi in their tanks. That is NOT dive planning at all. In Fundamentals class students are actually taught how to plan their gas reserve. They know how much keep in reserve for both divers to conduct their minimum deco stops for both divers in the unlikely event of a problem. They calculate minimum gas, and turn pressure…they are taught all aspects of this. It all ties into the team diving mindset that is truly missing from most recreational dive programs.

Of course equipment configuration is a standardized thing with GUE. Contrary to what many people have been told….there is no requirement for any particular brand of equipment. The equipment requirements are listed on the GUE website;

But for the Fundamentals course a back plate/wing BC, regulators set up with a 7’ long hose configuration are the foundation.

There does seem to be a lot of bad information about GUE on the Internet; I don’t understand why. The course requirements and equipment configuration are on the GUE website, but inaccurate information persists.

I do believe that much of the negative information stems from dive shops that see GUE training as contrary to what they teach and provide. In a sense it is….if a dive shop doesn’t even sell back plates and wings, I imagine they are going to be somewhat opposed to a training agency that requires this as standard equipment. The same goes for regulators set up with a long hose; if the shop Instructors themselves aren’t trained and familiar with that setup, then it’s no surprise that a lot of shops out there are going to start bad mouthing a training agency that offering something much different than the typical shop is offering.

As for me, as an individual diver that is always looking to improve and progress in diving, it makes sense to dive and progress with other divers that are interested in the same thing. I love diving! I want to make progress, and get better at it, so I can enjoy it even more. Diving is a lot more fun when you are diving with buddies that have the skills and attitude that contribute to diving as a team, knowing how to plan a dive, understanding gas planning, and having the situational awareness that allows them to stay as a team and have more fun diving. Diving with buddies that don’t churn up the bottom and can actually hold their safety stops because they have been trained to be in better control of their buoyancy is a joy!

It’s wonderful, not having to chase down divers that swim away from the group, because they don’t pay attention to their buddies.

  • I am not a spokesman for GUE. The 38th Parallel Divers asked me to write my thoughts about what it meant to me, so I wanted to share my opinions about it.
  • I feel that GUE training offers something that is truly lacking in the dive industry; training that includes actual gas planning and dive planning at the recreational level.
  • It offers a challenging and very fun system of true team based dive training.
  • It makes performing skills while being neutrally buoyant in the water column; all while being you’re your team an actual performance requirement.
  • It emphasizes skills and builds diver competence, comfort in the water, and confidence. This all leads to diving being more fun.

Many of these skills are taught and emphasizes when taking technical diving courses. But why aren’t these skills taught and required at the recreational level? I don’t really have an answer for why other recreational agencies don’t emphasize all of these things……but these are all part of GUE Fundamentals dive training at the recreational level.

Is it for everyone? It’s difficult to say; it does require some commitment in terms of equipment and training time. But for those divers that have taken a recreational dive course and found it lacking……perhaps GUE is for them.

Diving is fun….it is supposed to be. But it’s a lot more fun when your confidence and level of proficiency are much higher. It becomes even more fun when you are diving with buddies that have that same level of proficiency.


Uncontrolled Ascent – Emergency

Uncontrolled AscentThis past weekend (September 27-28th, 2014) I was tested in my ability and decision to assist a diver with an out-of-control ascent.  I say decision because, especially in tech diving, it is each and every diver’s individual choice to help another diver.  This is because there is always the risk of getting hurt yourself any time you assist a diver in an emergency.

I have had many simulated emergencies throughout many of my recreational, technical and rebreather courses;  I have even had a few real-world incidents occur under water (in and out of training).  I have to say one thing first…thank-you to each of my instructors for pushing me during training and preparing me to handle this situation.  Although this wasn’t what I would consider an especially dangerous or difficult emergency to handle it was none-the-less a situation that could have led to a diver suffering from some form of DCI (decompression illness).  I would also like to thank the diver that I helped for not panicking.

Looking back I am sure that I could have responded sooner and I could have responded slightly differently but I am overall happy with the outcome.  Ultimately the diver suffered no signs or symptoms of any type of injury.  It is always easy to play the “I could have done this or that” game after it is all over…especially when the video is available and captures most of the incident on tape.  I was lucky enough to have a solid foundation of training that I was comfortable helping the other diver, I was also fortunate in that I was diving with another PADI Pro (Divemaster) that was very vigilant in what was occurring; I was able to make quick communication / coordination with him as I was ascending…thanks Brian.

So how did this happen?  One simple mistake…failure to properly secure the diver’s weightbelt while adjusting it underwater.  After talking with the diver on the surface I found out that he had simply lost control of the weightbelt and it slipped out of his hands.  It is extremely important to maintain control of the weightbelt anytime adjusting or taking off a weightbelt underwater.  As a PADI diver (and I am sure for other agencies as well) we all have had to complete the task of taking the weight belt off and putting it back on (without dropping it).  How often do we do this after certification?  Probably never unless you are a professional.  My personal recommendation is that if you are going to be doing anything (other than moving slightly) with your weightbelt FIRST let your buddy know.  Then be sure to make it as easy for yourself as possible.  The intent is to be able to do it without relying on a solid surface, so I recommend being in a belly-down position to take all the weight off of your hands and use gravity to your advantage.

Would I do this again?  Yes … in this situation, but I shouldn’t necessarily do it in another such as after a deep technical dive with deco obligation.  Knowing my personality I am sure that I would try everything in my power to assist a diver in distress while trying not to be another statistic of a diver who got hurt…or worse…by trying to help a friend.  This is something that I alone must reflect on, this is something about myself that I must understand and be prepared to make a split second decision on.  This is each and every diver’s responsibility.

Yeongdeok Daejin Scuba

1412064200223What a weekend !!! The past weekend was a big one filled with a lot of adventure and new experiences. We went down to explore the seas at Yeongdeok (The town famous for crabs) It was a long drive but also a beautiful drive to get to the resort. As we stopped at the resort we were greeted with big smiles and willingness to help us get started. The one boat captain called on his daughter who is a junior in high school to come help us with some English translations. Our first dive was a beach dive to just to get everybody use to the water again and we also did a search and recovery dive. We did a deep dive to 26m which was cut short due to poor visibility. We decided to continue diving the following day in hope for better conditions. We had 1 night diver which we conducted in the comfort of the harbor and actually saw an abundance of sea life down in the dark. 

The evening was quite eventful. One of the owners of the resort invited all of us to join them for dinner and the nightly festivities which included barbecued pork belly to fill the bellies of just about the whole town and by my standards it was the best pork I have ever had in Korea. This was followed by another instructor making a chicken soup and another instructor serving us some sea cucumbers and so on. Felt like each instructor took their turn in serving and sharing some new experiences with us. And among all the festivities and feasting we promised our fellow Korean divers that we would dive with them the next morning at 7am pffff. That seemed like a good idea at the time. 

The next morning we were all finally ready at 8:30 and did our first dive for the day down to the wreck again with much more favorable conditions. The thermocline hit us quite hard at 19m but the visibility was much better and the wreck was really cool. We explored the wreck and then the resort instructor guided us to the underwater crab statues. After that dive some breakfast burritos were served up and thanks to Sora for pre-preparing them some studying and Knowledge reviews followed. Our last 2 dives were Search and recovery dives in which almost everyone were certified for.

Yeongdeok was an amazing experience with some fantastic people who were really kind and helpful to us. We would love to return to this gem of a dive site. Thank you to all who made this possible…CONGRATS to the new specialty and Advanced Open Water divers from this past weekend!  We are always looking for more 38th Parallel Divers!

Relaxing but not Dull

This past weekend we were able to get in some good diving despite a typhoon earlier in the week.  We went to the east coast early on Saturday morning (compared to our normal Friday night late night trip to the coast) and were lucky to hit zero traffic.

Namae037We arrived fairly early and were met once again by the friendly staff of Namae Dive Resort and some fellow Korean divers.  This weekend would prove to be an exciting one for sure.  We would be testing some minor tweaks to our Hollis SMS75 sidemount BCD (the addition of the SMS100/SMS75 back weight system).

The back mounted weight pockets (6 pockets in a semi rigid cloth plate) made trim absolutely perfect for the SMS75.  These 2 items should be purchased together by anyone who plans to dive the SMS75 with aluminum tanks or in the ocean.  Hands down perfect trim and extremely comfortable.

We Love Diving!Despite not speaking Korean there is always a common bond that is shared between everyone as the preparations for the dive are underway.  Getting tanks, analyzing gasses, going over equipment checks and pre-dive buddy checks…no matter what language or what training organization they are all very similar processes.  This means that we can easily communicate with having to speak.

Once on the boat we were all ready to get into the water, for some this would be their first dive in South Korea, definitely an exciting time.  As we descend and tweak our equipment we are once again reminded why we love this hobby so much; for me it is the self awareness and relative quiet that this sport offers.

Namae002After 3 fun dives on Saturday (ending the day with a great sunset dive) we were ready to clean gear and BBQ some burgers and roast some potatoes.  Once our bellies were full we headed off to bed for an early morning dive (these are always the best dives of the day on the East Coast).

Sunday morning came early and we started the day off with a nice sunrise and a side of Bacon, Eggs, cheese and English Muffin.  Now that we had some fuel for the day we were able prepare our gear for our dive and get in the water.  One of the best dives at Namae (at recreational depths) are the steel structures (Dive site Red #1).  There are 3 large steel structures underwater that are connected via thick line so divers can easily navigate from one to the other.  What a great way to end the dive weekend.  The only thing that made the trip better was not hitting any traffic on the way