Pohang Diving – July 11-12, 2015

Congratulation to Nick Pappe, our newest 38th Parallel diver who completed his PADI Open Water certification and Enriched Air Diver (EANx/Nitrox) certification on July 12 at AquaBelle Dive Resort Pohang,  Korea. We were able to complete 4 amazing boat dives off Josa-ri (Beach). The water was a warm 20c, plenty of fish and around 6 meters of visibly.  Great conditions to learn and enjoy the dives, way to go Nick can’t wait to dive with you again.

Wedding Day Diving

July 11th, 2015 two of our club divers were getting OK signal on descentmarried on the beach where so many of us met.  The day and night before was filled with exciting events.  Some of these events were price changes on the cake, a cake mishap and even a flat tire on the way to the event.  Needless to say we all needed a bit of a stress relief and were looking forward to getting into the water.

Saturday morning came extremely early for me because I was the one that got a flat tire in the middle of the night on the way to the resort.  We arrived around 0130 early Saturday morning and woke up around 0700 to start preparing for the dive day.  Despite waking up a bit later I was the first one up and around getting our tanks ready laying out gear.  Jeff was the next one to arrive.  We were lucky to get on the first boat dive (which is usually the best dive of the day) and it was going to be a deep dive.

38th Parallel Divers going to dive siteJeff needed to reach 100′ for some future course pre-req’s so we planned to dive down to 100′ and swim around the base of the Steel House (dive site) structure and then slowly return focusing on his drysuit skills and getting use to his new ANTARES dry gloves.  On the way out to the site we met a new diver who dove as part of our team.  The dive went almost as planned and we were rewarded with some good visibility and water temps (9 C).  I say almost as planned because on my giant stride entry into the water I quickly discovered that my drysuit zipper was not 100% sealed…yep you guessed it, I got soaked.  Once I felt the water I closed the suit and continued the dive since there wasn’t enough water in the suit to be a danger, just an annoyance.

Austin ready for ascentAfter we got back from our first dive many of the wedding guests (bride & groom included) had finally woken up and were slowly getting ready.  The bride and groom joined us on our 2nd dive which was another deep dive and this one would be the bride’s deepest dive to date, congrats Mandy!  This dive site was 30 – 34M deep and the descent line ended on concrete cubes with small sealife and growth on it.  Jeff, Austin and I descended to the bottom in one team and the bride and groom made up the other team.  The visibility on this dive was even better however it was much colder at 5 C.  Once our computers were nearing our no decompression limit we all returned to the surface making a very slow and deliberate ascent.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 14.02.59Once we returned from the second dive we cleaned and dried gear and began preparing for the wedding ceremony and reception.  With the gear drying and time closing in we had to go and pickup 2 more people from the bus terminal and on the way back we ate some great Kimchi Jiggae and got to meet everyone that has traveled from around the world…wow what a crew indeed.  We met some great people this weekend and some very talented musicians!

Running a bit late we all drove back to the hotel to finish getting ready for the wedding.  Showers, getting dressed, doing hair, wedding picturesetting tables and food and of course bride pampering…oh yea and LOTS of up and down the stairs…we were finally ready just as the final moments of day were getting ready to come to an end.   With the bride in my car and the groom waiting on the beach Eric walked Mandy down and gave her away to George.  The ceremony was shared by close friends from Hong Kong, Fiji, Korea and the US and many 38th Parallel Divers too.  Vows and rings exchanged, a kiss and an introduction the newly married couple was ready to begin their lives together.  Congratulation Mandy and George!  We are honored to be part of this day.

Now bring on the reception and make Laura Kenny sing another song…I will happily plug her music (on iTunes).

Memorial Day & Buddha’s Birthday 2015

Post-Dive Picture 38th Parallel DiversPADI Drysuit Specialty diver and PADI Divemaster were the two certifications earned this weekend.  There is no doubt that we made the most of a 3 day weekend. For the American’s it was Memorial Day weekend and for the Korean’s it was Buddha’s Birthday. Needless to say the dive shop and hotels at the coast were packed!  We got to meet some of our South Korean Facebook Followers and dive with some new friends as well…welcome to the 38th Parallel Divers Club Dave, glad to log some dives with you.

Despite some pretty strong winds the waters on the east coast were amazing.  This weekend probably ranked in the top 5 weekends for visibility in the past 5 years.  Definitely nice to jump into the water with conditions like this.  The ocean was super flat all weekend and little to no surge or current, even at the dive sites.

New Divemaster Dan with Instructor LarrySince most of us have been steadily knocking out certifications of students we decided to take this weekend for ourselves and make is a calm, lazy fun weekend.Congratulations to Dan on finishing his Divemaster certification (we know this was a long time coming), welcome to the pro ranks!  Congrats to Divemaster Jeff on earning his drysuit specialty as well.

We did several beach dives at Namae-ri Beach as well as several boat dives.  Our first boat dive was at Steel House.  Steel House is a 10m tall structure that rests in 30m of water.  Great for buoyancy practice swimming through all the beams.  We also dove Concrete Cubes, and just like the name says it was a Jeff and George Safety Stopbunch of concrete open cubes that allow for divers to swim in-between and around.  We saw a nice school of smaller sized fish and lost of small growth.  West Ridge was another dive site that we were able to log some time onto.  This site offered a natural rock formation and minor wall to swim around.  A nice dive to see rock formations and small growth, even some nudibranchs.

It would be an understatement to say the shop was packed.  Namae Scuba had extra staff on hand and both boats in the water for divers.  They also shuttled divers back and forth to the beach for shore diving.  There were several clubs diving with 38th Parallel Divers as well as 80+ college girls from the Suwon Women’s college.  Most of the girls were doing PADI Open Water Diver with some finishing up Advanced, Rescue and Divermaster.  Namae’s resident Course Director was also conducting an IDC (Instructor Development Course) for a few future dive instructors.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 16.29.53Despite all of this going on we can’t say enough how great their staff is.  They always make sure to keep us informed on dive conditions and dive times.  Namae staff also makes sure we have everything we need and make every attempt to help us work out any minor equipment issues anyone might have.  These guys are a great operation indeed…thanks Namae Scuba!

2015 Scuba Diving Season Opening

The 2015 scuba diving season opening was truly amazing!  Namae Scuba (남애스쿠버리조트) hosted a great event which had approximately 50 people from around the world.  We haven’t ever seen a season opening quite like this one.  This was 11080708_10205605854738993_7921584519513355727_ojust one more reason why we come to Namae Scuba for our diving.

Many of us traveled out to the east coast Friday night to beat any traffic.  Some stayed at the dive shop and some stayed at the Moby Dick hotel just a few hundred meters away.  If there is one thing that we can say for sure is that no matter where you stay when you dive with us either location is nice.  Both have ocean views and a sunrise that can’t be beat.

11000913_10205605884339733_8179115059511011257_o11149773_10205605877259556_7342950561719160330_oEveryone woke up early on Saturday morning and headed down to the dive shop where we cooked up some eggs, bacon and cheese sandwiches for our divers.  We even had some espresso brewing from our Moka pot.  We come prepared and know how to cook some good food.

IMG_3217Once everyone had some food to eat we started preparing our diving gear. Catching up with some friends we haven’t seen in a while and meeting new dive buddies is always one of the best parts of any dive trip.  This trip we met up with a club member we haven’t seen in a few years and had several new divers join us.  It was definitely a great group.

At 1000 AM Namae Scuba Resort had all divers gather around to pay our respects to the ocean and any ancestors that were lost due to the ocean.  ThisIMG_3244 was a humbling experience because for many of us (myself included) we had never participated in this type of an event.  Sure we may have seen Koreans bowing and making offering but we haven’t had the opportunity, until now, to do this.  We were extremely honored when we were asked if we would like to come up as a dive club and bow to show respect.  Our club members were happy to participate, we walked up kneeled down and assumed a praying position twice; once we rose we deeply bowed, once again showing respect.

IMG_3223The table was decorated with a pig’s head, candles, fruit and makgeolli.  The staff from Namae Scuba had a nice speech prepared to open the season and they were also nice enough to ensure we understood what was going on as well.  They really do take care of us, and it is greatly appreciated.

Once the opening event was concluded we finalized our gear setup and buddy checks and waited for everyone to load the trucks.  The opening dive required two dive boats to get everyone into the water.  At the docks we loaded the boats at motored off to “West Ridge” Dive site.

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 17.49.50Sadly the conditions were not ideal, and nothing like the last time we were at the east coast.  Water temps were around 6-8 C (43-46 F) and visibility was only around 1.5-2 meters.  This didn’t stop us from having fun though.  George led a nice dive around the site and got us back to the blocks where we could shoot a DSMB and slowly ascend.

Eagerly looking forward to lunch (and some warmth) we ordered some fried rice, jjampong (짬뽕) and jjajangmyeon (짜장면).  Jjajangmyeon is simply black bean sauce noodles and they arevery delicious and filling (most westerners like them).  Jjampong is Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 17.56.15 a spicy seafood stew mixture that usually has squid/octopus, mussels, crab, shrimp and other seafood and noodles in it.  Both are absolutely delicious and inexpensive.

After lunch several of us prepared to test out new equipment and do a shore dive.  two divers got in and completed a short shore dive while I had to correct some equipment malfunctions (my drygloves became separated from their rings and I couldn’t get a seal).  Oh well…it was now time to clean equipment for the day.

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 18.03.17IMG_3286 As everyone was finishing cleaning gear and warming up Namae Scuba was preparing multiple BBQ pits for us to grill on.  For the season opening they offered a great package…for ₩25,000 each diver got a t-shirt, participated in the opening event and was provided an amazing BBQ.  The BBQ started off with normal side dishes (garlic, peppers, dipping sauces), kimchi jjigae (김치 찌개) aka Kimchi Stew, and lots of Hwey (회).  Hwey is raw seafood, most westerners know it as sashimi.  Let me just say now that the food was phenomenal and boy did anyone miss out if they weren’t there…sorry.  As everyone snacked on those dishes we were brought pounds and pounds of pork to grill along with sausages.  Each table also was provided severalIMG_3288IMG_3279 IMG_3293bottles of soju, cola and juice and there were 2 kegs of beer on tap.  Definitely not a bad deal at all.

As everyone was finishing up our food the staff thanked everyone for participating in the 2015 season opening and made sure to come around to each table to say “thank-you”.  This was simply amazing because this type of customer service is rarely seen outside of Korea.  Everyone raised their glasses and gave a loud cheers.

Most of us sat around for a few hours after the BBQ to catchup with long time friends and pull new club members into the fold.  Everyone clicked well and was quickly pulled in to the IMG_3304club friendship, not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.

Sunday morning came quick.  Most of us slept well and welcomed the warm air and beautiful sunrise.  My wife and I were able to take a walk together in the early morning and enoy the quiet and each other’s company before the world woke up…this was one of my favorite times of the weekend.  For this reason we encourage all divers to bring their non-divers girlfriends/boyfriends/spouses to enjoy a truly amazing part of Korea.

11115907_10205605854778994_4100724866199033786_oAfter our beach walk we cooked breakfast and made some espresso for everyone.  Everyone opted out of diving on Sunday in favor of enjoying a relaxing slow paced wake-up and preparation for the trip home.

I want to personally thank everyone who came out with us this weekend.  This was truly a great weekend.  The 38th Parallel Divers club was organized because of weekends like this!  We met some new friends and caught up with others.  I look forward to logging some dives with those that came and those that will dive in the future…thank-you for a great weekend!

*several images without 38th Parallel Divers copyright courtesy Rob Burton

First Scuba Trip 2015

So we finally got back out to the South Korean East Coast to log some dives.  It is hard to admit but this first trip wasn’t that easy to get excited for.  The video from this past weekend (except for the first driving video) was all shot with the GoPro Hero 4 Black in 4k resolution.  If you have this camera and are editing video be prepared for some extremely large file sizes and long upload times to get 4k resolution from YouTube.

Namae ScubaA special thanks to Namae Scuba (www.NamaeScuba.com) for once again providing some excellent dive facilities and diving, we wouldn’t have had a great weekend with out you! Preparing for dive trips isn’t hard just moderately time-consuming since you don’t want to forget anything back home, hours away.  This is especially true since this was the first ocean trip for the PRISM 2 eCCR.  We wanted to check everything multiple times to ensure we had what we needed and everything worked correctly.  We also were preparing for testing out the Hollis DX300 dry suit and the 500SE regulator & DC7 first stage.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 17.22.21Thankfully BOB (bright orange ball in the sky, aka the sun) was out in full effect the days prior to the trip which really helped motivate all of us to start preparing food, equipment and willingness to make the trip.  So was it worth it?  DEFINITELY!  This trip had some of the best visibility that we have seen in a very long time.  Plus we met some new divers Jonathan and Stacey as well as making some new Korean dive buddies (even celebrating a birthday).

Saturday started at a perfect pace, relaxed and fun…we hit the beach to test out new configurations, new equipment and re-familiarize ourselves with our equipment (like the PRISM 2).  Thankfully so because some of us needed to adjust weighting from previous dives and for others this was the first time Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 20.46.26diving in this temperature water.  So many people ask…”isn’t it cold??”  OMG Yes! It was freezing (on the hands) but our dry suits kept (most of) us warm.  The water was a lovely 6-8C / 42-46F…definitely C.O.L.D!  Thankfully that didn’t stop us from hitting a second dive on Saturday to explore the dive site West Ridge (13-24m deep) where we say great viz around the artificial concrete cube reef.  After we got back from the dive we cleaned gear grabbed some coffee and dinner in Gangneung to relax.

Sunday started early with some of us getting up to watch the sun rise and warm our faces…others decided to Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 20.51.21sleep in a bit before our 0930 dive.  This dive is one of our favorites, early morning, very calm and our favorite site…Steel House!  This site has 3 giant 10 meter steel structures that are approximately 25m apart attached by rope to easily find each other.  There are lots of new growth and during the summer months lots of fish around the structure.  As we descended on the steel structure we were astonished by the amazing visibility we had.  The water was simply amazing, blue, clear, and no surge or current…amazing!

After the dive we warmed up and cleaned equipment in preparation for the long trip home.  We thought we Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 21.05.45would beat all the traffic home however there was a huge forest fire that spanned the expressway on all sides which slowed all traffic down to a grind.  It did provide a great opportunity to capture some cool video of 8 or so helicopters gathering water from the local lake to help put out the fire.

For those of you looking for the Hollis DX300 review please check back later this week.  We will post our thoughts on Hollis’s newest drysuit.

We are back!!

First Dive Trip 2015

Ok Ok we know…we have been gone a LONG time.  Since the PADI IDC, IE, Specialty Instructor Course and finally obtaining several Master Scuba Diver Training ratings we decided we would treat ourselves with waiting for some warmer weather before beginning the season.  We had a great weekend.  We met some new divers Jonathan and Stacey (my apologies if I misspelled either) and logged a few dives.  We are currently uploading the photos and will be editing the video shortly.  Check back in the next day or two for the video and photos.

Thanks again to Namae Scuba (aka Namae Dive Center) for an excellent weekend!

PADI 38th Parallel Diver Specialty

38th Parallel Marker38TH PARALLEL DIVERS

IT’S OFFICIAL!

Very few people can actually say they have dove north of the 38th Parallel in South Korea, and even fewer can say they hold the PADI 38th Parallel Diver Specialty card (zero as of this posting).  If you are looking for something truly unique to add to your logbook this is the certification.  The 38th Parallel Diver Distinctive Specialty signifies that divers have conducted a dive north of the 38th Parallel as well as completed the remaining course requirements.  This is a great specialty that empowers divers to get more time in the water here in South Korea.

Many divers have conducted dives with us north of the 38th Parallel so I am sure those divers will be asking, “Can I apply for the specialty?” The answer unfortunately is no, you would have to conduct the course from today forward in order to earn this certification.  We apologize however we need to make sure we adhere to standards.

Dive Against Debris Specialty

Dive Against Debris with Project AWARE

What’s New? ANOTHER FIRST FOR US!!

We will be doing a Dive Against Debris in the upcoming weeks:

How is this good for you?  We will be giving away some 38th Parallel Diver Swag to participants.

More Good News? We will also be requesting that you ask family, friends and local businesses to help us by donating dive’s and other support.

Dive Against Debris

How are 38th Parallel Diver’s Supporting the effort?  38th Parallel Diver’s will be donating the processing fees costs associated with the Dive Against Debris Certification to each diver who meets the criteria for the specialty (for our 1st Dive Against Debris dive event only)… It get’s even better for those that are trying to earn their PADI Master Scuba Diver rating because this specialty counts toward the Master Scuba Diver specialty requirement.  This means a free specialty!!

Our interest started because many of our divers recently helped out with a beach clean-up (hosted by Aquatic Frontier last month).  We pulled a few hundred pounds (many kilos) from the harbor water and beach.  At first it doesn’t seem like much fun to spend a dive (money and time) in 1-5 meters of water getting pushed up against rocks in poor visibility.  However realizing that a few of us can actually make a difference does help.  At first I think many of the Koreans were wondering what type of animals we were stealing from their waters because they kept inspecting our bags as we came ashore.  After a few rounds they discovered we were  pulling tires, plastic, fishing line and other abandoned debrisfrom the environment.  Seeing the looks on the locals’ faces as the foreigners cleaned up their

2014_11_08-09_035waters was reward enough.  This small gesture let’s the local Korean’s and local divers know that we are a friendly and positive impact on the environment and local dive community.

This good feeling left most of the dive club wanting more; this made our instructors want to be able to contribute a bit more to the local community as well.  But how?  Thankfully I attended the 4th Quarter update and listened to the brief overview of the PADI Dive Against Debris Specialty.

Still not convinced?  Check out the Project AWARE Dive Against Debris Website

 This specialty contributes in a few ways:

  • Instructor application fees go directly to Project AWARE
  • Dive Site Survey pre and post Dive Against Debris Cleanup, assists with monitoring the local environment (is it improving or declining)
  • Student Processing Fees assist Project AWARE
  • last but most important…less debris in your local waters

This is a 1 dive specialty that teaches divers the importance of local conservation, it is a great practical follow-up to the search and recovery and/or navigation diver specialties.  This is because navigation skills are critical to survey the area accurately and search and recovery skills may be required to lift certain objects safely from the bottom.

Cold Water Diver Survivors

This past weekend was one of the busiest weekends that we have had in a long time.  Our days were packed full of training: Open Water, Adventure Diver, Advanced Open Water, Enriched Air Diver, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Dry Suite Diver, Sidemount Diver and dives toward the Rescue diver certification.  We told you we were busy!

First of all CONGRATS to all the 38th Parallel Divers on becoming new and more experienced divers, excellent job this weekend we know we asked a lot of you!

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 21.56.10In between all of that training we managed to even do a large beach/coastal water clean-up.  We pulled several hundred pounds of debris from the local environment, pallets, tires, rubbish even an anchor and pipes.  There was some friendly competition to gather the most poundage which resulted in several of our divers winning some sweet Oceanic and Hollis gear courtesy of Aquatic Frontier.  Our divers walked away with a Hollis Mask, Oceanic Viper fins and an ultra dry snorkel…. not too bad for a few hours of work,  congrats divers!

2014_11_08-09_008_1Saturday was less than ideal for ocean conditions, we had an totally overcast day with a moderate surge on the beach but our divers truly are a tough bunch because they showed up with smiles on eager to start training.  Despite visibility ranging from 2-7 meters everyone was able to knock out almost all their dives.  We dove from sun up to sun down on the east coast on Saturday so it was no surprise that everyone was eager to wash up and eat some cheese burgers, grilled sausages (and even some veggie burgers).  Once everyone was full and paperwork was processed we sat around and talked about diving all over the world and what could be next… for some the only “next” they looked forward to was a good night’s sleep in preparation for another busy day.

2014_11_08-09_002Sunday came early with a planned boat dive at 0830.  Everyone met at the diveshop and grabbed some fruit and pastries for a breakfast appetizer before dive 1.  On dive 1 we had 2 groups conducting different training (deep and sidemount).  The deep dive went off without a hitch and the sidemount divers entered the water and donned equipment.  On descent the sidemount divers went into their skills and mid gas sharing a diver’s mask strap came off.  I was extremely impressed that my student reacted in the perfect manner.  He effectively communicated the problem, didn’t panic, held the mask on his face (all while holding a good trim position and constant depth).  Situations like these, while irritating, are excellent learning experiences and litmus tests.  Unable to correct the malfunction we ascended (ensuring to complete our safety stop) and ended the dive.  Great job Austin!  Once back on the boat we fixed the mask and prepped tanks for another dive to makeup skills.

2014_11_08-09_013After the first boat dive everyone came back to get some FOOD!  Sarah, Mandy and I cooked up the bacon and eggs for the divers to slap onto some sandwich bread (or just scarf down) and fill their bellies.  With everyone full we extended our surface interval a bit and prepared for the remainder of the day.  The remaining dives would finish up Advanced Open Water, PPB and Sidemount.  We even managed to get some of our divers their first non-training fun dive.

As we cleaned up and prepared to leave for home George and I processed the student’s certifications.  When I had entered in the last certification that I had completed I was finally able to apply for and obtain my Master Scuba Diver Trainer (MSDT) rating.  I would like to personally thank all of the students this weekend for being great and being a part of my new PADI rating!  I would also like to thank George for allowing me to certify his students, couldn’t have made it this quickly without you, thanks!

2014-11-09 19.22.49 2014-11-09 18.39.07As we were heading out we decided to go into Gangneung and eat before we leaft for home.  It was a great way to end the weekend, with bellies full of fire grilled bulgogi and kimchi jigae (kimchi stew).  Of course because that wasn’t enough we all snuck over to Mango Six for some dessert…now it was time for the long ride home where everyone could fall asleep and be driven home (thanks dive buddies;)).

Stay tuned because now that I have reach MSDT I have met the requirements for some really exciting things that will shortly be available for our club members!!

Advanced Open Water – Namae-ri, Nov 1-2

This past weekend we conducted the PADI Advanced Open Water diver course and several nitrox dives.  While this weekend didn’t give us warm, sunny beautiful days we did have some great diving and good visibility (for the most part).  We were pretty lucky on the way to the coast because we didn’t hit much traffic at all.  We arrived at Namae Dive shop early and immediately prepped for diving.

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 15.08.52On Saturday we conducted 3 dives: Underwater Navigation, Search and Recovery and then finally Peak Performance Buoyancy.  Saturday gave us some good visibility and we wanted to take advantage of it because Sunday was predicting 40km/hr winds around noon.  This weekend we decided to skip the BBQ and go into Gangneung for some great BBQ pork and beef with delicious sides.

Sunday we woke up really early to make sure that we got in on the first dive for the day.  Wake-up call was at 0600.  We met downstairs around 0645 to grab some quick pastries before our 0730 dive.  Going out from the harbor the seas were flat and the air war fairly warm.  We hopped in the water and completed our Deep dive.  On the way up we noticed that the seas were getting rough, our safety stop required some good buoyancy skills.  The wind had definitely picked up meaning that we would have to push up dive two.

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 16.07.04Once we were back at the shop we took about a 2.5 hour surface interval to make some breakfast sandwiches…MAPLE BACON, eggs and cheese!  Yes, maple bacon!  After a proper breakfast we suited up for our last dive of the weekend and the last dive of the day due to weather conditions.  We hopped on the boat and got in the water…finally the egg made it to depth.  After some tricks with an egg at depth we explored around some massive rock formations and saw a school of small fish, some nudi’s and even a shrimp (not too bad for Korea).  We had to put our navigation skills to use this dive because the seas were so rough that the line had snapped while the boat was moored.  We swam to the pre-determined direction and launched an DSMB to begin our ascent.  On the surface the waves had really kicked up and we were glad to get back into the boat instead of be on the surface in the water.

Once back we cleaned our gear, hit the warm showers to clean up and packed up.  Logging dives as we cleaned up and conducting final checks we finally left for home.  Traffic wasn’t too bad until we were about 1.5 hrs from home where we hit deadlocked traffic.  So we took several detours and definitely the scenic route home.  All-in-all this was a great weekend that definitely put those Advanced Open Water diver skills to the test…congrats to Andy for completing his certification, well deserved!