Sidemount Confined Water Training

Jeff hoveringThis past weekend we conducted the Sidemount Confined Water training at one of our favorite pools, the Suwon World Cup Pool.  This pool is setup for some great dive training.  If you haven’t been here it is a 5m deep 50m x 50m pool.  It has several hula hoops at varying depths for buoyancy practice as well as mirrors for each diver to self-correct and fine tune skills.

Our  day started out with a drive through the Korean summer vacation traffic…and there was PLENTY of it.  It took nearly double the time to get to the Suwon pool because Koreans were off enjoying their vacations.  Once we arrived at the pool we went over equipment setup and tank rigging.  This is one of the most important parts of the course, no instructor should over look this portion.  Everything minute you spend on setup will greatly pay off during the dive.  I would recommend that instructors compliment their instruction with some sort of video that explains various setups and use.  The one that I like so far is Jill Heinerth’s Sidemount Scuba Diving.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 20.52.31Once our equipment was setup and prepped for entry we went over an orientation brief to explain entry methods, weighting and brief the skills for the day.  With the briefings out of the way we pushed off the entry point and verified weighting and descended down to check out Jeff’s trim.  This is another critical place that instructors can’t take too lightly and where students will greatly benefit…GET THEIR TRIM RIGHT!  Spend the time to ensure equipment is setup correctly and streamlined.  This may be difficult if the student is useing loaner/rental gear but it is still important.  It is CRITICAL if the student is diving their own gear, this will be a great starting point for them to take note of.  Rarely will a diver again get so much personal attention to work out kinks and perfect their trim in the water.  Once Jeff’s gear was adjusted he knocked out skill after skill and we were able to surprise Jeff with multiple simulated emergencies as well.  Great job today Jeff! We definitely earned those Chili’s meals.

It wasn’t only the divers that got some fun in today…our shore support (wives) decided to tour the Suwon castle and downtown area while we were in the pool.  One more reason that we like this pool, lots to do for divers and non-divers alike.

If you are not familiar with the Suwon World Cup pool here is some information:

Annual Regulator Service and Video Editing

final cut pro editingThis past week and weekend was extremely busy indeed.  As you know we have been going non-stop these past weekends with a trip to Ulleongdo and Dokdo, a wedding on the East Coast all followed up with rebuilding regulators and servicing gear.  Each event means pictures, blogging and video editing.  Most of this is done at night after work long into the night.  Scrubbing video footage and marking our favorite clips and pics.  Once that is done we add in our logos, splash and end page as well as any effects and or transitions.  Needless to say not a quick task despite us 2015-07-16 00.04.49doing it all the time.
Once the wedding video, pre-wedding dive video and finally Ulleongdo video was finished it was time to service gear.  Carefully inspecting the regulators, hoses and all other attached items ensures that we have a good idea of what kind of condition the gear is currently in, and it will help to identify any troublesome areas.

Once inspected as a whole the main components are tested to give a benchmark then each piece is broken down into the simplest component and each thoroughly inspected one-by-one.  Then comes the careful cleaning of 2015-07-15 01.01.57each and every piece, to include hose ends, hose o-rings and even transmitters and SPGs.  A thorough rinsing and drying is needed followed by replacing all the parts that were discarded as per manufacturer recommendation.

Now comes the meticulous re-assembly noting some parts are lubricated while others are absolutely not.  Torque specifications are strictly followed and careful application of new parts and o-rings.  Order and attention to detail is critical.  Once the equipment is roughly 98% complete each piece is tested using the guidelines laid out by the manufacturer.  The 1st stage needs to perform between a certain IP (intermediate pressure).

2015-07-15 20.59.15Once the 1st stage is calibrated the 2nd stages must be calibrated.  Each second stage must be calibrated to manufacturer specifications.  This might even mean that you must use a separate 1st stage to conduct these tests to achieve the proper IP pressure for 2nd stage testing.  The tests for the second stage are critical to achieve maximum performance from the regulators.  First set the IP to spec, then adjust the regulator to hear a very minor leak…then turn slightly back to stop leak.  Once more turn adjustment knob slightly and viola the reg should be very close.  Finally the 2nd stage is validated with a cracking test (officially called the Inhalation Effort Test).  This test simply measures the force needed (or difficulty) to breath from the regulator.  For this you need a Magnehelic gauge.

Ultimately repairing your own inhalation effort testequipment will give you the satisfaction of knowing the job is done right and you can fine tune your equipment for you.  The downside is that the equipment to get started gets pricey quick.  It will cost the average person around $500-$1000 just for the specialty tools and calibration equipment.  This won’t even cover the cost of attending the manufacture’s training so that you can buy the parts and have access to the repair manuals.  There are places that you can save some money while still getting some great test gear.  For example the single item that I would recommend is the DUAL PRO 2015-07-15 23.46.53STAND, 0-3 MAGNEHELIC, IP GAUGE, FOUR SPINON ADAPTERS.  Just like it says it is a dual gauge that verifies IP and breathing effort (inhalation and exhalation with this model).  As you can see it is nearly $400 once you add in shipping.  That is half of a high-end DIY’ers budget.  Now you can see why shops charge so much for servicing gear.

If you are a DIY’er look no further than Scuba Tools for each and every tool you may need.  This company is a small business that supplies even the large manufacturers with tools and customized equipment. They are great to deal with as well.

Hollis 500SE Regulator Review

Hollis 500SE Regulator profileWith every new regulator launch comes new “hype”, most of the time I have noticed that most of the improvement is in the visual design.  The new version looks cooler, it’s black and features aggressive characteristics to portray the “Tec” image.  Well this new design isn’t really new at all.  In fact it is quite old.  If I would have seen this a few years ago I might have passed it up for the newer looking round regulators…and I would have missed out big time.

Benefits of the Hollis 500SE

  • Pneumatically balanced servo valve system
  • Patented Orthodontic Mouthpiece for comfort and reduced jaw fatigue
  • Standard with 30″ maxflex hose
  • Easily disassembled without the use of tools and underwater if necessary
  • Left or right positioning – no upside down
  • Boltsnap tie point (Hollis.com, 2015)

Hollis 500SE Regulator backsideHollis has brought back an old design with a modern look and features.  Hollis highlights these features on the regulator’s website (http://www.hollis.com/500se-dc7), the ones listed above.  Of those bullets I feel that there are 2 that need to be mentioned again.

First the statement, “Easily disassembled without the use of tools and underwater if necessary” is an understatement.  I was a bit skeptical when I read this but wow this regulator is unbelievably easy to disassemble.  All you have to do is twist off the plastic nut that holds in the hose and pull the interior of the regulator out…done!  That is seriously it.  This is amazing for cleaning or removing debris.  To go hand-in-hand with that, the service kit is minimalist due to the simple, but reliable construction of the 2nd stage.  I would like to thank Hollis for this design because it makes yearly overhauls simple and time saving.

Hollis 500SE Regulators on BCDSecond, “Left or right positioning – no upside down” design makes for great application during stage/deco/bailout bottles, sidemount setups and finally air-sharing.  Students no longer have to worry about regulator orientation and an air sharing exercise can be done in the blind.

One of the most important features of the regulator (for me) wasn’t highlighted by Hollis and it definitely needs to be mentioned.  For those of you who know me know that I primarily dive a PRISM 2 eCCR.  The CCR is probably the greatest tools for underwater videography because there are no bubbles that ruin your shots, no giant distortions covering your subjects…just clear water.  This is where the 500SE makes it’s money.  For the divers out there that can’t afford to dive a CCR and want to minimize bubble intrusion in your videos this is the single greatest option…and at a fraction of the cost.

This past weekend I shot tons of video underwater (which I am still scrubbing through) and the 500SE’s performance related to video was fantastic.  At almost no time did the bubble ruin a shot or distract from the video.  I didn’t have to think about breathing during my scene captures…simply amazing as far as I’m concerned.

Hollis 500SE RegulatorSo how did the 500SE perform in the water?  Excellent, and I am sure that didn’t surprise you.  The 500SE breathes extremely easy and I didn’t have any issues with free flows during any dive, ascent/descent etc.  The mouthpiece is very comfortable and I didn’t endure any sort of jaw fatigue or feel any pull or push…the regulator rested perfectly in my mouth and was barely noticeable.

Drawbacks of the Hollis 500SE

I honestly could not find a downside to this regulator.  These regulators have now retained a permanent home on my gear for all my OC dive setups.

Summary

Would I recommend this regulator?  YES! Who would I recommend this regulator to?  This regulator makes deco/bailout tank streamlining a breeze.  It is also great for beginners who want a high-performance regulator that can meet recreational and technical diving demands as well as feel comfortable in their mouths during long dives.  Finally and without a doubt I would highly recommend this regulator to every open circuit videographer out there, especially those non-professionals that implement multiple cams like GoPro cameras on helmets.

Was there a question that I didn’t answer?  Still want to know more?  Feel free to comment below, I love to hear our feedback.

Dry Suit Confined Water Training

There is not much that can prepare a diver for the feeling of their first drysuit dive.  This is true whether it is in a pool or in the ocean.  The closest feeling would be to put your hand into a plastic bag and put it in the kitchen sink or bathtub.  No matter how many times we describe this to new students they are always amazed at the initial feeling (as we were).

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 13.44.35This past weekend we got in the pool to do some PADI Drysuit Specialty Diver training.  Once introductions & paperwork were done we watched a few videos on drysuit repair and care.  Next we tried on equipment and went over gear setup and donning/doffing the drysuit.  We conducted final kit checks and got into our drysuits for a short drive to the pool.

At the pool we went over the required skills as well as some additional skills that are always good to keep well oiled. Jeff did an excellent job in the pool and we are looking forward to getting in the ocean.

1000 PLUS LIKES on Facebook

2014-11-09 18.39.07WOW!  We recently blew past 1,000 likes on our Facebook page!! We are very lucky to have our fans, readers and especially our club members.  We couldn’t have done this without you all.We would like to thank everyone for helping us get 1,000 plus “likes”.

Please stay tuned for what we have coming up in the future.  Don’t forget to join us on the East Coast 25-26 April 2015 for the Namae Scuba 2015 opening.  The 2015 dive season looks like it will be amazing…so please join us.

ANTARES Dry Glove System

 with the Hollis DX300 Drysuit

ANTARES dryglove kit on Hollis DX300First off I have to say this is quite possibly one of the easiest projects I have done related to scuba diving.  At first it does seem intimidating but it is easy I promise.  If you have been following our blog then you know that I recently reviewed the Hollis DX300 drysuit.  This suit was super comfortable with it’s silicone seals and material.  The major benefit of this suit is that is utilizes quick change SiTech QCS Oval Ring system that is completely compatible with the SiTech ANTARES system.

Oval Stiff Ring for ANTARESIf you don’t have a new Hollis DX300 and you are using this on an older QCS Oval system then you need to verify if you have the new or old QCS system; the older version requires the additional purchase of the Oval Stiff Ring which replaces the thinner older (non-ANTARES-compatible) rings that attach the seals (this is an extra step but it is as simple as changing your silicone seals).  

If you are lucky enough to have the new QCS seals (any QCS Ovals manufactured after May 2013) or the Hollis DX300 then you are a mere 10 minutes away from dry hands.

Total Cost of Project:

  • $124 for parts (not including shipping)
  • 10-15 minutes of your time

Items you need to purchase:

  1. BLUE PVC Dry Suit Glove Replacement ($24)
  2. Antares Oval Dryglove System ($100)

I highly recommend the blue/orange gloves because it is easy to see hand signals if you have a darker drysuit or black gear, or limited visibility.  The black gloves look great on the surface however they aren’t as functional underwater for signaling.

Installation:

 

  1. Find the spacer ring that creates a snug fit with your glove (if you purchased the blue gloves above then it will be the blue spacer).  Thinner gloves like rubber only (no fabric on the inside) should take the green spacer.
  2. Tuck the glove wrists into themselves to fold over the spacer ring.
  3. Check to see fit on writs and verify oval is properly placed for wrist and movement.
  4. Hold glove and ring in place and press firmly into the quick connect cuff ring that attaches the glove to the drysuit ensuring there are no creases in the glove as the ring seats itself.
  5. Push the ring all the way against the quick connect cuff ring.
  6. Pull the glove and the quick connect cuff ring in opposite directions to ensure proper installation.
  7. Trim excess material from glove cuffs.  (1.5cm/1.25in should be enough)
  8. (Optional) install ANTARES support ring into the drysuit sleeve.  This is included in the ANTARES kit (previous kits required an additional purchase).
  9. Lubricate the glove seals with the lubrication stick provided
  10. Test glove to suit fit by pressing the glove into the suit.
  11. Relax…your done.

Surprisingly easy huh?.  That’s exactly what I thought and it was truly simple.  The modular system is amazing and it really makes the Hollis Drysuit even better.  Now you can quickly (within 1 minute) change from wet to dry gloves or back.  Even better you can swap out QCS Oval Kitgloves should a previous pair become damaged, torn or flooded.

I can’t stress enough what an amazing system this is, especially when paired with the Hollis DX300.  I think that my next project will be installing the SiTech QCS Oval system on my Hollis BioDry 100 so stay tuned.

If you purchase these and doe this easy project let us know how it went for you and what your thoughts are on this system.  If you have questions drop us a line as well.

Hollis DX300 Drysuit Review

Hollis DX300 DrysuitRecently I got my hands on the illusive Hollis DX300 and I was excited to try it out.  Once unpacked it took all of about 5 minutes for me to start trying it on.  Before I go into the suit let me first say that I have been previously diving the Hollis BioDry 100 (front entry) for about 2 1/2 years and it was going to be very hard to top that suit.  The level of comfort that the BioDry 100 has is simply amazing.

Specifications

  • Entry: Front
  • Seals: Replaceable (silicone)
    • SiTech Neck Tite system
    • SiTech Quick Change Solution Oval
  • Pockets: 2 large velcro (1 on each thigh)
  • Foot Type: 5mm Neoprene Sock
  • Material: trilaminate (light weight) double diamond weave
  • Knees: thick padding
  • Zipper: YKK plastic, flexible
  • 3M reflective safety strips on each arm
  • Price: $1899.95 (MAP)

Test Conditions

  • surface temperatures: 15-21 C (60-70 F) and windy
  • Water temperature: 6-10 C (43-50 F)
  • dove drysuit using the PRISM2 eCCR
  • shore (shallow) & boat (deep) dives

With that preface out of the way lets begin the review.  Fist I was super excited to have neoprene socks (my BioDry will be going back to Hollis to have these added shortly).  The socks are amazingly comfortable and add a bit of cushion inside the rock boots.  This made for a really comfortable weekend in the suit for several hours each time.

Pros

11084398_787843441269441_1785072992_nThe next thing the wearer notices is that is is an updated plastic YKK zipper.  Now at first I was very disappointed and thought…”oh great plastic…I can see I will have to replace this when it breaks teeth”.  After a few uses the zipper is definitely more comfortable than most other dry suits and even tops the Biodry 100’s metal zipper for comfort.  I am hoping that the DX300’s zipper is every bit as durable as the Biodry 100’s zipper.

Finally, and this is absolutely the best feature, the user-replaceable silicone seals.  When anyone first uses this suit and carefully slides the seals on they will instantly notice the difference and be extremely happy.  These silicone seals are amazing…let me say that again…amazing.  First off zero trimming was necessary to get them to comfortably fit, secondly they are comfortable (in case you weren’t sure if I really meant it the first few times I said it). Replaceable seals are a big plus for me because of living overseas and so far away from AUP/Hollis.  The seals in the BioDry 100 must be replaced by Hollis.  This means that each time I need new seals I must send to my Authorized Dealer and they in turn send it back to the US to get serviced.  Needless to say this simply takes too long.  This was the whole reason why I wanted a second drysuit and luckily my second drysuit had user replaceable silicone seals.

The overall fit was great especially since it was an off-the-shelf size and not custom tailored.  All pieces work together to allow very comfortable movement and facilitate and nice range of motion.  This is especially important in technical diving because of all of the equipment that is worn and the range of motion needed to react in real/simulated emergencies.

One other benefit of the suit is that it was extremely comfortable on and below the surface.  Normally I can’t wait to take the suit top off and get out of the wrist and neck seals.  This wasn’t the case at all this past weekend (which was nice).  Because the suit was so comfortable I was able to wear it (as you dive it) all day without any discomfort.

As far as in-water handling the DX300 worked perfectly.  The inflator valve worked with the same precision as the BioDry 100.  The dump valve was the same, worked without any issues.  The drysuit material appears that it will hold up just as well if not better than the BioDry 100, however time will provide the ultimate test.

Being extremely familiar with the cold water diving of South Korea I was able to see one more benefit to the suit.  The DX300 material appears to provide a slightly warmer dive than the BioDry.  I am sure this is due to the thicker material.  I dove the suit in 6-10 C (43-50 F) water using only the lavacore undergarments and I wasn’t cold (except for my hands).  Usually I must add an additional top and bottom piece on top of the lavacore in the winter here.  I also think that this suit will be much easier to get into and out of for pool/warm water where a diver wouldn’t use full bottoms (i.e. shorts or underwear only).  This is because the BioDry has a rubber inside that tends to stick / rip out leg hairs and the DX300 has more of a nylon feeling interior.

Updated 08 April 2015: This suit is 100% compatible with the ANTARES Oval Dryglove System.  Read our installation and review here.

Cons

Unfortunately there are some negatives to the suit.  One that is immediately noticeable is the oval plastic cuffs that can dig into the wrists during wrist movement if not properly positioned prior to devices being put on the wrists (slates, computers etc).  The cuff also reduce arm space available for these items.  This was something that was rather irritating, especially since I was diving my rebreather and needed the arm space for my Predator (primary) Petrel (backup), wrist slates and compass.  Perhaps I need to rethink wrist slates that I love so much.  The other down side to the DX300 was the fact that the cuffs and in combination with the suit material (not 38th Parallel Divers just before a cold water divebeing wearforce stretchable) there were some instances where It was more difficult to reach the drysuit dump shoulder dump valve.  This would not have been a problem had I been diving OC (backmount singles/doubles or sidemount); this was directly related to the PRISM2’s counter lungs and harness system.  I am not sure if it is fair to subtract points from the DX300 for this but I don’t experience this with the BioDry 100 so it is a thought that will run though my head when selecting which drysuit to wear on a dive.

The other downside to the silicone cuffs is related to Hollis’s policy itself.  The Hollis website clearly states, “Fitted with SiTech Quick Change Solution Oval wrist system with silicone seals as standard (comes with spare seals)” however this was not the case.  I even contacted Hollis and they stated they weren’t aware that the suit was supposed to come with spare seals.  I also informed them that the site stated it was supposed to however not sure which is correct at this point since the site still states “yes” (as of 25 March 2015) to spares and I didn’t receive any or an indication that some would be sent to future purchasers.

I’m not really upset that there are no spares, it would just be nice to know in advance so that I could have purchased them to have on-hand. Since they are SiTech seals you can purchase them directly from a SiTech dealer.  I bought replacement wrist seals from Amazon (see right).

Modifications Recommended

Light Monkey P Valve on Hollis DX300 drysuitThe only modification needed for this suit is the addition of a P-valve.  I like to make sure that me and all my divers stay hydrated, especially in the cold waters on technical dives.

If you already have a P-Valve the quick disconnect is quite possibly the best add-on you can get. It allows for easy detachment from the suit without having to remove the device from the diver (works with both male and female systems).

Summary

All in all the suit has some amazing features that make it an excellent buy:

  • user replaceable neck and wrist seals
  • extremely comfortable silicone seals
  • standard neoprene feet
  • flexible plastic zipper

I definitely would recommend this suit to anyone, especially those who find themselves in situations where they cannot easily send back a suit to replace seals.

The only downside to this suit is that the wrist cuffs and neck cuff will take some getting use to since it does make a diver re-think arm device setups and feels slightly different in the next area.

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!

Guest blogger for PA-DivingIDC / IDC Thailand

2014_11_08-09_006_1

I was recently asked to write blog for a friend/mentor’s website related to diving here in South Korea.  He was not only a friend and mentor but also my (and our other instructors’) Course Director during our IDC and Specialty Instructor Course, none other than Camille Lemmens from IDC Thailand.net & PA-DivingIDC.com.

You can check out the blog post here.