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).

Ulleongdo and Dokdo

38th Parallel Divers Ulleongdo

This past weekend we went to the “Mysterious Island Ulleongdo” and Dokdo to take in the beautiful sights of a less populated Korea.  This has to be one of the most beautiful places in Korea…hands down.  Ulleongdo is an amazing place that is barely touched by tourism and people.  It has enough infrastructure to make it an enjoyable trip but not too much as to take away from the raw natural beauty of the island and surrounding clear fish-filled waters.  Most of our posts are purely revolving around diving.  It would be an injustice to only talk about the diving on the amazing island so please bear with me while I talk about some of the other things that this island has to offer…plus these are good negotiation points for those family members who are non-divers…just saying.

The Trip

Ulleongdo Tourist MapIt is no small feat getting to Ulleongdo and Dokdo.  Our Trip looked something like this:

Trip To (starts Thursday night):

  1. Drive – Thursday night drive to the east coast immediately after work, 1800 – 2130 (3.5 hours)
  2. Sleep in a hotel Thursday night
  3. Friday morning drive to port and park car, 0800
  4. Ferry – Mukho Port (Donghae) to Sadong Harbor (Ulleongdo), 0900 – 1200 (3 hours)

On a separate day (total trip takes roughly 4.5 hours with load/unload times etc):

  1. Ulleongdo to Dokdo, 1.5 hours
  2. Dokdo to Ulleongdo, 1.5 hours

Return Trip (Monday late night):

  1. Ferry – Sadong Harbor (Ulleongdo) to Mukho Port (Donghae), 1800-2100
  2. Drive – Donghae to Home, 2130 – 0100 (3.5 hours)

The Food

Tiger Cow 칡소

Ulleongdo is know for seafood especially squid, what most foreigners don’t know is that there are 3 other amazing foods to eat on the island… 1. tiger beef (칡소).  The tiger beef is so delicious thanks to some great marbling that give wonderful juicy flavors throughout.  The only downside to this beef is that it isn’t cheap…for a portion of beef slightly smaller than what one could get on the mainland we had to fork over approximately 50,000 krw each.  Definitely not a meal for those who might be budget minded.  

The other hand-down amazing MUST EAT dish are the special shrimp that are only found in this region.  I have eaten tons of shrimp and prawn in my lifetime and nothing (yes I mean absolutely without a doubt NOTHING) comes close to the amazing taste of these shrimp.  So much so that I recommend that everyone try them despite their high price.  Before I tell you the cost let me explain what these shrimp are.  The first shrimp are called chicken shrimp and they have a sharp pointy shell that takes some care when pealing apart.  The second shrimp is called flower shrimp and has white stripes that go the flower shrimplength of the shrimp.  Many westerners don’t eat the best part chicken shrimpof the shrimp, the stuff from the head area…do not miss this delicious part.  Mainly because it is wonderful but also because the store owner will yell at you and wonder why on earth you left this behind.  The shrimp is cooked in a very simple manner…it is boiled in plain water, no seasoning required.  Now for the bad news.  For only 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) of shrimp the cost is about 80,000 krw.  

The Diving

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.56.08We dove with a great dive shop that truly catered to us and were excellent hosts.  The shop was Ulleong Dive Resort and they spoke enough English to get us everything that we needed to log 2 beautiful dives.  The shop has a large boat equipped with a sun shade roof, lots of room, plenty of power to speed you out around the island and even a small bathroom.  The dive shop met some of our divers at the port to pickup their gear and take it to the diveshop.  They kindly let us store our gear at the shop until our dive day.  They also let us pick the time to dive so we didn’t have to rush or operate on anyone else’s schedule.  This was another great point of diving with Ulleong Dive Resort.

Since we dropped off our bags they noticed our eye-catching emblem on our dive bags and looked up our website.  When we arrived at the shop to dive they told us they watched all of our videos and were amazed to see how much we have dove in South Korea.  They were excited to dive with us!  Ulleong Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.59.03dive resort did Ulleong Fishnot disappoint and for our first dive they dropped us off near the
north eastern tip of Ulleong-do .  This dive site started at 20 meters and sloped off to about 40m and then sharply dropped off into a very deep shelf.  The water was cloudy to about 17 meters and then cleared up greatly around 30 meters.  We saw small schools of fish which included many different varieties.  The water temperature was a beautiful 16C with an average visibility of about 15 -20 meters…extremely ice compared to our normal east coast diving.

Ulleong FishScreen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.06.31The second dive site was Juk island (Juk-do).  This was basically a beautiful long safety stop that allowed us to see parrot, trigger and many other fish to include a very odd translucent fish.  At first we all thought it was a jell fish but one of us accidentally touched one to discover it was hard like a fish not a jelly.  Looking closely we could see clear bones, a moving mouth and internal working organs…definitely one of the strangest creatures I have ever seen.  After a beautiful 45 minute warm (relatively) dive in clear waters we ascended from our 11m – 5m shallow dive…all bearing giant smiles.  We got back on the boat and snapped some pictures with our new friends taking the opportunity to get some pics with our new banner to represent our club.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.06.59Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 22.58.09Once back on shore we cleaned our gear and hung it to dry.  We walked around the area looking at beach entry sites for training and night diving…yes there is plenty of night diving here!  The waters around the dive shop have plenty of shallow areas to conduct shallow training dives as well as deep dives only a short swim away.  Simply put this place was amazing…and we will definitely be arranging a group trip back.

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 23.01.24

Dive Sites:

  • #1: Gwaneumdo(island) – pyeong bawi(flat rock)
  • #2: Jukdo (island)

Costs:

  • Basic Room at dive shop 50,000 krw per room per night (floor sleeping)
  • Dive/Boat fees: *90,000 krw per person per trip (2 dives)
  • Air only (no nitrox)

*price can be more depending on number of person on boat trip.  Usually there is a minimum amount due to fuel costs.

Dokdo

Many westerners don’t know about Dokdo.  Dokdo (island) is contested by the Japanese for ownership.  However it is currently occupied by Korea’s police and there is also a couple that lives on the island.  It was no small feat the we actually were able to set foot on the island.  There is no proper dock for the ferry to offload/load passengers.  The police and crew assist passengers getting on and off the ferry by holding a small ramp that rocks wildly in the waves.  The weather held out long enough for us to touch down on Dokdo however we weren’t allowed to climb the top due to time constraints.  The waves were knocking the ferry around and we were called back to the boat early.  Thankfully we were able to take a few snap shots (even with our banner) to make this amazing event.  Especially since we traveled 1 hour and 50 minutes from Ulleongdo to get there.  The water were amazingly clean and clear.  People were scurrying about to snap photos of their pilgrimage.  After 15 minutes or so we were getting back o the boat and headed back to Ulleongdo.

So much to do

There is so much to do for non-divers that everyone had fun even on dive days.  The minimum amount of time needed to log some dives and sightsee is a 4 day weekend.  First and last days being half travel days, 1/2 day of diving, and 1 1/2day dedicated non-diving (to include Dokdo)…this is enough to scratch the surface.  When we go back we will be focusing on diving and logging many dives in the area.

The only downside…

The only and yes only downside to Ulleongdo is that if you do not like Korean side-dishes or seafood you need to bring your own food supply.  Everything has seafood in it here, which is good but it is nice to have some western friendly food…for us we like at a minimum to have a western breakfast.  We really like eggs sandwiches.  I will say one caveat…the hotel we did stay at had a great coffee/breakfast shop and the lady did let us know that if we told her in advance she would have made us egg and toast for breakfast (for a fee of course).  The shop did serve fruit and nut yoghurt which was great but didn’t quite fill us up for all the walking, hiking and diving we did.  We will definitely take the lady up on her offer for western breakfast.

Simply put if you need non-seafood or western meals we suggest you bring some brats/hotdogs or peanut butter and jelly.

More information…

However if you are interested in what else we did besides diving (along with pricing information) please check out the BackpackBees Blog (post pending).

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.

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!

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.

Delayed / Surface Marker Buoy (SMB/DSMB) – Selection & Deployment

SMB at surface

Deploying a surface marker buoy is critical in many parts of the world for diving and now it is required as part of the PADI Open Water Diver course.  We definitely agree that is a must know skill for divers. We have been part of a few rescues where improper DSMB deployment use or inadequate SMB size caused divers not to be noticed by the boat for pickup.  NO diver wants to be left in the water.  I will use the terms SMB and DSMB interchangeably, just understand the only difference is DSMB would be deployed underwater after dive start, usually on ascent (delayed); SMB would normally be deployed on the surface at the beginning of the dive.  The skill that I will be talking about is deploying the SMB underwater.

Very recently we were on a dive where another buddy team suffered from two mistakes:

  1. They had an inadequately sized DSMB
  2. They lost control of their DSMB

A critical task is to conduct pre-dive checks.  Pre-dive checks are not simply making sure you have equipment, they are there so that you make sure you have the right equipment.  The right equipment will vary depending on many factors … basically your decisions should be made in the following manner:

  • What is the Dive Goal
  • Surface/Water Conditions
  • Dive Site Location
  • Buddies/Equipment Available
  • Time
  • Environmental Impact Considerations

Going back to choosing proper SMB size, if we were diving in the Philippines and it was super flat, clear waters then perhaps a 1 meter SMB could be appropriate.  Now lets move to the Korean East Coast.  On the East Coast conditions can change throughout the day at a moderate pace, also we have seen currents pop up out of no where once in a while.  On the surface there are generally some swells that range from small to fairly large (we dive in all types of weather so long as the boats are allowed to leave the harbor with our experienced divers).  Even with small swells a small DSMB is difficult to see from a distance in this environment.  Most of our divers opt for the larger 1.6 – 2m tall DSMBs.  For South Korea we personally feel that these are the bare minimum for our environment.

This is a video of the tail end of a 2.5+ hour search and rescue where divers were diving with too small of an SMB and they lost control of the SMB as well. Needless to say we were all very grateful when we located the divers.

Now let’s talk about deployment of your DSMB.  This task execution must also be carefully evaluated based on environment.  Many instructors teach students to use their alternate air source to put air into the SMB.  This is a technique but not an ideal technique.  Why not?  If you dive in Korea the water temps in deep water (or in winter months) can reach 5º C.  With water temperatures that cold there is a high probability that your alternate air source will freeze causing a free flow.  Now you have two problems to deal with, (1) you probably just overfilled your SMB and it is out of control (unless you are experienced with SMBs) and (2) you now have a free-flowing regulator wasting precious breathing gas.  Neither are good and the combination probably caused the less experienced diver to also lose control of the SMB reel, so now that is gone.

So what is the right way to deploy an SMB?  There is no 1 specific right way, it is all dependent on your surroundings, however there are ways that work in most situations.  There are 3 techniques that work well in all environments:

  1. Fill your SMB with your exhaled breaths directly from regulator to bag
  2. Fill your SMB by blowing into the oral/power inflator nozzle
  3. Attach an extra low pressure inflator hose to your 1st stage that you will use to inflate the power inflator nozzle.  The same style hose that attached to your LPI (low pressure inflator) on your BCD.

We found 3 good videos on YouTube that showcase each of the options. These are not our videos and we are not affiliated with any of the owners/instructors etc.

Option 1 does take practice in maintaining proper buoyancy and trim however one plus is that the regulator never comes out of the divers mouth.  This however will NOT work for CCR divers, as we simply don’t exhale into the water.  Alternate air source freezing won’t occur.

Option 2 does require the diver to remove the regulator from his/her mouth and blow into the oral/power inflator nozzle.  This could require multiple breaths depending on depth and amount per breath the nozzle allows to pass through.  There is very little chance that too much air will rapidly enter the SMB as the diver controls each amount with precision. Alternate air source freezing won’t occur.  This again would not be ideal for CCR divers as they would deplete their loop contents and change the loop mix.

Option 3 would work for all divers (OC and CCR).  Simply connect the LP hose up to the power inflator nozzle and carefully fill.  Alternate air source freezing won’t occur and the regulator always remains in the divers mouth.

We understand there are several other variations out there that would work as well, such as using the existing LP hose attached to a diver’s low LPI however anytime a diver disconnects items there is a possibility of failure or inability to reconnect.  Each diver must carefully conduct a personal assessment on which way to setup his/her gear and task execution.

Finally a last note, make sure you can find, reach and fluidly deploy your SMB. This is where practice comes in. Start by testing out configurations on dry land in our home. Then do it blindfolded. Then move to the pool. Slightly adjust locations and setup until you find one that works best for you without violating the above consideration list. Think safety first at all times. Finally when you have mastered the skill in the pool move to the ocean. With the help of buddies record each others’ deployment of DSMBs to see how you really look executing the task.

As always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us and keep your eyes peeled for our next dive clinic.  Not sure where to pick up an SMB like ones that we mentioned above?  Comment below or PM us on Facebook www.facebook.com/38thParallelDivers

Becoming a PADI Scuba Instructor – Our Experiences

So you are thinking about becoming a PADI Scuba Instructor, check out our club’s video of our IDC / IE experience.  I know for me personally this was a big decision,  because of the responsibility, time and costs.  First of all if you are a diver (and at the point of considering becoming a professional scuba instructor) you know by now that this endeavor isn’t cheap.  First you really should have your own equipment at this point, if not then perhaps you should come back when you do.  Secondly you have to have a minimum number of dives, these are cheap either.  Finally there are all the costs associated with getting to the Instructor Examination…

  • Divemaster Course (if you are not already)
  • Emergency First Response Instructor Course (EFRI) – course and processing fees apply
  • Instructor Development Course (IDC) – minimum a week or longer (Assistant Instructor & Open Water Scuba Instructor Course) — price will vary here by your Course Director and location.  We went with Platinum Course Director Camille Lemmens (www.idcthailand.net)
  • Instructor Examination (flat fee for exam but does have processing fees not included, dives not included)
  • Specialty Instructor (we completed ours with Camille, he gave us a great rate too).  There are Course Director (CD) Costs plus PADI processing fees too.  Dives may/may not be included depending on CD
  • Lodging – don’t forget you need a place to stay
  • Food – you gotta eat

Ok so you have the money…now your ready right?  Ummmm maybe.  Skills need to be perfect and at demonstration quality.  You also have to be ready and comfortable to present knowledge development in a classroom and conduct confined and open water skills.  Hopefully you haven’t forgot what oyu have learned in your other courses because you will need all that now.  You must consistently conduct an open water rescue and be prepared to recall all the physics, physiology, environment & skills, eRDP (or dive tables) and equipment.  Finally you still have one test left…and open book Standards test.  This test isn’t as easy as it sounds, they ask some very specific and intricate questions that will have you searching everywhere to verify it isn’t a trick question.

Don’t be scared though, if you have a good Course Director (like we did) it will be a constructive learning environment that is as challenging as it is fun.  Read our daily blogs below from our experiences:

  • IDC Day 1 – Practice Tests and Skill Evaluation
  • IDC Day 2 – Pool and Knowledge Development Presentations
  • IDC Day 3 – Graded Skills
  • IDC Day 4 – Graded Knowledge Dev. & Confined Water Presentations and Rescue Diver
  • IDC Day 5 – Graded Theory Test & More Presentations
  • IDC Day 6 – Graded Confined Water Presentations, Remainder of Presentations
  • IDC Day 7 – Open Water Presentations & Rescues
  • IDC Day 8 – More Open Water Presentations and Rescues
  • IE Day 1 – Dive Theory & Standards Exams, Graded Skill Circuit, Graded Confined Water Presentations
  • IE Day 2 – Open Water Presentations, Rescue, Knowledge Dev. Presentation and GRADUATION! Night Diver Specialty
  • Specialty Instructor Day 1 – Search & Recovery, Navigation
  • Specialty Instructor Day 2 – Wreck Diver, Sidemount
  • Specialty Instructor Day 3 – Deep, Nitrox, Emergency Oxygen Provider, Gas Blender