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!

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!!

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.

IDC Day 6 – Final Confined Water Tasks

Group Pic Final Confined Water

0700 – Wake-Up
0800 – Breakfast (perhaps one day, haha)
0900 – Pool (Graded Confined Water Presentations: Open Water Diver and Rescue Diver)
1200 – lunch (at Chili’s finally)
1300 – (Remainder of IDC Presentations)
1700 – Complete

So today we started out the day a bit sluggish but ready to finish out the confined water portion and final presentations. Mainly because we knew we had a day off (Friday) from any diving evaluation. Everyone’s presentations went excellent, definitely improving upon the first ones. It would be nice to go home and sleep in our own beds for a night before we go to Open Water.

At this point I believe each of us (I definitely can) appreciate the process of the IDC. Prior to the IDC whether it was watching other instructors or in preparation for this IDC I thought oh wow this is easy, just read the slates, do the skills that I know and keep divers safe…easy cheesy right? Kind of…only not really (yet). Despite being extremely confident and competent in the water when you have students in front of you it is different, now add the fact that you have someone deciding your fate looking for the smallest details in presentation, problem solving and control. At this point you think anything except perfect skills is a “problem” and you do-it-again. I am sure each former instructor candidate will be able to relate to this. Only a few more presentations for Open Water and we can finally call ourselves….oh wait we still have to do that damn examination thing…

As you approach the end of your IDC you feel more and more like a real instructor and you become excited at the fact that the IDC is almost over hoever every once in a while you remember that you still have the Instructor Examination (IE) to complete. At the IE you have to do it all again but with a new (and more intimidating) evaluator and you better not mess up cause you only have 2 days, 2 tries (on some stuff) and that’s IT. You do NOT want to be a recycle … (I know some of you will know that word…and yes it was from the evil school, if you don’t know what I am talking about no worries you didn’t really miss anything).

Today was the first day where we didn’t have to do a Rescue at the end of the pool session so we were able to quickly get out and prepare ourselves for some much needed comfort foods from Chili’s. Not sure that was such a great idea because the sleep monster would eventually creep up on all of us in the class room and tried to put us each in a food coma.


Once we all started coming out of the food coma we were able to focus on the last 2 presentations on Open Water and several workshops. This was a great transition into Open Water diving in the IDC. Finally the presentations are complete we are able to pack up and relax for a day as we pack and drive out to the East Coast, Sacheon Beach to be exact. Stay tuned for Tomorrow’s post.

IDC Day 3 “Happiness Denied”

© 2014 Camille Lemmens


0700 wake up
0800 breakfast
0900 pool (Graded Skills)

Today’s focus was the graded skill circuit! Talk about nervous. I don’t care how good you feel your diving skills are anytime someone is conducting a critical evaluation of your abilities to perform demonstration quality skills there will be some anxiousness. As expected everyone did an excellent job and remembered all aspects of their skill demonstrations.

© 2014 Camille Lemmens


Once the graded skill circuit was completed we moved right into Confined Water Presentation where our Course Director did CESA (Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent) Presentation, Demonstration and Instructor portion for us to see first hand. This was a great aid to see exactly what will give us maximum grades.

As any former IDC candidate can tell you it would be a day in the pool without rescue #7. Day 3’s rescue went even better, now that it is becoming muscle memory we can focus on perfecting each individual sub-tasks and better determine what is the best way to accomplish each little detail that we will be evaluated on. This is also a great place to find out how fellow candidates’ equipment works and is removed effectively.

I am sure that some of you looking at this title you immediately thought that one of our fellow instructor candidates had a problem with skills or some other task. This wasn’t the case, in fact this comes from a fellow instructor candidate, Carel, who said “Happiness Denied” as a response to not being allowed to watch the über motivated PADI actors performs skill demonstrations for a second and third time. While Carel and the all the instructor candidates were eagerly looking for more entertainment others were invoking post-lunch siesta rights…

Allen Sleeping
© 38thParallelDivers

In his defense he has been extremely busy ensuring all the logistics and coordinations are made and in-place for each day’s events like classroom setup, equipment repair and more.

To finish out the day we were given our Knowledge Development Lessons and our Confined Water Presentation topics to complete as homework and be evaluated on first thing in the morning. Ok everyone…it has begun…we will now be evaluated on our actual Instructor skills! Briefing, demonstrating, problem solving, controlling & delivery, debrief…and that’s just for the confined water. Knowledge development is set in a classroom environment and requires Intro, Content, Summary and Overall handling (and many sub tasks, participation, visual aids and more).

Since we are all fairly tech savvy we decided to leverage some collaborative technology in order to provide the best content…we will be using Google Docs to create a shared word processing document that we can each simultaneously work on. Each candidate has his/her own section that can be seen by the entire class in real-time as it is being created. Google Docs also allows for the class to text back and forth to each other as any questions/concerns arise. We will see how this helped everyone out tomorrow. Wish us luck!

On a non-IDC note we just had customized mesh Dive Gear Bags (with the 38th Parallel Divers Logo of course) designed today. We are told they will be ready 18 August 2014, we will post a picture once they are complete with final prices. Anyone interested please let us know (please message us on our Facebook Page).

IDC Day 2

Rescue 7 for IDC Students
0700 wake up
0800 breakfast
0900 pool

Doesn’t sound to stressful at all when I am typing out the initial timeline however after late night studying and blogging from the night before 0700 came faster than I wanted.

Today we immediately hit another skills circuit this time without demonstrations prior to skills. This was another great opportunity to get constructive criticism. Remembering to SLOW DOWN was a common theme throughout the skills for some while over exaggeration was for others. All-in-all our fellow instructor candidates did really well.

We even had to master a new skill (perhaps a distinctive specialty in the future) avoidance of the “Cleaner of Terror”! This insane self-propelled evil robot was trying to kill us all. At one point it either attempted to choke out divers with its cable or suck up our fins. This was a stealthy little bastard that would lie in wait for instructor candidates to be mid skill…then with the speed of a bullet and cat-like prowess it would attack! Finally though it gave up as it did not like the taste of rubber and neoprene.

Once that battle was over watched “Control” workshop. This provided a block of instruction on how to best control students while we were instructing as well as best positioning recommendations during the IE. While the primary focus isn’t the IE, it is obviously extremely critical to pass…without passing there is no teaching. We were reminded several times to remember to be close but not intimidating and NEVER turn your back on students (they might just disappear). Some great points that we will all hopefully remember to implement immediately.

Next came the rescue workshop where we covered several of the skills that would be needed to be demonstrated (possibly) during the IDC/IE. We covered several skills like panicked diver underwater and how to safely get a victim (patient) out of the water without drowning them.

Finally…as no surprise to anyone who has attended an IDC we had to perform rescue number 7 again, this time with a pocket mask. Today’s rescues went MUCH better and we were able to switch buddies to learn each others’ equipment. Once we got the “O.K.” from our instructors we packed up and headed out to lunch.

After the food and coffee coma set in we were given a few moments to prepare for more theory exams, this time we finished off the remaining theory: physiology, skills and environment, Recreational Dive Planner (RDP or eRDP), and equipment. Once again everyone did well (and passed). Once again we were reminded RTFQ and RTFA (read the F***ing answers… read what ALL the choices are).

Because Standards Are Important Everywhere You Go…

Finally confident in our theory knowledge we moved right into some more presentations, this time all about the Instructor Manual and the PADI standards. We were given some great practice questions and went over how to effectively and efficiently search the digital version of the Instructor Manual. This also provided opportunities for us to “what if” our Course Director and his IDC Staff Instructor. This was an important dialog for us because (as most Expat divers in Korea should know by now) Korea dive shops/resorts/instructors live by slightly different rules and regulations. This is especially true of insurance, there are very different requirements. Once this workshop was completed we were finally able to relax and get some food.

Stay tuned for Day 3…

The blog picture was courtesy of our Course Director, Camille Lemmens and his blog post can be found at

IDC Day 1 – It Has Begun!

IDC Day 1 Group

The PADI IDC has begun…technically just the OWSI (Open Water Scuba Instructor) requirements because all of us attending are already certified PADI Assistant Instructors. That being said 3 candidates just finished the AI course so it should be fresh in their heads and 2 of us finished 7 months ago so the repetition is great for us.

It is definitely intimidating to start a course that tells you if you have what it takes to instruct others. I believe most of the stress is self induced (at least for me); our Course Director (CD) has been great in creating a relaxed, professional environment; which is critical for a positive experience.

The morning started off with a good breakfast, some of the candidates got together to talk some smack to relieve the tension before training. Others met up at the end of breakfast just prior to the start of Day 1.

After paperwork and presentations we dove right into the physics practice test which every passed without difficulty. Our CD opened up the class to questions on anything that we wanted to get a better grasp on and we also received the best advice (applicable to all tests):

1.RTFQ – Read The F***ing Question
2.ATFQ – Answer The F***ing Question
3.TTRB – Tick the Right Box (fill in the correct box on the answer sheet)
4.TAB – Tick a Box (no answer will definitely be WRONG)

I know I left out a few so I apologize to my fellow candidates and CD.

After the classroom we went to lunch followed by the pool. In a few moments were were about to be evaluated by a Course Director. But this experience was great, we were able to see perfect skills demonstrated by our Course Director and his IDC Staff Instructor just prior to us having to complete the skills. At the completion of every skill we were provided good feedback and tips for success during real-world instruction as well as some IE specifics.

Once skills were completed we got into Rescue 7. Rescue 7 is one of those skills that cannot be taken lightly; first off if it is needed in a real world situation someone’e life is literally in your hands, secondly there are so many sub-tasks that need to be completed (many in a specific order). Our class was able to get in 2 rescues each which left us feeling good about our improvement from the first rescue and got us all back into the mindset of PADI professionals.

Clean-up, refill tanks and FOOD! However the fun doesn’t stop there, we all had homework assignments to complete as well as any personal studying and visualization for tomorrow’s dives.

Quick write-up on the blog then finally SLEEP, see you all tomorrow!

The blog picture was courtesy of our Course Director, Camille Lemmens and his blog post can be found at, specifically here