Contributing Author: Mitchell Singler (Iwakuni, Japan)
I was recently asked for my thoughts about what GUE diving is and what it isn’t. First GUE is short for Global Underwater Explorers and there is a little bit of misunderstanding online (and offline) about what GUE is. I suppose the best way for me to explain it is to just talk about this team based diving concept and why that appealed to me enough to seek out an Instructor and get some training.
I took a GUE Fundamentals course a couple of years ago because I was looking for dive training that was more skills based than much of the training I had taken up to that point. At that time I had taken some PADI courses along with a YMCA (now defunct; it has since become SDI) recreational course. I had also taken an Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course with a TDI Instructor.
Now the YMCA course I took was very good; it was an Open water 2 dive course. It actually covered gas planning, which was sorely missing from many PADI courses. As for the PADI classes I took….the emphasis on individual diver skills was non-existent. Performing skills while being neutrally buoyant was not a requirement for any of the PADI courses I took. I recently became a PADI Instructor myself; so I do realize that PADI is moving in the direction of emphasizing buoyancy control. That is likely a long way away in terms of being a true performance requirement.
The TDI advanced nitrox/deco procedures course I took was very challenging, as it should be; since it is a technical diving course. Prior to taking that course, I worked on my own buoyancy control during my normal dives, and had it pretty well dialed in prior to taking this course. I do feel that this should be emphasized as an actual performance requirement for the entry level, recreational dive courses.
After completing my TDI course, I gave a lot of thought to where I wanted to go in my further dive progression. I knew that I wanted to progress into more technical diving; my goal being to do more wreck diving. It was around this time that I started looking into taking a GUE Fundamentals course. I really wanted some training that would actually challenge me in terms of buoyancy skills, all while being task loaded with additional skills to manage while being neutrally buoyant. My thinking was that once I had that solid skills platform to work from, I could build from there. I am a firm believer in this today.
I went into my GUE Fundaments course thinking it would be all about buoyancy control, the equipment configuration, and learning how to back kick. It did include all of those things….but I discovered that it offered much more than just those things.
I discovered right away that GUE training is all about team diving. Not just lip service paid to the usual advice to always stay with your buddy…..but a true emphasis on real team diving and planning. It was centered on this team mindset, a complete team attitude. This was the foundation the training was built on.
All skills were performed as a team. Every drill, skills demonstration, the simulated failures while holding the minimum deco stops……everything was performed while in a team formation. The emphasis was always on focusing on the team. It was much different than any of the other recreational courses I previously took.
I am of the opinion, based on my experience in my course, and in seeing the local divers that later completed the Fundamentals course; GUE training produces the best dive buddies. Since my Fundamentals dive training, I have organized other classes. There have been 19 GUE trained divers in Iwakuni, Japan to date. I have seen the consistent result produced by the fundamentals course.
It is very refreshing to dive with people that don’t swim off on their own and get separated. With the GUE trained divers I have been diving with, my dive buddy is always there. From the new divers that took GUE Fundamentals right after open water class, to the more experienced divers; they all stay with their dive buddies. They actually pay attention to each other. Diving is a lot more fun when divers pay attention to each other and stay together. That is a definite advantage to diving with people that have a true team diving mindset and attitude. Having consistent buoyancy control skills to be able to hold all stops is another trait shared by all that have completed the course.
Another aspect that like about the GUE training is that it actually teaches actual gas planning. I’m not referring to the typical thing that divers are told, about getting back on the boat with 500 psi in their tanks. That is NOT dive planning at all. In Fundamentals class students are actually taught how to plan their gas reserve. They know how much keep in reserve for both divers to conduct their minimum deco stops for both divers in the unlikely event of a problem. They calculate minimum gas, and turn pressure…they are taught all aspects of this. It all ties into the team diving mindset that is truly missing from most recreational dive programs.
Of course equipment configuration is a standardized thing with GUE. Contrary to what many people have been told….there is no requirement for any particular brand of equipment. The equipment requirements are listed on the GUE website; http://www.globalunderwaterexplorers.org/equipment/config
But for the Fundamentals course a back plate/wing BC, regulators set up with a 7’ long hose configuration are the foundation.
There does seem to be a lot of bad information about GUE on the Internet; I don’t understand why. The course requirements and equipment configuration are on the GUE website, but inaccurate information persists.
I do believe that much of the negative information stems from dive shops that see GUE training as contrary to what they teach and provide. In a sense it is….if a dive shop doesn’t even sell back plates and wings, I imagine they are going to be somewhat opposed to a training agency that requires this as standard equipment. The same goes for regulators set up with a long hose; if the shop Instructors themselves aren’t trained and familiar with that setup, then it’s no surprise that a lot of shops out there are going to start bad mouthing a training agency that offering something much different than the typical shop is offering.
As for me, as an individual diver that is always looking to improve and progress in diving, it makes sense to dive and progress with other divers that are interested in the same thing. I love diving! I want to make progress, and get better at it, so I can enjoy it even more. Diving is a lot more fun when you are diving with buddies that have the skills and attitude that contribute to diving as a team, knowing how to plan a dive, understanding gas planning, and having the situational awareness that allows them to stay as a team and have more fun diving. Diving with buddies that don’t churn up the bottom and can actually hold their safety stops because they have been trained to be in better control of their buoyancy is a joy!
It’s wonderful, not having to chase down divers that swim away from the group, because they don’t pay attention to their buddies.
- I am not a spokesman for GUE. The 38th Parallel Divers asked me to write my thoughts about what it meant to me, so I wanted to share my opinions about it.
- I feel that GUE training offers something that is truly lacking in the dive industry; training that includes actual gas planning and dive planning at the recreational level.
- It offers a challenging and very fun system of true team based dive training.
- It makes performing skills while being neutrally buoyant in the water column; all while being you’re your team an actual performance requirement.
- It emphasizes skills and builds diver competence, comfort in the water, and confidence. This all leads to diving being more fun.
Many of these skills are taught and emphasizes when taking technical diving courses. But why aren’t these skills taught and required at the recreational level? I don’t really have an answer for why other recreational agencies don’t emphasize all of these things……but these are all part of GUE Fundamentals dive training at the recreational level.
Is it for everyone? It’s difficult to say; it does require some commitment in terms of equipment and training time. But for those divers that have taken a recreational dive course and found it lacking……perhaps GUE is for them.
Diving is fun….it is supposed to be. But it’s a lot more fun when your confidence and level of proficiency are much higher. It becomes even more fun when you are diving with buddies that have that same level of proficiency.