SCUBA is a constantly changing sport that seems to be alive itself at times. The fact that it is always changing is one of the things that I love most about our sport; you cannot have the same dive twice. Because it is never the same dive twice, there is always something new to learn or some skill to be conquered. The challenges in scuba diving are unending, and they are different for every diver. It was this that drew me to SCUBA after my very first open water dive years ago, I knew that one could never truly, completely conquer this beast of a sport, but the goal was simply to always be improving and learning.
I did not realize it at the time but it was this drive to try to better myself and master as many of the aspects of diving as I could that set me on the road to becoming a rebreather diver. Shortly after my initial certification I knew that I wanted to do more, I wanted to share my newfound love of the underwater world with everyone! I spent the next years working hard at mastering skills and building muscle memory while working my way up to Dive Master so that I could assist with classes. Through the experience I built over those years I met new dive buddies. They were technical divers, their gear and slang were so foreign to me, but I was intrigued. John was a tech instructor by this point so I began to learn the basics of this new world from him. I was hooked immediately!
The thought of going beyond recreational limits was both scary and exhilarating. I began learning all of the specialized lessons that one needs in the Tech diving world. I learned decompression theory, how to calculate decompression stops, gas management, and gear rigging to name a few. I found this new type of diving to be even more addicting than my first breaths underwater. I decided to take things a step further so I became a trimix diver. This step required a lot of learning on the academic side of things. When it came time to actually dive trimix for the first time I was both excited and nervous. To this day, it was one of my favorite dives, I felt more alert than I had on similar dives, I quickly realized the advantages of “mix.”
With these more advanced dives I found myself surrounded by people that I now consider mentors. I was constantly learning from them both in and out of the water. Being around people with more experience that me made me a much more knowledgeable and skillful diver. Quickly I began to notice that most of the people on the dive boats were not diving open circuit, but were opting for rebreathers instead. I became fascinated with these foreign, space looking, mystery machines. I drove both my friends and strangers on dive boats crazy asking questions about all of the different rebreather units. I watched videos, read books, and sat in on as many conversations as I could about rebreathers and rebreather diving. I wanted to know everything I could about them, and I challenged myself to one day become a rebreather diver.
After years of technical diving things began falling into place for me to achieve my goal of becoming a rebreather diver. I spoke with, Joe Citelli, one of my mentors and asked if he would be willing to teach me how to dive this amazing piece of equipment that was going to allow me to broaden my dive world even more. To my great joy He agreed to take me on as a student, it was truly an honor. From the very first pool dive I was truly in love with everything about rebreathers. There was no sound, it was truly the silent world that Jacques Cousteau described after his first scuba dives.
The class with Joe was truly amazing. Learning from someone with his experience was humbling. I was loving every minute and soaking up every ounce of knowledge that I could in our time together. The class itself was challenging, I learned how the SF2 unit worked. How to properly put the unit together, it is a whole new level to gear set up. I learned how to rig the unit so that it fit my body properly in the water. I learned how to handle situations that may come up underwater and practiced reacting to them properly. To date this was the most intense class that I have been through thanks to Joe. He never failed to keep hitting me with new challenges. As soon as I would master something and feel good about myself, he would throw something new at me. Under Joe’s guidance I felt like I learned more about diving and teaching diving that week than I had in the past several years. Things clicked together like never before and I came away from this experience not only a rebreather diver, but a better diver all the way around.
Nothing can replace experience, that’s why it is important to dive as often as we can and to practice skills on every dive. That’s what I am doing now, every chance I get I am diving the “breather” building muscle memory, confidence (both in myself and in the unit), and taking on this new challenge. While some dives I feel as though I have conquered it, there are other dives where I ask myself “What are you doing?” I think that is all part of the SCUBA journey, being confident enough in ourselves to know our limits, and to continually push them just enough to makes us better. I hope that I never stop feeling challenged underwater and that I continue to learn something on every dive.
What’s your next challenge?
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Diving tips, techniques, and disciplines for safe diving.