Bookshelf: Scuba Professional

Scuba Professional: Insights into Sport Diver Training and Operations – Simon Pridmore

Have you ever wanted to run away and become a scuba instructor? Have you been intoxicated by promises of a lifestyle of tousled, barefoot, beach-based freedom from the rat race? Have you passed your instructor training course and are trying to decide what to do next? Or are you already a dive professional, perhaps looking to solidify your dive business, diversify your income streams, or branch out in the dive industry?

Scuba Professional
Scuba Professional

This is the final, and possibly most important, book in Simon Pridmore’s scuba trilogy (the other two are Scuba Fundamental and Scuba Confidential). Like the other two, it has much to offer – this time, to dive professionals and wannabe dive professionals.

Some of the topics Pridmore discusses are hard truths, such as the fact that becoming a scuba instructor is less about diving than about teaching. A person who doesn’t feel a vocation to teach should probably look for employment elsewhere in the dive industry rather than trying to attain instructor status. He devotes a whole section to teaching issues, many of which will be extremely useful to new instructors looking to move quickly up the learning curve.

An often overlooked feature of the dive industry is that there are many people who make a living from diving, but not by teaching students. Pridmore includes an incredibly helpful chapter in which he interviews several such dive professionals about their jobs, including a gear distributor, a photojournalist, a liveaboard cruise director, and a dive travel specialist. All of these professions include many of the positive aspects of the dive industry, and should provide inspiration for anyone who is keen on the underwater world but doesn’t necessarily feel the urge to teach.

For owners of dive businesses such as dive shops, charters or small training operations, Pridmore has much advice gleaned from running his own dive centre on the island of Guam. Many of his recommendations seem like common sense to anyone who has paid attention to the cycle of boom and bust that seems to characterise the dive industry in some locations, but they are hard-won insights that likely are only obvious after the fact. Unsurprisingly (perhaps?) several relate to safety considerations and gear maintenance. Many of the recommendations Pridmore provides are illustrates with anecdotes describing how he arrived at his viewpoint.

A whole section is devoted to developing a culture of safety in diving, something that featured in Scuba Confidential as well. It can be difficult to discuss dive safety and it seems to me that the industry doesn’t even try. None of the professional member forums I’ve attended, presented by training agency employees with access to incident reports, statistics and trends, has ever addressed dive safety directly. It would be tremendously helpful for instructors and divemasters to know that, for example (I’m making what follows up to make a point) most potential dive accidents happen on dive two of the Open Water course, during mask remove and replace, or during regulator recovery. Because instructors are obliged to report such incidents, training agencies know all about them.

Finally, the future of the dive industry comes under the spotlight, with a discussion of rebreathers (are they the future?) and the likely origin of the next wave of scuba diving students and tourists (Pridmore reckons, China). I was surprisingly moved (for a book about being a dive professional) by the chapter about dive tourism businesses, which concludes with the insistence that the only way a dive business in a remote, exotic location will flourish, is by involving the local community, training them to work in all levels of the business, and spreading a message of conservation that includes the people who live in the paradise in question. This kind of cultural sensitivity has not been the norm in many places, but where it is, the results are special.

Get a copy here (South Africa), here or here.

Bookshelf: Scuba Fundamental

Scuba Fundamental: Start Diving the Right Way – Simon Pridmore

When I first learned how to dive, all I wanted was to find books about scuba diving that were relevant to my stage of knowledge and skill, so that I could learn more (my learning style is by reading). Unfortunately at that time the only books about scuba diving in South Africa that I could find were absolute rubbish (fortunately the situation has improved immeasurably – here’s a quality example). I wish I’d had this book to hand, but it was only published last year, so sorry for me.

Scuba Fundamental
Scuba Fundamental

I read it anyway, with my jaded old eyes. It isn’t specific to South Africa, but it’s written for people who are contemplating learning to dive, who are busy learning, or who are still early in their diving careers. Many of the topics that Simon Pridmore covers are ones that Tony and I tried to deal with in the early days of this blog. He is eminently sensible, and writes from a position of deep, international experience in the dive industry.

How does one choose a dive course? How does one choose a diving instructorWhen shouldn’t one dive? Which certification agency is best? Should a new diver buy their own equipment, and where does one even begin with that? Once qualified, what next? What about diving in cold water and cold weather? How can divers keep safe on the surface? Pridmore also discusses some important elements of dive etiquette such as peeing in your wetsuit, entry techniques (giant strides, backward rolls, and so on), seasickness, dive boat etiquette, behaviour around marine animals, and what to do if your dive buddy surfaces with a giant booger.

If you’re thinking of learning to dive, are busy with your course, have done fewer than 30 dives, or are just seeking some direction in the early stages of your love affair with scuba diving, consider this guide. If you have a friend or family member you’d like to start a conversation with about diving, or would like to buy a dive course for but can’t afford it, this book is an excellent starting point. I found myself agreeing out loud with the author’s observations more times than I can count.

Get it here (South Africa), here (US) or here (UK).

Newsletter: Life aboard

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Staying dry

The swell peaks at 8 metres with 18 second period tonight. It starts to drop off during the following few days, however I doubt the conditions will have settled enough on Saturday for training dives. Sunday has some south easter so we will have a dry weekend.

SA Agulhas II berthed in Cape Town
SA Agulhas II berthed in Cape Town

SA Agulhas II open day

Visit the East Pier Quay at the V&A Waterfront on Saturday (24 June) to get a rare opportunity to go aboard South Africa’s state of the art polar research vessel, SA Agulhas II. A little bit more info from the Department of Environmental Affairs is available here (pdf). We visited the ship a few years ago – read more about that visit here.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

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Newsletter: Destination unknown

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Shore dives in Simon’s Town (only if forecast south easter does not materialise)

Sunday: Launching at 9.00 am and 11.30 am in Hout Bay or Simon’s Town

Sunrise over False Bay
Sunrise over False Bay

There is a good chance that diving could be good on both sides of the peninsula on Sunday. Saturday will be made unpleasant if the strong south easterly winds and predicted swell arrive, so Sunday will be the best choice for diving. (If the weather is good and wind is mild on Saturday, we will shore dive in False Bay.)

False Bay may be good if the swell does not turn as southerly as forecast, or if the  south easter doesn’t quite get up to the 40 km/h in the forecast. If the wind does arrive, then Hout Bay should clean up enough for some decent conditions.

We will launch on Sunday at 9.00 am and 11.30 am, destination unknown. We will decide late on Saturday whether we will go to Hout Bay or False Bay on Sunday. Either way both dives will be suitable for Open Water divers, maximum depth 18 metres.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Mountains

Hi divers

Weekend dive plans

Saturday: Boat dives at 10.00 and 12.30 from Hout Bay or False Bay yacht club

It may seem that given the week-long south easter we are having, it would be a simple matter to decide which side of the peninsula to dive. The picture was taken from Chapmans Peak drive today around lunchtime, and the water is not very clear – there are rocks just below the surface in the little bay below the road, but they are hardly discernible.

View from Chapmans Peak drive
View from Chapmans Peak drive

The water colour in False Bay is not very different but False Bay does seem to recover faster than the Atlantic coast of the peninsula. Sunday’s forecast is for gale force winds, so Saturday is the only decent diving day, but where?

Depending on tomorrow’s wind direction I will make a call late in the afternoon on whether we will launch in False Bay or out of Hout Bay. Either way it will be for dives at 10.00 am an 12.30 pm. I will have mostly Open Water students so the maximum depth will be 18 metres.

Email, text, wolf whistle if you want to dive.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

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Newsletter: Beginnings!

Hi divers

Weekend diving

Friday: Shore dives with students at Long Beach at 8.30

Saturday: Boat dives to the western side of Roman Rock at 9.30 and to Caravan Reef (PMB Reef) at 12.00

Sunday: Boat dives to Shark Alley (for cowsharks) at 9.30 and Seal Rock at Partridge Point at 12.00

On Saturday and Sunday we are launching from False Bay Yacht Club and meeting at Simon’s Town jetty.

Conditions report

First up, merry Christmas (to those who celebrate it) and happy new year (to all of you who adhere to the Gregorian calendar). I hope the new year brings you all you wish for, and some good diving.

 

Happy 2015!
Happy 2015!

The past ten days or so have been hard times for Cape Town divers as huge swell, howling winds and lousy visibility have meant a lot of days that feel wasted -after all mowing the lawn or painting the house are hardly substitutes for diving. A handful of people have dived various sites without any reports of decent conditions. We drove from Chapman’s Peak to Millers Point almost every day watching and waiting for a change in the conditions.

Hout Bay: Saturday to Wednesday
Hout Bay: Saturday to Wednesday

They have finally started to change. For most of the day we have had a light south westerly wind and for the next few days there is more west (in the very light winds) than anything else. Although it won’t turn the viz into 15 metres, it will improve as the weekend and early part of next week progresses. Its not the time of year for 20 metre viz but the water is 20 degrees in False Bay and if the visibility is 5+ metres then diving is quite enjoyable!

We are spending the next few days diving in False Bay. We are going to finalise the boat diving sites on the day as it is difficult to be sure where the best conditions will be. If you want to dive, make your selection from the top of this newsletter, and reply to this mail or text me.

Travel plans

We are turning our minds to travel plans for the next 12 (and a bit)  months. In June we plan to go to Ponta do Ouro in Mozambique, to dive the reefs there, which teem with life. Dates for this trip will be confirmed in the next few weeks. In the mean time, start saving! For this trip, you will need to be a confident boat diver.

Sometime in the first few months of 2016 (a stretch, I know) we plan to do a Maldives liveaboard trip with dive guide Becky and her husband Al from our last Red Sea trip. We will do this trip on the same basis as our Red Sea trip in 2013: we will tell you the dates we’ll be on board, and you book your own berths. Dates for this trip will be confirmed not earlier than the end of March, but you can start budgeting in the mean time. To get the full benefit from this trip you will need to be an Advanced diver with a Nitrox Specialty under your belt.

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

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Heating our pool with Project Pumps

We have a training pool that is just the right size for the small groups of students that Tony prefers to teach. It’s an ideal size to heat up, and in order to make it as comfortable as possible to spend extended periods of time on skills, we’ve taken a couple of measures to make the water as warm as we can. The first, which we fitted when we installed the pool, is a thermal cover that both warms the water and reduces algae growth. It looks like grey bubble wrap, and works like a bomb – it raises the water temperature up to four degrees higher than the air temperature (and if you don’t run the pump to mix the heated layers, you can get an impressive thermocline!). Of course, to get the benefit of the pool cover, it has to be on at least some of the time, which is a challenge during the summer months, when there’s always someone in the pool!

A fine network of pipes
A fine network of pipes

The second measure we took to warm the pool was to install solar heating panels on the roof. These panels consist of a fine network of tubes made of tough HDPE, through which the pool water is circulated and then returned to the pool. The existing pool pump is used (this is why we fitted a more powerful one than the size of the pool warranted when we did the initial installation) and the heat of the sun warms the panels directly, as well as warming the roof which warms the panels from below. We fitted them on the north-facing sloping area of our roof. As a rule of thumb the number of panels needed is one for every two square metres of pool surface. Our pool is 5×3=15 metres square, so we have 7 panels (which is 15 divided by two, and rounded down).

Putting the panels onto the roof
Putting the panels onto the roof

The pump has a manifold fitted, which allows us to decide when we pump water onto the roof, and when we don’t bother. During the winter, when it’s quiet, or raining, we can isolate the panels and just run the pool pump as normal. This also saves electricity during the time of the year when it’s most in demand inside the house.

The manifold for the roof panels
The manifold for the roof panels

The entire system was installed by our fellow diver Justin Gootman of Project Pumps, and we can highly recommend his and his team’s handiwork and professionalism. (At the same time and with great expertise they drilled us a well point, but that’s another story.)

Connected to the pool pump
Connected to the pool pump

I learned to dive in Cape Town in the month of July, and the training pool was 9 degrees and I was almost physically ill when I submerged myself. It was very unpleasant. For several years afterwards it was the coldest water I’d ever been in, until a freezing dive at Tafelberg Reef in the Atlantic took over pole position. I am happy to say that we at Learn to Dive Today are doing our bit to ensure that fewer Cape Town dive students have to suffer as I did!

Newsletter: Back to business

Hi divers

Weekend dives

Saturday: 9.00 and 12.00 from Hout Bay to the Romeliathe Maori and/or the BOS 400

Sunday: 9.00 am double tank dive from OPBC to North and South Paw and/or the Cape Matapan

The week(end) that was

We had a dry weekend last week as we spent three days at the CTICC participating in the Cape Town International Boat Show. We met a lot of new people, some old friends and a few really cool dogs. Many of the visitors to our stand expressed an interest in diving and asked to be added to the newsletter. To new readers we say welcome and hopefully we see you all soon in the water!

The special offers on Open Water, Advanced, Refreshers and Nitrox Specialty will hold for another few weeks, so if you missed the show you can still be part of the summer diving bunch.

Clare at the boat show
Clare at the boat show

Conditions report

The south easterly wind has been hectic all week so theoretically the Atlantic should be crystal clear. I drove home along the coastline today and there are huge patches of clean water and huge patches of darker water. It looked very clean around Llandudno so I think the Romelia is on the cards for the weekend. I doubt False Bay will be good as apart from the wind, the swell is in a southerly direction which does not improve conditions at all.

Saturday looks like the best option for diving, and Sunday a maybe. If you want to dive, reply to this mail or text me. Sunday’s launches will be confirmed late on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday: launching from Hout Bay at 9.00 and 12.00. I have mostly students so we will look for clean water around the wrecks of Maori Bay and the Romelia wreck area.

Sunday: conditions permitting, we will be launching from OPBC at 9.00 for a double tank dive. We will look at the viz around the wreck of the Cape Matapan, and if it’s not clean there we will dive the pinnacles at North and South Paw.

Safety stopping in Maori Bay
Safety stopping in Maori Bay

Congratulations are in order

for Shane and Odette, who got engaged this week. Wishing you all the happiness! Also congrats to Brian, who has just completed his Divemaster course in… wait for it… Hawaii! Brian is starting an Instructor Development Course this week. Good job!

regards

Tony Lindeque
076 817 1099
www.learntodivetoday.co.za
www.learntodivetoday.co.za/blog/

Diving is addictive!

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Guest contribution: Heinrich’s seal diving video

Heinrich learned to scuba dive recently, and on his final Open Water dive at Duiker Island in Hout Bay, he brought along his Go-Pro camera. He edited together some footage from that dive, and is generously allowing us to share it here.

Seal Dive at Duiker Island, South Africa from Heinrich Meyer on Vimeo.

The last training dive for my OWD. Amazing dive site with Seals everywhere you look. They are very playful and like to interact with divers. And by interact I mean biting… 😀

Handy hints: Getting respect on the boat

Do your fellow divers not give you the respect you feel you deserve? Lisa has the answer to all your problems: scare them with a high fashion Doberman hoodie! Some visual intimidation will do the trick.

Lisa in her awesome Doberman hoodie
Lisa in her awesome Doberman hoodie

She was trying out a new hoodie that was a gift from a friend on a dive just after Christmas. I thought she looked like a very friendly Doberman, but maybe it is a superhero hoodie like my Batman one. Whatever the case, it looks pretty awesome.