Newsletter: Diving

Hi everyone

The Sodwana trip is done and dusted, 10 people, all booked confirmed and raring to go. For those still keen mail me and there is a chance we can accommodate you.

The weekend is going to be busy as we are doing a clean up dive on Robben Island on Saturday morning and I hope the swell has dropped off enough to do a dive with the cowsharks in the afternoon. There will also be a night dive on Saturday night again. We did a night dive on Monday night and had a shoal of hundreds of maasbankers swarming around us for most of the dive, clearly attracted to the many torches, strobes and camera flashes.

Next weekend we have a public holiday on the Friday. I would like to arrange a boat dive for the group, possibly to one of the wrecks in Smitswinkel Bay or a wreck in Hout Bay depending on the wind direction. I will need to book this early in the week to ensure the boat goes where we want it to so please let me know early if you want to dive. Boat dives are normally R250, but if we are a group of six or more I can squeeze them down to R180.

I am starting an Open Water course tomorrow in Danish… Its been a while since I have had a Danish student. Sunday morning I have Discover Scuba Divers in the morning and will start a new Open Water course on Sunday afternoon.

I will also start another Open Water course on Thursday evening with diving on the long weekend for anyone wanting to complete the course in one weekend. It involves theory on the Thursday night, confined water training on Friday after the boat dives and more theory in the afternoon, and then two dives Saturday and two dives Sunday. There are still spots left for this.

Remember, all divers need a permit, get yours at the post office for R85 valid for a year and keep it in your dive bag with your dive gear.

The blog has been updated again, there are lots of random diving information posts about gear, travel, etc. and Clare has done a few book reviews of some of the books we have and what makes them good or bad to own… So feel free to read them, and comment…

I will add a list of diving and ocean related DVDs that we have and how you can get to watch them…

If you dive soon remember the two most important rules, never hold your breath, and never go deeper than the bottom!

best regards

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

Diving is addictive!

FAQ: Do I need to be a good swimmer in order to scuba dive?

You don’t need to be an Olympic swimmer in order to learn to scuba dive. Scuba diving isn’t about covering big distances or swimming really fast. In fact, we take great care not to over-exert ourselves in the water, and if you swim too fast you won’t see a thing! Also, divers wear fins, which add a lot of power to your kick stroke, and wetsuits and BCDs, which assist with buoyancy.

However, you do need to be at least comfortable in the water in order to become a scuba diver. If you’re absolutely terrified of water and struggle to take a shower without a lifeguard on standby, scuba diving is not the sport for you. If you can’t swim at all, you do need to learn to swim before you learn to dive. If you’re a half way ok swimmer who can hold your own in your pool at home (but not necessarily swim the English Channel), then let’s talk!

There are swimming tests for the various courses (the precise name of the skills being tested is watermanship). For Open Water, you have to do the following, either in a swimsuit or wearing a wetsuit and weighted for neutral buoyancy (i.e. wearing a weight belt):

  • swim 200 metres continuously without any swim aids,
  • OR swim 300 metres continuously wearing fins, snorkel and mask ;
  • float unassisted in water too deep to stand in, for 10 minutes.

The Divemaster course requires the following:

  • swim 400 metres non-stop with no swimming aids;
  • swim 800 metres non-stop, face in the water, wearing mask, snorkel and fins, with hands tucked in;
  • tow or push another diver for 100 metres in full gear, non-stop;
  • tread water for 15 minutes in water too deep to stand in, hands out of the water for the last 2 minutes.

At Open Water level, these swims are not timed.  The Divemaster and Instructor swims are timed. You can use whatever stroke you want, but doggy paddle may get tiring! The swims are very important to confirm that you have basic water skills and can take care of yourself (and others, at DM and Instructor level).

If you’re a decent swimmer already, improving your swimming fitness, stamina and technique will definitely improve the quality of your dives. Not having to think about your position and attitude in the water will enable you to focus on the other things around you, and get more out of the experience. Developing your swimming muscles (that’s almost all your muscles!) and your cardiovascular endurance in the pool will make diving feel a lot less physically strenuous, and you’ll be far more relaxed knowing that your body is in a condition to handle the sport with no strain at all.

Surface time
You should be comfortable on the surface as well as below the surface.

Finally, being a confident swimmer will make you a more confident scuba diver. While we try not to rush on dives, you never know when a situation will arise that will require you to swim towards or away from something quickly. If you do boat dives, you’ll need to float on the surface at the start and/or end of the dive, waiting for the other divers to gather together, or for the boat to pick you up. Strong swimming technique and developed muscles will help you in both these situations. Basic swimming skills should be part of your arsenal as a fully prepared and competent scuba diver.

If you are in need of swimming lessons – whether it’s to start from scratch or improve your stroke, contact Swimlab, run by Hilton and Wayne Slack, at the Wynberg Military Base swimming pool and in gyms around Cape Town. They offer swimming lessons, coaching, training for high performance swimmers, and even sell swimming gear.

Ode to the logbook

I am a numbers person. I love to record things, analyse trends, draw graphs, and notice patterns in data. For this reason, I’m totally obsessive about filling in my dive logbook. Apart from making me happy to record all that information, and filling a wonderful hour or two after each dive looking up what I’ve just seen in the pile of books on sea life that Tony and I have amassed between us, it has had some other, unexpected benefits:

  • I’ve been able to track my progress as a diver with respect to air consumption. When I look back at early dives, I feel proud about how much longer I can stay down with the experience I’ve built.
  • I can track my progress as a diver with respect to buoyancy and lack thereof – when I started diving, the dive centre loaded me with 12 kilograms of weight, including cylinder weights. I sank like a lead cannonball. With Tony’s help, we’ve reduced my weight to somewhere between six and nine kilograms (depending on how many wetsuits I am wearing and how much custard has been consumed in the recent past).
  • I can look back on different gear configurations, and see what worked in order to reproduce successful ones: how much weight I wore and where (on my weight belt or as integrated weights or as cylinder weights), how many layers of neoprene were donned, how large my cylinder was, and so on.
  • Regional information is useful. When planning our annual houseboating trip this year, I was able to look back on the water temperature from when we dived in Knysna in 2009, and decide how many layers of wetsuit I would need.
  • Seasonal information on fish life (what appears when – for example, giant short-tailed sting rays visit Long Beach in summer), water temperatures and general conditions is useful and interesting. Now that I’ve been diving for over a year, I’m delighted to start noticing the different patterns of life… what time of year we see lots of juvenile fish, when there are lots of egg ribbons at Long Beach, how visibility correlates with water temperature, when the shaggy sea hares are out in force, and more.
  • We like exploring, and have on occasion dived forgotten sites or even places that aren’t recognised dive sites as such, but we’re curious to see what’s there. Recording dive information and what we saw makes it easy to tell others about these sites, and to assist when we decide whether they’re worth visiting again.
  • The bucket list aspect is also fun. Tony and I want to try and dive as many of the dive sites listed on Peter Southwood’s Wikivoyage site for the Cape Peninsula and False Bay as possible. Recording the dives in my logbook is like ticking the places off on a list!
The Number Two Cat understands the importance of keeping a logbook
The Number Two Cat understands the importance of keeping a logbook

Many people start a logbook as students on their Open Water course, and then lose interest. Don’t give it up – aside from these personal benefits, your logbook will be useful in at least two other situations involving other people:

  • If you go diving or want to rent gear somewhere other than where you learned to dive, or with new people (for example a club), you may be asked for your logbook (as well as your certification card). The club or dive centre may want to verify that you have the experience to handle the dives you have signed up for. If you’re certified with a lesser-known agency, your logbook can also help persuade the dive centre that you know what you’re doing.
  • For certain PADI courses you need a minimum number of logged dives (for example, 60 for Divemaster and 100 for Instructor). If you don’t have a record of the dives you’ve done, it complicates matters somewhat!

The perfect diver

One of the first concerns many qualified divers have is buoyancy and their air consumption. As an Instructor, skipper and Divemaster I am often reminded of my own concerns when I started diving. Don’t envy the diver on the boat staying down the longest on the smallest cylinder. Dive often, enhance your training, hone your skills and soon you will be that diver,  first in and last out, with air to spare.

It makes no difference who your Instructor was, which certification agency you obtained your qualification from or where you are diving. All divers are taught the basics of diving during their initial training. However, the duration of your qualifying dives has a huge impact on your level of competency at the end of your training.

If you have done four, or five in some instances, short twenty minute dives (the minimum for PADI) and – let’ s presume – you spent two hours in the water during your confined water training then your total bottom time will be less than four hours. However if your qualifying dives were 50 minutes each it will be the case that your total bottom time when you’re newly qualified is a lot more.

Some people take to diving instantly and do not find any aspect of the training intimidating and within two hours of getting into the water they are relaxed, have good buoyancy and controlled breathing. For others it is a little harder coming to terms with the heavy gear, good buoyancy control seems to be a distant dream and managing to get 30 minutes on a 12 litre cylinder in shallow water is out of the question.

With bottom time comes perfection. This involves becoming comfortable with your gear so you instinctively find your pressure gauge, being correctly weighted (a huge factor in air consumption), being warm, and moving slowly with the correct profile. All of this improves air consumption dramatically.

Another important factor is confidence. Diving beyond your ability and training, doing a dive you feel you should rather not be doing are huge ”gas guzzling” factors so don’t do that deep dive to a wreck because you feel you can or think you should, do it when you know you can and really want to.

The learning curve for a diver is steep and for me the most rewarding aspect of teaching diving is to watch and be a part of a students initial flapping around in the water like a fish out of the water, to becoming relaxed, calm and confident, and watching them grow into a competent diver in such a short period of time.

FAQ: Should I do a resort course, or learn to dive before I go on holiday?

Perhaps you’re going to Mozambique, Mauritius, the Seychelles, Thailand, the Red Sea (Egypt, Israel or Jordan for example), or some other equally exciting (and warm) destination.

Diving in Aqaba, Jordan
Diving in Aqaba, Jordan, where I worked for a few months in 2008.

I would suggest you qualify as a diver here at home, for several reasons:

  1. Diving courses contain a theory component, involving watching a dvd, self-study, classroom time with an instructor, and some quizzes and exams. Do you really want to be wasting your well-earned holiday hitting the books?
  2. Resort courses are usually way more expensive than a locally-run course, because you’re a captive market and can’t really shop around when you’re on holiday.
  3. You’ve paid a lot of money to book your holiday and you want to have the best possible experience. To do that, I suggest that you make sure you’re totally relaxed and at ease in the water. Some people take a few tries to get comfortable with the idea of breathing underwater, and I promise you’ll enjoy your holiday far more if you’ve already mastered diving, and you can concentrate on enjoying the sights while you’re away rather than taking the first nervous steps towards mastering a new skill.
  4. When you start diving, it takes a few dives before you are fully relaxed and able to turn your attention away from fidgeting with your kit to the underwater world around you. Rather let me help you fine tune your buoyancy and kit configuration while you’re here, so that when you go on holiday you can confidently tell the dive centre, “I need a large BC, 8kg weight belt and size 9 booties please!” No surprises.
  5. Conditions in the Cape are very different to what you’ll experience diving in warm tropical oceans. You might think this a reason not to learn to dive here, but experienced Cape Town divers will tell you that if you can dive here, you can dive anywhere. It only gets easier!

(This information also appears on my website, here.)

Newsletter: Diving, a way of life

Hi everyone

The water has been very pleasant this week. The viz yesterday was 8 meters and I had three students on a dive. We were extremely lucky to see a great white swim gracefully by us. The most impressive feature for me was the shark’s girth, it was massive, solid looking and very sleek without a single blemish or scar. I felt honoured to have seen such a majestic creature, so close (it swam by less than three meters away), in its own domain, and very grateful that sharks tolerate us in their space. According to this website there has only ever been one incident of a diver being attacked and that was on the surface.

Diving this weekend

Saturday I have a few Discover Scuba experience students so I will be at Long Beach in the morning.

At 2.00pm we plan to dive the Clan Stuart providing the swell allows or alternatively we will do a navigation adventure dive at long beach and swim the navigation route found here. There is an unidentified huge anchor somewhere out there, as well as a 22 metre yacht and an old shipping container (Jeff’s box).

Saturday night conditions will be perfect for an adventure night dive and we meet in the parking lot at Long Beach at 6.00pm to decide where to dive.

I am trying to find ways of getting more people interested in the ocean, diving and conservation.

So these are my plans:

I am running a special introduction to scuba diving for anyone interested in the experience. For the month of September I will conduct Discover Scuba experiences for anyone that’s keen for the small amount of R350 per person, 7 days a week, minimum two people at a time. Anyone signing up for the Open Water course after this event will receive a full credit of this amount on their course.

I will also run a special Advanced course during September providing there are four people that all do the course at the same time. The normal price is R2400, but for the month of September it will be only R2000. Remember this is five dives, two of which will be boat dives where we will dive a wreck and do a mandatory Deep dive. Both these dives will in reality be deep dives so you gain more experience in this area. The remaining three dives can be a combination of Peak Performance Buoyancy (can you swim through three hoops at different depths without using your inflator hose?), Search and Recovery (lose it, find it and raise it with a lift bag), Photography, or Night diving, to name a few, but must include a Navigation dive. If you have done adventure dives with me in the last 12 months this will count as a credit towards your course.

Two Divemaster candidates start September (both bossy type girls so I hope I survive that!!) and Open Water course starts 11 September.

During September we will have a world clean up day and I plan to rally every one of you to join me on a dive with a garbage bag to clean up one of our dive sites… details next week, you may be lucky and get your picture in the newspaper… in a wetsuit and dive gear!

Be good and have fun

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