The learning curve vs the accident slope

‘The learning curve vs the accident slope’

I am lucky enough to be working for a company which has trained most of the competition in Mexico (and around the world), receiving the latest teaching methods and styles and having the knowledge of over two decades within the team are worth their weight in gold.
As with all instructors we watch each other, listen to each other’s debriefs and sometimes think to ourselves “wow, I’m going to use that” or “hmm, maybe I won’t use that”. With each course we teach, each cave we dive, we all learn something good or bad. Funny enough it’s the dives where things go wrong which teach us the most.

I have some of the best ITs in the business as my mentors and employers. This allows for us to get together and ensure we are all teaching at the highest level we can. Not in order to raise the price of the course, but to ensure that our clients receive the very best tuition possible.

At ProTec we have ‘trimmed the fat’ from the course; not to make it easier but to ensure you learn, and more importantly understand, the core skills we are teaching. We have streamlined these skills and drills not only to save your life (or your buddies’ life) but to keep the cave as pristine as it can be.
One such set of skills is Buoyancy, Trim and Propulsion (B,T,P). If you do not possess any of these core skills then you cannot do anything inside the overhead environment safely. On our cave course, from the very first to the very last time you enter the water, these three skills all working together, will play an integral part of any task that is thrown at you! We practice, practice and practice some more of what we call the ‘Holy Trinity’ or B,T,P.

Agency and instructors set aside, we all want the same things; to be the best cave diver we can and to receive the best instruction we can, right? Here at ProTec, it’s mandatory for their instructors to complete advanced courses and to continue their cave diving education – it’s a good rule and I love to learn!
We have all had a free-flow of some kind during our diving career and have heard of or seen first-hand where a diver does not react quickly enough or understand the immediate action required to conserve the gas; and they look like a deer caught in the headlights and then flail around rising or sinking in the water column.

The cave course is jam-packed full of skills and drills all equally as important as each other. And from day one when we introduce the students to the ‘Holy Trinity’, we also introduce them to the ‘accident slope’ and how these three simple things, go hand in hand with the accident slope.

The ‘accident slope’ is used as a metaphor whereby if a diver carries out an incorrect action to a certain scenario he moves down the slope towards becoming a statistic. For example: a diver has a right post free flow from the 1st stage. They rush into the drill and switch off their left post 1st stage and then panic as he/she can still hear gas escaping so then switches off their right post. Boom!!…this diver has now moved onto the accident slope and is heading towards a fatal accident. Now combine this with poor buoyancy, poor trim and bad positioning; we’re not just on the slope, we’re half way down where the slope becomes steeper and a recovery less likely.

On day one when the learning curve starts and we break down the propulsion techniques, the positioning and the action of the fins themselves, we also give them the ‘why not’s instead of just the ‘how toos’. We instil in the student that we need to rely on our B,T,P in everything we do. So we ensure we know ‘what to do and what not to do’ and the ramifications of the ‘what not to dos’, if done!
As each day passes and each section of the course comes and goes, the ‘Holy Trinity’ is honed and becomes second nature. The student not only gets to see how it is done correctly, but also why it needs to be done correctly. Each student is taught using the E.D.I.P methodology (something I learnt from my Army days as an instructor) Explanation, Demonstration, Imitation and Practice.
At the end of every dive, every day and every phase of the course we carry out a full and in-depth debrief, whereupon we discuss the correct and incorrect actions and how these can affect us as divers on the ‘accident slope’ combined with good or bad B,T,P.
Finally day eight arrives…course ’Graduation Day’. At this point the student has had seven full days of touch contact, navigation, restrictions, zero viz and OOG drills thrown at them. They have had gas haemorrhage drills, valve drills, deco stops and academics until they cannot take another lesson in or out of the classroom!

At the end of the course, when the student receives their cave certification, they truly know that by simply having the ability to understand that being able to safely and effectively stay neutrally buoyant while shutting down a free flowing 1st stage or deploying the long hose with an OOG partner, they can stay at the top of the accident slope instead of slipping further and further down and becoming a statistic.

Then and only then will the student understand that every core skill, is intertwined like a spiders web, all interconnecting, all linked together by one common set of core skills.
Enjoy the learning curve, stay away from the slippery slope and practice the ‘Holy Trinity’.


1 Peter Delannoy { 12.13.14 at 10:40 am }

I just want to say that as a student at Pro Tec that not only did I earn my certification but I have been inspired by them to reach for the highest standard of diving possible. I didn’t know it was possible to do the things they do under water until I went to Tulum and took my course. Collectively they are the jet pilots of cave divers. If you want to be good in the water and a good cave diver then go to Tulum and sign up. But be ready to work because you will earn your stripes.

2 Wadduwa { 01.17.15 at 10:24 am }

Thank you for sharing !

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