Category — Other

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Here in Mexico, as it is all over the world, and in any diving environment, You will often meet divers who dive beyond their certification because they do not want to take the time to hone the new skills. All they want to do is “The next cooler or bigger dive”.  You will also meet divers who are afraid of taking the “plunge” to the next level for whatever reason.  Those are 2 very different kinds of divers.

As a full-time cave diver, I see this first one happening every day.  Be it the newly certified cave divers taking a stage(s) or certified Open Circuit cave divers coming back on Closed Circuit Rebreathers (CCR) to dive the same caves. Truth be told, this happens a lot of the time here in Mexico from local guides to sometimes even people trying to get fast-tracked to a cave instructor.

If you think back to your initial cave training, during the course you would have taken some theory lessons in Accident Analysis. During this portion of your training, you have would have learned the famous 5 golden rules of untrained cave divers

You will remember that the very first rule is to “seek proper training “. Another one of the golden rules is “don’t dive beyond your certification”. These two “rules” go hand in hand with safety.  One such example of the most common error I see in personal judgement is diving with stages.  This seems to be a day-to-day occurrence here in Mexico.  There is always a “reason” why this diver does not undergo a stage class.  Here are a few of my favourites: “My friend took a class and they showed me” or “ I’ve seen it on the web and it looks easy”, or “I won’t take a class from X, who is he to teach me?”. One of my personal all-time favourites is “ I have my advanced nitrox and deco course.  Isn’t it just the same?”. In short… No, it is not the same, not even close.

I try to understand how their mindset works over something as dangerous as diving beyond their own certifications.  I try to explain that anyone can dive with extra tanks, that part is simple.  For a cave diver (as this is my business), I try to explain to them that there are a million different factors that influence a staged cave dive at any one time. I explain this is the reason why we take a course.  Learning the small details, listening to how things are really done, and not just how you think they are done.

Next, we go to the other kind of diver as we previously mentioned.  This is where divers are afraid to take the next step in their education, for whatever reason. Maybe the dive industry does not do enough to show newer divers that “tech and cave” diving is easier than people think.  Possibly the sight of divers using multiple tanks in the ocean, or in the cave is putting people off. Maybe the “ go get some experience” is too daunting for them between courses.   Maybe, just maybe, we the instructors are making the training too difficult?  For whatever reason, we must all understand the one simple rule.  Slow and steady will always win the race.  This is the message that we must pass on to our current and future students.

Sometimes what people do not understand is that by not taking the next step in their diving education, they potentially can make the mistake of going on a dive and biting off more than they can chew.  I myself have fallen foul of this, and it is not a nice feeling I can tell you.  These errors range from the newly certified sidemount cave diver, who then goes and starts to dive really small cave, to the back mount/ CCR/Diver Propulsion Vehicle (DPV) diver to do exactly the same.  They dive further into the cave then they should, further than there comfort level will allow.

It is at this point in the dive when the voices in the diver’s head start to become louder and louder. This is the point they wish they had undergone proficient training, and taken the time to perfect and gain experience on their qualified level.  We all know that when we are stressed we are most likely to make a potential life-altering mistake.  This is when you will have wished you had taken a course, listened to a seasoned instructor, taken a proficient well-balanced course and practised these skills.

The problem with today is everyone is in a hurry to get to the “destination” and they forget the journey.  When I teach any class, especially my cave classes, I always tell my students the dive is the journey, not the turning point.   When you take time to learn the skills you just learned from your last class, you not only get more experienced but also log more dives. If you have just passed your DPV class for example, and 2 dives later your double stage, double DPV diving to the Blue Abyss (an awesome dive by the way). Odds are your awareness is pretty much zero.

On the other hand, by taking the time to build up experience doing the kind of dives you did on the course you give yourself time to grow.  If you have just completed your cave class, take time to dive the caves.  Take time to learn the cave, learn the jumps.  Take time to build your mental awareness up, then by the time you come back for your next level class, or you come back for a CCR Cave crossover, for example, you will hold the awareness of a great diver.

Awareness is king for any diver, we all should aim to build our awareness little by little.  It is the time taken to dive, learning everything that you can build this awareness. During any of our classes here at ProTec, we teach that awareness comes in three forms.  First is self-awareness, this is vital to keeping those voices quite when we are in the inside the overhead by self-diagnosing how we feel, how are we breathing, going through the “what if” scenarios.

The second part of awareness is team awareness. Being able to look at your team members and assess how they are mentally and physically. Being able to assess how they are from their light movement. Again going through the “what if” scenarios.

The third portion of awareness is global awareness. This involves knowing, understanding reading the environment you are in, knowing what part of the dive plan you’re currently in and what your next waypoint will be. At the same time, you should be going through the “ what if “ scenarios in your mind.  All of these combined levels of awareness create a diver that is a valuable team member.

You cannot be taught all of this. Only time spent diving, learning the skills you have been taught, building on your awareness and your comfort will help.  Then the journey through any future course will be exciting.  Excitement about wanting to go practice, wanting to learn the “wreck better”, know the “cave better”

I always tell my students the same thing. If you have real awareness, you have spent time in the open water practising hovering, line laying etc.  Going through your immediate actions drills for gas problems. I always say “ a free flow is a free flow, be it 5 minutes into the cave, or 125mins into the cave”. A well rounded aware diver will handle it with no problems. Because nothing can replace the experience of having spent time learning and practising the core skills.

Be that diver who enjoys the journey, become that diver who you want to aspire to be. Take time to perfect your skills, take your time to become an effective team member.  Too many times I’ve seen people diving out of their comfort level because of their mate. “John” has said they would be ok.  Being that rock solid diver doesn’t take forever; it just takes a little time, practice and some hard work.

We all started with Open Water certifications, now we all dive at different levels.  But we all should want to be the best diver we can be, the best team member we can.  Sheck Exley once said.  “Survival depends on being able to suppress anxiety and replace it with calm, clear and correct reasoning “.

I encourage you all to take your time, to grow to practice the skills you get from any course you take, be it an open water course or a cave class. It is these skills you will rely on when the time comes. Enjoy the journey, and dive safely.

June 21, 2018   No Comments

A Cave Diving Odyssey – Team ProTec Crushes the Florida Cave Diving Scene

Four of ProTec Dive Centers’ team members embarked on a 10 day cave diving odyssey to Florida. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, actually.

Our team consisted of two Aussies (Tamara & Skanda), a Californian (John) and the Spaniard (Jaime). We checked in at 7.30am at Cancun Airport with a combined weight of approximately 120kgs for our flight to Orlando, Florida.

 

Florida traffic is a buzz kill, but we over came.

Upon arrival in Orlando, we load up our super swankyrental Dodge van and drove toward Odessa, Tampa to meet our good friends and returning ProTec Dive Centers’ clients, Mark Dobson and his wife Pat.

In Odessa, we were greeted with the warmest of welcomes, a bed, food, a pile of fluffy waging tails, and a garage full of cylinders and tools waiting for us to set up our gear our dive the next morning.

 

Day 1 (8AM): More good friends and fellow ProTec clients, Roy Reynaud, wife Marie, and Ken Plunkett arrive to join us for our first day of diving. We finished setting up our equipment, loaded the trucks, topped up gases, and got some tasty treats and post dive beer.

Filling SCUBA Tanks for Cave Diving
Filling the Truck to Go Cave Diving
Filling a Cart for Eating and Drinking After Cave Diving
Driving to the Cave for Some Cave Diving

 

Dive 1: Eagles Nest Sink – Max Depth: 200ft/61m / Duration: 92mins

We felt slightly spoilt to dive in world renowned state park with locals. We were feeling very grateful for beautiful steps down into the water, a map, a visitors log, a marque, bench tables, and not to mention trimix.

Eagles Nest Log
Entrance to Eagle Nest Sink
Preparing to cave dive at Eagle Nest Sink

Mark and Roy gave us a nice introduction to the Floridian caves as they briefed us with their map. Unfortunately, Roy wasn’t able to join us on the dive but was the best surface support a diver could ask for!

We donned our gear and Ken led the way, single file down the ‘chute’ until it opens out into a large chamber at 20m, our light beams struggle to hit the walls.

We descended to a T and swan downstream through a ‘restriction’. After the restriction we encountered a sloping tunnel, the floor covered with dark brown sediment.

The Restriction at Eagles Nest Cave
Eagles Nest Cave - 61 meters on Trimix
Eagles Nest Cave - Jaime Smashing Through the Dark

Like many of the caves we dived on the trip, the walls are beautifully sculpted, and light in colour.

Left-to-Right: Roy, Tamara, John, Mark, Skanda, Jaime, & Ken

We enjoyed an epic first dive, post dive beers, and great company.

DAY 2: Another early morning and a 3-hour drive to Live Oak to check into Cave Excursions.

Cave Excusions Dive Shop, Florida
Cave Excursions SCUBA Gas Filling Bank
Home Sweet Home for Now

Cave Excursions is like looking back down the timeline of side mount cave diving. Most mornings we had the pleasure of sitting with the original owner Bill Rennaker to chat about the caves in the area, development of cave diving, and his shop.

John and Tamara Filling Scuba Tanks
Target Practice with Scuba Tanks!

We especially enjoyed discussing his experiences in Florida and Tulum many years ago and of course his gallery of side mount units hanging out the back.

Straight away we topped up our cylinders and headed off to Peacock Springs State Park to dive Orange Grove, one of its many sink holes.

Dive 2: Orange Grove – Max Depth: 117ft/35m Duration: 146mins

Orange Grove Sink - John Cafaro
Orange Grove Sink Underwater

 

Duck weed covered the surface but beneath was crystal clear. Here we dived up to ‘Challenge Sink’, the ‘Distance Tunnel’, and the deep section.

Dive 3: Telford Springs – Max Depth: 67ft/22m Duration: 123mins

All the way to the T

Telford Cave Map
Telford Sink Spring Surface
Telford Cave Entrance

DAY 3: We headed off to Ginnie Springs and met up with ProTec client and local instructor Marissa Waltman. Ginnie Springs has a beautiful open water area, parking, shaded table, and chairs. The high light at Ginnie was the beer drinking local with a giant unicorn floaty.

Dive 4: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 100ft/30m Duration: 134mins
‘Bone line’, ‘Roller Coaster’, and the ‘Bats!’

Dive 5: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 99ft/29m Duration: 90mins
‘Hill 400 Line’ and ‘Double Lines’

An insanely beautiful and typical Ginnie dive experienced fossilized shells and sand dollars covering the floor and then an amazing flight back on the flow to our deco stop. As we returned after sunset, the flood lights were on to light up the open water.

We had the pleasure on deco to watch some awesome lighting effects, some deco dancing by Jaime and Skanda, and nocturnal animals on the return swim.

DAY 4: As we have all discovered our love for flow, Marissa showed us some cool dives at Little River, and Cow Springs.

Dive 6: Little River – Max Depth: 103ft/31m Duration: 123mins

T left, T left, almost made it to the well! Here we encountered what must be the largest T ever.

Dive 7: Cow Springs – Max Depth: 103ft/31m Duration: 131mins

We got our fair share of flow on this dive! We used the anchoring rope to pull and glide our way to the end of line which took us 75 minutes. Our exit was an exciting 30minute ride on the flow.

Starting with a tricky restriction entrance progressing into a darker cave with beautifully layered clay banks in sections.

DAY 5 – Ginnie Springs: Back to Ginnie for a double dive day. We were fortunate to be joined by another ProTec client, Joe Seda. Joe came to light it up for a dive with a handful of Big Blue lights !!

In between dives we popped over to Cave Country to top up our cylinders.

Dive 8: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 90ft/27m Duration: 82mins

‘Bone Line’, ‘White Room’ and ‘Wonder Tunnel’. An insane dive with 60,000+ lumens!

Dive 9: Ginnie – Max Depth: 96ft/29m Duration: 130mins
‘Hill 400’, ‘Double Lines’, ‘Ice Room’!

DAY 6: Mark Dobson and Ken Plunkett drove up from Odessa to show us a couple good dives at Madison Blue. We were lucky enough to have Mark shoot some photos of the team on an epic dive. We topped the night off with a BBQ and beers around an open fire back at the cabin!


Dive 10: Madison Blue – Max Depth: 94ft/28m Duration: 76mins
‘Godzilla Circuit’

Dive 11: Madison Blue – Max Depth: 92ft/27m Duration: 119mins
‘Rocky Horror’, through the well and turned just before ‘Pressure Gauge’

At Madison Blue, there is a passage so ‘small’ only one team at a time is allowed in. Teams are required move a slate from in to out so that other teams know the status.

DAY 7: Good friend and returning ProTec Dive Centers’ client Sandy Robinson met us at Cave Excursions and did a morning dive with the entire crew. Finally, we got to dive the famous ‘Peacock Springs’ and what better way to do it than with a great group of friends from the area.

We arrived to see what had been crystal clear water was now as milky as a nice cup of tea. Fortunately, just inside the entrance to the cave, the water was crystal clear.

Dive 12: Peacock I – Max Depth: 53ft/16m Duration: 170mins

‘Peanut Tunnel’ up to ‘Challenge Sink’ and jumped to ‘Woody’s Room’

Dive 13: Peacock I – Max Depth: 77ft/23m Duration: 137mins
‘Holson Line’ all the way to the ‘Crypt’ and checked the ‘Well’ on the way out.

Finally, we packed the van and set off to Mark’s and Pat’s house in Odessa. Upon arrival, the drying and packing began in preparation for our flight the following morning.

We would like to thank Mark and Pat Dobson for your incredible hospitality, help with equipment, navigating the supermarket (Pat), you really made this trip an unforgettable one!

Marissa, Roy, and Ken for sharing your time with us, your help, and great dives , let it not be our last!

Thank you Sandy for your wealth of information. Thank you Tom from Cave Excursions for looking after us as well as a few great nights by the bon fire.

Finally, a big thank you to all that were able to join us on the trip, either diving or just catching up. We appreciate it and hope to see you back at ProTec Dive Centers or… back in Florida next year!

Join Us On Your Next Adventure!

ProTec Dive Centers in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and Tulum, Mexico offers Cavern, Cave, Sidemount, CCR, Trimix, Technical, and Instructor Training.  We also offer Guided Diving, Equipment Storage/Servicing/Rentals, Nitrox/O2/Helium Fills, and Retail.

Book your next trip with us: info@protecdivecenters.com.

 

June 3, 2017   No Comments