Recreational Parascuba

I do not know if this exists, but I think recreational parascuba would be really fun. 

I don’t think it would be practical (cost-effective) to use aircraft, and helicopters (my favorite way to travel) add some safety issues. However, parasailing is already done recreationally to a great extent.

So, imagine that you gear up on the boat, strap onto the bar, and then you and your dive buddy go up for a short parasailing ride. You then descend to a reasonable altitude, drop into the water, and begin your dive.

I know that parascuba exists for non-recreational purposes and not from a parasail, so it seems to me that this idea can’t be too far-fetched.

7 Deadly Sins

I recently blogged ( that my first fun dive (non-training dive) sent me to a hospital. Since I never want to feel that awful again, I have been carefully reviewing everything that happened that day.

Here are the symptoms, in order of appearance:

  1. Mental dullness

  2. Vertigo

  3. Nosebleeding

  4. Diarrhea

  5. Vomiting

  6. Difficulty breathing

  7. Chills

Here are the 7 deadly scuba diving sins that I will never commit again:

  1. DIVING IMPAIRED. After my morning dive, I took my Open Water Diver certification test. I scored an 82, which is passing. However, it is well below my personal standards. I could feel that I wasn’t thinking clearly. At the time, I dismissed this as being no different than trying to take a test after running a few kilometers or working out at a gym. Is that the case? I don’t know.

  2. EMPTY STOMACH. I skipped lunch. I never feel hungry while diving or even after diving. And, there was no time to take a test and eat lunch and still get onto the afternoon boat. But, when I started vomiting after my fun dive, very little came up. My stomach was almost completely empty, and that couldn’t have been good. Plus, I couldn’t keep food down for maybe 10-12 hours after.

  3. DEHYDRATION. I am in the Philippines, physically exerting myself on land, and I drank very little that day. I remember having a small coffee, a drinking yogurt, and less than 1 liter of water the entire day. In comparison, I normally drink 3 liters just while sitting at a desk during a typical workday. I wasn’t able to keep water in my stomach until I got to the ER in the evening.

  4. NO WETSUIT. I am more comfortable diving without a wetsuit. However, since I felt freezing cold for about 24 hours after my fun dive, I am going to assume that I lost a little too much body heat.

  5. HYPERVENTILATION. I swam in the strongest current that I have ever been in. I followed my dive buddy’s direction, but at a much higher depth. I quickly exhausted myself. I now know that I needed to have descended quicker. When we switched from trying to see the cave entrance against the current to drifting along the wall with the current, I tried to slow my breathing but could not. If there is a way to do that with a demand regulator, I don’t know it. I don’t know how long this dive was, but I must’ve been hyperventilating for at least 30-35 minutes. In the hours after surfacing, I needed to be administered oxygen twice.

  6. MOTION SICKNESS. After boat diving, I always have some degree of motion sickness. Sometimes it is worse than at other times, but the effects wear off either on the boat or within a few hours. The effects start either immediately when I surface, in stronger currents, or when I touch the boat’s ladder. So, I surely had my regular motion sickness on top of everything else I did wrong. I am going to start trying to take medicine for this.

  7. MILITARY MINDSET. I have heard on YouTube and read online that you should not dive if you are not feeling well, or end a dive if you are not feeling well. In the Army, however, we train to never quit. In my mind, I can finish the dive and I’ll be fine. Besides, there were children in the larger group. How am I going to quit while children are making the dive look easy? In the Army, the only reasons to stop are vomiting and passing out. If you are not up to the physical challenge, everyone will at least respect that you gave 100%. Quitting, however, is not an option. So, I met the Army standard of vomiting, but this seems to be a very bad idea when diving.

I had two other inexplicable symptoms. Soon after boarding the boat, my dive buddy noticed that I was bleeding from my nose. To my recollection, I have previously nosebled only in very dry air. Also, I had diarrhea. I was able to use the toilet on the boat and at the dive center, and I must’ve gone at least 3-4 times in total. I don’t remember if I also used the Emergency Room toilet. Anyway, I do not know at this point what caused either of these two symptoms.

One additional problem, that I am not counting as a Deadly Sin because it was involuntary, was a communication problem. I had so much difficulty with breathing, vertigo, and chills, that I mostly just sat still while wrapped in a towel. I was waiting for the symptoms to pass, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it to take so long. While waiting, I could not and did not effectively communicate everything that went wrong nor all the symptoms I was experiencing. That may or may not have affected my treatment on the boat, at the dive center, and even at the ER.

Anyway, I learned a lot from this experience. I hope I can help readers of this blog avoid feeling what I felt. It took me about 4 days to fully recover.


My second babystep into scuba diving was snorkeling. I did helmet diving and snorkeling in the morning, and then took my very first scuba lesson in the afternoon. It seemed like a logical progression.

I was expecting snorkeling to be disappointing. I had gone snorkeling once before, at a “resort” in Haiti. I went into the water from the beach, and visibility was almost zero. All I could see was kicked up yellow sand. Plus, the saltiness of the seawater was overwhelming.

So, I expected snorkeling to be disappointing.

A boat brought me out to Shangri-la Marine Sanctuary, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines. Disclaimer: the photo is from Nalusuan Marine Sanctuary. I went snorkeling there maybe a week or two later.

As soon as I put my face into the water, I screamed “WOW!” through my snorkel. The water was deeper than I expected, and the water was much clearer than I expected. I felt like I was flying high above the seafloor.

Because of this reaction, I got even more excited about scuba diving. The water sports I did the previous day were all far more interesting than I thought they would be. Then, helmet diving was far more interesting than I thought it would be. Then snorkeling was far more interesting than I thought it would be. So, how awesome is scuba diving going to be?

The answer was: pretty darn awesome. I actually ended up diving through the exact same area that I had gone snorkeling through. So, first I saw it from a distance, and then I saw it up close.

In retrospect, I wish I had known about freediving back then. At the depth that I went snorkeling, it would have been bonus fun to practice freediving at the same time. But, for now, freediving is still a future adventure.

Breathing Efficiency

From my very first training dive, maybe even in the swimming pool, my instructor noticed that he and I consume air at about the same rate.

The one indicator that he breathes air more efficiently underwater is that he is much larger than I am. You can’t tell from the photo, but he is always the tallest one around the dive center, both staff and clients/customers included.

On the other hand, he has around 300 logged dives. While he has perfect buoyancy, I struggle with my buoyancy and still consume air at the same rate. I am still struggling with my frog kick, and I “cheat” and swim with my arms more than I should admit.

The promising news for the future is that an 11-liter scuba tank, starting with around 200 BAR, can last an hour with 70 BAR to spare back on the boat. How long it will last after I achieve half-decent buoyancy, let alone perfect buoyancy?

1st Project Aware Survey

Earlier today, I submitted my first My Dive Against Debris survey through the Project Aware app. It’s available in the Google Play Store. I first read about it on the website of PADI, the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

Thanks to @rateyourdive on Twitter, I started picking up trash from the seafloor near the very start of my scuba diving adventures. I embraced the #BinBagChallenge immediately, and have since evolved into an aspiring ecowarrior.

I also use the My Little Plastic Footprint app, which I learned about from freediving world record holder @WillTrubridge.

I like how much data the Project Aware app collects. You report the size of your team, the number of pieces recovered, the weight of those items, the dive location, and more. It will be interesting to view my stats months and even years from now, and hopefully feel like I made a difference.

Fortunately, the scuba diving and snorkeling sites I have been to so far have all been relatively clean. However, some of the recovered items are very disturbing: laundry soap packaging and medication packaging stand out in my mind. If it’s bad for humans to consume, it’s probably bad for sealife, too.

1st “Fun” Dive

My first “fun” dive put me in the hospital!

For those who don’t know, there are two types of dives. There are training dives, which count toward certifications, and “fun” dives, which are not taken as part of courses.

Dive #5 was my first “fun” dive. I had just completed my SSI Open Water Diver certification, so this dive was not working toward anything in particular. It could have been, but we didn’t have time between dives.

To recap my day, it started with an academic session about Enriched Air Nitrox. We then dove nitrox at Baring, Olango Island. Upon returning to our dive center, we heard about a boat leaving in the early afternoon. I would need to be a certified Open Water Diver to go. So, I took the written test and passed. The dive center manager made it official, and we began to prepare for our next dive.

You may have noticed that I did not mention having lunch. Although I did not feel hungry, that was probably bad. Also, we brought atmospheric gas for this dive.

We boarded a boat destined for Marigondon Cave off Mactan Island, Cebu. We did not intend to enter. Our goal was to descend enough to see it, and then drift along the wall. I just wanted one good photo of the entrance.

Upon arrival, we noticed a strong current. We descended and tried to swim to the cave entrance. I tried to do a controlled descent, like we have always previously done. My dive buddy made it over to the entrance, but I couldn’t get there. My finning technique must not be good enough. I exhausted myself trying.

My dive buddy motioned me to descend more quickly and then try to swim over to the entrance. Unfortunately, I was struggling to descend, and was already breathing heavily.

I followed my dive buddy, and we headed with the current to the wall. We descended down the wall and started to drift.

My dive buddy gave me a choice: go back to the entrance or drift away from it. I chose to drift. I was exhausted.

I’ve been doing some research. I did not want to be a panicked diver. I tried to slow my breathing. 

Unfortunately, a demand regulator requires effort to breathe. I could not slow my breathing. I think I was hyperventilating for about 35 minutes. I don’t remember how long our dive was.

I also don’t remember our maximum depth; we had already done 18 meters, so I assume I was hyperventilating 78.9% nitrogen at 18 meters.

As soon as we surfaced I started dry-heaving; I heard my dive buddy say, “that’s not good.”

My dive buddy and the boat crew helped me aboard the boat. While on the boat, my nose bled, I vomited, I defecated (in the onboard toilet), and was administered oxygen. The closest comparison I could make is that I felt like I had been to a party and had one shot too many.

I was assisted back to the dive center. Over the next few hours, I vomited more, defecated more, and was administered oxygen again. I was eventually able to take a hot shower, which is when I noticed my white feet slowly regain their color.

A few hours later I was escorted to a hospital. Everyone suspected vicious seasickness, but I’ve never been seasick that seriously nor that long.

I felt more comfortable going to a hospital than going home. I was discharged around 1:30 AM. They were also treating me for seasickness.

I went home, and woke up feeling hungover in the morning. I was “seasick” for about 24 hours. In fact, I still feel less than 100% almost two full days later.

Either way: lessons learned. No more skipping lunch. If I miss a boat, the house reef is fine to pick up trash and take close-up photos. Also, no more atmospheric air. If I needed pure oxygen twice, it seems to me that having enriched air at 0-18 meters might have been helpful.

SSI Open Water Diver

After completing dive #4, my instructor and I heard about a boat leaving in the early afternoon. To go, I would need to be Open Water Diver certified first.

I normally test very well, but my brain seemed water logged. On the 50-question, written, multiple-choice exam, I scored 82%. It’s passing, but it’s sub-par for me.

My instructor reviewed with me my wrong answers. It’s not that any of my answers were really wrong, it seemed more like there were better answers. We had a good discussion.

The dive center manager made it official. We logged the dive, and we could see my SSI Open Water Diver certification card online.

We immediately began to prepare for our next dive. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention having lunch. Don’t get ahead of me!

To be continued….

Diving Nitrox!

Recapping where I left off with my previous blog post, I went through an academic session on Enriched Air Nitrox, selected my scuba tank, tested the oxygen percentage, calculated my maximum depth, and labeled my canister. We then got ready and hopped on a boat heading to Baring, Olango Island.

A new twist: we added a compass to my left wrist. My instructor wanted to test my underwater navigation skills. As an Army veteran, I was already familiar with land navigation. Underwater navigation is different, but the basics are the same.

The hardest part was the current. The plan was for me to swim away from an object, and then navigate back to it. Very simple. However, I couldn’t get very far swimming against the current. As soon as I turned around, I could already see the object!

Anyway, I look forward to taking the course. It shouldn’t be difficult. I should probably work on finning before then.

We then swam to the wall, descended a few meters, and then drifted sideways along the wall. Although I have dived Baring before, the current was different this time. Last time we drifted away from Talima, and this time we drifted toward Talima. So, the view seemed different.

Also, I picked up a little bit of trash. I will blog that separately, because I still have to count and weigh it for Project Aware.

After returning to our dive center, we logged an 18-meter maximum depth and a duration of 46 minutes. My instructor asked me if I felt different diving with nitrox. At the time I said, “no.” It didn’t seem noticeable. After dive #5, which we did immediately following, I would change my answer!

Enriched Air Nitrox

I needed one more dive to earn my SSI Open Water Diver certification. My instructor decided to do it on nitrox!

What is nitrox? The short answer is that it is any mixture of nitrogen and oxygen. We are all breathing nitrox right now! However, it is generally short for Enriched Air Nitrox, which has a larger percentage of oxygen and a lower percentage of nitrogen.

Why is that important? Oversimplified, excess nitrogen leaks into your bloodstream and can cause an assortment of health-related issues. By reducing the percentage of nitrogen and increasing the percentage of oxygen, you lower your risk of nitrogen narcosis and decompression sickness. You extend the time you can spend at your maximum depth, and reduce or eliminate your need for decompression while ascending.

So, we started off with an academic session. It’s mostly math. And it went by fairly quickly because I had already studied quite a bit of it in anticipation. The interesting thing is, contrary to previously stated benefits, that your maximum depth rises in direct proportion to your oxygen content. In other words, when you elevate your oxygen percentage you also elevate your maximum depth, meaning you cannot dive as deep. If you want to dive deeper than your oxygen percentage will allow, you need to decrease your oxygen percentage. That, then, increases your nitrogen percentage, reduces your bottom time, reduces your no-decompression limit (NDL), and so forth. You have to find the correct balance for your dive.

Thanks to a YouTube video by Lake Hickory Scuba (on Twitter as @lhscuba) I already knew the Magic Circle. That both makes the math easier and speeds up the class quite a bit. Spoiler alert: it is even easier to do in meters.

We then proceeded to select our nitrox scuba tanks. The first thing you do is test the oxygen percentage yourself. You always test it yourself. We calibrated the testing device on atmospheric air first, since we know the oxygen percentage is 20.9%. After testing my nitrox canister, I used the Magic Circle to label my canister. My oxygen percentage was much higher than my instructor’s, but we were not planning a dive below 18 meters anyway.

We then got ready and jumped on a boat to Baring, Olango Island. But, that is for another blog post.

Helmet Diving

My introduction to scuba diving was actually helmet diving. One day, I did helmet diving then snorkeling in the morning, and then went scuba diving in the afternoon.

From the photos I had seen and descriptions I had read, helmet diving looked completely uninteresting. You just stand around and look around? Boring.

That changed, however, starting with the safety briefing. I was told to pinch my nose to equalize my ears. How am I going to pinch my nose with a diving helmet on? What do you mean I’m going to put my hand INSIDE the helmet?!?!?

For the record. I understand the physics of how the seawater does not fill the helmet, even though the helmet is open at the bottom. It looks like a terrible idea. And when I saw my guide enter the water, it looked like an even worse idea.

But, I’ve done far more dangerous things before, so there I went. I was looking forward to the “moon landing” which applies to the final step. Once you are in the helmet and you take that “one small step” off the ladder, you feel like Neil Armstrong for a moment.

Everything after that was equally cool. It really is interesting to stand on the seafloor and be able to look around in every direction. And, you don’t just stand there. We walked around and jumped around and I click-click-clicked away with my waterproof camera.

The fish welcoming committee was unexpected. Apparently, people feed the fish, so they were expecting something from me. Before I knew that, I thought the fish were collectively wondering what I was doing there.

And, there were some surprises down there. There were two fake turtles, but it took me a while to get close enough to verify if they were fake or real. There was also a sunken Jet Ski, but I don’t know the story behind it.

Walking on the seafloor is surreal. Unlike scuba diving, you feel like a crustacean in an aquarium. I picked crustacean because their heads are up as they walk along the bottom. The aquarium effect must have something to do with the helmet, because a snorkeling mask does not produce this effect.

It is worth noting that there is a safety diver behind you at all times, and there is a safety rail to hold onto as you walk around. Safety first!

If you have not gone helmet diving, even if you have done snorkeling and/or scuba diving, I recommend it! It’s easy, fun, and relatively inexpensive.

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