Shark Diving

I have not yet had the opportunity to dive with sharks, so photos of shark divers always struck me as odd. Scuba divers learn to be neutrally buoyant, and yet I would see photos/videos of shark divers resting on the ocean floor. Why?

So, I finally asked the question in reply to a tweet by @ScubaLuisCzm. Their reply was very informative.

First, it’s a buoyancy issue. Too many divers simply don’t have enough control to not flail their limbs and bodies about as the sharks swim nearby. Resting on the seafloor allows these divers to remain relatively motionless compared to the alternative.

Second, it’s an intimidation issue. Besides not drawing undue attention to themselves, this practice helps prevent scaring the sharks away.

The nearest place to me to dive with sharks involves observing threshers from above, so I don’t think this technique is used there. However, I hope to try it out someday, perhaps with my Twitter friends in Cozumel….

Square Breathing

One of my instructors gave me a tip to improve air consumption: square breathing.

I didn’t like it.

I felt like I was following a sine wave, slowly ascending for the first 8 seconds then slowly descending for the next 8 seconds. It didn’t feel like neutral buoyancy; it felt like out-of-control buoyancy.

Also, I know what you’re thinking: NEVER hold your breath underwater!

However, based on my training, I made some logical assumptions. First, I never did a full inhale; I left space. Second, my depth only varied a meter or two during an entire cycle; although the volume of air in my lungs was changing, it was not changing much at 20-40 meters. And, third, I only tried a few cycles at a time, mostly because I didn’t like the loss of control from the buoyancy changes.

Maybe I need to practice it some more. I don’t know. But, I think I would prefer to find other ways to reduce my air consumption than to spend so much time and energy controlling my breathing.

SSI Level 3 Diver

I hadn’t opened the MySSI app in a while. When I finally did, I wondered how long ago I became a Level 3 Diver.

Also, what does it really mean?

Well, like when I became a Level 2 Diver, I guess I can consider myself slightly less of a scubanoob than I was at the previous level.

fact, maybe someday I won’t consider myself a scubanoob at all!

Underwater Hand Signals

I was getting ready to dive with a scuba instructor with whom I had never dived before. Among other necessary precautions, she wanted to review underwater hand signals.

She waved her hand and pointed at her ear.

Me: “Equalization problem.”

She then waved her hand and pointed at her unadorned left ring finger.

I paused for a moment, thinking.

Me: “Marriage problem?”

She replied, “yes, I’m not married!”

We shared a laugh at that.

For the record, I don’t believe she was being flirtatious. I believe she is just lamenting being single, and probably cracks this joke all the time to break the ice with new students.

Because I didn’t have a camera out at the time, special thanks to hands model Phoebe Huang for this article’s featured image. You can contact Phoebe via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube:

Attempted Beer Debt

Considering how alcohol and diving don’t mix, I am amazed by the frequency and volume of beer consumption that I routinely witness. In addition to drinking beer together, scuba diving professionals also incur “debts” among each other, and these debts are paid off in beer.

For example, someone is supposed to do something around the dive shop but doesn’t, that person’s “discipline” is owing someone else a beer. The debt might belong to an IT person, or a manager, or just about anyone else, it seems.

Then, one day, I was accused of not doing something. I’m not even a dive professional, but that didn’t seem to matter.

I was tasked with forming a group, and I left one person out. The group consisted of individuals who had all not done something. The one person left out, who tried to assess me a debt of one beer, was intentionally left out because she had been the only one to do what they were all supposed to do.

So, I got out of my beer debt for three reasons:

1. I didn’t forget to include her, as she had accused me of doing.

2. I had actually been given a list from someone else of people to include… blame him!

3. I don’t buy beer.

I told her, had I been guilty, that I would buy something strong enough to allow her to see through time and space, but I would never buy beer. Wild Turkey barrel stock, OK. Bacardi 151, OK. But, I’m going to get power for my pesos….

Fish Wall

This is one of my favorite underwater photos. Admittedly, however, I have many favorite underwater photos.

We were drifting along a wall in the Hilutungan Channel (between Mactan and Olango islands, Cebu Province, Central Visayas, Philippines) when a school of fish started to pass in between me and the wall. I took many photos of these fish, but this one stood out from the rest.

It wasn’t until I looked at the photo on land that I noticed the indentation in the wall, and that the fish were swimming in a manner such to fill in the groove. If you look quickly, as I did the first time, it looks as if the fish are actually part of the wall!

Seeing Red at 40 Meters (130 Feet)

One of my favorite dives was the last dive of my Deep Diving course. There wasn’t a wall at the dive site, so we swam out from the beach and headed straight out until we reached a depth of 40 meters.

Then I saw the color red.

As you can see above, this is what the color red looks like at 40 meters with a flashlight.

However, I did not have a flashlight with me.

Therefore, as you can see in the unlit image above, there is no way I saw the color red at a depth of 40 meters. That wavelength of light is absorbed by the water. Notwithstanding the impossibility of my observation, I nonetheless saw the color red at 40 meters.

I didn’t bring a camera on that dive, because I knew the available cameras would shut off at that depth. I also thought to show my instructor, but she was narced up and drifting away from me. I had no way to get her attention without sprinting over to her, which would’ve consumed alot of gas at that depth.

When we surfaced later, the first thing I told my instructor was that I had been so narced up I saw the color red at 40 meters. We both really enjoyed that dive actually. I then took the written test and completed my Deep Diving specialty.

Beware Unscrupulous Dive Centers

It has been peak season teaching English, so I have, sadly, been too busy to dive for too long. However, I have had quite a few students try scuba diving and even get certified during their respective stays in the Philippines. This has allowed me to at least talk about scuba diving during my extended surface interval.

While it is understandable that students would seek out the least expensive dive centers, I have discovered that there are some outright dangerous dive centers around. I actively warn my students about these dive centers, but seemingly to no avail. Fortunately, no one has drowned yet. Unfortunately, I think this is merely because luck has been on their side.

Of most concern, is learning to share air with a fellow first-timer. I learned to share air with a professional instructor, who was ready for every eventuality. Consequently, I had a safe experience. Many of my students, however, told me stories of swallowing considerable water because they and their inexperienced partners made mistakes.

Perhaps you could argue that it is good to train with others, because you never know who you might have to share air with in the real world. I agree. However, I would counter-argue that you should practice first with a professional, become comfortable with the exercise first, and then practice with others. The fact that they swallowed considerable water and I swallowed none indicates to me that my training was considerably safer than theirs.

I think the number one sign that you should avoid a dive center is when you see photos of guests molesting marine life. Whether this means removing sea stars from the ocean or agitating pufferfish or whatever, violating the “don’t touch anything” rule is a good sign that they only want your money. And if money is priority one, safety necessarily isn’t.

Know Thy Scuba Gear

Scuba divers should know their gear inside and out, as if their lives depend on it. Spoiler alert: it does!

This photo depicts an equipment problem that I have actually seen quite a few times. It is a small, non-serious (in the tropics) air leak. The simple fix is to replace an o-ring, and failure to do so results in a diver wondering why he or she is consuming so much air.

The problem is complacency. Most of the non-professional divers I see are on vacation. The dive center assembles their gear and then the gear waits for them on the boat. They put it on and perform no checks whatsoever.

Yes, it is good to be able to trust the dive center. However, people make mistakes. The person ultimately responsible for your own safety is you.

I rent my gear, but I assemble it myself. I check every release, I check both regulators, and I make sure I can deflate my Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) from every position.

Because I do this, I potentially saved four dives. Twice I had air leaking out of my gauge, and twice I had air leaking from my first stage (the problem pictured above). In all four scenarios, I was able to replace the faulty equipment before leaving the dive center. Perhaps there would’ve been spares on the boats, but that still could’ve unnecessarily delayed the dives.

So I highly recommend that every scuba diver, whether on vacation or not, get to know — and check — your gear so that you can guarantee yourself a safe and fun experience.

What’s Freediving Like?

Feel like you are in the water with him as Guillaume NĂ©ry vividly describes what it is like to set a 123-meter (403.5-foot) national freediving record.

If you don’t understand French, be sure to turn on subtitles!

Expect three things:

1. You will feel what it is like to freedive to 123 meters. Relax completely during the freefall, then feel the pressure increase on your body as you descend further and further together. Feel like a speck of cosmic dust at the bottom, then get narced up on your ascent. Finally, celebrate together when you see the white card. He’s THAT descriptive.

2. You will learn freediving strategy. He will lead you through packing that last breath before your descent to taking your first breath upon surfacing. Never look up, focus on the rope, and never panic. Begin exhaling at 5 meters so you can inhale as soon as you surface, then complete the exit protocol for the judges. This video is a masterclass!

3. You will learn the science of freediving. He talks about the diving reflex, vasoconstriction, and some of the physiological similarities between humans and marine mammals.

Of particular note, from 6:00-6:20 he describes a “pulmonary erection.”

He also talks a little bit about the history of freediving and the importance of his team.

His conclusion shifts to non-competitive freediving. He showcases the elegance and beauty of freediving and describes how it releases stress and eases body pains (although scuba diving does that, too). While freediving, you can interact with marine life in a way that you simply cannot do while making bubbles. All in all, freediving comes across as an almost-spiritual experience.

I have wanted to try freediving ever since I found out about it. Now, I really, really want to try it.

I would like to thank Reddit user Seebaer1986 ( for recommending this video to me.

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