Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Casa Cenote Mexico with Patrick Widmann, Allie Kaspersetz and Katie

Category — Dive Training

Quick Update: The Pit, Bailing Out and Unconscious Diver Lift

I wanted to give you a quick update on current events.  First, I didn’t pass my multi-stage course last week.  I completely blundered the last dive.  I was diving sidemount with two stages and a scooter.  Each tank had a different starting pressure and I was exhausted.  I was in over my head and it really showed.  Steve told me to go and practice and come back for one more day.  I am writing a detailed article, however, we have been working on our Pit Project and I just haven’t had the time or the energy to complete it.  It should be a good laugh for you.

Now about our Pit Project, Patrick and I have started to assemble a deep diving team.  We recruited two divers for intermediate and surface support, Etienne Rousseau and Alain Pocobelli.  We had our first team meeting on Saturday night.  Patrick and I laid out our plans, the rules/expectations, and roles.  They both agreed.  So now we have the makings of a team.

On Sunday, the four of us went to The Pit.  The first task was to setup and test a method to lift an unconscious diver from the water.  We spent six hours rigging and testing.  I was lifted twice and Alain once.  It was a painful experience and we learned a lot.  By the time we got through rigging, Patrick and I called our dive.  Alain and Etienne went for a dive to 155ft to check out the site and find the start of the main deep line.  Both were diving air and were seriously narked.  It was kind of funny.  After finding the line they returned on schedule.  We cleaned up and left a little disappointed but overall satisfied.  We really wanted to make our dives.  However, the day was a success; now we know how to lift someone.

Today, Patrick, Chris and I went back to The Pit.  Chris is a Polish cave rescue expert.  He came out to help us rig our diver lift system.  His advice was invaluable!  We were about 80% there with our system.  Chris landed us a home run.  It isn’t perfect, but it is better.  We need to collect additional climbing gear to perfect the system.

When we were done, Patrick and I staged our tanks on the down line and we left for my first dive into the Wakulla Room.  We had two objectives for the dive:

  1. It was my deepest dive and I wanted to reach Wakulla and check all my swim times.  At this level I need to know how much time it will take to transit and how much gas to plan for.  What I discovered is that I am slower then Patrick, no surprise there.  We planned 7 minutes to the turn at 220ft and 7 minutes swimming in at 280ft.  It took me 9 minutes to reach the turn and I will need another 5 or 10 minutes in the Wakulla Room to traverse it.
  2. Patrick and I both agreed we should bailout from the Wakulla Room to confirm gas consumption and for practice.  Today was his chance.  We were just a couple of minutes from the By-Pass and Patrick gave me the bailout sign.  He switched over to open circuit and started to exit.  This experiment confirmed our estimates for his gas consumption and provided some good lessons for the both of us.  Two hundred eighty feet is really deep.  And in a cave, it is deeper.  As a side note, I bailed to my BOV a couple of times and watched the SPG.  It dropped with each breadth, wild!  19cuft tanks are pretty small.

Tomorrow, we are going to The Pit with Alain and it will be my turn to bailout.  I am looking forward to the exercise!  I think it is going to be a lot of fun and educational.   Patrick’s objective is to check the alternate restriction into Jill’s Chamber.  We are looking for an easier route for passing a scooter through.

Again, there is no need to fear.  When we are done with this series of dives, we will write detailed articles and share what we learned!

October 15, 2008   Comments Off on Quick Update: The Pit, Bailing Out and Unconscious Diver Lift

Cave DPV with Steve Bogaerts

Editor’s Note: I want to apologize to my readers.  I posted this story in the middle of the night with some errors.  Particularly, I got my sac rate calculations wrong.  I checked my notes today and discovered I used more gas then I first thought and I checked my X1 average depth and realized I was using a deeper depth then it recorded.  — Hans

When I arrived in Mexico last winter, Steve Bogaerts and I developed a rough plan for my training. The training would include: Basic Sidemount, Advanced Sidemount, Cave Survey, Cave DPV, Stage/Multi-stage and CCR Hypoxic Trimix.  As of today, the only class I have left is stage/multi-stage.

We planned to spread the training over the course of a year and to pace it based on my progress.  My progress would be reflective of the number of dives I complete and the focus I put on practicing.  I am glad that I am a little ahead of schedule.  Today, I finished my 12th training day with Steve and we completed Cave DPV.

The Cave DPV course was a lot of fun.  I wasn’t as difficult or as stressful as some of the other courses, such as Advanced Sidemount.  Riding a scooter is like flying.  It is super cool to zip through the cave.

The DPV course took three days. The first day started with three hours of lecture.  We discussed:

  • Why to use a scooter
  • Safety issues
  • Gas planning
  • Emergency procedures
  • Team dive execution
  • Staging the scooter
  • Choosing a scooter
  • Batteries
  • Charging
  • Conservation
  • And a host of other topics.

After the lecture, we broken down Steve’s Silent Submersion UV-18 DPV and prepped it for diving.  The prep went something like this:

  1. Check the voltage of each battery. (13+ volts)
  2. Check the voltage of the combined batteries. (26 volts)
  3. Inspect and clean the o-ring and sealing surfaces on the motor end of the scooter.
  4. Inspect the motor compartment through the window.
  5. Ensure the cap is secure on the motor compartment.
  6. Attach the battery.
  7. Check to make sure the propeller is clear and the trigger is locked.
  8. Plug in the main connection.
  9. Plug in the secondary connection.
  10. Test the motor for less then three seconds.
  11. Attach the body of the scooter.
  12. Remove the nose cone, inspect and clean the o-ring and sealing surfaces.
  13. Disconnect the secondary plug for transport.
  14. Install the nose cone.

After a couple attempts, this ritual it becomes second nature.  I found it was best to work from the bottom of the scooter up.  If the scooter isn’t on a flat surface, like in the jungle, make sure to flip it over on the nose cone before testing the motor.

We also discussed predive check and break down of the scooters.  I am not going to give you all the procedures, because you will learn them when you take the course with Steve.  About noon, we got the gear loaded in his truck and we headed towards Tulum.  In Tulum, we stopped at Xibalba Dive Shop and picked up another UV-18.  I repeated the prep procedure and loaded the DPV in the truck.

Our first dive was at Cenote Car Wash.  When we arrived the water was tea colored.  I guess with all the rain we have been having, the swamps are unloading tanic water into the Cenote.   The first thing I needed to do was to get my scooter trimmed and weighted properly.  Steve walked me through the process and provided some helpful tips.  He recommended that DPV should be slightly positive with the nose slightly up.  If I was going to spend a lot time below the halocline then I should set it up a little negative at the surface with the same trim.

I was doubtful due to the limited visibility; however as soon as we descended we broke into clear water.  It was like coming out of the clouds.  The tannic ceiling provided a virtual roof and looked exceptionally cool.

We started off by doing figure eights and driving around.  Immediately I noticed how easy it was to manage this scooter.  I had driven a bunch of scooters including UV-18s and always felt awkward and hated it.  I felt like I was fighting the DPVs and I would be exhausted before we finished the dive.  This DPV was different.  It was balanced and I didn’t really have to hold the handle.  I could set the trigger lock and finger it.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had arrived.  It made scootering so much easier.  I just didn’t know it should feel this way, I figured you always had to fight them.

After I got over my euphoria, we moved onto staging drills, lights out touch contact and team communication.  After a couple of hours in the water we headed back to Steve’s place to break down the DPVs and charge them.

The second day we went to Ponderosa.  We made two cave dives.  We practiced installing/removing the primary reel, staging the scooters, team communication, low on air (tank swaps), exit on secondary light, zero visibility touch contact and other skills.  The first dive I wasn’t all that confident and kept stopping to wait for Steve to catch up.  This repeatedly broke rhythm and I blundered the scooter stage procedure.  I had forgotten the hand signals and couldn’t figure out what he was asking me to do.  After a minute or two of watching him do them louder, it came to me and we carried on.  The debriefing was insightful and to the point.  After diving we went back to Steve’s place, broke down the scooters and burn tested mine.  I had 7 minutes of burn time left.

Today, we went to Chac Mool.  Chac Mool is a big power cave with the largest known underwater stalactite.  It is about 90ft tall.  It is a 30 minute (1500ft) swim from the entrance.  I normally use about 42cuft of gas to reach it.  It is about the perfect scooter training dive because it provides an excellent benchmark to test again.  On the scooters pitched at 5 we reached the Monster in 14 minutes.  This included me bumbling with the reel and getting the tow strap entangled around my sidemount tank.

My swimming sac rate, in sidemount gear, is a .7 cuft/min.  I ran some calculations for my swimming dives to the monster and came up with .66.  Tonight, I calculated my sac on the scooter and was surprised to learn that my first dive was a 1.5 and my second was a .97.    Both of those are pretty hideous and leave huge room for improvement.  I think the task loading with the scooter during the installation of the primary reel really afected my sac rate.   I am definitely going to go and make some practice runs with the scooter to try and improve those figures.

A great example of the differences in our sac rates was our gas consumption at Ponderosa.  We scootered the River Run to the change in direction in the line arrows.  It took us just shy of 20 minutes.  In that time I used 450psi out of each tank and Steve used less then 200psi out of each tank.  I was shocked when he handed me his tank and he had used 200psi, I couldn’t believe it.

Besides keeping close track of our trigger time and gas consumption, we towed and towed some more.  Which is good because towing efficiently is harder then it looks.  Being towed is challenging because you have to stay out of the wake, control the scooter between your legs, maintain orientation to the guideline and not annoy your buddy.  Towing is challenging because you are like a semi truck moving through the cave. A semi truck with a failing tail that is apt to hit things if you are not careful.   It is like dragging a plow though the water. This is another skill that could use practice.

At the end of the day we headed back to Steve’s house to break down the scooters and burn test mine.  The burn test went 17 minutes and the Watts Up Meter showed we had 4ah remaining.  This correlated nicely, because the UV-18 has 16ah batteries and I had recorded about 60 minutes of trigger time.  That means we had about ¼ of the battery remaining and the total burn time would have been 77 minutes, which is in the middle of the 45-90 minute range.

Overall the course was a blast.  I really enjoy working with Steve.  He does a lot of this diving and spends a lot time thinking about the procedures.  Luckily, they are born of direct experience and you can feel that as you put them to use.  They just work.

I am glad to be qualified to use scooters now.  They will be an invaluable tool at The Pit.  I already have some other dives in mind.

Tomorrow, I start the stage/multi-stage course.  Since I dive in sidemount, we will do it in sidemount.  Hopefully, on Friday I will have something entertaining to report [Read more →]

October 8, 2008   7 Comments

The Trimix Odyssey

Becoming a Trimix Rebreather Diver with Andrew Driver of Blue Foot Diving

On May 17, 2003, I was certified as an Advanced Open Water diver.  The following Christmas I got “The Last Dive” from my in-laws and I read it cover to cover on Christmas day.  My in-laws thought I was nuts, maybe I am.  I purchased every narrative I could find on deep diving.  Each story deepened my interest; the characters and the dives captured my imagination.  Allie noticed all the books and asked me if I was interested in diving the Andrea Doria?  She wanted to know where this was going.  I admitted was and I estimated it would take me five years to reach the that level.

When I made the decision to pursue deep diving, I had a couple of principles in mind:

  • Be safe and take it slow.
  • Maintain a positive mental attitude.
  • Be young enough to be fit to not hazard my health.
  • Do it using a rebreather.
  • Seek the best instruction possible from a range of instructors.
  • Ensure my wife understands what I was doing and the risks involved.
  • Surround myself with people who would guide me and help to pace me.

Five years later, I have executed just shy of 500 safe dives. 350 of those dives have been technical dives, either North East Wreck Diving or Cave Diving.  Eighty of those dives have been with my Megalodon rebreather.   In January, I moved to Mexico for diving. I started running 3.5 miles three times a week and going to the gym.  And I have continually sought training from some of the top instructor in the world.  All this culminated in a trip to the United States to take my Rebreather Trimix Diver course with Andrew Diver of Blue Foot Diving.

Book One.  Incomplete Normoxic Trimix.

Completing the CCR (Rebreather) Trimix course has been an odyssey.  In fall of 2007 I met Joe Z., Fabrice, Eric Goldstein and Andrew in Alexandria Bay.  Our plan was to do some DPV diving and start the Normoxic Rebreather Trimix course.  I started class with 50 hours on my Meg.  We did a handful of Normoxic Trimix dives and lots of drills: High PO2, Low PO2, Solenoid Stuck Open, and deploying a lift bag.  We had a ton of fun and laughed a lot.  We visited the Islander, the America, the Key Storm, the Vickery and the bow of the Jodrey.  Max depth on that trip was 197ffw.  Of course we got to spend time with Mo Hunt.  Mo is a local legend who has been diving for 55 years.  They were all awesome dives and I learned a ton.  Hanging around with people like Eric, Joe Z. and Fabrice is amazing.

Andrew’s style of teaching is to teach as you do.  Consequently, most of the lessons are very practical and are derived straight from experience.  He has two philosophies that really struck me, I am paraphrasing:

“People come to dive not sit in a classroom.  So, I get them out diving as fast as possible.  It gives me a chance to assess where they are at and it gives them a chance to dive.  It helps me to structure the course and helps to focus on the student’s needs.”

“If the basics are solid, the rest will follow.  With a solid grasp of the basics, situations which might have posed a substantial hazard will become second nature to identify, troubleshoot and resolve.”

These ideas are reflected in his teaching methods.  The three times I have been to Alex Bay, as the locals call it; we dived on the first day.  We hit the water, did some basic drills and started the process of getting comfortable.  I could see Andrew watching us as we did the drills; his debriefs were short and never belittling.  On the days that I looked like a spasm in the water, he told me I looked like a spasm.  We would laugh a little and then talk about what I could do better and how I could develop processes to deal with each task.  On the days I did what I was told, he didn’t tell me I look like a spasm.  I guess part of his British nature is not to celebrate when you do what you are told.   We spent a lot of time on the basics and by nailing them, the rest of the diving became easier.

Unfortunately, we didn’t plan to finish the class that weekend.  I walked away certified; which was fine, because the rest of that fall I didn’t do any diving.  Work had gotten out of control and I was preparing for my move.  I wanted to put some more medium depth dives together before moving on.

Book Two: False Starts

Before moving to Mexico, I met a fellow name Patrick Widmann.  Patrick is skinny (way skinny), a cave instructor, a deep diver, my mentor, my dive buddy and the motivating force!  Once I arrived, I learned Patrick had designs on exploring The Pit.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you will have seen his posts.  One day Patrick and I got to talking and he told me about his plans.  I thought they sounded interesting and wanted to participate.  The problem was that I was not Trimix certified and I only planned to be in Mexico for one year.  I needed a solution for both.  I went home and declared to Allie, “We need to stay for two years at minimum.  I want to explore The Pit and I estimate it would take me year to work up to it.”  Luckily, Allie agreed.

I was anxious to complete my Hypoxic Trimix Rebreather Course.  As luck would have it, there are not many instructors who are qualified to teach it on the Yucatan.  To be exact there is one, Steve Bogaerts.  Luckily, Steve is already my instructor so we scheduled the course for the end of July.  Steve did a lot of the deep exploration at The Pit on double redundant Inspiration rebreathers; I thought his practical experience made him an excellent candidate.

July started with my parents in town for 10 days.  The trip was stressful, my bed frame broke and my back went out in a BIG way.  It required acupuncture and three shots in the ass.  We elected to cancel the course because we agreed it would be a terrible idea to do deep mix diving with an inflamed back.  I guess that is where the health hazard principle comes in.  I was totally bummed, because Patrick and I had a bunch of dives to do during low season and I lost my chance to get qualified.  Luckily, Patrick and I were able to work around it and he made significant progress.

Book Three.  Don’t Change Your Configuration.

As the gods would have it, my back didn’t get better for a couple of weeks.   When we attempted to reschedule my Trimix class in September, it conflicted with the arrival of Steve’s new baby.  The next opportunity wouldn’t be until October.

I couldn’t wait any longer!  Fortunately, I had a wedding the first week in September in NJ.  I contacted Andrew and asked if he could arrange a course.  Bingo!  Andrew put a course together for three of us.  With some skepticism I packed the Megalodon in my hand luggage and a 120lbs worth of dive gear and cloths in my checked luggage and headed for the states.  Luckily, I am a frequent flier and was allowed more then one heavy bag.  I got home with zero charges or difficulties.  The only real challenge was at security in Cancun.  They closely examined the Meg, but let it pass.  Promptly, I removed the red and yellow warning labels.

When I went to my storage unit in NJ to fetch my dry suit, I discovered the neck seal had melted and the edge was dry rotted.  I put some duct tape on the seal and used it the whole week.  Amazingly, it was dry and didn’t rip.  I am eternally grateful.

When I arrived at Andrew’s house, I learned the third man had bailed out.  It was down to two of us.  Andrew loaned me some steel tanks.  I decided to invert my tanks this time.  I thought it would be easier to reach the valves, normally I dive de-inverted.  This was the first mistake, changing my gear configuration.

We went for a shore dive on the Islander.  I was super wonky!  I hadn’t been in a dry suit for more then a year and it showed.  I was over weighted and out of trim.  My feet were down and I looked like a stroke!  Luckily, I survived.  We finished the dive and my classmate quit; he hit his limit.  This was his second attempt at Hypoxic and he just didn’t have the juice.  Andrew and I did another dive and that ended day one.

Day two arrived and Eric Goldstein showed up.  I was grateful to see him.  I really like diving with Eric because he is an excellent diver, very knowledgeable and funny.  We planned to go out on the boat, but with so few people it didn’t make economic sense.   We did another shore dive, this time to 140ffw.  This dive Andrew gave me two Al80’s to manage, which shouldn’t have been an issue.  I was closer to trim head to toe, but my lateral trim was shit.  Normally, I side mount my tanks balancing them.  I decided to emulate Andrew and Eric and wear them on the left.  This was the second big mistake.

I know what works for me, but I elected to do something different.  I assumed I could adapt.  That was a lapse in judgment and the dive was shit.  There was a decent current and we had to pull and glide.  My gloves had holes in them and my fingers got sliced to shreds.  I could see the blood in the water.  Plus, I was swimming with a 45 degree list.  I looked like a COMPLE STROKE.  It took me until the next dive to sort out my lateral trim.  I needed to make changes in the placement of weight and the way I clipped the tanks in.  I was still over weighted.  Luckily, I get through all the skills.

For the next two days we dove the Jodrey.  There was a lot of drilling on High PO2, Low PO2 and bailing out.  We completed a partial ascent off the loop.  I spent a lot time on my Golem BOV, and I convinced.  I didn’t notice any WOB issues on it at 220ffw. Throughout class, I tried the drills in a couple of ways: faster, slower, and blundered.  The conclusion was that I need to take my time when I perform the drills and think it through.  I had a tendency to go on autopilot and do the flush too fast.  I need to spend more time verifying the cells.

The last day was spent in the class room talking about gas selection and other technical issues.  Andrew’s lectures are factual and to the point.  As a bonus, I had examples from The Pit.  Andrew and I worked through the gas selections and the deciding factors.

The course was challenging and a lot of fun.  I learned a substantial amount and I got a chance to tune up my skills again.  Upon reflection, I would have liked to have had a day or two more in my dry suit diving before starting class.  It would have given me an opportunity to perfect my trim and buoyancy, thereby allowing me to concentrate on the skills rather then basic issues.  The expectation is buoyancy and trim should be in the bag on arrival, however, the change in environment really through me for a loop.

I should have stuck to a configuration that was similar to the one I use in Mexico; even if I had to explain it to the team.  The addition of the dry suit, the tanks on the left and the inverted tanks added a noticeable level of task loading, which robbed me of cycles to use on performing the tasks on the dives.  The lesson is, don’t change things before class! I should have learned that lesson already.  Ironically, I had a similar issue during my Advanced Sidemount Course.  I got a new 9MM wet suit the day before class and it killed my buoyancy and trim, creating a terrible problem on the first day of class.

The joy is in the journey.  The truth is that the experience of diving and spending time with friends is so much more fulfilling then getting a Trimix Card.  I am glad I passed, it is important to me to do well.  But more important is the opportunity to dive with people I like.  People I can share the joy with.  Diving is a supremely social activity for me.  I like to solo dive, but I really like to dive with a good buddy.   Luckily, I have that buddy and we have some big dives planned.  In the coming months I look forward to opportunity to put my training to use as we dive The Pit, The Blue Abyss, the cenotes near Merida and the local walls.  I will keep you in the loop.

September 24, 2008   6 Comments

I am a Trimix CCR Diver.

Well, it is official! I received my certification in the mail today from IANTD! I am now a CCR Trimix Diver qualified to 330FSW. I finished my class on Friday last week. I got a 48/50 and a 49/50 on my written examinations. I was bummed, I would have gotten a 50 on the Hypoxic test but I transposed a number in one calculation. I did it right except for the simple math error. Dur!

The only down side to class was that I came away from it sick. I have some sort of strange head/chest cold. Fortunately, it is resolving. However, it is now being replaced by an ear infection on the right side. I am pretty sure I just got too run down last week and I am paying the price now.

Jose, the cable is just off the bow of the Islander. We did a 109 minute dive with a max depth of 134ffw. I was told you can find 140 out there.

We didn’t go all the way to Canada. I believe Bonnie Castle and the islands around it are still in the US. However, Andrew and Eric are planning on scootering the cable and surfacing on the other side to confirm where it ends.

Now on to the question, “Whats down there?” Well, lots and lots and lots of snail shells and current. If you do this dive, have full fingered gloves with no holes in the fingers! The shells sliced my fingers apart and I have been suffering all week. There are also bottles, and I would bet if you swim off the cable, you can find some cool ones. Eric did on our dive.

I am glad I don’t have to ice dive anymore! It is too cold and miserable. Living in Mexico means I get to dive in 77f water everyday if I like. And the truth is, that is what I like.

I miss wreck diving, but not enough to be really really cold all the time.

Keep your eyes peeled, I will be writing about my Trimix CCR training with Andrew Driver from Blue Foot Diving. It was a serious challenge and I am glad I got to do it.

September 15, 2008   Comments Off on I am a Trimix CCR Diver.

Trimix class is underway.

bonnie-castle-ship-sm.jpg

I finally made it into a Hypoxic CCR Trimix class! I am totally stoked. On Sunday, I went to a wedding. I got into bed around 2AM. Two and a half hours later, I got up and drove 6 hours up to Alexandria Bay, NY USA to meet with Andrew Driver and two other students. We were scheduled to start class around noon. When I arrived I found out one of the divers had already bailed. So it was down to two.

That afternoon we scheduled a dive. I hadn’t been in my dry suit in almost a year and I had to get situated. We made a dive on the Islander. It went ok.  I was completely wonky.  My trim was horrible and my weighting was out of wack.   I just didn’t account for how different it would be in my dry suit and thick underwear.  I should have known consdiering that fact that I had spent three years diving with a dry suit and thick undies.

After that dive the other student dropped out of the course. This was his second attempt at this class and he came to the reality that he just didn’t have it. So he made the right decision and walked away. So that left me alone! The sole focus of Andrew’s ever watchful eye.  Luckily,  a friend of ours, Eric Goldstien, came down from Canada to join us.  Eric is a super great guy and a fabolous diver.  He is great to take the piss out of and a lot of fun to spend time with.  So we had a team of three, Andrew, Eric and me.

As of this writing, we have made three dives on the Jodrey and one across the channel following an undersea cable.  The dives have been getting progressively better. I really strugled on the first two dives, while I looked for my trim and bouyancy.  The last two dives have been pretty good.

I think that is all I will tell you for now.  I will do a full write up when I get home.  Here are some photos for your enjoyment!

September 10, 2008   8 Comments

Fifteen Needles Later and I am Still Not Trimix Certified.

A Broken bed, Whale Sharks, A Pregnant Doctor and Injections, The Real Dive Life!

Where do I start?  Some time in the end of June, when I sat down into bed, I broke the bed frame.  I broke it right where my lower back rests while I am sleeping.  On top of that, add the fact that we were sleeping on a very tired mattress through which I could feel the springs.  I knew that the bed was broken but I kept using it.  My thought was that I could live with it, though it was really starting to bother me.

Then my parents came to town for a whirlwind tour of the Yucatan in my 4Runner.  Their visit and the accompanies stress eliminated all exercising for about two weeks.  Then we drove around the Yucatan at break neck speeds which was followed by some competitive whale shark snorkeling and photography.  The end result was that my back was completely messed up.   I had a lot of pain in the lower back and was unable to bend over.  I stretched and took Aleeve but nothing was working, it was getting worse by the day.

Now for the kicker, I was scheduled to take my CCR Hypoxic Trimix with Steve this week. I had been looking forward to it for a couple of years.  The whole reason I got the Meg was to dive Trimix.  I emailed Steve to let him know my condition and we agreed that mixed gas diving and lower back injuries sound like a terrible combination.   We decided to postpone class.  A TOTAL AND COMPLETE BUMMER!  But, it was the only reasonable and prudent course of action.  It would be awful to take a lower back hit because I was greedy.

It is really a kind of win for both of us.  I was nervous about taking the class this week and Steve wanted to get some exploration done.  I hadn’t been putting enough time in on the CCR and I was planning to put a bunch of time on it in the week between my parents and my class.   With my back out of whack, I couldn’t put the time on the unit.  Plus, I think the universe was telling me I needed to slow down a little.  I have really been packing in the training and not doing enough practice.  Now I have my reprieve.

Acupuncture needles in my leg.And now we are at the needles part of the story.  On Friday, my back was killing me and I couldn’t find a chiropractor or a masseuse to look at it.  I had two separate appointments, which resulted in no call no shows from the masseuse.  I blew off ice cream waiting for this guy.  The best Chiropractor in town, which at least 5 people referred me to, had broken his ankle.  And the next chiro doesn’t work over the weekend.  So there I was, when Sol saved the day.  He suggested I go to the clinic where he went.  I complied and we stopped in.

Acupuncture needles in my back.We were seen immediately!  We entered the office and there was a very good looking small young girl behind the desk.  She asked if we wanted to do this in English or Spanish?  Which was immediately responded to by Sol, who was wearing a huge shit eating grin, with, “Your a doctor?”  She replied, “Yes, I am a doctor and I am pregnant. I have thirty years.”  I asked, “30 years practicing medicine? You look great!”  She smiled and replied, “No, I have been practicing medicine for 6 years.”   The consult went well, and she told me I needed to see a specialist and she wanted to get me out of pain.  She prescribed three injections and a three day course of anti-inflammatory.  I was nervous about both, but we talked about the drugs.  The injection is B12 and something else and the anti-inflammatory is just that.  I agreed to the course of treatment under the assumption she was going to give the shot.  Well, that isn’t how it worked out.  She left the room and brought back a nurse, who was a much older and rounder Mayan lady.  I got my shot and went on my way.  She gave a great shot, it just wasn’t the girl behind the desk.  That was the first needle.

On Saturday night, I needed to get my second shot.  I was informed that the pharmacy would give me the injection if I asked.  As it turns out, they wouldn’t.  I could buy my needle and my drugs there, but had to find someone else to inject me.  The pharmacy sent me to the Red Cross.  The Red Cross charged me $5USD or 50Pesos to inject me.  I skipped right to the front of the line.  It was surreal.  I watched the Para-medic prepare the drug.  It was two glass vials that needed to be broken open and mixed in the syringe.  Sol took a picture, which I will withhold.  And the medic laughed his ass off.  Needle number two down.

Acupuncture needles in my back.On Sunday evening it was time for injection number three.  At this point, I was emboldened by our experiences.  So, we hit up the pharmacy for the supplies and we went home.  This time I mixed up the drugs and gave the needle to my wife, Allie, to inject me.  I wanted to save the $5 and risk of airborne staff that can be found at the Red Cross.  Allie had had two glasses of wine prior to being handed the needle, so she was a little nervous and so was I.  She pinned me and pumped my rump full of the drugs.  Everything went according to plan and needle number three was finished.  She did a great job!  I never expected my wife to need to inject me.  I guess that is one of the wonders of the self serve medical system here.

That brings us to Monday!  Today, I went in and had a consult with a physician, a real MD, who specialized in pain management and acupuncture.  We talked about my condition; he examined me and then prescribed a course of Ozone Therapy and acupuncture.  The Ozone is to resolve the herniated disk; the acupuncture is to relieve the muscle tension/spasms.  My homework is to read up on the Ozone treatment.  In the mean time, he stuck 12 needles in me making the count 15.  I had never done acupuncture before, so I was a little skeptical.  However, I have heard good things about it.  It didn’t hurt.  It did put me to sleep.  And it gave me a funny taste in my mouth like my body was detoxing.  I have another visit scheduled for Thursday morning.  I am not exactly sure how I feel about it, though I am willing to give it a shot.  I am going to couple it with a return to my yoga practice and some walking.

I am desperate to get active again.  I hate getting off the beam, acupuncture needles in my leg, and feeling like a slob.  I think I am going to dive this week a little, maybe 2-3 dives, nothing deep.  Though that will really depend on how my back feels.  As of tonight, it seems to be well on its way to recovering!  Hopefully, I will be in tip-top shape shortly.

Plus, Allie, Sol and I have agreed to start a training program to train up to running a half-marathon.  I don’t want them to get too far out in front of me.

Have you tried acupuncture or other holistic or eastern approaches to your pain?  How did it work for you?

July 14, 2008   2 Comments

Where should I dive in Mexico, Tulum, Akumal, or the Riviera Maya?

At some point, I asked Steve where I should go diving. He asked if I had been to: Casa Cenote, Temple of Doom or “the cenotes across from Xpu Ha”? At the time, I had to answer no to all three. It dawned on me how many obvious places there are to dive here. Drive down Highway 307 and stop at the places with a Cenote sign and ask to dive. If they allow it, that is a place to dive. Of course, there is risk in trying to dive without a guide. First, the adventure might be a complete diving bust. You might pay your entrance and find the location undivable or unrewarding! Second, you may not get very far at all once in the cave. The first time I went to Car Wash without a guide, I spent the entire first dive looking for the main line. Luckily, I have the opportunity to waste time driving around looking for a Cenote or swim around looking for the main line. If you are a visitor, you may not have the same luxury. Plus, I love to explore! And for me, even if there is line in the cave, every dive to a new site is exploration. How do I enter the water? Where is the entrance to the cave? Where does the line go? What is the geology?

If you are coming to Mexico and you are looking for a guide or someone to dive with, email me at: hans@quietdiver.com. I will make sure to hook you up with the right people! Having a guide will save you a ton of logistical work and will ensure you have a fulfilling trip. I know guides that specialize in rebreather cave diving, side-mount diving, exploration, dpv, extended range, deep diving, and I even know someone with an excellent boat on Cozumel. The guide will arrange tanks, transportation, food, entrances, sorb and any other special needs you might have. The same applies if you are looking for an instructor. I know it sounds like a pitch, it sorta is. I just don’t like to read posts from people on CDF or The Deco Stop that didn’t enjoy their trips.

June 9, 2008   Comments Off on Where should I dive in Mexico, Tulum, Akumal, or the Riviera Maya?

Upstream and Downstream are So Nineties!

When we talk about cave diving, we usually refer to diving upstream or downstream. Upstream and downstream refer to the commonly accepted direction of the flow of the fresh water in the cave system. Here in Mexico, that direction is from inland to the sea traveling perpendicular to the coast. That knowledge is so ingrained locally that the government includesClick to view the slide in detail. it in its planning documentation. If you take a look at the image (Click it.) of the slide, you will notice red arrows pointing to the coast. The arrows represent the government’s official position on the flow of water around/under Tulum. It is also important to note that there are two versions of the urban planning documents issued by the local government. One issued in 2005 and one in 2007. If you look closely at the 2007 map you will notice the government has included stick maps of the local cave systems. This is a promising sign, the government is starting to incorporate cave survey data.

The problem is there is no empirical evidence to support the current common belief. There is anecdotal evidence that would support those hypothesizes, however it seems it may be incorrect.

Aaron Addison giving a talk about GIS at CEAOn Friday night, Allie and I had the opportunity to go to Akumal and watch a handful of presentations given at the Centro Ecologico Akumal. There were a number of very interesting presentations, including: one on the dry caves of the area, one on the benefits of GIS, the formation of the local caves and one on the movement of water at Car Wash.

The talk about Yucatan cave hydrology and geochemistry was given by Patricia Beddows, a Research Fellow at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, Canada. Patricia has been traveling to Mexico to study the caves for at least 10 years. Last year she and a team of volunteers performed a dye tracing experiment at Car Wash to determine the flow of the fresh water there. I believe the results are remarkable.

Before I go any further, she has so far performed one dye trace at this particular site Car Wash. Therefore, the results she shared can only be representative of the water flow conditions in the cave at that time. She mentioned that repeat dye tracing may show somewhat different results.

The experiment consisted of deploying two markers. She deployed one dye in the Cell Block section and at Cenote Luke’s Hope (Cenote Zacil Ha). Both sections are upstream or inland. The expected result was that both dyes would be detected at Cenote Carwash. However, what actually happened was quite startling. The dye that was deployed in the Cell Block section, just stayed there. It never really passed the restriction heading downstream towards the coast. So it would seem that at the time of the experiment, the water was not flowing from upstream to downstream as we all believe it does.

The dye that was released at Luke’s Hope also did something remarkable. It moved relatively quickly down to Cenote Carwash, this was expected. It also moved into the Room of Tears section, this was not expected.

It seems that the fresh water is not moving from upstream to downstream at Carwash. The new hypothesis is the water is entering the system from a perpendicular path from the North and then moving down stream and out of the system south. It is also blowing water into the Room of Tears section.

Steve Bogaerts and Dennis Weeks enjoying the talk at CEAThis is import for a couple of reasons. The first is resource planning. If the government assumes the water is moving from inland to the sea in a straight line, they will plan things like dumps and well fields accordingly. However, if the reality is the water is moving unpredictably; then there is a chance those plans will create a public hazard, such as contaminated drinking water.

The second reason it is import is, it means you and I are using the wrong terminology. There was some discussion at dinner about changing from talking about upstream and downstream to inland and coastal sides of the system. We wouldn’t want to be inaccurate when briefing our dives, right! You know how important it is to be accurate in your briefings, don’t you? So get out of the nineties and your halogen lights and into modern times, it will be Costal and Inland from now on.

Lastly, the term upstream gives the impression that the flow will be working with you to assist you in exiting. When in reality, it may be working against you as the finding suggests. For example, when exiting Room of Tears. I bet you never considered that the Room of Tears might be a siphon. A very weak siphon, but a siphon. I can think of at least one place in Nohoch where there is a strong current against you when exiting, where common knowledge would indicate there shouldn’t be water moving against you.

Naturally, you should now ask, “Why isn’t the fresh water moving the direction of the cave?” The answer is equally interesting. In the last million and a half years or so, the sea level has dropped substantially from today’s levels at least 3 times. It was during one of these low periods that the cave system was formed. No one is really sure during which low period the caves formed. Therefore, the caves were formed during a period that had significantly different geomorphic forces at work then are at work today. When the cave was formed, the water did move in the direction of the cave. It was the eroding force that formed the cave.

Today, sea levels are much higher and the caves are full of water. The movement of water beneath the ground on the Yucatan is controlled by: the tides, the macro geologic formations and hydrostatic pressure from inland. (I consider the local caves micro when compared the to entire Yucatan.) The caves we dive are just happy accidents from the ancient past that provide us with hours of enjoyment. It is my unscientific opinion that Patricia’s findings suggest the following, “where the fresh water does flow in the direction of the cave, it is a coincidence”. It is my belief that the Yucatan is too porous and large for the relatively small cave passages to have meaningful effect on the macro movement of the water.

Patricia’s presentation was a call for further research. Every year, as more caves are mapped and more research is completed, we learn more about our favorite dive sites. Sometimes new information turns our commonly accepted knowledge on its ear and forces us to consider that our world is ever more complicated and beautiful then we expect.

May 25, 2008   2 Comments

Valve Feathering and Valve Management

I recently wrote an article detailing my Advanced Side-Mount Cave Diving Class with Steve Bogaerts. In that article I made reference to feathering my valve after a regulator failed underwater. One of my favorite readers, Anna, sent me an email asking me, “What is feathering? I mean I know your valve was leaking and I’m useless at valve drills. So I guess it means you blew a burst disc and just had to let the tank run down?” I thought I should explain and I wanted to provide a brief explanation of a systematic approach to practicing valve drills as it was taught to my wife and me.

Valve Feathering
Feathering is the act of actuating, opening and closing, the valve on a scuba tank to control the flow of gas. I originally learned the skill to deal with a stuck open solenoid on my rebreather. I adapted the skill for dealing with my leaky regulator. The idea is to limit the gas loss from the leak to extend the time you can use the tank. When done correctly, I open the valve as I start to exhale and close it before I am finished; drawing the regulator empty at the end of my breath cycle. This limits the regulator to leaking just when I am drawing gas. This same skill is a prerequisite if you ever find yourself breathing off a tank valve 3000 feet back in a cave.

The specific problem I had was that my low pressure inflator hose had loosened itself from the first stage of the regulator and was leaking from the connection. I was diving brand new Apex XTX 50’s with DST first stages. I had just assembled them, and I didn’t tighten the hose enough. I was diving side-mount and practicing bottle handling skills, so I was forced to don and doff my tanks many times that day. In the course of rotating the tanks out in front and back, the hose came loose. Of course it loosened in zero visibility and I was unable to figure out the source of the leak. Therefore, I was forced to isolate the leak by shutting down the valve and going on my other side-mount tank. Once I handled the priority emergency, being entangled and cutting the wrong side of the line, and I had passed the remaining restrictions, I switched from the fully functioning system to the leaky system. At this point, I started to feather the valve to control the gas loss and maintain the air source as long as possible.

Valve Management!
“Valve” and “Management” are dirty words in the tech diving community. I know many people who have suffered with valve management, including my wife. They all had trouble with it until they learned a logical process for executing them and dedicated time in a pool or on their safety stops to practicing.

I believe there are three primary reasons people have trouble with these skills:

  1. They can’t reach their valves.
  2. No one ever taught them a logical process and gave them the reasons for each step.
  3. People don’t practice.

The first reason is non-sense. Your rig should be configured in a way to allow you to reach your valves. If your dry suit is too tight or your valves are too low, they you have a real problem. It is a problem that may lead to your drowning. Stop diving and fix the problem. Why would you ever enter the water with a system you know if broken? It just does not make sense.

The second reason is reasonable, not everyone has an instructor that has a logical easy to remember system. My Advanced Nitrox/Deco Procedures class provided no methodical instruction on this issue other then, “Let me see you close your valves. It is ok to do it one at a time.” This is where your choice of instructions really makes a difference. It might save your life.

I am going to share with you the system Allie and I learned. Keep in mind this is for a person diving manifolded doubles with an isolator. It also assumes you are breathing off the right post to start:

  1. Close your right post first. Breathe it empty and switch to the left regulator. Why? It is the most dynamic regulator and will be prone to fail first. You breathe it to the end to confirm you have shut off the correct regulator. Switching to a regulator that is off will come as a nasty surprise.
  2. If the leak continues, turn your right post back on and turn your left post off. Breathe the left post empty and switch back to your right post.
  3. If the leak continues, shut down the isolator and try and figure out which tank is leaking.
  4. Turn on the left post and switch to the tank that is leaking. Breathe it empty then switch to the remaining tank.
  5. Open the isolator at the end of the drill.

If you practice this in the same way each time, it will go into muscle memory. It also helps to do an audible gear matching exercise, at the start of the dive, where you call out each piece of gear and touch the post it is attached to. This helps build a reflex to turn off the correct post in the event of an easily identified leak, such as a leaky SPG. As you become more proficient, you can start to close the isolator at the same time you close the post. I would suggest the first couple of times you practice, have a buddy watch you to ensure you maintain an air source. I would also advise you to not practice this if you have mandatory deco and you don’t have a buddy. It would suck to blow off deco because you find yourself without an air source. When you are short on air, one second is forever!

The last reason I outlined, lack of practice, is just that. We all have to do three minute safety stops, it is a perfect time to practice pain in the ass skills we need to survive. For weeks I practiced my reverse frog kick and my lay throwing skills on my safety stop. Prior to that, I practiced my valve drills and buoyancy control on every safety stop I could. There is no excuse for not practicing; you have time built into every dive for it. Use the time; practice a skill that might save your life.

I can tell you from first hand experience, you may need to shut a valve down while entangled in zero visibility. It could be fishing net, monofilament, cave line or the long tail of someone’s snot that grabs a hold of you. You want to be prepared so you can maintain a calm cool collected manner. I promise, when the trouble comes, it is never alone.

May 23, 2008   3 Comments

“Never Give Up, Don’t Waste Time Scribing Notes!” Advanced Side-Mount Cave Diving.

Putting regulators on the tanks, carrying them to the water’s edge, and slipping them into the water is almost a meditative experience. Every time I get the opportunity, it is another awaking.

In April, I spent three days working with Steve Bogaerts on the basic side-mount class. The class included: lecture, building a custom side-mount harness, and skills & drills. He focused on gear configuration, safety procedures, tank handling and diving in side-mount configuration. I am convinced that those three days evolved my gear configuration by at least 50+ dives of tuning and experimenting. He condensed years of practical experience exploring into a well thought out task specific system. At the end of class, I was tasked with learning to reverse frog kick, improve my line laying, and diving in side-mount. We agreed to meet in a month for Advanced Side-Mount Cave Diving Class.

My Advanced Side-Mount class was scheduled for May. By this time, I had executed 29 side-mount dives, nailed the reverse frog kick and improved my line throwing skills. I felt very comfortable in side-mount; I was ready to continue.

Class started with a lecture at Steve’s place. He covered:

  • Revised equipment list, tailored for diving in small passage.
  • The need to be able to remove and replace every piece of kit.
  • The recent fatality at Genie Springs, Steve is a local Safety Officer.
  • More conservative gas planning rules.
  • And discussion around knowing one’s limits, mental toughness and the things he has seen deep in the cave, such as abandoned equipment and erratically laid line. All evidence of people reaching their limit.

The revised equipment list included two new items for my Dive Rite Double Zip Pocket. He suggested that I carry a spare bungee to hang my tanks from in the event that I have to cut my normal side-mount bungee and a lanyard with a clip for no-mounting.

Steve is a hawk with regard to gas planning and management, which I suspect is why he is still alive and pushing. In previous training we talked about why the rule of thirds is not conservative enough here in Mexico. Locally, we have low flow caves that do not provide the benefit spitting you out. This was clearly demonstrated when Allie and I almost sucked my tanks dry during a drill in her full cave class. I surfaced with the gauge reading nearly zero after my safety stop.

For pushing challenging cave, the rule of thirds is not conservative. He suggests the rule of sixths or quarters. We discussed the actual usable volume in the tank, which I had never taken into account, and that we should factor that into our gas calculations. The point being, you can never finish a dive with too much gas. The conditions we will encounter include: zero visibility for extended periods, passing major restrictions in zero visibility, entanglements in zero visibility and equipment failures in zero visibility. Any one of these will delay your exit, take two and you’re going to be very glad you have plenty of gas. The extra volume will be a determining factor in your ability to stay calm, cool and collected. As you will read, I learned this lesson. We closed the lecture with an equipment workshop that lead to additional tweaks.

The first day’s diving was confined water skills at Ponderosa. I had the option to go to other sites, but Ponderosa is convenient to both of us. Be forewarned, I am not going to spoil the plot and reveal everything, just the highlights. To begin, every skill I performed I had to perform with visibility and without visibility. So, if I describe a skill, understand I did it at least twice.

The skills started off easy. I demonstrated my ability to swim with tanks on, one tank on and no tanks on. I needed to do this through restrictions. This culminated in having to pass a no-mount restriction in one direction with visibility and then pass it in reverse with no visibility. This was by far the tightest restriction I had ever negotiated. I had to breathe out to get through it. This is where the day got really interesting. I arrived at the restriction in zero visibility. I identified it and then backed up a couple of feet to prepare my gear. This included removing my right tank and butt-mounting it. As I did this, I forgot to clip the lower clip to off on the tank, so it “grabbed” the guideline. I figured this out quickly. I got the tanks into position while maintaining contact with the guideline. As I proceeded through the restriction, I was nervous because the first pass was really tight and I had to push myself through with my feet. It was a mental challenge. I made it through the restriction. I audibly celebrated and Steve heard me. My celebration was short lived.

Surprisingly, the line “came off” a large placement. I was left with ample slack line in the water. I didn’t realize there was slack line, so I started to replace my tanks. Almost immediately, I was entangled. Steve says he did nothing besides remove the placement. The entanglement was natural. As I swung my left tank back into place, I heard gas leaking. I thought, damn he is piling it on. Zero visibility, entangled and a leak.

My first stage was leaking from one of the LP hoses. This was a real equipment failure, must have been Murphy and his love of cave divers. I turned off the left tank and went on the right tank. I decided deal with one problem at a time, the entanglement. I couldn’t see working an entanglement and feathering the valve. This is where practice and a methodical approach really count.

I started to work out how I was entangled. I tried to untangle myself but it seemed hopeless. In retrospect, I should have spent another four or five minutes working the tangle and the slack line. If I were patient and removed some of my gear, I could have gotten through it. But at the time, the only option was to cut the line. When I was sure I was on the exit side with the line wrapped around my hand, I removed my Z-knife and cut the line. Ping! The other end was gone. I put a loop in the line and looked for a spot to secure it. I couldn’t find one immediately, so I move with the line and finned. Later, I found out that the fining blew the other end of the line away from me. I my search for a spot to secure the line, I realized I was on the cave side of the line. I smacked my head and grumbled to myself. Steve later told me that I had rotated through 180 degrees prior to cutting the line. I was disoriented and didn’t realize it.

Steve hovered watching with amazement. He told me that he really enjoyed watching; he couldn’t have planned it any better. It was the real deal, all natural in the course of a dive. It was a lesson I could never have planned.

I am on the cave side of the severed guideline with a leaky regulator. I thought, “This really sucks.” I collected myself, deployed my safety spool and attached it to the guide line. I started my search for the guide line, making another mistake; I neglected securing prior initiating my search. So after a minute or two, I returned and secured the line properly near the exit of the restriction. I knew approximately which direction the next tie off was from the exit of the restriction. I did a very methodical search and after 25 minutes, I found the errant end of the line. If you have spent anytime at Ponderosa, you can image how difficult this task is with the pond weed and the rocks. The restriction and the tie off are about 15 feet apart and I was looking for the loose end of a cave line in pond weed.

At one point in the drill, I briefly considered quitting. Twenty five minutes is a long time and I started to feel hopeless. However, I remembered something I had read, “Never giving up and don’t waste time scribing notes, just keep going till it is over.” I knew for a second why people surrender and are found lifeless with gas in their tanks.

With the line in hand, I had to connect my safety spool to close the gap. This is when I discovered that I had too much line on the spool for it to be useful. I was already under a lot stress, and then I had to fight with my spool to get it clipped off. Once it was clipped off, I chose to leave the spool inline, instead of making a proper repair. I wasn’t sure how long it had been or how much gas I had left. My tank was getting very light. Later I learned this was a mistake. If I had another entanglement, broken guideline or missing jump spool, I would have been without the piece of gear I needed most. Steve suggested that I make every reasonable effort to take my safety spool.

After I passed the next restriction, I switched to the leaky tank and feathered it all the way home. The drill was a HUGE success. I learned some huge lessons:

  • Be on the right side of the guideline when you cut it. Seems obvious, right?
  • If you can, hold onto both ends of the line.
  • Have plenty of gas. You may have to do a lost line drill with only one cylinder available.
  • Failures never come alone. Gotta love Murphy.
  • The only option at this level is calm cool persistence. If you don’t have it, do not proceed.

The most difficult skill I had to master was to swap regulators between tanks underwater. This is a three part drill: breath from a free flowing regulator while feathering it, breath from a tank valve underwater and perform the regulator swap.

This was a very difficult set of skills for me to master. My breath holding ability is weak, less then one minute. And this decreases as the CO2 builds up. This skill took me 5 attempts over two days before I was able to get through it in zero visibility. One attempt I had to ask for a regulator from another tank. One attempt I ended up bolting to the surface because I panicked a little, which is exactly what we are trying to train out.

I have been tasked with practicing this set of skills till I have it nailed. Steve also suggested I seek some apnea training to increase my breath holding skills. We agreed 2-3 minutes is a reasonable goal and will provide ample time.

The class included two cave dives. The skill was to complete the dives. We did two dives down stream at Grand Cenote. This was a pleasure. The benefit of going downstream is you are the only team in that part of the system. There wasn’t a single hand print or fin slash. The system is in great shape. The two dives included a handful of major restrictions that required passing with a single tank and a high flow major restriction. We turned the second dive when we got to a silty no-mount restriction. We were nearing our turn pressure. I have to admit, the cave diving was a relief compared to the skills in confined water.

Steve video taped me during the dives. We reviewed the video and talked about: my strengths, my blunders and bad habits.

My homework for stage/multi-stage side-mount class next month is:

  • Become more aware of my tank position. I am letting them get too high on my body.
  • Work on my frog kick. I am doing half a frog kick with just my ankles. I am wasting a lot of energy.
  • Work on my kick selection. I am capable of doing all the kicks, I just don’t always chose the best one. I frog kick when I shouldn’t.
  • Work on my apnea skills.
  • Work on my ability to breath from the tank and swap regulators.

After reflecting on class and the skills practiced, I am convinced that training at this level is as much about mental toughness and learning personal limits and capacity as it is about learning specific skills. By this time, one must possess excellent watermanship, commitment, confidence and dexterity as a prerequisite. You shouldn’t be learning these at this level; they need to be in muscle memory. The drills we executed and the dives we performed provided the grounds for me to hone my mental toughness, assess my limits, and determine my ability to function effectively as the failures pile up.

May 19, 2008   16 Comments