DiveWithMia review of the Aqualite eLED Pro 100 scuba dive light by Underwater Kinetics

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After testing out the Aqualite eLED PRO 100 dive lights on a couple dives, I created this review highlighting the features of the dive lights, the accessories that come along with it and then I included some footage of the dive lights in action with my GoPro Hero 4 at depths between 90-50ft in Turks & Caicos Islands.

 

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DiveWithMia unboxing video of the Aqualite eLED Pro scuba dive light by Underwater Kinetics

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Underwater Kinetics asked me, Mia Toose, to check out their new scuba dive lights and report back on my scuba diving blog, DiveWithMia.com on how they perform.  I picked up the package today at FedEx in Turks & Caicos and filmed my first impressions.
Stay tuned for the actual test and review of the Aqualite eLED Pro wide angle dive photo light with three included camera mounts.

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A Revolution in Dive Planning – Ocean-Maps

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As a scuba dive instructor diving in various locations and on many occasions, having the additional responsibility to provide an underwater tour to paying customers on dive sites I had never been on, the concept of an Ocean-Map seems like a real blessing!

That being said, I feel like all of the thousands of dive maps I’ve drawn in my lifetime have been pretty damn decent….But, what if?

How many times have you attended a dive briefing and stared at the dive map that the divemaster has just drawn and struggled to translate that image to what it looks like in reality? Depending on your dive history, it could be a handful or even in the hundreds! As a scuba dive instructor, we learned how to give dive briefings and practiced drawing dive maps, but the reality is – artistic skills are not required to be a dive guide!

Now try to imagine yourself listening to a dive briefing, but this time, you’ve already checked out the dive map on your phone or tablet. However, this map will contain the intricate details of the underwater topography in 3D and colour. It lists the key features of the dive site and any obstacles to be aware of. In theory, it sounds a lot like those scribbled maps by divemasters, but it’s not. It’s way better. Like a million times better!

Dive Map drawn by Mia Toose aboard the Turks & Caicos Explorer II

Dive Map drawn by Mia Toose aboard the Turks & Caicos Explorer II

VS.

Interactive 3D dive map created by Ocean-Maps for the shipwreck "Big Brother" in El Akhawein in the Red Sea

Interactive 3D dive map created by Ocean-Maps for the shipwreck "Big Brother" in El Akhawein in the Red Sea

Ocean-Maps is the first company ever to map the ocean floor and turn them into 3D interactive maps geared specifically for the recreational scuba diving industry. Based in Austria, they explore, measure and scan using sonar, satellite and video data, to present the real underwater world within a highly interactive environment! Their goal is to help scuba divers around the world plan their dives more safely through the use of highly detailed underwater ocean maps.

Ocean-Maps initially started by providing their unique skill set and equipment to prepare these detailed maps to commercial businesses such as power and water sanitation plants who require exact knowledge of what lies under the surface.

They use a variety of methods to get a precise view under the water’s surface. Their tools include Side Scan Sonars, a depth plotter, a precision GPS and a diving robot that may be equipped with a claw arm if needed. The robot is able to take high resolution images and videos of the ground and collect samples as deep as 300 meters underwater. All tools are carefully selected, considering depth and other special project requirements. This way they are able to survey and visualise the hidden underwater world – without taking unneccessary risk, or leaving space for errors of human action or perception.

Ocean-Maps are able to provide exact measurement and mapping of all surfaces underwater. Including scanning building structures underwater (like reservoirs, in/and outlets, power plants, piers, dam walls, and shipwrecks).

Ocean-Maps wanted to take things further and work with the dive community to make these detailed and interactive ocean maps for scuba dive sites around the world. So far, the company has mapped dive sites in Germany and Austria as well as 120 dive sites in the Red Sea. They have just finished mapping the entire Florida Keys through to Miami and are releasing these maps this November 2016! Never before have the most beautiful diving areas been made available in such detail. Now scuba divers are able to visualize underwater obstacles, drop offs, wrecks, hot spots and detailed briefing information all before they get in the water. Ocean-Maps is targeting California and the Caribbean in the future.

This is how it works:

3D Interactive Dive Maps – The App

Step 1:
Go to www.Ocean-Maps.com/Apps.html and download the App for free
Step 2:
There are In-App Purchases where you can buy certain reefs, or packages or you can buy the entire region. At the moment the company is considering implementing a subscription model where scuba divers can pay a certain amount each month and have access to everything. Would you be interested in this option?

3D Dive Cards

The 3D dive cards can be purchased at various scuba diving retail shops as well as online at www.Ocean-Maps.com. If you know of any retailers who are interested in having the Ocean-Maps dive cards in their shop, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, so the company can reach out to them.

In all honesty, I think these Ocean-Maps will revolutionize dive planning for scuba divers everywhere; however I am curious if they will take the mystery out of diving. There is a sense of excitement at exploring the unknown, but will knowing all of the details take away from this excitement? Speaking from experience, I am going to say “no, it will not”. The reason I believe this is because of the feeling I get every time I go to a dive site that I have already dived sometimes hundreds of times before. Maybe I know the underwater topography like the back of my hand, but every time I go, there is something different and unique to see with the anticipation that a chance encounter with a rare species could happen!

I can’t wait to see what Ocean-Maps comes up with in the future and am looking forward to seeing how their products will improve safety in the scuba diving industry. Check it out for yourself at www.Ocean-Maps.com

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How to Defog your Scuba Mask Once and for All!

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I certainly remember the first time I put on a scuba diving mask and went for a dive in the ocean.  I was in awe at all of the amazing creatures and wildlife and colours!  However, if someone hadn’t told me some unusual ‘tricks’ on how to prepare my scuba mask before jumping in, my view beneath the sea would have been seen through a hazy fog.  Now that I am an experienced scuba diving instructor with several thousands of dives, I am excited to pass down my knowledge of how to effectively defog your scuba mask!  And as you know, your scuba mask is your window into this spectacular other world, so you will want to ensure that it is in top condition for 100% pure underwater enjoyment!

Preparing a Brand New Scuba Mask

When you first buy a scuba mask, you will be so excited to try it out, you may even wear it in the bathtub!  But – wait – you MUST prepare your mask before you jump in.  The tempered glass in your scuba mask contains a layer of film from the manufacturing of the product that needs to be removed prior to being worn.  You won’t be able to see or touch this film, but it will cause your scuba mask to be super foggy no matter how many defog products you use on it.

You may have heard of the traditional “toothpaste” method, but I like to do something I like to call:  “The Enhanced Toothpaste Method”.  It is a combination of burning your scuba mask with a lighter as well as using toothpaste.  Most people are surprised when I make the suggestion of burning their scuba mask with fire, but when they see (literally!) the results, they are always happy and grateful!

DefoggingYourNewScubaMask_DiveWithMia_MiaToose

With a lighter you can burn the residue from a new scuba mask lens.

STEP 1:  THE BURN

In order to defog the mask effectively by burning it, I first ensure I am in a protected area away from wind.  Next, I carefully hold the flame of the lighter to the inside glass area of the lens until it is all black.  You will start to see the invisible film burning away from the heat of the lighter.  It’s really neat!  I am always very careful around the silicone skirt of the mask and I never hold the lighter to a scuba mask that has glued-on bi-focals or prescription lenses as I am worried the heat from the flame will affect the glue.  Also, be careful of your thumb as the lighter gets very hot when you maintain the flame for more than just a second or two.

Now the lenses will be very hot, so after you burn the scuba mask, set it aside to let it cool off and don’t touch the hot lens.  Just like any glassware, remember that any sudden change from very hot to very cold can cause the glass to shatter – be careful!

STEP 2:  THE TOOTHPASTE

Your next step will be to take some toothpaste (not the gel kind) and with your finger dab some on both sides of the inside of the lenses.  Rub the black from the burning around with the toothpaste thoroughly and then let it sit to dry.  I usually wait an hour or two before I rinse it out; however, if you don’t have the time, just go ahead and rinse it right away; there’s a good chance it will still work.

STEP 3:  THE RINSE

Before diving, put your scuba mask under a tap and use water to rinse out the black from the burning and the toothpaste.  You can use your fingernail to get around the skirt the touches the lens in case some of the black toothpaste seeped under there.

 

DefogScubaMask_ToothpasteSwirl_DiveWithMia

Put a blob of toothpaste (not the gel kind) onto the burn area and rub it around.

 

Now you are ready to scuba dive!

Before every scuba dive, you will need to do another type of defog; however, it won’t be as extensive as for a brand new scuba mask.  The reason scuba masks get foggy is most often due to the warmth and oil on your skin reacting with the cold of the water and the air in between.  Sunscreen and make-up also contribute to the likelihood of a foggy mask.

Different ways to defog your mask:

  1. Au Naturale

We call this very special form of defogging your scuba mask “Au Naturale” because our own body generates it all naturally in the form of saliva.  That’s right – spit!  This method of defogging your scuba mask is perfect because you do not need to buy any special concoction and it is safe for the environment.  Although initially you may feel embarassed to spit into your mask, with practice, you can defog your mask using your own saliva in a discreet and effective manner.  Very important!  I found this method to work best when you spit into your mask when it is completely dry.  If you take off your mask in the water and then spit into it, I found that it is very likely to become foggy during the dive.  Remember – dry mask, spit, rub, rinse with water, put on your mask, and DIVE!

  1. Commercial Defog

This is the type of defog you can buy at any scuba shop.  There are a million different types, but they are basically all the same.  If you would like to go this route, I recommend making sure it is safe for the reef and environmentally friendly.  Usually scuba divers will put this inside their scuba mask, swish it around with their finger and then rinse and go!  Divers tend to have a favourite brand and swear by it.

  1. Baby Shampoo or dishwashing soap

This is a very economical choice in the world of defogging your scuba mask.  Many dive boats will carry an empty plastic water bottle container with a hole in the top and fill it about a quarter full of baby shampoo and the rest water.  Even just a little bit of soapy water will be enough to defog your mask.  Always remember to completely rinse your mask otherwise the residue soap will sting your eyes underwater – even the baby shampoo will cause some tears if you use too much!

Tips to prevent a foggy scuba mask even if you have defogged it!

  • If your face is sweaty and hot, it is a good idea to splash some cool water on it to give it a quick rinse before you put your mask on.
  • Before putting your choice of defog on your scuba mask, ensure that the lens is dry.
  • You can apply defog to your mask anytime prior to jumping in the water; however, you should rinse the defog out only moments before jumping in.  If you have rinsed it out, but then are delayed jumping in and you are not ready to put your mask on your face, leave a layer of water in your mask until you are ready.
  • Once you have defogged and rinsed your scuba mask, put your mask on your face and don’t take it off!  Moving your mask to your forehead, neck, or into the water basically eliminates any defogging you had just done.

I hope these tips and techniques allow you some fantastically clear lenses so you have the best possible view under the sea!

Happy Diving!

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Best Underwater Photography Tips for Beginners by Matt Smith

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Matt Smith contacted me with an interest in sharing his writing piece on DiveWithMia, so I went ahead and checked out his work – I was impressed!  He had written a great summary of underwater photography that would suit scuba divers keen on starting to document their underwater adventures.  I liked the article and I also loved the infographic that came along with it!

Matt is a graduate in journalism with a passion for the underwater world just like the rest of us.  He decided to combine his passions and has created a super cool website:  WaterWelders.com where he does extensive research and interviews with commercial and recreational scuba divers around the world, telling their stories.  Matt has a great respect for all divers and the work they do.   Here is his awesome article on underwater photography tips for beginners:

SCUBA diving gives you an ocean of surrounding beauty; it’s an allure that begs to be captured with a camera, but underwater photography is an artform that takes time and experience to master.  Beginners should learn the foundations of lighting, technique and equipment before attempting more advanced work with their cameras.  It all starts with a willingness to learn.  You’ll make mistakes, but the most common ones can be avoided with proper understanding.  Here’s a fun underwater photography infographic that boils down some of the marine snapshot basics.  Most of it is self-explanatory, but we’re going to look at several areas in more detail; working these approaches can make a “good” underwater picture even more beautiful.

 

Best Underwater Photography Tips for Beginners

Best Underwater Photography Tips for Beginners

 

Techniques & Important Points for SCUBA Photographers

Several options exist for underwater photography cameras, and each has its own set of pros and cons.  Beginners might be tempted to work with a mobile device because of its convenience and simplicity.  Though many mobile devices work great, their lens and flash capabilities are limited.  Moving up the chain, compact cameras have additional value and settings.  If you’re looking for something more professional, DSLR’s provide the most options and lens capabilities, but their price point may be high for some.

Strobes are a huge asset to underwater photographers, providing them with control over lighting direction and strength.  Though natural light is best, it quickly dwindles the deeper you dive down.  Look for strobes that are easily maneuverable and great for handling.

The closer, the better.  The best underwater pictures are often taken from 6 – 12 inches away from subjects.  Be aware of your subject’s behavior so as not to disturb it, but the more you can tighten your proximity, the more natural light and detail you’ll be able to capture.

The water gives you free range of movement – and perspective.  Capture your subject from many angles, and experiment with lighting and contrast.  Your ability to quickly ascend and descend gives you an advantage over topside photographers.

SCUBA divers must deal with backscatter when working their cameras.  Small particles can crowd out an otherwise amazing shot.  Use your flash appropriately, keeping an indirect light on your subjects to limit backscatter.

An Ocean of Opportunity for Your Camera

In time and with the right equipment, you can work wonders in underwater photography.  It’s a beautiful world, and you can help raise awareness for environment and ecosystems with the photography that you capture.  Spend some time with other media divers, learning the ins and outs of the industry.  Keep practicing, and you’ll take your skill deeper than you ever thought possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How did I get here? Part 2 – The Indirect and Complicated Route to PADI Discover Scuba Diving in The Philippines

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Last week, inspired by some people asking me about my life and how I ended up where I am today, I posted my initial feature entitled:  How did I get here?  The Indirect and Complicated Route to Scuba Diving Happiness – Part 1.   At the moment, I am spending time in the Turks and Caicos Islands while starting my own Truli Wetsuits business in Canada and almost every time I meet a tourist, they ask:  ”So, how did you end up in Turks and Caicos?”  There is a simple answer (I accepted a job offer as Purser on the scuba liveaboard Turks and Caicos Explorer II), but there’s also a way more interesting and convoluted answer which I’m having a lot of fun writing about.  In my last post, I ended with me taking a job as an English Teacher in Tokyo, Japan upon graduating from university in Canada and now I will continue to tell my story of finding a way to try scuba diving and adventure on my first backpacker’s trip to The Philippines…

Now that I was unleashed on the big wide world as a Truli independent adult, I was determined to follow my passions and do what I had always wanted to do.  1.  I wanted to travel and explore.  2.  I wanted to try scuba diving.  After working 6 months at the language school I was entitled to some vacation days.  All the teachers would talk about their amazing adventures in Thailand and rave about the lovely culture, food, and fantastic shopping, but I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing already.  There was this free magazine for foreigners in Tokyo and there was a page that advertised all of the prices for travel and I noticed that the Philippines was pretty much the same airfare as Thailand.  I decided I wanted to go to the Philippines.  I went to the international bookstore and bought the Lonely Planet guidebook to the Philippines as well as  the Frommer’s guide to South East Asia and started to study where was the best place to go scuba diving.  Although the most famous places for scuba diving were advertised as Cebu Island and Boracay, I fell in love when I read about the island of Palawan in the south west side of the country.  The guide book described this place as “The Last Frontier”.  I booked my flight from Tokyo to Manila and then straight to Puerto Princesa on Palawan and back.  I was feeling pretty nervous about this big adventure all on my own, but it was what I had always wanted and I felt like I finally had the opportunity to do something amazing and bold and I did not want to let that pass me by.  But luckily for me, I think my enthusiasm inspired some excitement in my co-worker because just at the last minute she decided to join me on my trip!  I was stoked!

People had warned me about Manila being super dangerous and I was quite anxious considering I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I had booked one night in a little hostel near the airport before we flew the next day to the island, but we needed to call and confirm when we got there.  But neither of us had any money or coins for the phone.  We were standing by the phone trying to figure out what to do when a man who looked like he was in the military (they were all over the airport) and with a very large gun walked over to us.  He generously offered us his phone card so we could use the phone.  This was the first of hundreds of positive cross cultural encounters I would make in my life.  Although I was still on edge of my new surroundings, the kindness of the “scary” stranger breathed some life and confidence into me as we hopped into a taxi to head to the hotel.

That's Mia snorkelling for the first time off a boat in The Philippines!

Palawan, The Philippines

Over the next week we took a Jeepney across the island, which fell off the road at one point.  We paid some local guys to travel even further up island by water.  They caught us some fish and put us up in a hut on a deserted island with no electricity.  But more importantly, they lent me a scuba mask.  This was the first time in my life that I swam in an ocean and looked beneath the surface to see the colourful wildlife below.  I remember being absolutely enthralled.  It’s interesting to think back to that moment and wonder if it relates to how much I love introducing people to scuba diving.  I love that I am the one that gives others the opportunity to see all the amazing things below the surface of water.

Our final destination was El Nido, which is on the northern tip of Palawan.  We arrived by boat and I faintly remember a light drizzle with rainbows as we arrived with a back drop of tall craggy cliffs jutting out of the ocean amongst the multitude of blue hues of the sea.  We immediately signed up for a PADI Discover Scuba Diving course for first thing the next day.  I was so elated that not only was I going to get to try scuba diving, but it was going to happen in this exotic little village in the South Pacific!  The next morning we went to the dive shop and travelled by boat to a secluded white sandy beach on some island.  There were three of us girls and one instructor.  Besides my friend and I, the other woman was a Filipino from Manila who, much to my surprise, had never tried scuba diving.  She told us her brothers were all instructors and she loved the water, but just never had the chance to go.  I could totally relate, but couldn’t believe with all the beautiful waters that surround her country that she could wait

That wetsuit is exactly the reason I decided to design my own Truli Wetsuit line!

El Nido, Palawan, The Philippines

so long!  Our instructor made us some lunch and then briefed us on the skills and dive we were about to do.  We walked across the white sandy beach and into the ocean to do our “pool skills” and then we swam off together!  I felt like a natural and was so excited to see a black and white sea snake!  It looked so amazing as it slithered through the water column.  I don’t think in all the diving I’ve done since then that I’ve seen anything like that again.  So that was the day that opened a whole new world to me and started a journey that has taken me to where I am today!

We desperately wanted to stay longer in the village and do more scuba diving, but alas, I had very responsibly booked a return flight from the town all the way at the southern end of the island and needed another day of travel to get back there, so off we went.  As soon as we got back to Tokyo, I was on a mission to figure out how to become a certified PADI Open Water diver as soon as possible, which you can read about in my next blog post!

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How did I get here? Part 1 – The Indirect and Complicated Route to Scuba Diving Happiness

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I went out for a drink last week with some people who we had become friends with over on Long Bay Beach on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands.  We

Long Bay Beach, Provo, Turks and Caicos Islands

Long Bay Beach, Provo, Turks and Caicos Islands

spend a large portion of our days over there escaping the relentless heat of our non-air conditioned house in the heat of July in the Caribbean.  There you can always find some relief from the heat via the wind or a dip in the ocean.  It’s only a 1 minute drive away.  The beach has become famous for kiteboarding and most tourists visit at least once, fall in love with the soft sand, shallow calm waters, and decide to return again and again.  After some casual chats about life on the island and about the Truli Wetsuits business I am starting up, this tourist began to probe me with questions about how I got to be where I was today.  I realized that I have answered those questions quite a few times over the years and as time passes the stories seem to get more and more interesting.  Life is not a smooth ride, but my determination to combine work with my passions has taken me all over the world and has challenged me in ways I never thought possible.  I’m addicted to those challenges!  And so it began…

Did you ever want something as a child that you weren’t able to have that followed you into adulthood?  That was how scuba diving was with me.

I remember being a kid and wanting to learn to scuba dive so badly, but was never allowed to due to the cost it would entail especially if all 3 of us kids were to learn.  Growing up in Canada we had the good fortune of spending summers at my grandmother’s cottage on a lovely clear lake where I learned the expression:  “water-logged”.  We swam in the lake, went fishing, canoeing, water-skiing, and even sailing.  I loved to gaze into the water and imagine what was below.  My curiosity was endless when it came to what lay beneath the surface of the water.

As I grew older, I often looked into things like scuba clubs, but while at university, I had other priorities that put the scuba diving on the backburner again and again.  Instead I focused on non-profits and began my volunteer experience as the Trip Coordinator with Habitat for Humanity.  I learned about leadership, fundraising, and having fun while doing something meaningful and it finally started to lead me on some unforgettable international adventures to builds in Jamaica and Costa Rica.  Upon graduation from Wilfrid Laurier University at the age of 22 and with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Language & Literature as well as a minor in Development & International Studies, I packed up my bags for a dream-come-true-first-real-job adventure in the vast metropolis of Tokyo, Japan.  I was a brand spanking new English Teacher at a conversational school in a city of 13 million or so people who spoke a language I knew nothing about.  I had never even eaten sushi before or been on an airplane beyond Costa Rica.  I’ll never forget how I felt when my dad dropped me off at the airport in Toronto for my flight to Tokyo.  I had no idea what I was doing having never been to an airport by myself before let alone travelling across the world alone for a new job.

As strange as it might seem, Tokyo, Japan is where my scuba life began!

In my next blog post, I will write about the first time I tried scuba diving while on my first backpackers trip to the Philippines!

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Have You Ever Seen These Crazy Scuba Dive Entries?

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As many of you know I was working on the Explorer Ventures scuba dive liveaboard in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2014-2015 and if you haven’t already done so (or know so), scuba liveaboards are the way to go in the world of scuba diving!  The Turks and Caicos Explorer II is a 125ft vessel that hosts a maximum of 20 scuba divers on 1 week trips where they eat, sleep, and scuba dive 5 times a day.  My job as both Dive Instructor and Purser on the ship was to assist divers in and out of the water 5 times a day (among a zillion other things!).

I did the math the other day and determined that on average, I assisted with and witnessed 540 boat dive entries a week (27 dives/week x 20 divers).   I also worked blocks of 12 weeks in a row, which equals 6 480 scuba dive entries every 3 month period!  On that note, I would like to declare myself an expert in the field of scuba dive entries!

You may think that entering the water from a boat as a scuba diver is pretty straight forward; however, I would like to admit that I have seen some pretty interesting and non-traditional entries on a regular basis.  In this blog I’ve decided to outline the most common types of entries as well as the ones that make me laugh on a daily basis.  Have I mentioned I love my job?

Perhaps a mini-briefing on scuba dive entries before I dive right in to the good stuff, which will be a great refresher for those who haven’t been in the water for awhile.  Depending on the type of boat you are using there are a variety of methods to get into the water and enjoy your dive.  Always inquire from your divemaster and/or captain as to the method that is used for each vessel.  During the PADI Open Water course you learn two types and possibly others depending on the region or conditions you are learning in.  One is called the Controlled Seated Entry, where you are sitting geared up on the edge of a platform (like a dock or edge of a boat) with your fins on your feet as they dangle in the water.  Then you twist your body to one side and place both hands on the edge next to you.  After that you simply need to continue to turn your body as you push away from the platform.  Although we teach this method and, in my opinion, it seems like a safe and easy method of entry, I can’t say I’ve really seen anyone use it outside of the training.  Not sure why…

The other method of entry we teach in the course and is the most common scuba dive entry I’ve seen, is called the Giant Stride Entry.  With all of your gear on, including fins, mask and regulator in your mouth, you take the palm of your hand (usually the right hand) and put it on your regulator while your fingers are on your mask.  This helps hold them in place when you hit the water.  Your other hand can do one of three things depending on you and your situation.  Originally you were told to hold the buckle of your weight belt, to avoid it from opening upon impact with the water.  But these days, most people are using integrated weights, so it isn’t necessary.  Instead,  what many of those divers do is gather their console and alternate and hold those with their other hand.  This avoids the potential for a dangling hose to be caught on something on the boat while you are dropping into the water.  The third option is what I recommend as I see masks slipping off all the time.  You should take your other hand and hold the back of your mask strap so it doesn’t slip off and you lose your mask once you hit the water.

Okay, so we’ve got one hand holding your regulator and mask in place and the other holding the back of your mask strap (or your weight belt, or your gauge), now you need to look straight out towards the horizon (try not to look down once you have checked that the area is clear).  When you are ready, you just need to take a step and you will have completed the Giant Stride Entry!  We tend to move in the direction we are looking, so by looking out at the horizon, you will step far enough away from the boat not to hit the back of your tank on the boat.  Don’t forget to signal to the boat that you are okay by putting your fist on your head or giving the okay sign with your hand.

This is a fantastic example of a Giant Stride Entry off of the Turks and Caicos Explorer II in 2014.

A perfect example of a Giant Stride Entry

West Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands

Okay, so now you know the standard, but what I really wanted to talk about here today are the out of the ordinary, extraordinary, where-did-they-come-up-with-that-technique, styles that I have put into 4 categories.  I’m not sure where these have evolved from, but I think they are ultimately the result of each scuba diver’s unique individual style…or lack of coordination!  Either way, they have provided me with an endless amount of amusement throughout my days on the boat!  For each scuba dive entry, I will rate it with a Splash Factor between 1 (not much splash) and 5 (big splash!).

The Torpedo

The first scuba dive entry I’d like to talk about is my favourite.  According to The Torpedo-ites, this style seems to have come about due to scuba diving in locations that have a significant drop between the platform and the water and/or a negative entry was required.  To perform this entry, the scuba diver approaches his exit point, steps off the platform and brings both feet together in one smooth action resulting in a streamlined entry like a torpedo plummeting straight into the water.  This tends to be a very clean and tidy entry with no flailing arms and dangling gear.  The Splash Factor is a 2!

This scuba dive entry is neat and tidy!  They enter the water just like a torpedo!

West Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands

In a Guitar Hero's mind, this is how he thinks he looks!

Photo taken from the Air Guitar World Championships

Guitar Hero

This type of scuba dive entry is super fun.  I’ve only ever seen men do it and it is reminiscent of those guys in your life who totally wish they were rock stars.  You know the types – they are the ones who are playing the air guitar like there’s no tomorrow.  Technically speaking, they are performing The Giant Stride Entry just as it says to do in the text book, but these guys have simply added some style.  They lift their leg just a little bit higher and reach for the stars as they leap from the vessel probably with some rockin’ AC/DC or Dire Straits internal playlist happening in their heads.  I’ll never forget the first one I ever saw by Mike Swisher and then more recently from Tim Tetlow!  Rock On Scuba Divers!!!  The Splash Factor is a 3!

Tim Tetlow - a true scuba diving Guitar Hero!

West Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands

Froggy

This is one of those scuba dive entries that is so strange and unusual that the first time I ever saw it, I thought it was one of those once in a lifetime happenings.  I remember genuinely enjoying the show and shaking my head in wonder at all the funtastic things I get to see in my job.  But low and behold, The Froggy seems to be some strange, but common scuba dive entry.  Let me try to explain how one goes about doing this entry.  The diver will prepare himself as usual; approach the platform wearing fins, mask, regulator in mouth; and when they are ready and it is clear they will bend at the knee and spring up and outward bringing both legs up towards their chest as they jump out.  I feel fortunate that I was able to snap this fab photo because this is definitely the type of scuba dive entry that you need to see to believe it.  The Splash Factor is a 5!

The ultimate Froggy!

West Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands

Free-Style

The Free-Style category is an anything goes division in the rating of scuba dive entries.  Some divers tend to be performers.  They like the attention and want to try things a little out of the ordinary and always with a touch of shock value added to the list.  I remember watching anxiously as this young girl did a flip in the air from the edge of the boat to the water wearing all of her dive gear.  I do not recommend that at all as it looked just like an accident waiting to happen!  I also remember this fantastic little bearded Russian man who would gently fall into the water like a tree that had just been cut down.  He’d rotate slightly in a log roll so he’d hit the water just right.  I wanted to yell “TIMBER!” every time he went for his dives.  We also had the pleasure of hosting Dave Smith and his dive shop, Blue Horizons Dive Center in Pennsylvania.  Dave is a performer too!  I was able to capture him doing an awesome cannon ball as his entry into the deep blue sea.  The Splash Factor is almost always a 5 for a Freestyler!

Dave Smith is a true Freestyler with his Cannon ball scuba dive entry!

West Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands

 

So, what have we learned here?  There are a number of takes on the traditional Giant Stride Entry.  As long as  you are safe, the added style to each entry will generate giggles from your divemasters and dive buddies.  My personal favourite is to jump in and put my fins on while I’m underwater already.  I love the gentle free fall on my toes!  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about these or any other scuba dive entries!  Happy Hopping!

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Some Musings on Scuba Diver Portrait Photography

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I love my new GoPro Hero 3 camera!

GoPro Hero 3

This week I bought my first underwater camera, which is the GoPro Hero 3 with all kinds of assorted add-ons including filters and a macro lens (I didn’t know GoPros had macro lenses!).  With my travels about to begin again, I sadly depart some beloved and talented dive buddies who have been so kind in sharing their incredible underwater photos on my website.  I recognized the need for me to possess a scuba dive camera that will be suitable (and affordable) as a compact travel companion able to document in HD quality the wonders of the ocean in photo as well as video.  That being said, although this is my first purchased camera, I do have some considerable exposure and experience to the art of underwater photography via my 1 year stint aboard the AquaCat scuba dive liveaboard in The Bahamas not to mention that photography class I took in high school (actually it helped a lot!).

Working on the liveaboard, I was responsible for shooting, editing, and displaying a photo CD for passengers to purchase.  The vessel provided all of the equipment (Nikon D80 SLR camera along with Ikelite housing and strobes) and I had some valuable insights from the talents of Captain Ron McCaslin whose underwater photography experience extended from the pre-digital age when photographs were taken with film and developed on the boat during the weekly trips.  How impressive!  He’s the one that taught me to “avoid the wave” when taking photos of divers. Waving is great for video, but a no-no in underwater photography.  I also had the opportunity to be advised by the super proficiency of Aleks Bartnicka who has been able to capture some of the most alluring and award-winning images I’ve seen to date.  In addition to my own personal training, I also paid special attention to the intense photographic fanaticism from the passengers.  At an average of 22 passengers each week over a year, that’s a lot of underwater photography lovers!

These days, virtually all scuba divers have entered into the realm of underwater photography.   With the advances in technology, underwater photography has been made much more accessible and the ability to produce quality photos even by non-professionals is within reach.  However, in spite of all this, the act of actually capturing those utterly illusive moments in nature is immensely challenging, highly addictive, and damn hard!  And if you are successful in capturing that moment and also are able to somehow portray the marine animal as possessing human-like characteristics, well, that’s just…Magic!

But do you want to know what’s even more difficult than trying to capture that perfect fish portrait?

How about a bigger challenge or maybe you are interested in dipping your toe (fin?!) into unchartered waters?  I would suggest you start taking some underwater photos of your scuba diver buddies!

I find it interesting that despite the fact that these days there are so many enthusiastic underwater photographers, there seems to be a lack of underwater photos of scuba divers.  Even more so because who doesn’t want a photo of themselves doing such a cool thing like scuba diving?!

Thinking about my own personal experiences of taking photos of the passengers on the liveaboard and of attempting to be an underwater scuba diver super model, I can see two main reasons why scuba diver portraits are not in the mainstream of underwater photography.

Claudio of Coral Reef Divers in Cabo Pulmo, Mexico taking an underwater "selfie"

La Sirenita, Cabo Pulmo, Mexico

First and foremost, it is virtually impossible to take an underwater “selfie”.  Well, not impossible, but depending on your camera, it’s not as easy as on the surface to reach around and press “click”.  Those buttons on underwater camera housings require a good and steady push in order to capture those magic underwater moments.  My fingers don’t always bend that way.

I’d love to see your attempts at underwater “selfies” so please send me your snaps and I’ll post them on my Facebook page!

The other main reason I see as to why there isn’t an abundance of underwater scuba diver portraits lies in the fact that if we can’t take a selfie, we’ll need to get someone to take our picture for us.  That means either convincing our dive buddy to devote his entire underwater time to being our personal photographer or hiring a professional.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t have a lot of scuba dive buddies who are interested in doing that!

While working on the liveaboard, I was aptly advised to take as many photos of the passengers themselves for exactly that reason.  Finally these divers would be given the opportunity to possess photos of them while they keenly chased after turtles, rays, and colourful fish with their own cameras.  And for me, well, I certainly had some…let’s just say “interesting” experiences that taught me a thing or two about underwater scuba diver portraits that may be of interest to you if you are venturing into this challenging avenue of photography.

It’s funny when you think about it for a moment, as a scuba diver diving underwater one can feel so…angelic…floating and feeling so effortless.

But as soon as you ask a diver to pose for a picture underwater all kinds of strange things happen!

Buoyancy – Gone.  When you point a camera at a diver, they will most definitely float, sink, stir up dust, bump into overhangs.  Suddenly they have no sense whatsoever of what their bodies are doing!  I’ve seen it all.

Your best bet is to prep your underwater model before the dive.  Tell them how you would like to see them and how you will communicate with them so that you can get the shot you are looking for.  For example, I always want to take photos of scuba divers and a cool animal underwater.  It’s so frustrating to have a scuba diver there looking at the animal and not taking a moment to look up and into the camera for that awesome waiting shot.  The best positions for your underwater model will be in a horizontal pose, fins behind, all gear streamlined (i.e. nothing dangling) and either arms crossed or wide open depending on what you want to convey.  Tell your underwater model to pay attention to their buoyancy during photo taking and to be aware of their body positioning.  If you’ve mastered the art of positioning, you should then take it to the next level and ensure that with every scuba diver portrait there is a nice marine animal with him or her in the photo.  Take a look at this awesome photo of myself in my early days of diving while on a scuba adventure in The Maldives.  Can you say “Awkward”!!??  The next one is of a very talented diver who seemed to immediately strike some awkward pose as soon as the camera was pointed in his direction (wasn’t there a Friends episode about this with Chandler??!!).  I’ve also included one of my favourite scuba diver portraits I took of the lovely Laura who enjoyed the groupers on The Austin Smith wreck in The Bahamas.

Point a camera at a diver and watch them go from graceful o awkward!

Kandooma, South Male Atoll, Maldives

Do your best to keep yourself streamlined and horizontal when posing for a photo

Danger Reef, Exumas, The Bahamas

Ideally you will want your scuba diver portrait to include some marine life in addition to the diver

The Austin Smith Wreck, Exumas, The Bahamas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facial expressions – Blank.  The wonder and amazement that we express when we are out of the water often evaporate.  It’s as if the diver feels the mask and regulator is hiding their face, but in fact the mask and eyes are what draw us into a solid scuba diver portrait!  I once showed a non-diver friend some of my photos and he remarked, “Wow, those scuba dive masks sure don’t make a person look attractive, do they?”  I beg to differ, but I could be biased in thinking that any piece of scuba dive equipment is sexy…

I always tell my divers to smile with their eyes and/or to think of something funny and it definitely makes a big difference.  Tell your model to smile even with the regulator in their mouth because it will be reflected in their eyes.  If the diver feels comfortable, they can even remove the regulator from their mouth for a nice natural smile, but be sure to advise the model to point the mouthpiece of the regulator down so bubbles don’t free-flow and ruin the photo.  I also really think that scuba dive masks with the clear skirt make better facial portraits than the dark ones, but I think that’s just a matter of opinion.  Look at the differences in these photos.  The contentment in the eyes of Thiago on the left completely draws you into the photo whereas the blank stare from the woman on the right creates a stale, uninviting photo despite the excitement of the sharks!

A scuba diver's eyes are the key to a successful scuba diver portrait

Danger Reef, Exumas, The Bahamas

Think of something funny and smile with your eyes to create an engaging portrait photo

Split Coral Head, Eleuthera, The Bahamas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter Mr/Mrs Bubble-Face.  As we all know, the number one rule of scuba diving is to never hold your breath, but an awareness of your breathing is essential in underwater scuba diver portrait photography.  And timing your breaths with the taking of a photo is vital to avoid the inevitable bubble-face syndrome!  Again, just communicate with your underwater model prior to the dive and remind them to time their breathing.  This photo of me was taken during my PADI Open Water Diver course in Guam and take a look at this funny photo of a scuba diver I took during a shark feed dive in The Bahamas.  One breath of bubbles can make or break a photo!

Hello Mrs. Bubble-face!

Mia's PADI Open Water Diver course in Guam 2001

Hello Mr. Bubble-face!

Split Coral Head, Eleuthera, The Bahamas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Comes The Sun. This is the easiest mistake to fix and it’s the same on land so nothing really technical about this one.  Simply an awareness of where the sun is will enable you to create a great photo even without strobes.  The sun should always always always be at the photographer’s back.  It’s helpful if your model also knows this simple rule, so that he/she may position themselves in the appropriate location.  Take a look at this photo our dive guide took of Justin and me on Justin’s PADI Discover Scuba Diving experience on my latest trip to Mexico.  Could have been a lovely portrait, but the light behind us created shadows right across the most important part of a scuba diver portrait – the eyes!  I think we were too excited about his first dive to pay attention to where the sun was!

Always remember to keep the sun BEHIND the photographer's back otherwise you end up with shadows over the face of your underwater models.

La Sirenita, Cabo Pulmo, Mexico

An underwater photo shoot to boot in Curacao!

Recently I had the opportunity to view some incredible photos by some former scuba dive colleagues of mine who are now working and living in Curacao.  Leticia Duran and Arne Richter own and operate Turtle and Ray Productions over there and ran an incredible photo shoot with Erin R of A Munchkin Abroad.  I really hope to see more of these types of photos from them in the future!

 

Stunning photos by Turtle&Ray Productions featuring underwater models.

Turtle&Ray Productions, Curacao

On that note, I look forward to seeing some new and improved underwater scuba diver portraits!  I really do love those beautiful underwater creatures, but why not explore a new challenge and snap some shots of your buddy!  Send me your favourite underwater scuba diver portraits! I want to see them!

 

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Does the Image of Scuba Diving Reflect Your Style?

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What is the image of scuba diving today?  Looking at campaigns recruiting the younger generation it reminds me of an old guy putting on “hip” clothes and trying to act like he’s young again with the end result being the people not really wanting to be affiliated with him.

Obese Scuba Diver

Is this the face of scuba diving today?

Like many sports, and thanks to the “Old Guys’ Club”, diving has historically been gender-biased, reeking of machismo and exclusivity. This attitude towards the sport, which may have been generated by the old school navy origins of diving, still has some surprising remnants existing in what I would consider a pretty progressive and forward thinking society.  For example, have you ever been around scuba divers and heard (like I have) them use such expressions as “Be a Man”, “Don’t be a pussy”, “Put Your Big Girl Panties On”, or for example, the heading used in the Men’s Health magazine article on scuba diving (if anyone can find a link to this article that would be so appreciated) and promoted at the PADI Member Forum 2014 in Victoria, BC, Canada by PADI Canada Regional Manger Randy Giles on January 22nd, 2014:  [the diving industry is] “A Man’s World”?  I’ve even heard of DEMA shows where female employees weren’t invited and male employees were given cash for strip shows and lap dances.

Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle: Legendary Scuba Diver

No wonder the dive industry’s style department has only recently been pushed to the forefront.  Female scuba divers’ only option has been to push through and fit their lovely bodies into dive suits that made them look like men, so that they could do the sport they loved.  I imagine a scuba diver back then who expressed any interest in style or fashion (male or female) would have been castrated…Sylvia Earle remains every water woman’s hero for the incredible contributions she has done to ocean research in addition to have survived through all of that nonsense!

Now, that’s definitely not to say all scuba divers are like that – quite the contrary.  Today things are changing as equipment manufacturers are starting to recognize that females make up a larger percentage of the diving industry (34% in 2012 according to the PADI Worldwide Corporate Statistics for 2007-2012).  Industry leaders are beginning to create gear and marketing campaigns specifically for women.

However, as a female scuba diver, I feel the scuba dive industry has missed their mark in identifying what I really want.

The items on offer are totally unappealing and even lingering on (dare I say it??) sexist.  Simply adding the colour pink or swirls and flowers feels condescending and doesn’t reflect my personality and style.  Why aren’t there still any other options? I wonder if I’m alone in my opinions on this one.

Is this image of an unstylish, gender-biased dive industry all just in my head? Looking back at my career as a professional dive instructor serving recreational divers in hotels, on charter yachts, in dive shops, and in private lessons, here’s what I’ve observed about people who dive.

First and foremost, all scuba divers are incredibly passionate about the underwater world.  I’ve taught diving to fantastically excited Arab women in private women-only swimming pools in Dubai, enjoyed underwater adventures with determined male and female divers in their 80s, and communicated emphatically with non-English speaking Italians about the most amazing dive we had just done together.  The passion and enthusiasm in scuba divers is evident, not to mention contagious!

Divers are wildly (or sometimes timidly) adventurous.  They are curious people who enjoy feeling the thrill of exposing themselves to a vastly different environment.  Many love swimming out to the deep blue to hover in the water column without the bottom or surface in sight and be humbled by the great space that exists down there.  Others are fascinated by the enormous number of animals both large and small to be seen and the excitement of chance encounters that render the diver feeling like they’ve just won the ultimate jackpot.  Whether they’re diving the same lake or reef each time, or they’re traveling to the far corners of the world, desire to explore is a common thread among all.

Divers are social people.  Dive shops are always a hub of activity and function as a place to gather and to talk diving (which divers LOVE to do!).  Oftentimes, small bars and cafes will pop up inside a dive shop as divers enjoy a cup of coffee before their first dive of the day, and then of course the “post-dive beer alongside log book signing” is almost a mandatory part of scuba diving.  Dive professionals become immediate friends, ready to provide a valuable source of information, and usually some of the coolest people on the planet.

So, if divers are passionate, adventurous, and social – how is it that the scuba diving market is just so damn lame?

Some of you may know that I’ve been working on a business idea for a women’s wetsuit, researching the market and paying particular attention to the scuba diver persona along with his/her lifestyle. What I’ve noticed is a huge disconnect in how they are represented by diving brands around the world.

The dive industry really started to gain momentum in the 1970s, cultivated primarily by men.  It was defined BY them and designed specifically FOR them and as decades went on, these pioneers of scuba diving aged, leaving old guys with big beer bellies, a legacy of dated attitudes, a misrepresentation of who scuba divers really are, and an overall dowdy image of the sport.

This may be a bold move, but I’d like to make a request -

I’d like to invite all those active, fun, and healthy individuals (both male and female) who have a thirst and yearning for living a life less ordinary to fulfill my dream of re-inventing the image of scuba diving.

My goal is to give a voice to all scuba divers from around the world of all ages, genders, and various cultural and economic backgrounds on this topic in order to determine the following hypotheses with solid concrete evidence:

  1. There is an un-represented population of scuba divers.
  2. It is possible to re-invent the image of scuba diving, showing who we are and inviting future generations of fit, healthy, confident scuba divers into our sport.
Fit, Active, Healthy, Female Scuba Diver

Is there room for style in the scuba diving world?

I want to hear from you – women, men, young, old, beginner and expert!  Please let me know what you think about the image of scuba diving today and if you feel you are being accurately represented.  Just drop me a personal email or leave a message on the DiveWithMia Facebook page.  Your feedback and that of your scuba diving friends is absolutely invaluable, so please share widely.

Yours truly,

Mia Toose

 

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Top 10 Reasons to Scuba Dive… After You’ve Been Dumped!!

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DiveWithMia

DiveWithMia is in love with scuba diving!

In the tourism industry I have the awesome opportunity to meet and chat with people all the time.  A lot of these talks are the inspiration for my blogs and one topic that has been pretty interesting to me is the way romantic relationships play a role in scuba diving.  Sadly, I’ve heard many people take a long hiatus from diving due to a break-up, but in my opinion, I think scuba diving is the exact remedy a person’s heart needs in order to plow through a traumatic, dramatic, bummer of a break-up.  Here are the 10 reasons why…

  1. Exciting, Invigorating, Thrilling – Being in love is the best feeling in the world!  Your heart pounds as the object of your affection approaches, your stomach flutters with nerves as you make the call to ask him/her out, and even post visit/talk with your love you feel as high as a kite, which can last for days.  You know what else gives you these same feelings?  Scuba diving.  You may feel some nervous excitement pre-dive, your heart will pound full of life as you descend unknowing at what you will find, and your body will have the most natural high when all is done and you are out of the water packing gear away lasting until the next dive.
  2. Something To Do – Post break-up you may find yourself twiddling your thumbs (or hiding under the covers more like it) as all those lovey-dovey hours you used to spend with your girlfriend/boyfriend have suddenly come to a stop.  And what happens when you are by yourself with nothing to do?  You think about and make all kinds of illogical rationalizations about your ex.  Stop that!  Set a time and date to do a dive with someone or register yourself for a charter.  Sign up for something where someone’s dive depends on you to show up (i.e. they won’t have a buddy if you don’t come) and put an end to boring days with nothing to do!
  3. Diving is Zen – The stress and anxiety of a break-up can render you uptight and tense.  By getting underwater and breathing deeply like your scuba instructors around the world have told you to do, you will feel peace.  You’re probably all talked out after making an effort to make things work with your one love, so the best place to go is where there is no need to talk anymore…actually, you don’t even have to listen!  Just simply enjoy the feeling of being weightless and a part of another (better!) world and the imaginary chains hanging around your neck in the real world will disappear for those 45 or so minutes.
  4. New Social Scene – Is your ex-hunny at the dive shop you used to go to or involved with the dive club in town?  Showing up solo to a dive event is totally the way to go.  What other social scene refuses to hang lonesome ones up to dry, so to speak?  You’ll be assigned a buddy or grouped together with some potential new friends for life.  Scuba diving draws a variety of interesting characters together and usually divers are looking for someone to go out and get wet with.  And if the dry land conversation ends up kind of…dry, just get underwater!  In the wet world we all speak the same language, now don’t we?
  5. No Booze – Some people wallow their sorrows in alcohol consumption, which may cause them to forget the pain for a little while.  However, drinking post break-up undoubtedly leads to drunken phone calls and all sorts of other disastrous behaviour.  But, you’re in luck!  You can’t drink and dive and late nights prior to scuba diving don’t tend to work well with morning dives.  Stay sober, stay in and watch a chick flick (dudes and ladies alike), feel good and get up early the next day and DIVE!
  6. Exercise – It’s a well known fact that getting your heart rate up isn’t only good for determining your long life, it releases the same endorphins we feel when we are in love.  Underwater, scuba diving should be very relaxing with very minimal movement (which is why the sport is accessible to individuals of all fitness levels).  But on the surface, it’s like Cross-Fit training for Scuba Divers!  Things like carrying tanks and weights, walking to the dive site, getting in and out of the water and surface swimming and finning will get your heart pumping that vivacious red stuff through your veins releasing those yummy, exhilarating, well-being-inducing thing-a-ma-jiggers called endorphins.  Scuba diving is great exercise!
  7. Give ‘em a Break – The time you spend diving usually can take anywhere from half a day to a full day.  That gives your friends and family who have been listening to you lament with, what seems, no end in sight, a well-deserved break from you!  Let them refresh and rejuvenate themselves so they can continue being the amazing support and true friends they are.  They need to stay positive and encouraging while you are in the dumps, but they are only human.  Give ‘em a break and go diving today.
  8. Give Something Back – No, not the engagement ring.  I’m talking about volunteer work.  During your melancholic state, your normal level of self-awareness probably disappeared and allowed for a complete an utter immersion in self-absorption.  While your break-up experience is undeniably a trying time in your life, it’s important to note that there are bigger and more important things going on in the world!  For example, is anyone taking a knife to your fin right now and then throwing you back in the ocean to die like the innocent sharks suffering from shark finning?  I didn’t think so.  Scuba divers are the natural ambassadors to the sea and the majority of them realize the importance of the ocean and the need to protect it for our sustainable future.  Most dive shops have events that include underwater debris collection, reef and marine life observation and record-keeping, educational programs in local schools just to name a few.  Get involved with any of the amazing scuba diving related initiatives around the world and soon all that “woe is ME” stuff will be dust in the wind.
  9. Adventure – What’s more depressing than waking up, thinking about the ex, going to work, thinking about the ex, coming home, crying about the ex, making dinner, thinking about the ex, going to bed and doing it all again tomorrow?  Nothing!  That’s terrible!  While I’m a big believer in appreciating the now moments in life, the anticipation I feel about exciting plans for the future is something to live for.  Book a scuba diving trip in the near future.  Do it by yourself or with some diver friends (not your ex) and do anything from taking a road trip to a local dive site you haven’t been to yet, or enjoy a scuba dive liveaboard that takes you offshore to experience true ‘wilderness’ diving or maybe sip an ice cold beer post-dive on a lovely island beach in some exotic locale.  They are all do-able and they all allow you to focus on the awesomeness of the future.  The world is my (oops, I mean your) oyster as a friend told me the other day!
  10. Memories – Maybe the thought of diving is too much for you to bear because it was what you and your partner did together.  You learned together, you were amazing dive buddies, and now you can’t imagine ever doing a dive with anyone else.  Well, I say, don’t close the door on making new and improved memories!    Scuba diving offers way too much for you to decide to close the door on it forever.  Take your time if you have to and come back when you’re ready, but don’t limit yourself on how much scuba diving can enrich your life and the incredible paths it just might take you down.  Isn’t it time to just blow off some steam…er…bubbles, after all?  Let’s dive!

 

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The Dogwood Initiative: Protecting British Columbia’s Coastline

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Although it’s been about 5 years since I left the non-profit world for a life of scuba diving, tourism, and boating, I’m still drawn to the work that’s being done by passionate and compassionate people around the world.  From harnessing the power of impoverished girls (The Mariposa Foundation) and empowering displaced Haitian migrant workers (Kiters4Communities) in the Dominican Republic to a worldwide charity and donor connecting service (ServicesInAction) based in Toronto, I always seek out opportunities to stay involved and witness the change we can make!  Here on the west coast, I have discovered The Dogwood Initiative.

I arrived in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island in May of this year just for a nice visit with some friends who live here and what I discovered continues to impress me !  I encountered friendly, laidback people all who are deeply in love with the ocean that surrounds them, not to mention a welcoming and active scuba diving community.  These are all things one would expect from individuals living an island life!

After deciding to stay and getting a summer job at The Brentwood Bay Resort Marina and helping out with Rockfish Divers, I learned about a fascinating non-profit organization called The Dogwood Initiative.  Over the years, I have been witness to (and employed by) a wide variety of non-profits some of which have included, Habitat for Humanity, Multicultural Council, YMCA, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, Crosscultural Services, ACCES Employment, Council for the Access to Professional Engineering, and Kiteboarding 4 Girls.  These organizations are on meaningful and significant missions to help, protect, educate and to simply do more.  With objectives and deliverables being met to serve the greater good as a whole or just one person at a time, all of them are making a difference in this world through the lives they touch and to society as a whole.

The Dogwood Initiative - Protecting British Columbia's Coastline

www.DogwoodInitiative.org

However, The Dogwood Initiative stands out from the crowd for me.  They are driven to:

-Provide real remedies rather than band-aid solutions

-Work towards systemic change to broad issues through realistic and meaningful channels

-Use collaboration and inclusion among key players

 

Let me use information from their website to provide more details about their philosophy:

“Wherever you go in the world, private interests are taking over public resources, such as air, land and water. In British Columbia, Dogwood Initiative is pioneering a model to put control back in the hands of the public by bringing together citizens and First Nations to reclaim decision-making power over their natural resources”

“Right now, 96 per cent of British Columbia’s land is owned by the people, but 88 per cent of that land is controlled by large timber, mining and oil companies”

www.NoTankers.ca

The Dogwood Initiative has two important campaigns that they are focusing their energies on right now.  One in particular, The No Tankers campaign, will truly affect the underwater livelihood that is so majestic on this side of the planet

The No Tankers campaign is seeking to prevent the most powerful oil companies from pushing more crude oil tankers to BC’s coast.  More tankers would seriously jeopardize the livelihoods of tens of thousands of British Columbians as well as the stability of the Great Bear Rainforest and south Gulf Island ecosystems all in the name of profit.  The Dogwood Initiative seeks to collaborate with British Columbians and the First Nations here, the private sector, and the public sector to make decisions that are in the best interest of this province and land.  So far,

- 100+ First Nations have banned oil pipelines or tankers using their own laws.

-146 609 People support their campaign against the expansion of crude oil tanker traffic.

-410 Businesses have signed their petition against the expansion of crude oil tanker traffic.

And how about you?  Would you like to have your say?

On December 1st, 2013 Rockfish Divers hosted their 1 year anniversary of owning this lovely dive business on Vancouver Island.  Not only was it a super fun day of scuba diving with a marina clean-up, there was also an online auction with some pretty cool items to bid on with all proceeds going towards The Dogwood Initiative.

Take a look at the auction items here.

If you have any questions or want to get involved, just drop me a line!

Take a look at some of the photos from the event on the DiveWithMia Facebook page!

 

 

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Part 5 – Your Lungs & Scuba Diving: Easy, Breezy, Breathing!

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What’s the most important rule in diving?  Never hold your breath!  If you remember one thing from your dive course, that’s usually it; but do divers really know why it’s so important?

This is the final post in a series on air and its relationship to 5 key areas in diving that I’ve been writing about.  If you haven’t already done so, take a peek at the introduction for some important background notes to ensure you understand the basics about air and pressure.  These are directly related to what we’ll be talking about here and I encourage you to explore any of the other topics as well to expand your diving knowledge!

Understanding Air and its Relationship to 5 Key Areas in Scuba Diving

Part 1 – BCD Air Inflation/Deflation and Buoyancy: A Balancing Act!

Part 2 – Equalizing Your Ears: Let’s Get Popping!

Part 3 – Equalizing Your Mask: Don’t Squeeze Me!

Part 4 – From Tank to Breath of Fresh Air: The Journey!

What happens if I hold my breath while scuba diving?

Do you remember when I talked about how the air inside your BCD will expand as you swim up, even just a metre or a few feet?  And the need to let some air escape to maintain your position?

What would happen if you didn’t let that air escape?

Well, you would continue to float upwards and the air would continue to expand and cause you to float up faster and faster – a potentially very dangerous situation because divers need to ascend slowly from every dive (no faster than 18m or 60ft/minute).

Just like your BCD, your lungs have air inside and if you don’t let the air escape as you ascend (even just a metre or a few feet) you can do some serious, if not fatal damage to your lungs and body.  Considering that, let’s get back to that #1 rule in diving again – Never hold your breath and always keep breathing! If you do hold your breath and you ascend, the air in your lungs will expand and keep expanding until any of these life threatening possibilities might happen:

1. Lung over expansion injury where your lungs over stretch from the expanding air that is forced into the chest cavity, otherwise known as pneumothorax (collapsed lung).

2. Lung over expansion injury where your lungs over stretch from the expanding air that is forced into the space between the lungs and around the heart, otherwise known as mediastinal emphysema.

3. Lung over expansion injury where your lungs over stretch from the expanding air that is forced under the skin, otherwise known as subcutaneous emphysema.  I saw this once when a teen was goofing around on his safety stop and the surge brought him up while he held his breath.  The sound of his voice sounded strange and he told us what he had done.  We gave him oxygen and he stayed in the hospital for observation for a day or two, but was okay.

4. The most dangerous of all, Arterial Gas Embolism where the expanding air pushes its way through the tissues of the lungs and into the blood stream where it could cause a blockage to your brain or elsewhere.

To learn more about these and other news and research in diving, check out the DAN website and these articles I referred to when writing this:

Decompression Illness:  What is it and What is the Treatment

Mechanism of Injury for Pulmonary Over-Inflation Syndrome

So, if you are ever in an out of air situation and you need to get to the surface in order to breathe (and your buddy is nowhere to be found or also out of air), remember to swim no faster than 1ft/second and look up while making an “ahhh” or humming sound with the regulator still in your mouth.  The air that is in your lungs will expand as you go to the surface but will be able to escape as you swim up.

Breathing and Buoyancy

Ensuring that you are always breathing during scuba diving not only protects you from fatal injuries, it also allows you to enjoy a more comfortable dive.  Let me explain how your lungs and breathing contribute to buoyancy in scuba diving…

At first thought, it may be difficult to imagine your lungs like a big internal balloon that gets bigger as air goes in (inhale) and smaller as air goes out (exhale), most likely because we don’t actually think about the act of breathing as it happens.  However, the image of a balloon is a perfect example of what our lungs are like.  Just like a balloon, when it is inflated, the balloon floats and when it contains very little air, it sinks – just like our bodies in diving!

Maybe you’ll remember a time when you were VERY excited about a dive…or maybe even a bit nervous and no matter what you tried to do, you could not descend at the beginning of your dive.  You probably didn’t realize it, but you were most likely breathing very quickly with short breaths in and out.  This would have caused your lungs to stay very full of air – which would have made you float!  Remember – Breathe out! Your body won’t forget to breathe in, but by thinking about your exhales:

1. You will feel more relaxed and in control of your breathing as you deliberately push air out of your lungs after each breath in.  If you are excited/nervous, this is also the way to regain control of yourself and feel calm.

2. You will be able to descend more easily as you remove air from your lungs by consciously pushing a nice breath out as you go down and then continue to breathe naturally once you are underwater.

3. You will use less air by producing nice long exhales with every breath in and not have to end a dive early due to low air.

So, if you’d like to descend a metre or a few feet, a nice slow exhale out will cause your lungs to deflate and your body to drop down in the water.  This works the same if you would like to rise up a little – just take a deep breath in, exhale a little bit out, and then another big breath in, and you are likely to start to ascend.  In order for you to keep yourself from ascending more, breathe out completely and to maintain your position in the water (not go up, or down), a steady rhythm of inhale/exhale will keep the volume of air in your lungs consistent to keep you hovering in the same spot.  It is important to note here that while you may not be breathing in a regular rhythm while you are adjusting your position in the water, you must never hold your breath – even just for a few seconds – to maintain your position.  This is called “skip breathing” and can result in carbon dioxide levels which are not being expelled properly to become elevated in your body and may result in you passing out underwater.

Using your breathing as a tool to manage your buoyancy is a technique divers are always trying to perfect.  Practice every time you go out diving and don’t forget the number 1 rule in diving!

I’d love to hear from you – Please don’t hesitate to send me a message here, or on my Facebook page and let me know what you think or if you have any questions!

Safe and Happy Diving

DiveWithMia – PADI Scuba Diving Skills, Experience, and Passion for Life!

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Part 4 – From Tank to Breath of Fresh Air: The Journey!

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Air, air, everywhere!  I think it’s interesting to meet divers and non-divers of various levels and to listen to their interpretations of how scuba functions.  I can’t tell you how many people refer to breathing the air from their tank as “breathing oxygen”, which is incorrect.   In this section of the 5 part series on air and its relationship to diving, I’d like to offer a summary of what actually happens when you take a breath through a regulator underwater!  If you’d like some other insights into air and its relationship to diving, please check out the other parts of my series here:

Understanding Air and its Relationship to 5 Key Areas in Scuba Diving

Part 1 – BCD Air Inflation/Deflation and Buoyancy: A Balancing Act!

Part 2 – Equalizing Your Ears: Let’s Get Popping!

Part 3 – Equalizing Your Mask: Don’t Squeeze Me!

Part 5 – Your Lungs & Scuba Diving:  Easy Breezy Breathing!

Air and the Scuba Tank

Before I begin, here’s a little information about the air that is in your scuba tank.  First of all, the air that we breathe underwater, is the exact same as what we breathe on land (21% oxygen, 79% nitrogen); the only difference is that it is compressed to fit inside a tank.  You may have heard divers talking about the size of their tanks:  80 cubic feet/ 12L; 63 cubic feet/ 10L; 100 cubic feet/ 15L; but, what exactly are these numbers referring to?

In the metric world, divers refer to the size of their tank based on the internal volume, for example, as if it was filled with water.  When we talk about a 15L, 12L, or 10L tank, it is with reference to how much water it can hold.  In fact, it actually holds 2265L of compressed air to a working pressure of 3000psi/210bar.  Considering the average person is breathing about 12L per minute on the surface while at rest, it’s good to know that there is more than just 12L of air in your typical tank!

In the imperial world, divers also refer to the size of their tank based on the internal volume, although they make reference to the capacity it has to hold compressed air to a working pressure of 3000psi/210bar as opposed to how much water it can contain.  So, you may hear a person refer to a standard tank as an 80, which means it can hold 80 cubic feet of air (the equivalent to 2265L).
So now we know that the air inside a scuba tank is the same as the air that surrounds us only that it is compressed to fit into a small container.  Just like a little backpack of air!  We also know how much air a typical scuba tank is able to hold.  What’s next?

How does the compressed air in your tank become the air you breathe underwater?  As you may remember from your scuba diving training, your regulator system is made up of 2 stages:  The First Stage, which is the part you attach to your tank and the Second Stage, which is what you breathe from (otherwise known as the Regulator and Alternate).  If you remember from my previous blog on air, as you go underwater, the air becomes denser; however, the air that’s protected by the walls of your tank is not affected by the increasing pressure underwater.  It stays the same.

The First Stage

If there was no First Stage, the air that came out of your tank would come out with a big blast because the contents are compressed into a small space.  So, to control the amount of air released every time

First Stage Balanced Diaphragm Diagram

First Stage Balanced Diaphragm Diagram

you take a breath, the regulator mechanism reduces the pressure in 2 stages.  Imagine your First Stage in 3 distinct, but interconnected parts.  All of the chambers are connected via a valve running from the first chamber through the second and attached to a rubber diaphragm, which separates the second from the third with a spring connected to the diaphragm in chamber 3.  Let’s look at each chamber individually:  We’ll call the first “The High Pressure Chamber” (Chamber 1).  This one is filled with high pressure air delivered directly from the tank when you turn it on.  It remains closed via the valve until you inhale.  The next chamber, which your regulator hose is attached to, will be called “The Intermediate Pressure Chamber” (Chamber 2).  This one is filled with intermediate pressure air as well as having a very cool relationship with the final chamber, which we’ll call “The Water Chamber” (Chamber 3).    Chamber 3 is filled with water, which mirrors whatever surrounding pressure you are at; whether you are at the surface, 30ft/9m down, or 100ft/30m down.  The surrounding pressure from Chamber 3 determines the intermediate pressure found in Chamber 2.  This is done via the rubber diaphragm.  So, those are your 3 compartments, now let’s see what happens when you inhale!  By taking a breath, we remove air from Chamber 2, thus reducing the intermediate pressure and causing the water in Chamber 3 to apply force onto Chamber 2 via the diaphragm.  But never fear!  This push opens the valve to Chamber 1, releasing a fresh batch of high pressure air and filling Chamber 2 until it is back to the surrounding pressure which pushes the diaphragm back to normal.

Woo Hoo!  Isn’t air and pressure cool?

The Regulator and Alternate

Alright, so we have got the high pressure air from your tank reduced to intermediate pressure in the First Stage, what happens once it gets to your regulator?  When the air arrives at your regulator, the pressure is reduced a second time (hence the name “second stage”) to the surrounding pressure.  The mechanism inside the regulator is actually quite simple.  Underneath the plastic cover you can find a rubber diaphragm which is attached to a little lever that acts like a valve to allow or stop air from the hose.  Underneath the plastic cover, you can find the exhaust where the bubbles go out when you exhale.  When you breathe in, the surrounding pressure is reduced inside the regulator, so the water pressure pushes in on the diaphragm, which releases the lever allowing air to flow in through the mouthpiece and into your lungs!  When you exhale, the surrounding pressure inside the regulator is increased, which pushes the diaphragm out and allows the lever to close the valve and opens the exhaust valve to allow the air to escape.  Pretty neat, eh?

Mia’s Recommendations

There are so many different brand names and a few different innovative features, but ultimately regulators and first stage systems are virtually the same.  If you plan to dive in cold water, you will want to ensure that the First Stage has some kind of environmental dry sealing feature to prevent the Chamber with water inside from freezing.

Some regulators will come with a “sensitivity” lever called a venturi switch which you can set to low (-) while on the surface to avoid free flows when the regulator is not in your mouth and resting on the surface of the water;  or set to high (+) while diving which is supposed to allow for ease of breathing.  In my experience, I always set this feature to low and divers who are relaxed underwater never experience difficulty breathing on that setting.  Sometimes I wish that setting didn’t even exist due to the amount or air lost through free-flows on the surface!  It’s not really needed, in my opinion.

Apeks XTX50 First Stage and Regulator

Apeks XTX50 First Stage and Regulator

The First Stage I use is the first one I ever bought back in 2007 and is an Apeks, by Aqua Lung, which has a reputation for being a good quality cold water diving system while perfectly good in warm waters as well.   The regulator itself is a low end (and super!) XTX50, which has served me well for all the diving I’ve done over the last couple years.

 

 

 

Apeks Egress Alternate Regulator

Apeks Egress Alternate Regulator

Mares Rebel Alternate

Mares Rebel Alternate

As for the Alternate, at the moment I am using a Mares Rebel, which replaced my Apeks Egress.  I decided to switch from the Egress to the Rebel mostly for teaching purposes.  The Egress can be used with the mouthpiece inverted or not, whereas, most regulators only function with the mouthpiece up (otherwise water enters in).  This is definitely a useful function for recreational divers; however, since I was teaching and wanted to represent the most common type of alternate, I decided to switch.

Definitely let me know if you have any questions or comments simply by sending me a message via my Contact Mia page.  Feel free to enjoy my other blogs on Understanding Air and Its Relationship to 5 Key Areas of Scuba Diving, Part 1 – BCD Air Inflation/Deflation and Buoyancy: A Balancing Act!, Part 2 – Equalizing Your Ears: Let’s Get Popping!, Part 3 – Equalizing Your Mask: Don’t Squeeze Me! And finally, Part 5 – Your Lungs & Scuba Diving:  Easy, Breezy, Breathing!

Happy Diving!

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Part 3 – Equalizing Your Mask: Don’t Squeeze Me!

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The third part in the scuba dive relationships with Air discusses the impact that air has on our masks at depth.  If you haven’t done so already, take a look at my briefing on how air is affected underwater to give you some background information first.

Have you ever wondered why scuba divers can’t use swimming goggles for diving?  Well, there is a very important reason that relates to air and pressure.  Your dive mask covers your eyes as well as your nose (unlike swim goggles) because just like the air space in your ears/sinuses, the air inside the mask becomes denser as you go underwater.  As the air becomes denser inside the mask, it pushes up against your face like a suction cup.  We need to achieve the same goal as with the ears and BCD – maintain a normal amount of air inside the airspace and we do this by pushing air into the space through our nose and into the mask and letting air escape as it expands.  This is called “equalize the mask”.

Mask Squeeze

Sometimes (not all times), if we forget to blow air out our nose and into the mask upon descent, we may end up with a “Mask Squeeze”.  This happens when the mask suctions onto your face so tightly that it bursts some blood vessels leaving a lovely bruise ring around your eyes, perhaps a black eye or two, or more commonly, bloodshot eyes!  This is very easily avoided by giving a puff or two out the nose as you go down.  Don’t worry about expanding air in your mask as you ascend because the air will naturally escape through the skirt of your mask .

Mia’s Helpful Tips!

  1. To select a properly fitting mask, place the mask on your face without putting the strap around your head.  Breathe slightly in through your nose.  If the mask does not fall off your face and you don’t hear or feel any air being sucked in around the skirt – You’ve got a good fit!
  2. If you tend to be a ‘nose-breather’, an exercise you can try in order to train yourself is to wear your mask while you are out of the water (around the house!).  Open your mouth to breathe in and then close it to exhale through your nose.  You will notice the mask popping off your face just a little and the air escaping easily just beneath the skirt of your mask.

Tusa Freedom One Scuba Dive Mask

Mia’s Dive Mask Recommendation!

The mask I am using at the time I wrote this article is called the Freedom by Tusa.  It has an exceptionally soft skirt, a lovely field of vision, and if you have any interest in liberating yourself from unattractive goggle-y eyes – this mask definitely tops the sexy list!

 

 

 

Feel free to send me a message via Contact Mia if you have any questions regarding this topic and definitely check out the other articles in this 5 part series including Understanding Air, Your BCD, and Equalizing Your Ears and Sinuses, Your Tank and Regulator, and Your Lungs & Breathing.  If you “Like” it make sure you let me know on my Facebook page DiveWithMia!

 

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Water Slide Review at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas!

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The Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, the Bahamas

In September 2012, I spent 3 days at the famous Paradise Island, Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.  This is a unique hotel resort experience because it consists not only of the lavishness commonly found in this type of setting with stunning rooms, amenities, beaches, restaurants, and views; however, the Atlantis Resort stands out among its peers due to the fact that it also includes an extensive aquatic theme park which is included within the price of the stay of the hotel.  20 million gallons of water, 141 acres, 11 pools, 8 waterslides and 2 river tubing rides alongside aquarium glass tunnels, open lagoons filled with animals, and floor to ceiling windows featuring Reef Sharks, Manta Rays, Nassau Groupers, Jelly Fish, Lobster, and one of the most famous Bahamian animals the Conch!

From all of the countless features of this resort, I decided to focus on the Aquaventures water park.   And being the funny girl I am – strangely attracted to the thrilling, but ultimately satisfied with easy-going rides, here are my personal insights into each waterslide!

There are 2 areas in the Aquaventure water park with each section being home to 4 different waterslides.  To access the waterslides, you will need to find a Towel Hut and swipe your room key, so they can give you a bracelet.  My best advice, with regards to any pre-waterslide preparation, is to leave all money, watches, jewellery and anything of value in your room, otherwise you will have no choice but to leave it on a poolside lounger or rent a locker for a minimum of 7USD/day while you romp and play in the water.

Cool tunnel at the end of The Serpent waterslide

The first water playground we encountered was at The Mayan Temple.  There you will find 4 fun waterslides, one of which (and my personal favourite), requires a tube that you get prior to climbing the stairs to the top.  The Serpent takes you through an enclosed chute, first into darkness, then from side to side and finally down through a transparent tube.  The coolest part is that it runs straight through a huge aquarium full of sharks you can see from the safety of the ride and then tosses you out on the other side!  Fun!

 

The other 2 slides at the top of The Mayan Temple are for true thrill seekers.  You can choose between the super speedy 60 foot drop at a virtual 90 degree angle down on The Leap of Faith or The Challenger, which you and your friend can race down side by side to see who goes the fastest or the farthest with a heart-stirring bounce part way through!  Both are open air slides.

The other slide on The Mayan Temple is called The Jungle and I would call a more traditional style of slide.  It is open air and swishes you from side to side through mountainous terrain and drops you into a lovely pool of water.  This would be the tamer of the four slides, but still ignites a squeal of laughter or two along the way!

The Current river tubing ride

After The Mayan Temple why not make your way over towards The Power Tower, which is home to a great mile long tube ride called The Current.  The highlight of this river ride would definitely be the waves that rush you along as well as the route towards the end (stay to the left!) called “The Rapids”, which tumble and spin you every which way.  If you veer to the right instead, you will get the opportunity to do one of 2 super fun water slides with your tube, either The Drop or The Falls.  You will be directed onto a big elevator that will click clack your way to the top.  I tried The Drop and enjoyed the thrilling plummet and butterflies as I was sloshed about the tunnel!

The most exciting, thrilling, and scary waterslide, in my opinion, is atop The Power Tower and called The Abyss!  Even just climbing to the top is worth the 360 degree view of the ocean and resort, but don’t be surprised (or deterred!) if you hear both men and women scream as they drop down the dark tunnel.  Because the drop straight down at top speed with rushing water beneath you couldn’t be intense enough, why not ensure you are surrounded by pitch blackness!   Eeeek!  However, my favourite part of The Abyss is the ending (oddly enough) when it spits you out into a cave with 2 beautiful aquariums built into the walls – very cool!  Now, for a different kind of thrill, take a tube all the way back to the top of The Power Tower and enjoy a wild outdoor drop down The Surge and then twisty-swirly fun through rapids along the way!  Make sure you do what they tell you and don’t drag your bum and watch your toes as your tube gets bounced around!

The Dig

If waterslides are not your calling, I would like to highly recommend a fascinating presentation of the mythical civilization called Atlantis that, according to Plato, was destroyed by earthquakes and a tidal wave and rests below the surface of the ocean some 11 000 years ago!  Leisurely stroll through The Dig and enjoy this stunning aquarium; view the giant Manta Rays gracefully “fly” by or admire the striking Spotted Eagle Rays with their unique expressions and impressive formations.  You will also never forget the extraordinary Green Morays mouthing underwater words to you, the scrawling Lobster tank, and magnificent swimming Sea Horses and more!

All in all, I had a great time exploring even just a fraction of what Atlantis has to offer.  The only thing I found challenging was affordable eating and drinking options since the resort is not, in fact, a traditional all-inclusive.  You can make use of the convenience store across the street to purchase things like water, snacks, and alcoholic beverages to help with this.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Atlantis Aquaventure water park and all of its amazing animal creatures.  This is well worth a fun-filled day pass and a cool add-on feature at a luxury resort!

In front of the Beach Towers and Green Turtle pond

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Part 2 – Equalizing Your Ears: Let’s Get Popping!

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In my introductory post, I explained, in basic terms, what happens to Air when you go beneath the surface of water and in Part 1 I talked about buoyancy and the relationship between Air and the BCD.  In this post, I will describe the part that Air plays on our Ears and Sinuses and how we adjust our bodies to that with some super tips to help you in one of the most common challenges as new divers!

Even if you don’t know anything about scuba diving, there is a general understanding that something happens to our ears when you dive down deep and similarly when we’re on an airplane.  Many people even feel afraid to give scuba diving a try because of some discomfort they felt while free-diving.  Sometimes they think that the discomfort will be worse while scuba diving because typically it’s deeper than free-diving, but this is not necessarily true!

Ear Diagram

Ear Diagram

Let me first explain a little about our Ears and Sinuses… There are tubes leading from our ears and sinuses to our throats and they are filled with air.  As soon as you go underwater, our bodies feel the pressure and the weight of the water on these spaces as the air inside them becomes “smaller” (read my intro for more info on why air becomes “smaller” underwater).  The tubes are squeezed together by the pressure and the result is discomfort.  Our goal is to maintain a normal amount of air inside this airspace and push open the tubes, so we “equalize” it to the surrounding (“ambient” pressure for each depth).  We do this as soon as we go underwater and every 1m/3ft before any discomfort is felt.

It’s so easy to prevent any discomfort simply by pushing air into those spaces as you go down and we do that in 3 common ways:
1. Take a breath in through your mouth, plug your nose with your mouth now closed, and then try to breathe out your nose (while it is plugged).  This will push the air from your lungs into the ear tubes and sinuses instead of out your mouth/nose where they normally go.  Your Ear and Sinus air spaces open up!
2. Swallow and wiggle your jaw.  You can tilt your head from side to side and try to stretch your neck to try to help your body in letting the air get inside those tubes and air spaces.
3.  Do #1 while doing #2!

It’s also important to note that, as we talked about in the previous posts, not only does air change when you go down↓, but it will change when you go up↑.  You will remember that, as you swim up, you must manually release air from your BCD to adjust for the expanding air; however, with our Ears and Sinuses, we are lucky in that our bodies will release the expanding air naturally for us.  There is nothing you need to do with your Ears and Sinuses upon ascent.

So, just before I go into my tips, I want to point out a main difference I’ve noticed between free-diving and scuba diving with regards to equalizing your ears.  Many people (including myself) feel discomfort while free-diving because the descent tends to be very rapid – you’re holding your breath after all!  Whereas, with scuba diving a typical descent is slow and controlled, so you have the time to “clear” even the most sensitive of ears before ever feeling any discomfort.  Just like anything else with diving, it does take practice, so make sure you take your time!

Mia’s Helpful Tips!
1.    Prevention. Remember – equalizing is a preventative measure.  It’s a common misconception that you should wait until you feel discomfort and then try to equalize.  Don’t Wait!!
2.    Having Difficulty. Don’t push too hard!  The tissues inside your ears and sinuses are very delicate.  If you are having difficulty equalizing, ascend up 1m/3ft where the pressure is less and try again.
3.    Cold and Allergies. If you have a cold or allergies, the tubes and sinus air spaces will be swollen and filled with mucous (fluids).  You won’t be able to push air into these areas sufficiently OR the air that does get in may not be able to get out upon ascent.  As you swim up, it will expand inside the tubes and sinuses resulting in much pain called a Reverse Block and possibly permanently damaging these delicate tissues.  Try snorkeling on days that you have a cold/allergies!  Sometimes the salt water is just as good as a nasal spray with saline solution to get those boogies out!
4.    Changing depth. Remember – equalizing is not limited to your first descent along a line.  As you follow a sloping bottom, don’t forget to continue to equalize.  You will always need to adjust the amount of air inside those spaces depending on whichever depth you go to.
5.    Ear Plugs. If your ears are prone to infection, you may be using ear plugs.  My preferred ones are Doc’s Pro Plugs.  Make sure you purchase the ones with a pin hole so air is able to escape upon your ascent!
6.      Cleaning. I usually use a half and half mixture of alcohol and vinegar after I’ve been in the water.  The alcohol dries out all those little crevices in your ear that are prone to infection and the vinegar gives it all a good clean (and you get to smell like fish and chips – Yum!)

As you may be aware, I began this 5 part series with a goal of addressing some common queries I get from various dive students as well as certified divers.  While everyone receives the same training from PADI around the world, a lot of the practical tidbits of useful information are shared pre and post-dive on the boat or over a beer at the end of the day.  I know for me when I first started out diving, I only had the chance to dive maybe twice a year if I was lucky, so my learning curve was slow.  I’m hoping that these blogs will be able to provide some additional insights my divers can refer back to.  I hope you enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think via my DiveWithMia Facebook page or click on Contact Mia!

DiveWithMia – PADI Scuba Dive Skills, Experience, and Passion for Life!
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Part 1 – BCD Air Inflation/Deflation and Buoyancy: A Balancing Act!

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If you haven’t already done so, take a look at my introduction to Understanding Air and its Relationship to 5 Key Areas to Scuba Diving prior to reading this post to give yourself some quick and helpful background information!  In this post I will discuss the BCD, its correlation with air, some helpful tips, and then my personal equipment recommendation.  If you enjoy this article – let me know and stay tuned for the next 4 posts on how Air relates to Ears, Mask, Tank & Octopus, and your Lungs & Breathing!

The first specific area I’d like to talk about is the BCD or Buoyancy Control Device.  Divers wear this piece of equipment, which contains a bladder to hold air, like a jacket or vest.   Your BCD is connected to the air in your tank via the “Low Pressure Inflator Hose”.  It is also equipped to be “orally inflated” should there be a problem with the mechanism to add air from the tank.  You do this by blowing into the hose while holding down the deflate button (which opens the valve to allow air in/out).

Before you jump in the water you always make sure your BCD is partially inflated so that you can float on the surface.  When you are ready to go underwater you raise the Low Pressure Inflator Hose high above your head and release all the air from the BCD and exhale slowly, which also releases air from your lungs to assist in your descent.  As you come close to the bottom or the depth that you want to stay at, you will usually need to add some air into the BCD to prevent you from continuing down or hitting the bottom.

This tends to take a few dives as you learn the balancing act of how much air will maintain your general position at a certain depth.  Remember, the air that is put into your BCD is also affected by the pressure and becomes increasingly more (and less!!) dense depending on your depth.  That means that the amount of air you need to maintain neutral (neither sinking nor floating) buoyancy at 10m/32ft will be different than what you put in at 23m/75ft, for example.  This also means that when you change your depth by swimming over a reef or to a shallower depth, you must make adjustments to the amount of air inside the BCD by releasing air – even if you didn’t add any more air to it!!

This happens because just as going deeper causes the air to be more dense, ascending (even just a metre or 3 feet) will cause the air to expand and make your BCD fuller causing you to float upwards  until you release the air, which results in a balance of just enough air inside the BCD to achieve neutral buoyancy at that specific depth.  This is a kind of balancing act that at first takes some thought and will later become second nature to you.  Remember this important point – Upon ascent, consider that the air already inside your BCD will expand, so pay attention to your positioning and if you begin to float upwards.  Be prepared to release the air to balance it out and to avoid an uncontrolled ascent.

Mia’s helpful tips!
1.    Before diving and during your pre-dive equipment check, with the air turned on, practice putting air into the BCD and taking it out (inflate and deflate).  Sometimes it can be confusing when using rental gear on which button is which.  You can also practice orally inflating.
2.    While underwater, if you are trying to locate your Low Pressure Inflator Hose to inflate/deflate, always remember:  “If I touch my LEFT BOOB, I will find it!!!”  Anyone want to admit to trying to deflate their snorkel at some point of their diving career!!!???
3.    Having trouble deflating?  Air will always stay at the highest point as it rises.  If you are in a horizontal position, slightly head-first, that means the air could be sitting in the bottom part of your BCD as your bum will be higher than your shoulders.  Try to make it easy for the air to escape from your Inflator Hose by:
a.    Always raise the hose as high above your head as possible.
b.    Sometimes you can even adjust your positioning in the water from horizontal to momentarily vertical to further assist the escape of air from the Inflator hose as you reach up.

Mia Diving Upside Down

In a head-first position, use a dump valve to release air

c.    If for some reason you are head-first and your fins are high above you, this means any air in your BCD will actually be in the bottom of your jacket.  Most BCDs come with a “Dump valve” to release air from a head-first position underwater.  Feel around the bottom edge of your BCD for the cord and a little tug should allow a burst of air to escape.
4.    Little by Little!  Try to avoid the up and down ping-pong effect by thoughtfully inflating/deflating only a little, waiting for a result and then repeating as necessary.  As a beginner diver learning this fancy balancing act called buoyancy, stay calm if you feel yourself floating up upon ascent.  Remember to exhale completely as you release just a puff of air.  Many divers have felt a quick twinge of panic at floating up and proceed to do a big dump of air causing them to drop back down, but too quickly and beyond their intended neutral zone into a “negative buoyancy” (sinking).  This results in more fiddling of inflating again to achieve the comfortable hovering position.
5.    Make a commitment to get to know yourself!  Adding air to your BCD is not something you should typically be doing throughout the entire dive.  Remember that your buoyancy is not only controlled by your BCD, but ALSO by your breathing.  Make a commitment that on each dive once you achieve neutral buoyancy (neither sinking, nor floating) at a depth you will stay at for awhile, practice using your breathing to adjust your position in the water.  Refer to the post on your Lungs & Breathing blog to come in a few weeks!  Buoyancy is something that you will practice over and over again and WILL get!  Have patience, get familiar with your BCD and enjoy!

Mia BCD Oceanic Hera

Mia's favourite BCD - the Oceanic Hera

Mia’s BCD Recommendation!

The BCD I use now and absolutely love is called the “Hera” by Oceanic and created specifically for women.  It is both a jacket style and rear inflation form, which I love because I am stable in both horizontal and vertical positioning without back weights (although pockets for back weights are available if I want).  It also has a ton of sturdy D rings to attach my Alternate Air Source and attach my Surface Marker Buoy alongside big pockets to store a slate or some yucky plastic bottle I find underwater and want to put in the trash.  Before the “Hera” I used the Seaquest “Diva” for many years and loved, but I decided against the newer version of this due to my desire to leave rear-inflation styled BCDs and the lack of pockets and D-rings.  Sorry Diva you were good, but time to move on!

Feel free to send me a message via Contact Mia if you have any questions regarding this topic.  If you “Like” it make sure you let me know on my Facebook page DiveWithMia!

Happy Diving!

DiveWithMia.com

 

 

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Understanding Air and its Relationship to 5 key areas in Scuba Diving

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Air was a topic that I had wanted to write about for some time now as it seemed to be the common theme when discussing buoyancy, equalization, air consumption, safety and more; but, as I started writing I kept branching out on the topic and ended up with a super long blog!  Soon I realized and quickly decided that my topic had evolved into a 5 part series!  So, I am excited to present this blog as the introduction piece to this series and the topic that I am going to zero in on is all about Air and the impact that the underwater world has on that; Afterwards, I will go into more detail on 5 more specific areas of diving that all have important relationships with Air:  the BCD, our Ears, our Mask, the Tank & Octopus, and finally our Lungs & Breathing.


Some of the ins and outs of diving and air include a wee bit of background knowledge of a basic scientific principle.  Considering science and math have never held my interest for too long, I remember over 10 years ago when I did my Open Water training, I really brushed over these topics with a passing score yet not fully understanding the key concepts.  Now that I am an Instructor I see students struggling in the same way I did and I hope that I can offer some advice I wish an Instructor could have provided me earlier on!
So here goes for my little scientific introduction to air and diving…
As we all know, water has weight (when you pick up a bucket of water – it’s heavy!).  That means, when you go underwater there is a lot of weight on you; this is otherwise known as “Pressure”.  We are lucky though because the weight of water doesn’t have any effect on similarly composed liquids like the makeup of our body, so we can swim freely below the surface without feeling the weight of water on our bodies.  However, this weight does affect “Air Spaces”.  Air is made up of many molecules that are spread out all around us on the surface.  Underwater, air can be found inside our Buoyancy Control Devices (BCD), in our ear and sinus spaces, inside the mask, and in our lungs (of course!).  As you go underwater, the air molecules will get closer and closer together in each of these areas (air becomes “Dense”).
If you look at the Density arrow in the picture below, you will see that on the surface, Air Density = 1x and at 30m/99ft, Air Density = 4x.  That means, for example, that if you compare a breath you take on the surface to a breath you take at 30m/99ft, you would, in fact, be taking in 4x the amount of air you would breathe on the surface.  In addition, consider that as you ascend from your dive, that air becomes less dense and will naturally expand in the air spaces found in your BCD, ears/sinuses, mask, and even your lungs if you hold your breath!  It is quite a simple principle that is very helpful (and extremely important!) for you to practice fun, enjoyable and safe diving experiences.

Click here to read my next blog which will be about how Air and your BCD interact, including tips and equipment recommendations from DiveWithMia!

air-under-pressure

This is a good picture of what happens to air as you scuba dive underwater.

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Results from the Sosua Bay Lionfish Hunt, March 4, 2012

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What an incredible day for diving as the sun shone all day, the ocean remained calm and visibility reached 100ft!

With a total of 3 teams competing (Diwa – Rayo; Superior; Northern Coast), a total of 3300RD (84USD) was raised and distributed between the 2 teams who caught the MOST Lionfish and the BIGGEST Lionfish, a grand total of 100 Lionfish were caught and the biggest being 16 inches (412mm).  Everyone enjoyed a friendly competition and a delicious Lionfish dinner courtesy of Carlos at Coco’s bar in Sosua Bay parking area  (Sosua Bay Lionfish Hunt Poster).

MOST Lionfish caught:
Superior Dive – Wendy, Paul, Alberto, and Mia
75 Lionfish caught (Paul catching the most at one time – 18 on a two tank dive)
Biggest – 16 inches (406mm)
Dive Sites – Between Charamicos beach – Pyramids – 5 Rocks and Coral Garden wall

BIGGEST Lionfish caught:
Northern Coast – Jan, Keith, Claude, Jukka
22 Lionfish caught
Biggest – 16.25 inches (412mm)
Dive Sites – Pyramids – Farthest end of Airport Wall (where biggest was found and caught by Keith)

Special mention to:
Team Rayo (Diwa) – ChiChi and Jorge
3 Lionfish caught
BEST Team spirit!!!!

The raffle prize winners included:
500RD @ Jolly Rogers – Domingo
100RD @ Donovan’s – Chuck and Jan
Northern Coast caps – Carlos and Wendy
Northern Coast t-shirts – Amelio, Francisco (Chinwin), Keith, and Geoff
Superior Dive t-shirts – Robinson, Arturo, and Tomas
THANK-YOU SO MUCH TO our Sponsors!!!

I want to say a very special thank-you to everyone who contributed and participated including our beloved capitans – Domingo, Amelio, and Tomas and for ALL the help in filleting all 100 Lionfish (25lbs of meat!) by Paul, Caquito, and Arturo!  We couldn’t have done it without you!

A very inspiring day, indeed, as we worked together to address the problem of the over-populating Lionfish in this region.  Click here for more information and research regarding the problem.

We look forward to our next collaboration and contribution, which will be an underwater beach clean-up!

first-scoring-sosua-bay-lionfish-hunt-dominican republic

First Scoring of the Sosua Bay Lionfish Hunt - 52 Lionfish!

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