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Counter intuitive nature of courses and safety

D

DiveHacker

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Jun 17, 2020
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I feel like stirring the pot a little today I suppose, but this is genuinely a topic that interests me.

First, not everyone can afford a course. Also, there are people in parts of the world who can watch videos on ten dollar phones, but will have zero access to an actual course. So it’s not even an issue of affordability.

Let‘s be brutally honest for once. Aren’t you necessarily saying with a paid course that you are purposefully withholding potentially life saving information from the general public? Look, please, I am not trying to stop anyone from making a buck, but I do think there are some important ethics questions here. How on earth can life saving information NOT be available to the general public? Also consider that the people who run the courses themselves could in fact be in a situation one day where they need a stranger to be well trained, if you get my drift.

It is a complicated question I think with obvious liabilities, but I would guess a lot of the ”answers” are going to be down the “you need the personalized training” lane, but I really do think that most of it is rationalizing. I think broader access to very good diving and safety knowledge would only be a good thing for freediving, and people who want to dip their toe in slowly could opt for personalized training.
 
7BDiver

7BDiver

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Sep 5, 2019
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I get your point, but I think all the important safety information that beginners must know is readily available and paid courses are not withholding anything. The benefit of a course is to have the professional oversight on ones development, this is where instructor experience is going to be worth the expense. When it comes to higher level courses the risks become greater and the expertise more valuable. I have been diving for at least two years and still feel there will be a lot to gain from a level one course which I will be taking in June. It took me a year to gain a good DNF form in the pool with no instruction, perhaps a course would have gone a long ways. I still find it hilarious to see newbies that look like a wounded animal underwater on the internet but humbling when they pass my capabilities up months later looking like a torpedo doing 100m laps.
 
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annc

annc

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Apr 11, 2022
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I feel like stirring the pot a little today I suppose, but this is genuinely a topic that interests me.

First, not everyone can afford a course. Also, there are people in parts of the world who can watch videos on ten dollar phones, but will have zero access to an actual course. So it’s not even an issue of affordability.

Let‘s be brutally honest for once. Aren’t you necessarily saying with a paid course that you are purposefully withholding potentially life saving information from the general public? Look, please, I am not trying to stop anyone from making a buck, but I do think there are some important ethics questions here. How on earth can life saving information NOT be available to the general public? Also consider that the people who run the courses themselves could in fact be in a situation one day where they need a stranger to be well trained, if you get my drift.

It is a complicated question I think with obvious liabilities, but I would guess a lot of the ”answers” are going to be down the “you need the personalized training” lane, but I really do think that most of it is rationalizing. I think broader access to very good diving and safety knowledge would only be a good thing for freediving, and people who want to dip their toe in slowly could opt for personalized training.
I'm a newbie and honestly, there is heaps and heaps of safety info available via youtube to anyone interested. I can't get through them all there are so many.

IMO a big problem is lack of interest in self education that might stifle your dive. Most of the freedivers in my area are spearos and may think they know their body, have been doing it for ages this way, and/or are sometimes willing to push it for that PB fish, blah, blah blah, a million reasons they don't really need training. Although spearing is officially a "team" activity it's often awkward for the owner of the boat or person paired with to stand their ground when a diver is acting in an unsafe way or not using one up, one down and with the advent of FB connecting people it's becoming more common for spearfishing hookups with strangers.

There are lots and lots of female spearos in my area but I believe this issue is more of a testosterone thing.

I guess what I'm saying is I think some divers don't want to know.
 
Bill McIntyre

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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This is timely for me since I just stirred up a hornet's nest at a local dive club meeting where I was a guess speaker. My subject was not safety, but how to act on a boat so that you'll get invited back again. After I finished, a club member stood up and told a story of a blackout and rescue. He was with a group spearfishing in Mexico. One of the guys who had taken a bunch of freedive courses followed a fish to 146 feet, then blacked out at 25 feet on the way up. Luckily his buddy saw him expel air and start to sink, and was able to rescue him. He credited his training with knowing what to do in that situation, and I'm sure he was right. I commented that the guy who blocked out was very fortunate to have someone nearby who was capable of rescuing him, but that it was too bad he wasn't wearing a Freedive Recovery Vest. If he had worn a vest and programmed it for something like 80 feet, it would have inflated and brought him up so that he would not have blacked out and needed a rescue. An FII instructor stood up and said that FII didn't approve of vests since divers might think they were a substitute for taking a course and observing a good buddy system. And then I replied that having taken courses didn't prevent this blackout victim for losing track of his depth while chasing a fish, and that just maybe FII didn't like vests because they might not sell as many courses if everyone wore one. As you might imagine, that comment went over like a fart in church.

I'm 83 and started diving at age 13, and they didn't have courses then. I'm probably lucky I survived. I'm all for divers taking courses, but I'm also for adding an extra layer of protection by wearing a vest. I always wear one.
 
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erixsparhawk

erixsparhawk

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Apr 17, 2021
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What I want most in a dive partner is assurance that they know how and can execute the duties of safety as necessary. For the most part that box is checked for anyone that has taken a course. Although, I've met a few people that have taken a course and watching them dive I wouldn't trust them as my safety. I'm perfectly OK with someone that hasn't taken a course being my saftely if I can see they can perform the skills necessary and or teach them the basics myself. On the other hand I don't particularly have the free time or inclination to spend one or more of my very precious and rare dive sessions teaching the basics. This is especially true if said person is isn't already a comfortable in the water, a decent swimmer, etc. On the other hand if it is someone that has been spearing on their own for years, it isn't that big of a deal to spend 15-20 min teaching / checking and getting on the same page safety wise.
So in conclusion I think it is perfectly fine for people to learn as much as they can online, but they still need to prove themselves in some way before I want to dive with them.
 
Bill McIntyre

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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I don't think training organizations purposely withhold information. Sure, they want to make money and will tell you that courses are essential and Freedive Recovery Vests are not, but I think most information is available if someone wants to read. Simple example- when I started in the early 1950s no one had ever heard of shallow water blackout. We all hyperventilated and I thought it was perfectly normal to see stars and be dizzy when I surfaced. Its a wonder I survived. But now there are thousands of places where you can read that hyperventilation is dangerous and where there is advice on how to breath up. You can read about how a proper buddy system works with one up/one down. But forgive me for playing old fart, but a lot of young men and women just don't read. We didn't have TV until I was in the 9th grade so I did a lot of reading and got the habit. I participate in a FB group with a lot of young divers in Southern California and they must not read because they can't write. They can't form a grammatical sentence. And when someone does form one, apparently it strains their attention span if several sentences are strung together in a paragraph. They'll ask a question proving that they didn't read to the end. So while they could have read a lot of things they would hear in a course, its unlikely that they will have. And of course there are things that are best demonstrated like how to try to rescue a blackout victim, how to hold him on the surface, etc. Its probably better to learn to breath up with supervision rather than just reading about it too. So while at 83 I'm too old to take a course now, I do think they have value if you can afford it and if there is one available near you. If not, read.
 
annc

annc

Member
Apr 11, 2022
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I don't think training organizations purposely withhold information. Sure, they want to make money and will tell you that courses are essential and Freedive Recovery Vests are not, but I think most information is available if someone wants to read. Simple example- when I started in the early 1950s no one had ever heard of shallow water blackout. We all hyperventilated and I thought it was perfectly normal to see stars and be dizzy when I surfaced. Its a wonder I survived. But now there are thousands of places where you can read that hyperventilation is dangerous and where there is advice on how to breath up. You can read about how a proper buddy system works with one up/one down. But forgive me for playing old fart, but a lot of young men and women just don't read. We didn't have TV until I was in the 9th grade so I did a lot of reading and got the habit. I participate in a FB group with a lot of young divers in Southern California and they must not read because they can't write. They can't form a grammatical sentence. And when someone does form one, apparently it strains their attention span if several sentences are strung together in a paragraph. They'll ask a question proving that they didn't read to the end. So while they could have read a lot of things they would hear in a course, its unlikely that they will have. And of course there are things that are best demonstrated like how to try to rescue a blackout victim, how to hold him on the surface, etc. Its probably better to learn to breath up with supervision rather than just reading about it too. So while at 83 I'm too old to take a course now, I do think they have value if you can afford it and if there is one available near you. If not, read.
Agree, and some people just better at learning by visuals, that is what is so great about youtube.

When I did a safety workshop as homework she had us watch an actual rescue filmed in real time on youtube and there certainly are a lot of simulated rescues available. I've become a big fan of Gert Leroy and am currently working through some of his breathing exercises. I'm probably a lot more successful working through 15 minutes of box breathing with him than I would be doing it on my own.
 
C

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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Agree, and some people just better at learning by visuals, that is what is so great about youtube.

When I did a safety workshop as homework she had us watch an actual rescue filmed in real time on youtube and there certainly are a lot of simulated rescues available. I've become a big fan of Gert Leroy and am currently working through some of his breathing exercises. I'm probably a lot more successful working through 15 minutes of box breathing with him than I would be doing it on my own.
Agree, instructors don't withhold critical safety info and the internet is great. You can learn a lot, I have, but it is no substitute for a good course. There are some things that only a good instructor can teach. In my case, being hammered with safety, over and over, for days, finally convinced me that maybe I should adopt some of those safety ideas, like one up, one down. Damned if the next time out after my course I had to play rescue diver to a BO. Without that course, my buddy would be dead.

If you possibly can, take a course.
 
AZ_Atypical

AZ_Atypical

Active Member
Jun 13, 2015
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Good points made here. Here's my perspective that was already touched on. Simply putting safety information out, relies solely on the diver reading it and understanding it. I took the level 1 FII course 10 years ago. Had they simply emailed every student in that class a free PDF with all of the circulumn written out in perfect detail, most of them would continue to be very dangerous divers. Even if you said you'd give them 1 month to practice on their own. If they pass you give them $1000. They'd still bomb it.

Furthermore, that class happily was not a participation trophy purchase. The instructor only passed about half of the students because some students were disoriented or simply unable to perform in the scary open water portion. So I know if someone has a level 1 FII certification, that I can count on some minimal level of competence.

Bottom line is, there's actually a net loss in general community safety, when all of the information is free and available because, the diver will incorrectly interpret the free information, never take a class because they already know it supposedly, and make themselves and everyone around them less safe as a result.

There is no substitution to having a good instructor watch you do something in real life, and then tell you it's correct or needs work. With that confidence, a diver will be more effective in rescue situations.
 
C

cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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Another aspect of CaZenDivers point: Access to internet information has meant that large numbers of divers are diving deeper and longer than ever before, thereby greatly reducing their safety margin and resulting in many more BOs than in the past. For example, 60 years ago, when Bill and I started diving, maybe we had heard of black outs, but they were so rare that we just did not worry about them. I spent the next 40 plus years diving shallow, with, by todays standards, very short dive times, never had a problem and (with one exception who was doing something we all knew was stupid)never heard of anybody I knew having a BO. Add the internet, DB, and diving deeper and longer and in the last 15 or so years, I've played recovery diver for 2 BOs and a couple of more near misses, plus have several friends who have BOed while spearfishing.

Courses are not a total answer, but they are a lot better than the internet at instilling safety practices.
 
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Bill McIntyre

Bill McIntyre

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Well then I’ll play devils advocate. Courses train people to push their limits. The last event is trying to see how far down that line you can go and still come up. Sure, it’s under tight supervision but it’s telling you to push your limits. We read on the internet about how deep guys are going in the courses and think we must be able to do that too. We read about divers at the Blue Hole going to ungodly depths and think we should at least be able to do a fraction of that depth.

Then you graduate and they say “by the way, don’t push your limits.”

Isn’t that inconsistent?
 
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cdavis

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Well then I’ll play devils advocate. Courses train people to push their limits. The last event is trying to see how far down that line you can go and still come up. Sure, it’s under tight supervision but it’s telling you to push your limits. We read on the internet about how deep guys are going in the courses and think we must be able to do that too. We read about divers at the Blue Hole going to ungodly depths and think we should at least be able to do a fraction of that depth.

Then you graduate and they say “by the way, don’t push your limits.”

Isn’t that inconsistent?
Interesting point, Bill. Always nice to have somebody around who likes to be contrary, forces me to think. Can't speak to other courses, but I did not find my course to be inconsistent. I was already diving 100, but badly. I did not get significantly deeper, but the course taught me how to do it right. The focus of the course was safety and getting us to 100 ft, if we were comfortable with that. No push, just good instruction.

On your FII instructors comment: My course was far enough back that Martin Stepanik, founder of FII, was the assistant instructor (I was so ignorant that I did not know who he was). Besides being a fabulous instructor, I found him a bit closed minded (there is only one way to do it right.) From what I have heard of FII instructors, this attitude seems to have carried over.
 
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AZ_Atypical

AZ_Atypical

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Jun 13, 2015
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Interesting point, Bill. Always nice to have somebody around who likes to be contrary, forces me to think. Can't speak to other courses, but I did not find my course to be inconsistent. I was already diving 100, but badly. I did not get significantly deeper, but the course taught me how to do it right. The focus of the course was safety and getting us to 100 ft, if we were comfortable with that. No push, just good instruction.

On your FII instructors comment: My course was far enough back that Martin Stepanik, founder of FII, was the assistant instructor (I was so ignorant that I did not know who he was). Besides being a fabulous instructor, I found him a bit closed minded (there is only one way to do it right.) From what I have heard of FII instructors, this attitude seems to have carried over.

In the FII level 1 course I participated in, no diver was pushed. When 1 diver left the open water early to "help another diver in that wasn't feeling well" the instructor never said, "okay but you'll fail". The instructor understood that this was the easy exit from the scary situation for him and didn't want to corner him aka push him to do something he didn't want to do. He only informed the failed divers that they had failed after getting back on land. Furthermore, aside from being required to reach 15ft to verify that the diver was neutrally buoyant, no depth requirements were placed on any diver. Never did the instructor say "let's see how deep you can go". There was a rope in the water. Let's verify your understanding of the basic skills and then we can do whatever.

In a level 2 course(I've never taken one yet) I think some pushing would make sense. You're now aware of the sport you've chosen. The entire point of freediving is to dive. As the classes become advanced, it would be unfortunate if an instructor didn't help the studentfind new depths. We all honestly pay the money with the hopes of going deeper with good instruction.

Just like in an advanced motorcycle class, there's no better time to screw up, than with expert supervision. There are inherent risks you accept, that are mostly mitigated with proper safety in place.

I don't see how learning to properly dive deeper would make a diver less safe though. The diver that wants to push themselves, was going to either way. The instruction just reduces their risk by improving their knowledge and skills.
 
Bill McIntyre

Bill McIntyre

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On your FII instructors comment: My course was far enough back that Martin Stepanik, founder of FII, was the assistant instructor (I was so ignorant that I did not know who he was). Besides being a fabulous instructor, I found him a bit closed minded (there is only one way to do it right.) From what I have heard of FII instructors, this attitude seems to have carried over.
I guess I should remind those who may have forgotten that I've never taken a course. My impressions of what is taught in courses are the result of what people who have taken courses have told me. In one way that makes my impressions suspect. But on the other hand it might mean that some students are getting messages that might not have been intended. Some of my opinions are the result of conversations with instructors, in person and on line. Ive already told about that instructor at a meeting where I was a guest speaker saying that FII didn't recommend Freedive Recovery Vests because students might not take courses or might not observe the rules taught in courses. I'm enough of a cynic to suspect that Stepanek might be afraid it would cut into sales of courses. After all, he didn't go into this business just to promote safety. He saw a way to make a living promoting safety. That's fine. Henry Ford found a way to mass produce cars that people could afford to drive and people benefited, but Henry expected to make a profit and he did.

But your comment about closed minds rang a bell for me. It made me recall a discussion on line with a couple of FII instructors that made me realize that they didn't even understand some of the hard and fast rules they taught. It started with them saying that we had to be weighted to be neutral at 33 feet. They were adamant about it. I replied that this made sense if I was diving to 100 feet, but I wasn't. The kelp beds where I do most of my hunting for white sea bass are only 45 to 55 feet deep, and I weight myself to be neutral at around 20 feet because that's what works for me. A lot of fish are at or near that depth, and I can see up and down from there, visibility permitting. The answer to that was that being weighted neutral at 20 feet would be unsafe because I wouldn't pass the surface buoyancy test. I think they had different name for it, so forgive me if got it wrong. But anyway, here is what they meant. If I'm neutral at 20 feet, I'm wearing more weight than I would to be neutral at 33 feet. Many blackouts occur after the diver surfaces and takes a breath. If you blackout, you relax and passively exhale. The key word here is passive. You don't forcibly exhale, you just relax. And according to these FII instructors, if I'm weighted for neutral at 20 feet, I'll sink after a passive exhale unless my buddy is right there to save me.

So I went diving the next day and tried it. I weighted for neutral at 20 feet, passively exhaled and floated just fine. Then just for the hell of it forcibly exhaled and still floated just fine. I reported this to these instructors and one of them said "no, its supposed to be a passive exhale." Apparently he didn't understand that if I floated after a forced exhalation, I damn sure was going to float after a passive exhalation. He was just repeating a rule he had been taught. And he's an instructor.

So then I asked why his rule didn't seem to apply to me. He didn't know but I'm not sure he believed me anyway. But I think I know. FII is a Florida company, only recently with a strong presence in California. In Florida, divers dive in trunks or wearing thin wetsuits. Without a lot of rubber to compress or expand with a change in depth, buoyancy doesn't change as much with a given change in depth. A Florida diver weighted neutral at 20 feet might well sink after a passive exhale at the surface. But when I'm neutral at 20 feet, my 5mm or 7 mm wet suit expands a lot between 20 feet and the surface, so I'm still positively buoyant on the surface after exhaling.

Am I right? If I am, these guys are teaching a hard and fast rule from FII and they don't even understand it. That doesn't fill me with confidence. Of course maybe these two guys are exceptions and all other FII instructors actually understand. I hope so.

Sorry for the excruciating details. I know that you guys engaged in this conversation could have gotten by with a lot less, but there could be brand new divers reading the conversation without contributing and I wanted to make it as clear as possible for them. Tell me if I didn't.
 
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ImmersionFD

ImmersionFD

Well-Known Member
Feb 3, 2011
80
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I feel like stirring the pot a little today I suppose, but this is genuinely a topic that interests me.

First, not everyone can afford a course. Also, there are people in parts of the world who can watch videos on ten dollar phones, but will have zero access to an actual course. So it’s not even an issue of affordability.

Let‘s be brutally honest for once. Aren’t you necessarily saying with a paid course that you are purposefully withholding potentially life saving information from the general public? Look, please, I am not trying to stop anyone from making a buck, but I do think there are some important ethics questions here. How on earth can life saving information NOT be available to the general public? Also consider that the people who run the courses themselves could in fact be in a situation one day where they need a stranger to be well trained, if you get my drift.

It is a complicated question I think with obvious liabilities, but I would guess a lot of the ”answers” are going to be down the “you need the personalized training” lane, but I really do think that most of it is rationalizing. I think broader access to very good diving and safety knowledge would only be a good thing for freediving, and people who want to dip their toe in slowly could opt for personalized training.
This is why I created www.FreedivingSafety.com
Years ago I won an award and a 2,000 check at the blue wild for promoting safety to spearfishermen.

I took that check purchased FreedivingSafety.com hired a web guy to build it, and hired 2 professional video guys to come to house to film the water work.

I never liked that the information on how to not kill yourself while freediving was hidden behind the paywall of a freediving class.

I created the website to provide a free course from a trusted an reliable source that any one can immediately access.

Of course it's not a substitute for a freediving course but it's free and anyone can access instantly.

It covers everything I teach in my freediving classes with regards to safety.

  • The truth about shallow water blackout.
  • How recognize signs and symptoms of a shallow water blackout
  • How to tell if you are wearing too much weight
  • What to do if you dive in bad vis
  • Why instructors want their students to remove their snorkels when underwater
  • Most importantly how to rescue someone from a blackout.


Anyone can access the course @ www.FreedivingSafety.com
 
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C

cdavis

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Bill, same thing makes me crazy, although it probably shouldn't, just human nature. Still, I run into many students who adamantly parrot a rule without understanding the vast variety of situations that can modify that rule. Too often, instructors are no different, which IMHO reflects far too little practical experience. They should not be instructors.


As an aside, Harty's(immersion Freediving) students don't seem to exhibit that tendency, although that might be because the ones I know have a lot of experience themselves.
 
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Bill McIntyre

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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Jan 27, 2005
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Bill, same thing makes me crazy, although it probably shouldn't, just human nature. Still, I run into many students who adamantly parrot a rule without understanding the vast variety of situations that can modify that rule. Too often, instructors are no different, which IMHO reflects far too little practical experience. They should not be instructors.


As an aside, Harty's(immersion Freediving) students don't seem to exhibit that tendency, although that might be because the ones I know have a lot of experience themselves.
I've never met Ted Harty or his students but I'm impressed with him. I've been in some on line discussions with him- stuff like why California divers can't use strict a one down-one up buddy system and keep track of each other in a kelp bed with poor vis. He didn't just quote me a rule, but was willing to discuss it and tell me why he thought it was still better than not trying at all, etc. If I ever took a course, Id like to take it with him. Unfortunately I think he recently moved to North Georgia and is only teaching on line now.
 
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