Fun Friday Scuba Flicks – March 8

What do you think of this? We’d love for you to leave a comment — especially if your impressions change after watching the second video.

Tonic Immobility: A natural state of paralysis sharks enter when inverted. The shark can remain in this state for up to 15 minutes, with no apparent lasting or harmful effects. Researchers use tonic immobility in their work, here’s how:

Please comment, we look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Staying hydrated is important to the proper function of every cell, tissue and organ in a person’s body. Most of us have heard the 8×8 rule, the basic guideline of consuming eight 8oz-glasses of water per day.  But life is busy, and hours can easily slip by between sips of water. In most cases, the resulting mild case of dehydration is rectified after a glass or two of water, with no serious consequences. But for a scuba diver, even mild dehydration can become dangerous.

How does dehydration effect scuba divers?

Dehydration predisposes a diver to decompression sickness (DCS). To understand why this is true, it’s important to first know the basic effects of dehydration on the body: A lack of water in the body thickens the blood, compromising the circulatory system by diminishing its ability to transport nutrients. As the exchange of gasses like oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen diminishes, so does the body’s ability to off-gas nitrogen. So when a dehydrated person goes on a dive, his body is not efficiently ridding excess nitrogen accumulated at depth.  Even if he dives within his computer limits and even if he ascends slowly at the end of the dive, he could have more residual nitrogen in his blood and tissues than normal. And if he reaches the surface safely, the increased excess nitrogen could trigger DCS on repetitive dives later that day.

In addition, dehydration can induce muscle fatigue and cramping, high blood pressure, confusion, accelerated heart rate, and rapid breathing. In a scuba diver, these symptoms lead to weakness and exhaustion, poor air consumption, reduced awareness, and the increased risk of decompression sickness.

Can scuba diving actually aggravate dehydration?

There are many factors in a diving day that compound dehydration. The intense sun and tropical air of popular dive destinations feel hot, especially for vacationers coming from cooler locations. Sweating is the body’s attempt to regulate its core temperature. And we sweat profusely stuffed in a wetsuit, preparing for a dive on the deck of a boat where there is little shade or trudging with heavy gear on our backs across hot sand for a beach entry dive.

Salt water effects a dehydrated diver. After being immersed in sea water, we’re covered with salt crystals whose hygroscopic properties draw moisture out through the skin. Even the sea spray that blows on us as the boat hits waves going to and from the dive site adds to our contact with salt water.

Everyone loses body moisture when they exhale, but the amount of moisture lost increases when a diver breathes compressed air. Most all moisture has been filtered out of the air when it traveled through the compression system and into the scuba tank. On a dive, this virtually humidity-free air draws moisture from a diver’s body during respiration.

Even a dehydrated diver feels the need to “go” during a dive, due to a phenomenon called Immersion Diuresis. Basically, water temperature and pressure during a dive cause the body to direct blood away from the arms and legs and toward the trunk, in an attempt to maintain core body temperature. This increase in blood levels around the major organs is detected by the kidneys and misinterpreted as excess fluid. Urine production increases in an attempt to flush the body of these excess fluids.

How to Stay Hydrated While Scuba Diving

  • Drink ample amounts of water in the days leading up to the dive. Bring a water bottle with you to hydrate before and after the dive, and during surface intervals. You can also eat fruits during surface intervals to replace lost fluids. 
  • Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as these diuretics flush water from the body.
  • Rinse skin and hair with fresh water as soon as possible following a dive.
  • Apply sunscreen after a dive and every two hours during sun exposure. (The body pulls moisture from other parts of the body to soothe sun-burned skin.)
  • Stay in the shade, if possible.
  • Put on your wetsuit at the last minute, when you’re ready to get into the water.
  • Avoid seasickness if you’re susceptible by having medication on hand.
  • Don’t dive hung-over.

Hydrating your body is always important. But a scuba diver must avoid dehydration because the risk of decompression sickness increases when the level of body moisture decreases. Be a safe diver — drink lots of water! 


Trust Your Instincts

Athens GA Dolphin

Tim asked me to read an article in the Diver Alert Network (DAN) magazine Alert Diver, called “Trust Your Instincts.” We agree that the information in that article is important for all divers to hear.

Nicole Baker wrote the article to deliver two messages: 1) Diver instincts and training  are essential in determining whether a diver suffers from decompression sickness; and 2) DAN insurance is instrumental during the treatment process for decompression sickness.

To recap the article, Nicole and boyfriend Ben had dived the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg in Key West. They’d done two dives, both to about 90 feet. Neither diver had exceeded his or her computer limits. Both divers had dived the identical dive profile, and both divers had included an extra half-depth safety stop. After the dives, Nicole noticed a large, purple honeycomb-looking rash on Ben’s chest and stomach. Remembering the signs and symptoms of decompression sickness (DCS) from her training, she voiced concern that Ben may be suffering from DCS and urged him to call the DAN Medical Information Line to get an expert’s opinion. Ben brushed it off. After all, he hadn’t pushed his limits. He chalked the bruises up as chafing from his new weight belt. But later he admitted to seeing stars and being unable to read printed papers or road signs. By the time they headed to the Emergency Room, several hours had passed.

Despite the hospital’s close proximity to popular dive sites, members of the medical team that initially attended to Ben were not trained in dive medicine. In fact, Ben received fluids and neurological exams before being administered oxygen. Readers who have taken DAN’s Oxygen-Provider Course know that the first thing you do when you suspect a dive-related injury is to put the diver on oxygen.

In the end, Ben was transported by ambulance 72 miles to the nearest hyperbaric chamber where he spent three hours compressed to 60 feet and another three hours at 30 feet. He made a full recovery.

Nicole goes on to explain that the couple received a mound of bills in the months following the accident, but all she had to do was scan each one and email it to DAN. She’s grateful they’d been insured. She says, “I had never had a positive experience with a health insurance company before; it was so nice to feel like an insurance company was actually on our side. There were no deductibles, and there was no fine print saying, “Well, actually, now that you mention it, we don’t cover this or that…,” and the caring nature of all the staff members with whom we spoke will ensure that we both renew our DAN memberships for the rest of our diving careers.”

What can we take away from Nicole and Ben’s story? Computers are excellent tools for planning and executing safe dives, but they are only tools. Decompression sickness has been known to happen to divers who dived within safe limits. Knowing the signs and symptoms of DCS is critical. And it’s important to trust your instincts. When you suspect something is wrong during or after a dive, don’t delay; investigate in that moment. And when an accident does occur, it’s wonderful to have the assurance that your DAN membership will be there to support you through the process.

If you’d like to read Nicole Baker’s article in its entirety, click HERE.

For information on DAN Memberships and Benefits, click HERE.

Do you have a story about DCS or DAN? Share it with us in the comments!

Are You an Underwater Tortoise or Hare?

Recreational scuba diving is a sport, and everyone can participate in it, whether male or female, young or old, stout or svelte. Though it’s true that a healthy level of physical fitness is ideal, you can dive regardless of where you fall on the health spectrum. What’s often misunderstood among new divers is how fast a diver needs to go in this water sport.

Speed is important in most water sports: Swimmers race against each other and against the clock; water skiers and wake boarders want the boat going fast for better control; and jet skiers get their adrenalin rush from screaming atop the waves. So it’s easy to understand why speed and scuba would be naturally associated.

In fact, scuba divers are safer and enjoy the dive more when they go slow. The reasons to take your time and go slow are numerous:

  • When preparing the dive, going slow and deliberate will reduce the risk of missing steps in gear preparation or dive planning.
  • Entering the water when you are calm and not rushed means you won’t breathe heavily at the onset of the dive.
  • Descending slowly allows effective ears and sinus cavities equalization.
  • Gentle fin flicks that allow you to glide along, as opposed to actively swimming, let’s you breathe slowly and deeply, conserving your air supply and extending your dive time.
  • A slow dive allows you to spot marine life hidden in the reef or along the bottom that you would simply miss if you were swimming quickly past.
  • If a situation arises with you or your buddy, stop. Breathe. Think. And then act. As with anything else underwater, taking your time will keep you in control of your emotions and more able to correct the situation.

Scuba diving is a relaxing sport. Take your time and enjoy every moment. When you do, you’ll be a safe and comfortable diver, and that’s the goal!


Fun Friday Scuba Flicks 2/8/13

In this short 3-minute film by award winning cinematographer Rick Morris, Dr. Sylvia Earle shares her perspective of the state of the world’s oceans. I am especially struck when Dr. Earle says this: “I’m haunted by the vision of those in the future who will look back on those of us who are here, to the beginning of the twentieth century, asking, ‘Why didn’t you do something while there was still time?'” Stunning underwater images punctuate her important message. Enjoy!

The View From My Mask from Rick Morris on Vimeo

Thanks for watching! Have a fantastic weekend and happy diving!

Attack Underwater Panic

I learned in my Open Water Diver certification class that a common reaction to anxiety or fear is a rapid, shallow breathing pattern, which leads to an out-of-breath feeling. I remember we were told to be aware of this symptom and if it occurred, to slow our breathing down and focus on the exhales to return to regular breathing. Good thing we covered that, because it happened to me. And it was terrifying.

It happened during my first open water checkout dive. I was already anxious, as my husband and I had opted to do our checkout dives while on vacation in Florida instead of with our Dolphin Dive instructors. I’ve always regretted that decision. However, DDC referred us to Mike Gomez with the Panama City Dive Center, and we couldn’t have been in better hands. Mike is such a great guy: funny, competent, full of personality and an instructor of the highest caliber.

We headed out with Mike on a dive boat with about 25 other divers. Everyone seemed experienced and excited to get in the water, unlike me who worried about being seasick, worried about how I’d gear up shoulder-to-shoulder with all those divers, worried about diving in sea water, worried, worried, worried.

The boat operator announced we were stopping in the shallows to allow the four divers working on certification, including my husband and I, to drop down with our instructors and demonstrate our skills. It was intimidating to feel like everyone was looking at us as we waddled to the stern. Trying to appear cool and relaxed, I casually looked over the side of the boat. That’s when I saw the jellyfish.

They were rusty orange in color. And they were everywhere.

I’d been stung by a jellyfish the summer before. I was not happy about doing a giant stride entry into jellyfish infested water. Did I mention I was not wearing a wetsuit?

I hit the water and bobbed up to the surface without a sting, but now my head was on a swivel, searching my immediate environment for the jellies. At the same time, I fumbled with my BC deflater, clenched the descent line, and attempted to clear my ears. I didn’t have enough hands. With so much to concentrate on, my off-the-charts anxiety went unnoticed and unchecked. Until I reached the bottom.

Kneeling on the sandy bottom under 25 feet of the Gulf of Mexico, the instructor indicated the first skill and pointed to me. I felt winded from the scary descent through the jellies, so I sucked air in quick, shallow breaths to catch my breath. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get a lung full of air. Two more rapid breaths, and I felt like I was suffocating. I wasn’t getting any air. None. I panicked.

The instructor had his eye on me. He gave me the “Okay?” sign, and I shook my head frantically. I thrust my thumb up, emphatic. I needed to surface, like now.

The instructor wagged his finger at me. No. He flattened his hand, pushing it palm down in a deliberate motion. Calm down. Then he turned his attention away from me and continued with skills with my husband.

In that moment, the coursework came back to me. Severe anxiety can trigger hyperventilation. A little voice whispered, That’s happening to me! The training kicked in: Slow your breathing down and focus on the exhales to return to regular breathing. Within 30 seconds, I was back in control of my respiration, breathing as comfortably as I do on the surface. I gave the “Okay” sign to the instructor and completed all my skills.

Diver stress can happen to anyone, but new divers are especially susceptible. Remember your training whenever a stressful situation arises; it will get you through. And a comfortable, confident diver is one who dives often and who continues his or her diver education by taking specialty courses in a wide variety of subjects. The more you learn, the more equipped you become to handle any situation, any time.

And hey, if you’re ever in Panama City Beach, FL, be sure to stop by Panama City Dive Center and say hello to Mike Gomez!

Goings On

It’s been a busy week at Dolphin Dive Center! I apologize for not getting our regular Tuesday blog posted; we’ve been hard at work to bring some exciting new programs to DDC. (More on that below!) In a nutshell, here’s what’s been going on:

Tim and his fellow dive trippers returned from their epic vacation in the Maldives. They seized life on the liveaboard Carpe Vita, and during their ten day stay they dove with 16-foot wingspan manta rays, swarms of 50+ sharks, whale sharks, and dense schools of fish.  We have Tim’s photos posted on our site (click here to view) and we look forward to posting other divers’ shots soon.

DDC instructor Jeremy Reaves is gearing up for the Open Water Diver certification class this weekend. He will instruct 5 students, who will be joined by a few divers participating in the Scuba Skills Refresher course. If you missed the deadline this month, remember that Dolphin Dive Center teaches the Open Water Diver class every first weekend of the month. Be sure to enroll at least a week in advance, giving yourself time to attend the short orientation session and complete the necessary course preparation work.

Now for some exciting new developments:

As many of you know, DDC’s Dive Club has entered its second year, and our membership remains strong and enthusiastic. This year we’re amping things up by developing programs to give our organization more structure and direction. Some events in the works are:

  • A Discover Scuba program with the Boys and Girls Club of Athens, introducing the joys of scuba diving to their middle schoolers while embracing the B&GC mission to inspire and enable those young people to realize their full potential as responsible, caring and productive citizens.
  • A Teach a Vet to Dive program with area veterans organizations that will bring a renewed sense of independence and adventure to our nation’s heroic warriors.
  • Collaboration with the dive club from the Aquatic Explorers Society in Lawrenceville, including environmental dive trips, dive trips to area lakes, joint lake clean-up ventures, and an Ultimate Dive Challenge.

And that’s just a glimpse at a long list of ideas we’ve generated for our community of divers. If you are interested in joining DDC Dive Club and getting in on the fun, call or stop by anytime!

Thanks for reading, and have a great Super Bowl weekend!

Fun Friday Scuba Flicks – Jan. 25, 2013

Hey divers, it’s Friday! We at Dolphin Dive Center hope it’s been a wonderful and productive week for you. Was this the week you planned your next dives? If so, let us know in the comments where you’re going! In the meantime, here are a couple scuba videos to enjoy!

This first video has made its way around the scuba community inter-webs this week. It’s  amazing footage of a night dive when a dolphin in trouble appears to “ask” divers for help:

As many of you know, we have a group of Dolphin Divers vacationing right now in the Maldives. Personally, I can’t wait until they get back to hear their stories, see their photos and watch their videos. (Our Dive Club February 5th meeting will feature them!) In anticipation of the envy that will ensue, here’s a  taste of what they are enjoying:

And lastly, prepare to be mesmerized! After watching this, Fiji jumped up my dive location wish list. The very last images are a lot of fun, too!

Thanks for watching! Have a fantastic weekend and happy diving!

Helpful Tips for New Scuba Students

Dolphin Dive Athens GA
Open Water classroom session at Dolphin Dive Sept. 2012

The decision to become a certified scuba diver is made for different reasons, and whether someone is seeking adventure or pursuing a new career path or just ready to check that item off their Bucket List,  the range of emotions that accompany the commitment is as varied as the people drawn to the sport. My favorite aspect of scuba is how “in the moment” I feel when I’m diving. There are few activities in life when you aren’t thinking about what you’ll do later that day, or what you wish you’d said to someone earlier. Scuba diving demands all your attention, and you happily oblige.

That said, there is a degree of anxiety that accompanies even the most excited new student. Human beings aren’t designed to breath underwater. And nearly everyone who imagines visiting the ocean floor thinks, at least once, “But…what about the sharks…?” Here are some tips that will help new students get the most out of their scuba instruction and ease anxiety, along the way.

In the Classroom:

1. Come to class prepared. As you’ll learn when you visit Dolphin Dive Center and sign up for our Open Water Diver certification class, you will need to read the course book and answer the questions at the end of each section before you attend the two classroom sessions. This is important because understanding the science of scuba diving is paramount to becoming a safe diver, and the repetition of new concepts is a proven technique for maximum retention.

2. Listen to your instructor. For many new scuba students, it has been a while since they were in school. We all bring a wealth of life experiences to the classroom. However, the instructor will be the most experienced scuba diver in the room, so listen to him or her. Refrain from talking over him or her, or from interjecting your own thoughts and opinions. We encourage students to ask questions. But students who talk more than listen can impact the learning experience of the other students in the room.

3. Be on time. Running late stresses you out, and holding up class for late students stresses out everyone else in the classroom. Stess feeds anxiety, so give yourself plenty of time to arrive relaxed to class or the pool.

In the Water:

1. Don’t feel rushed. There is no reason to rush while you’re putting your gear together, performing your first buddy check, or descending in the water. Scuba diving involves a slew of important details to remember. You’ll learn specific steps to follow so that no important detail is left unchecked, and we know learning those steps takes practice. That’s what your OW training is all about. So don’t feel like we expect you to perform everything quickly and expertly. Take your time, and feel free to repeat steps until you feel comfortable.

2. Ask questions. There are no stupid questions, and as you try out the scuba equipment and experience breathing underwater, you will likely wonder how to put in practice what you’ve learned in the classroom. The instructors and divemasters are there to answer those questions, so ask away!

3. Practice hand signals. When you’re in the pool as a scuba student, it may feel unnatural and, well, a little dorky to use hand signals. We understand; we’ve all been there. But the minute you dive in open water you will realize the importance of communicating with your dive buddy underwater. Hand signals seem obvious when you’re skimming the list on paper. It’s another thing to actually use them. A perfect example is the sign for “I’m okay.” The natural sign for non-divers is the famous “thumbs-up.” But if you signal a thumbs-up to a diver, he or she will think you want or need to go to the surface.

Dolphin Dive Athens GA
This is the signal for "I'm okay."

Scuba diving is a new experience, and students can get the most out of their Open Water instruction when they come prepared, listen, and learn. We look forward to teaching you! For all the information you need to get started, call Dolphin Dive Center at (706) 548-3483.