"Scuba Diving is an Equipment Intensive Sport", SSI
Intro Diving Course
Ultimate Dream Scuba Accessory: Zodiac
No, I do not have this boat, but I want it!
My Gear Inventory
Exposure Suit, Fins, and BC
- White's Dry Suit
- Andy's Undies
- Scubapro 0.5mm Microprene Skin
- SeaQuest Balance BC
- Apollo Bio Fins
- Prescription Mask
- Scubapro Aluminum Regulator w/ SeaCure mouthpiece
- Scubapro Octopus
- Ocean Reef Full Face Mask w/ Voice Communicator
- Suunto Cobra Nitrox Dive Computer: Air Integrated
- Suunto Vyper Nitrox Dive Computer: Wrist
- Uwatec Electronic Compass
- Uwatec Neverlost Homing System
What you have to have...
If I wanted to boil all
of this stuff down to just a few things I'd have to have were I to start
over, I would invest as follows:
- Air Integrated
Let me just say a few
words about each.
Integrated Dive Computer
First, I just wouldn't
dive without a computer. They add so much flexibility and safety
to the business that it just isn't worth thinking about for me
not to have one. In fact, I like them so much, I dive with two.
More on that in a second. After I get done diving for the day,
I like to log my dives and go through the tables for each dive.
I find in almost every case that I'm off the tables or very marginal
by the second dive. Three dive days are just impossible. I want
to emphasize that I am not an aggressive diver at all. It's just
that the tables have to make worst case assumptions. They don't
know how long you were at each depth so they assume your entire
time underwater was spent at the deepest depth. This just isn't
a helpful assumption. Many dive operators either require a computer,
or make table divers come up sooner than everyone else. So, I
guess this makes the computer my favorite gadget. Surprise! I'm
a computer guy.
Why do I dive with
two computers? You must be wondering. It's simple. I have an air
integrated in my console. If I had to live with a single computer,
this would be it. There is just no comparison. Being able to see
how much air you have left expressed in minutes rather than pounds
is hugely useful and much better than trying to do the math in
your head while narked. It is also useful for helping you to improve
your air consumption. You can actually see when you are doing
something that makes you burn a lot of air. It makes you more
aware of what things burn air and what things don't, and makes
it easier to pace yourself in a dive.
Back to the question,
"Why two computers?" The reason is that I like to wear
a wrist computer on the right arm. This way I can hold my BC inflator
in the left hand and conveniently watch the computer on the right
wrist while ascending. This is really convenient. It's also nice
to know that when I'm on an expensive dive vacation I have a backup
if one of the computers dies. Now I have to admit, I didn't set
out to own two computers. I thought I had lost the wrist computer
and was very disappointed. After I bought the console, I was lucky
enough to have it turn up again.
Be aware that all
computers are not equal. Play with the various choices in the
store. Many are very counter-intuitive to operate. There are also
many degrees of conservatism in the models they use and no "right"
answer. I've owned two generations of the Suunto wrist computers--an
older Solution Nitrox and the latest Vyper. The Vyper gave 15
minutes less bottom time than the Solution. Suunto's in general
are very conservative. Dive magazines will tell you where a computer
rates on the conservative/aggressive scale. You decide where you
want to be on that scale. With my Suunto, I simply find myself
making a decompression stop sometimes while others cheerfully
ignore it. Doesn't bother me, I want to be very conservative and
safe. Getting bent is not my idea of a good time!
Weight belts stink.
There's just no two ways about it. Having an integrated BC, especially
for a big guy like me, is just so much easier it hardly compares.
I highly recommend you get a BC with integrated weights. My one
mistake was in not getting one with good pockets. Later models
have remedied this situation, but my BC works well so I haven't
replaced it. I confess I am not really fond of the fancy "tech"
BC's. Some of them look downright cumbersome to me. Get the pockets,
go for a few extra d-rings to hang a light or camera on, and get
the integrated weights. BTW, in reading magazine reviews, I discovered
most reviewers like the old-style corrugated inflators better
than the new fangled streamlined guys, so I specified that style.
One other comment--I'm
not a believer in making your inflator your alternate air source.
Some divers like this because it cleans up their rig, but you
have to remember that this is not all that common. In an emergency,
do you really want to confusion of a non-standard rig? If nothing
else, it's gonna force whoever wants to share air to go for your
main regulator. No thank you! I want a standard octopus for alternate
air. It's more flexible, and I can swap it out to a pony bottle
if I want to play those games.
isn't all that bad, and the magnifying effect of the water makes
it even less of an issue. Also, I do most of my diving in Monterrey,
where visibility of 30 feet is excellent. Nevertheless, I really
enjoy my prescription mask. Its critical to enjoying the huge vistas
made possible by good warm water viz, and it also makes everything
you do with your head out of the water that much more comfortable.
Having managed to get lost for a
bit on a night dive with respect to finding the boat, I can tell
you that extra visibility in clear air is also useful!
As I mentioned,
I do a lot of cold water diving in the Monterrey/Carmel area.
As far as I'm concerned, a dry suit is ESSENTIAL for this! Before
I had the dry suit, I wore a 6mm wet suit. I say the dry suit
is essential not because I found it too cold in the wet suit--I
was fine. It's because the wet suit is just so much more cumbersome.
That neoprene fights you every step of the way, whether we're
talking about putting it on, taking it off, overheating on the
boat, or moving in the water. The dry suit, by contrast, stays
cooler on the surface, is warmer in the water, and goes on and
off ten times more easily. You really have to feel sorry for the
folks in their wet suits, there just isn't any comparison. With
that said, I will readily admit that a good dry suit is an extremely
expensive piece of gear. Mine was custom made to my (ahem) dimensions.
As such, it traps very little extra air, so I actually needed
less weight with the dry suit than I had with a 6mm wet suit.
The other thing
is that it is so cool to zip out of that thing for the surface
interval and feel like James Bond--you really could wear a tux
under there and have it look great when you unzip! It's so nice
to be dry between and after the dives. I have also seen cases
where I was so warm due to the suit that I could forgo a hood
and/or gloves. We did this on a channel islands live aboard and
it was great. Such a feeling of freedom is unusual for coldwater
32% was standard fare in Grand Cayman at Fisheye...
off, Nitrox is not some super-exotic tech diving mix. It is simply
compressed air to which oxygen has been added. This accomplishes
three things. First, it makes a tank more expensive--average is
about $14 for a tank of Nitrox. That's a bad thing. The other
two are good things. By reducing nitrogen, you can either get
more bottom time, or dive with a safety margin. I usually leave
my computer set for normal air (21% oxygen) and take the safety
margin. Second, by reducing your nitrogen intake, you are less
tired after a dive. When I used to go diving on a vacation, my
wife used to be pissed because all I would want to do is take
a nap afterward. With nitrox, I can do two dives and be ready
for whatever she wants to do the rest of the afternoon. It also
helps when hauling heavy equipment around the beaches. Incidentally,
you also won't get narked as much, since there is less nitrogen.
However, read on. You actually can't dive as deep on Nitrox as
on air, so narking is less likely to start with.
thing it does not seem to do is reduce air consumption, interestingly.
This tells you that consumption can be hugely affected by things
other than the actual burning of oxygen. There is a downside to
Nitrox. You need to get certified to use it. Certification is
easy, and I recommend you do it immediately after your normal
scuba certification if possible. This is because you need to learn
some new dive tables. If you just got certified, dive tables will
be relatively fresh in your mind and it'll be super easy. If not,
some review may be in order. It's an easy afternoon or two course,
though. There is a physiological downside as well. Nitrox imposes
a lower limit on your diving. Guess what, you always had a lower
limit, you just assumed it was so deep you would never go there.
Because of a phenomenon called oxygen toxicity, you can lose consciousness
without warning if you go too deep with Nitrox. Not to worry.
You will be adept at figuring out how deep that is and making
sure you stay out of harm's way. It isn't hard. With 32% I just
make sure I go no deeper than 100 feet.
These fins, or any
of the other split fins, are just awesome. The radically reduce
your air consumption. One magazine said they resulted in 40% less
air consumption. I'm here to tell you--they work!
They also make it
really easy to recognize which one is you, at least until they
become more common. Another great feature is they care very little
about form. If you want to bend your knees when you kick it's
no problem. One secret--if you want to go faster, you have to
kick more beats per minute rather than bigger sweeps or harder
lunges with the legs. Just increase the rate but keep a tight
stroke and you magically speed up.
can't go as fast with these fins as with others. I remember following
some guys who snorkelled out to a reef from a beach at night.
It was Hell keeping up. I don't know why they were in such a hurry,
but they were really going fast, and I finally just blew them
off and did my own thing. Based on this, I suspect they would
make it harder to fight a really stiff current. Since my policy
is never to do that anyway, I don't worry about it.
Why did I save this
for last? This is usually the first thing a new diver wants to
buy. I will admit, there is something uniquely personal about
the regulator. I bought ScubaPro's super top of line aluminum
reg set. Guess what? I wouldn't do it again. It's a fabulous reg,
but the extra cost for aluminum, titanium, or solid green unobtanium
isn't worth it. Whatever weight you save on this stuff gets put
right back into your weight belt anyway, so what did we gain?
Buy the next reg down--the best one not made out of exotic materials.
It'll have the same mechanism, will breath the same, but will
cost less. There is a noticeable difference in how easily regs
breath, by the way, and an easier reg is both more comfortable,
and in my experience means less air consumption.
As I mentioned,
I also opted for an octopus as my alternate air source. I've seen
folks dive without alternate air or folks that have the thingey
on their BC hose. No thank you. This is tried and true, its easy,
and it works.
I get this thing
serviced annually and I take real good care of it. This is your
life support system. I do not want a rental filling in for this
role unless all else fails.
One other key luxury
item. Get a SeaCure mouthpiece as pictured on the left. This is
a deal that molds to the exact shape of your mouth after you boil
it. The tabs extend much further back too, so you grip with your
molars as nature intended.
You will not find
a more comfortable mouthpiece. Your jaw will be less sore from
clenching, your mouth won't get cut, and you will just be soooo
happy. Do it.