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There appears to be a growing interest in DIR on Yorkshire Divers at the moment, not always positive but an interest non the less so for those that are interested please enjoy the following reports on a GUE DIR Fundamentals course and a relatively new course called GUE RecTriox both of these reports are taken from a Californian DIR based website/dive club, a site I personally find very interesting with some fantastic underwater pictures, streaming videos, equipment configuration tips and great reports..

Paul's GUE Fundamentals Experience
By Paul Braunbehrens
1) Doubts
Most SCUBA instruction is easy to sign up for. All the people you deal with make it sound fun, and all are very friendly as well. You are pretty much made aware that once you pay your money, you'll have a pleasant experience at the end of which you'll have a nice new plastic card, which will allow you to dive, use nitrox, or whatever it is you signed up for.

With GUE training, it's a bit different. Quite a few of the people you meet online will be less than friendly, to put it mildly. One guy told me "you're an idiot, stay out of the water". I then found out that this was one of my instructors dive buddies. In addition to this, the class does not promise to be easy, and at the end you do not get a nice card.

The fact that the class wasn't going to be easy, was actually one of the main reasons I wanted to sign up. I'd had my share of classes that gave me a nice plastic card, and not much else. I wanted a class that would throw some stuff at me, and teach me how to deal with it. Not pat me on the back and say "well done", when in fact I've learned little or nothing.

The reason I had some doubts about taking the class, is that I'm not interested in getting humiliated and yelled at by some drill sgt. who thinks he's God's gift to diving. No thanks! I want to learn, I want to be made aware of my limitations so that I can improve my skills, but I don't think that it's necessary to resort to those kind of tactics in order to achieve the results I'm looking for.

In the end I signed up for the class because I figured that this was the only way I was going to get the kind of training I wanted. I figured it won't be delivered in a nice package, but what the heck! I wasn't taking this class to make friends, so I'd grit my teeth, take the abuse for 3 days and get as much out of the class as possible.

Some of my apprehensions were taken care of when I saw who had signed up. These are really nice guys! I figured that even if the instructor is a total jerk, it will be an ok weekend.

2) Jumping in

The class is to be one night of pool and lecture, one morning of lecture at Any Water, one afternoon of diving, and another full day of diving. I show up at the pool in San Jose, and meet up with Dan Shaar, the guy who put all this together. The instructor will be Andrew Georgitsis, who has a couple of shops up in Seattle. This is good, because he knows cold water and I'll be able to learn cold water techniques from him. He's also to course director for GUE, so he knows his stuff! He'll be assisted by Rick.

I meet Andrew a few moments later at the entrance to the pool. Rumor has it that he is in a foul mood, as he has some problems with his trailer and his boat. Well, that sure alleviates most of my concerns....

We begin with some lecture. Andrew has us introduce ourselves, and as each one of us talks a little about the kind of dive experience we have, Andrew uses this opportunity to teach us some GUE fundamentals. Looks like this isn't going to be like a root canal after all. Andrew seems very professional, and incredibly knowledgeable. I'm very glad to be here. There are five of us taking the class, and the range is amazing. There is a woman who is a novice diver, a guy who's been diving and teaching for 16 years, and then there is Dan who's been diving doubles and getting into Tech. Another guy has been diving for a while, but has had some bad experiences with deeper dives, and Andrew uses his experience throughout the course to make some salient points about narcosis, CO2 build up and the dangers of deep air. Then there's me, 10 years of diving or so, and using doubles for a little while and getting into more technical stuff.

After the lecture, we do some pool work. First we do the breath hold and swimming test outlined on the GUE web site http://www.gue.com . I'm surprised that it's on the honor system. Andrew demonstrates some techniques in the water. This guy can swim! He teaches us breath holding tricks, and he teaches us how to move under water. I'll give away a little here. The urge to breathe comes from CO2 build-up. In order to fool your body into thinking you are getting rid of some CO2, breathe out half the air in your lungs when the urge to breathe becomes too strong. Do it again with the other half, when you hit the wall the second time. On the movement side of the equation, Andrew tells us to move more slowly. Forget the distance, just concentrate on relaxing in the water. We do the underwater portion of the test again. Everybody improves their distance.

Time to do some exercises with gear on in the pool. I didn't think to bring booties, and it's almost impossible to wear my fins with bare feet. The water is much too warm for my compressed neo. drysuit. After a while, Rick gives me his booties. Much better!

Andrew teaches us how to stay horizontal in the water, how to kick, how to move backwards using a reverse frog kick, how to share air with the long hose, and how to remove and replace the mask. Think of it as an open water class on steroids. All the stuff you thought you new, only now you'll learn to do it right. We are left to our own devices to practice these skills, while Rick and Andrew swim around us and correct our mistakes. As I'm swimming around taking my mask off and putting it back on, Rick appears behind me, and switches masks with me. I'm having a blast.

3) Questions

I have some questions, but I'm still a bit hesitant to ask them. I've asked some of these online, but instead of getting an answer, I've been insulted. What the heck, I paid for this class, I might as well get the most out of it. I have a few bones to pick with the DIR system. Not that I don't think it's excellent, it's the only way to dive as far as I'm concerned, but there are a few minor things that bug me, that 1% where I just can't agree, and can't seem to get a reasonable discussion of why I should change what I'm doing. Specifically, I'm talking about using HP tanks, dive computers for recreational diving, and tank boots. I ask my questions, and I explain why I'm doing what I'm doing. Andrew listens, points out potential problems, and even agrees with me on some of this stuff. I'm blown away. Not only does this guy know his stuff, he's also friendly, approachable, reasonable, and open minded. Obviously his knowledge far exceeds mine, that's why I'm taking the class, but he's open enough to agree that some of this makes sense for this kind of diving. Not only that, but instead of just saying "only a stroke would do ABC", he points out the exact reasons why you should do what he recommends. Armed with this knowledge, you can make your own decision. Dive like a stroke, or do it right! (*just kidding*). Knowing what the problems are, you can decide where to spend your money, and when. You know what kind of diving your gear will support, and by staying within those limitations, you'll be safer.

This is exactly what had been missing from some of my discussions on the net. Reasonable, intelligent arguments, without a lot of hyperbole and name calling, so that you can make a decision for yourself. You get what you pay for!

4) Gear

Saturday Morning, Any Water Sports. Time to do some more lecture, and to configure our gear. I'm continually blown away by the amount of knowledge this guy has and is willing to share, and his ability to bring it down to the level where it can be easily understood. Just an example here, to give you a taste. This is from one of the most technical and difficult to understand sections. Usually Andrew doesn't get into this, but the more tech oriented among us pushed him in that direction. I'm referring to the oxygen window, or gradient. It's a pretty complicated theory, that explains why you should use 100% oxygen to decompress rather than something like 80% oxygen. Andrew makes it really simple. Imagine a milk truck. The truck holds 10 bottles of milk, full or empty. When you use 80%, the truck has to cart around 2 empty bottles to your house, and can only deliver 8 full bottles, and take away 8 empty ones. When you use 100%, each time the truck comes, you get 10 full bottles, and get rid of 10 empty ones. Obviously this is extremely simplified, but it gets the point across nicely.

After a few hours of lecture, we take a break and start working on our gear, with Andrews help. Throughout this process I'm reluctant to change things. More than once, I am thinking in the back of my mind that after this class is over I'll just put it back the way I like it. In retrospect this is downright funny. Andrew makes me change the length of some of the hoses, basically telling me to use hoses so short that I'm convinced I won't be able to function under water. No problem, I still have the old ones, I'll change them back later...yeah right!

Andrew also shows me a new way to rig up my Argon bottle. I really like this! I will try to take some pictures and put them on a web site soon, but for now, here's how it's done. A small piece of webbing is made into a loop, and bolted to the side of the backplate. It's juts big enough so that the Argon bottle can slide into it, valve down. At the bottom of the backplate, a piece of shock cord is slipped around the tank valve.

5) Monterey

Eat, drive, meet at the Breakwater. More gear configuration. Andrew helps us adjust our harness. Crotch strap looser than I thought, shoulders tighter. I'll change it back later, this feels way too tight. Now it's time to learn one more thing about using a dry suit. Andrew makes it clear that what provides insulation in a suit is not a bunch of gas in the suit, but a proper undergarment. The right way to dive dry, is to dive with as little gas as possible in the suit. Andrew makes us get in the water with just the suit on, letting all the air out of suit using hydrostatic pressure (the pressure of the water). We get out of the water.

Man this is tight! Andrew explains that this it the baseline, this is how the suit should feel. Down to 30 fsw or so, we do not need to add any air to the suit. Since that's how deep we'll be diving, he instructs us to leave the inflator disconnected! We get back up to the breakwater, to gear up, keeping all valves and zippers closed so the suit stays snug....and snug it is! I gear up, putting on my doubles, my 16 pound weight belt, grab my fins, and get ready to suffer across the sand until the water takes that load off my back. We swim out, and we start doing some exercises in the water.

Andrew tells us that we should be able to operate all our valves, be it on a single tank or on a double tank. We practice this, as well as staying horizontal in the water at all times, and we do some drills involving removal of the mask and air sharing. Andrew and Rick point out some problems, if we haven't spotted them already. I'm teamed up with Dan Shaar, since we have a similar setup. We are trained to keep an eye on our buddy. Team awareness is paramount.

I'm having a great time. Andrew comes down hard on me a couple of times, but I can take it. He's right on with his comments, and instead of making me feel bad, it makes me correct my mistakes. I feel like every minute I'm spending here I'm learning something. We exit the water, talk some more, dive some more. It's hard to separate what I've learned on which dive. I suddenly realize that I'm having no problem with the shorter hoses, that the harness fits perfectly, and that the suit compression isn't bothering me on all but the deepest parts of the dive. I also realize that all these changes have made diving that much easier. Less air in the suit means less buoyancy shift as you move through the water column.

We get back out there, and this time Andrew will help us adjust our weight. I've been diving for over 10 years, and I've actually done this quite a few times. Andrew will probably take a couple of pounds off me, but I'll have a hard time staying down, so I'll put them back later. Ok, let's go waste some time. We go out to the float, get to the bottom, and hover near the bottom, horizontal. Andrew comes over to me and has me empty my BC completely. I'm in 20 fsw, and this is standard procedure. You empty all the air, then you take one pound off at a time, until you start to ascend a little. I'm wondering how he's going to take off 1 pound off my belt.

Andrew reaches for my belt, and opens the buckle. He yanks it off me completely. And I'm thinking "good thing I'm only in 20 fsw, because it's going to be like the song...elevator goooooing up!". Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I'm still stuck on the bottom. In fact, I have to put a bit of air in my BC just to get off the bottom. I can't believe it. 16 pounds off my back, just like that. And I thought I knew what I was doing. ####! It sure feels nice to dive without that anchor around my body. That alone was worth the price of the class!

I'm heading back to the car, to take my gear off, and I'm tempted to just throw that belt in the trash! What a day! I find the motel, and we all meet up for some good Thai food. We learn more while we eat dinner, and we spend some nice time socializing.

6) Last day

We mess with our gear some more at the breakwater, and do some more diving. Andrew has us practice more skills, and we are getting better at it. Two days is not enough time to master any of this, but that isn't the point of the class. The point of the class is to teach us how to do it, and show us what we are doing wrong. The practicing will have to be done on our own time. We learn to deal with problems, out of air, mask problems, etc. After the exercises Andrew points out what we did wrong and tells us how to improve our skills.

As we progress Andrew is throwing more and more stuff at us. For the last dive, Andrew, tells Dan and I to swim out to the float, drop to the bottom, do our valve drills and start a fun dive. He'll be along at some point and will simulate problems for us to deal with. Dan and I head to the float, and I see Andrew still talking to people on the breakwater, his suit hanging around his waist. The visibility is about 10 ft, and I'm thinking that if we drop down, Andrew will never find us. We drop down, do our valve drills, and start on a dive. Suddenly Andrew appears out of nowhere, and signals I'm out of air. To simulate out of air I immediately spit out my regulator. I do not take a breath first, or anything like that. I give Dan the OOA sign, and he hands me his long hose. I'm sinking to the bottom. I get vertical and start to kick up. OOA is OOA, I can't inflate my wing. Andrew is obviously not happy about me not being horizontal, but you can't kick up if you're horizontal. We ascend, and I realize I should simply have orally inflated my wing. File that away under "you're always a little stupider than you think". I wont make that mistake next time. We descend, and continue our dive. Suddenly I realize that Dan doesn't have a mask on, and I'm out of air....

Well, I think I won't give all of Andrews secrets away. Suffice it to say, that we have a lot of problems under water, and we make a lot of silly mistakes. It teaches us that we have a long way to go. It also teaches us that mastering one skill at a time is not enough. Knowing how to do a safety stop, dealing with a lost mask or dealing with an OOA situation is one thing (well, ok so it's three things). Dealing with a combination of problems, is another skill all together.

7) More fun

This brings us back to the beginning, in a strange way. The first night at the pool, Andrew pointed out that having fun in the water was paramount. If you are not having fun, why do it? Knowing that, how do we make diving more fun? By making it easier and safer. All the DIR techniques are designed to do just that, and so is this class. Knowing your limitations, you are more likely to dive within them, and you are less likely to have an experience that will scare your pants off. You are also free of any nagging doubts in the back of your head.

For example, a lot of us do recreational dives where we feel that a safety stop is more a necessity than an option. Is it really reasonable to do such a dive, if you have no idea whether or not you'll be able to do the safety stop without a mask? While sharing air?

I suspect quite a few people are doing deco dives, dives where a stop is not even remotely optional, without having even tried sharing air for the length of a stop. GUE training is all about making a clean sweep. I have absolutely no doubt that it's the best training you can get. The only problem is that once you've dived with GUE trained people, you'll have a hard time diving with non-GUE trained buddies. You'll feel like you're solo diving.

Well, I've completed the class, I had a great time, and I feel like I've gotten down on my knees and scrubbed all the nitty gritty passages of my dive experience. A lot of it washed away in the process, but I know what to train, and I know what class I want to take next.

If you've been thinking about taking this class, stop thinking and do it. You'll get more than you thought possible for your money, I sure did!


Gary Banta's GUE RecTriox Experience


Class Report For GUE Recreational Triox, December 15-17 2001, Monterey, CA -- Through Manta Ray Dive Center
Primary author: Gary Banta

Class Members: Gary Banta, Sami Laine, Nick Radov
Instructor: Andrew Georgitsis
Class coordination/Video: David Chamberlin

We were honored being the first three students to take the GUE Rec Triox course, taught by Andrew Georgitsis who is the Training Director of Global Underwater Explorers.

The name of the class implies a focus on using Triox, defined as helium-oxygen-nitrogen mixture with 21% or more oxygen. The use of the gas (usually 30/30 O2/He) is indeed covered completely, but most class time is focused on other extremely relevant topics to diving in the 80 to 120 fsw range. The rationale for use of 30/30 is reduction/elimination of narcosis and CO2 retention in deep diving. However, diving in these ranges safely requires skills and experience not found in basic Open Water Courses nor in DIR Fundamentals. These include gas planning, refined buddy skills, situational awareness, applied deco and most important: handling emergencies . At the target depths, immediate ascent to the surface is not possible or safe, so it's imperative that divers have the skills and practice to prevent one problem from cascading to a major emergency.

The three-day class had both lecture and diving each day. All dives were captured on video. Because of the small class size, all but the very last dive included the entire team. The dives were presented as missions that the students must run and the instructor observes (and hassles!). During the mission, the students are "in charge of the dive" and must work to accomplish the objectives. At some point during the dive "the fit hits shan": OOA, lost mask(s), regulator failure (simulated), entanglements. The students must respond appropriately to the emergencies. Mission skills included both running line and shooting a lift bag. One student was diving singles and two were diving doubles. Andrew prefers teams of three for instruction and it paid off well here with the mix of equipment types. It was "more complete" training than if we all had singles or doubles.

The experience level of the students was varied, from a bit over a year to a very experienced diver/instructor. Nonetheless, the course was accessible to the newbie and challenging to the most experienced. The dive experiences themselves were quite .... humbling. The first two dives were at breakwater. They were quite a mess -- line drills sound easy but are definitely NOT -- but by the second dive, the mistakes of the first were gone to be replaced by new mistakes. Post-dive memory is very poor so the video showed all. The second day's dives were at Monastery Beach for line drills with lots of emergencies sprinkled in. The final day was a boat dive on the Great Pinnacle at Pt. Lobos with one of the two dives being an uneventful "fun dive".

Classroom instruction was excellent in content but frustrating to the new diver in that it was very hard to keep up with AG's rapid fire delivery. The more experienced divers felt this was not as big of a problem. Mental mathematics abounds. The topics covered seem to be covered nowhere else (except in Tech 1 class – but even the Tech 1 book doesn't): practical application and real-life meaning of rules of thirds, rule of halves, "rock bottom" gas planning, computer-less deco planning and dive management, "battlefield rules", driving Decoplanner. Great stuff.

Nick adds: I've never used a dive computer so figuring deco in my head wasn't too baffling. But the way I'd been doing it before was just based on remembering a few pieces of the standard no-deco air tables and figuring out a rough estimate for average depth. The way Andrew showed us was more detailed and better suited to these deeper dives.

In reflection, the course doesn't seem "advanced" at all -- but rather seems like the minimum training that one should have to SAFELY dive the full recreational range of 0 to 120 fsw. We are NOT experts after the course nor are we even proficient but we now know what to practice. We know how to get rid of the dive computer and do deco "in our head" and can correctly plan and execute dives knowing that adequate gas will be there in an emergency.

The minimum diver entering the course should have OW, nitrox, DIR fundamentals, ample experience in cold water and a thoroughly DIR equipment setup. It is highly recommended that the basic skills of DIR Fundamentals be second nature to get the most from the class. In addition to gear required for DIR Fundamentals, you must have a drysuit, argon, canister light, lift bag, spool, bottom timer/gauge mode computer and a desire to become comfortable in handling challenging emergencies.


Day 1

The classroom session began at Manta Ray at 9:30 AM. The first class was just to give us orientation and preparation for the first dives. We had discussion about whether or not to include running line or not. It was agreed that we wanted to learn the basics and try it out.

AG explained that the course would have much in common with Tech 1. We would learn about deco. What we wouldn't get into would be accelerated decompression using one additional gas as they do in Tech 1. In Tech 2 you use two gases. Sami suggested RecTriox could be called Tech 0. One of the key premises of this class is that every dive is a really a deco dive, as every set of dive tables and all computers base their calculations on slow controlled ascent rates (e.g. decompression), and recommended "safety stops". In this class the basics of decompression diving are touched on (although we strayed to more advanced discussion due to having students more familiar with it), and dives with "mandatory decompression" are planned. The Rec Triox class sets diving limits that are not arbitrary rules, but come from very pragmatic analysis of the types of dives done using the equipment and gas of topic. Essentially, this class applies to diving at depths where reasonable bottom times start to create some real decompression obligation, but not enough to warrant carrying extra cylinder(s) for accelerated (O2 or 50/50) deco.

We then headed for Breakwater for our dives. Before suiting up, we learned about running a line on land: primary and secondary tie offs, wraps, end of line, etc. We each got a chance to try it in the shade of a cypress tree. Easy, the first dives will be no sweat. We suited up and AG sent us out first to do S-drills and valve drills. Didn't go as smoothly as we hoped -- Nick and Gary had trouble reaching the valves, whole team displayed poor team positioning leading to swimming in circles, poor trim leading to stirred vis, poor buoyancy control during drills, etc. Things are not as easy as they seem, especially when there's performance anxiety added in form of videotape evidence.

Then AG shows up with the reel. Its showtime for the line. We descend into the well silted-up water and Nick begins the line tie-off. Its not going as well as it did on land. It took Nick a full 13 minutes to tie off the reel and get moving. Shortly thereafter, Nick "runs out of gas", take’s Sami’s long hose and the dive gets called. Sami hands off the reel to Gary who immediately birdnests the reel. While working on it (and delaying the team's return to surface) off goes Gary's mask. Then as we were dealing with the problems on the way back we first forgot to put Gary (no mask) in the middle, then both Sami and Nick were holding him and giving conflicting signals. At various times each of us got tangled in the line and needed help from the others to get free. The team gets Gary back to the upline and performs ascent and stops somewhat per plan. Nobody dies, but it’s not pretty. Time to pack up and go see the tape.

AG carefully goes through each scene on the video and gives us a critique. This was as valuable as the dive experience itself. Once the problems begin during the dive, the memory seems to stop storing data so the video is critical to instruction. Each student bought a tape so that we could save the dives for re-review. Future students should come prepared. After review and discussion we broke for dinner as a group (about 8 PM).

Day 2

We all met at Monastery Beach at 8:30 to very nice conditions. "Ankle biters" instead of the typical thunderous shore break. We decided to do both dives in one swim out. Since we'd be in the water for about 2 1/2 hours either P-valves or Depends were in order. A run to Albertson's took care of the latter. (Future students should come prepared). We kicked out to the wash rock where a float and down line had been prepared. The plan was to run a line from the downline at 43 fsw to deeper water with a max depth of 100 fsw. Somehow it seemed unlikely that we'd have an uneventful dive. Gary did a quick tie off and we headed off in three-man formation with Gary at the center. With Gary on a single tank and diving thirds, he hit the gas turn point at about 95 feet and called the dive. We turned around and headed back winding as we went. Sami's on the left of Gary and Nick on the right. AG sneaks up and declares Nick OOA. He spits his second. Gary is busy reeling and doesn't notice. Sami sees Nicks OOA hand-signal so he signals Gary with his light who then looks left at Sami, rather than right at Nick. Nick, not to be denied, rips Gary's reg out from behind on the second tug and Gary goes on his necklace. Seconds later, AG "borrows" Nick's mask. We abandon the reel and after settling down we make it to the upline and do our stops and surface. Surprisingly there are no comments from AG. AG swaps Gary's tanks in the water. Quite a trick with high marks from judges for the performance and difficulty.

The second dive repeats the same dive plan. This time Sami is running the line from where it was left on the first dive. We descend and follow the line out uneventfully. We got to about 90 fsw when AG declared Gary OOA. Sami did an air share and we turned the dive to head back up the line. But in a dozen or so yards, off goes Sami's mask. The line is handed off to Gary (still on Sami's long hose) who secures and leaves it on the bottom. We then shift to put Gary left, Nick right, sandwiching Sami. Suddenly, AG simulates a right post air leak on Sami, who stops to get teams attention. Gary sees it and reaches across Sami to shut it down but is positioned awkwardly. Nick turns and helps out by shutting it down. Gary first realizes the implications when the second stage in his mouth goes dry! OOA for real. DUH! We'd just shut down Gary's reg. So a fast switch to Nick's longhose. Back to the upline and stops. We manage to turn a 7-minute ascent into 12 min.

We get out of the water and prepare to head back. While we students can "see a few problems" we privately discuss that we are rather pleased. Finally AG shows up and says that we need to get back to the class for debrief because "there's just a mountain of problems so there's no sense to discuss it here". Hmmm. Instructor/Student dissonance.

We get back to the classroom and view the video. Well maybe AG is right, there may be more problems than we know or remembered! Some of the big lessons: You can be too helpful. Sami tried to help Nick's OOA but only made things worse. Signaling turned Gary away from Nick. Clearly Nick could get to Gary and signal his OOA. No need to help. Very important advice in a team of three. AG chides Nick for ripping out the reg, but Gary thanks Nick for the experience. Gary says that it’s been one of his diving fears and the experience was valuable. The second lesson was the impact of lack of situational awareness. People don't drown from one problem but from cascades. When we faced a right post failure, Nick and Gary failed to remember that Gary was breathing that post and shut it down. Because of we all lived rather than just heard about the problem, the lessons are burned into memory. Very valuable. In addition, were all the little things: lack of squaring away unused hoses, lights, etc. after emergency response was a sign of lack of global equipment awareness.

So there were, indeed, a mountain of other problems, the most significant was we didn't know how to time an ascent. We discussed all the other problems seen on the video but our ascent timing brought out and lead to the core of the lecture topics:

- How to calculate how much gas was "rock bottom"
- How to apply rule of thirds and when to apply
- How to time an ascent. Why longer is NOT always better. Why precision is important.
- When to use rule of halves. How halves, thirds and rock bottom integrate.
- What are the quick "battlefield rules" for applying the above.

The next topic was the "money shot of DIR": computer-less dive planning/deco. All of the students had familiarity with DecoPlanner but were still baffled why doing it in your head is better than a computer. What we learned in this segment is how to produce tables and battlefield rules that enable safe diving without a computer. This material is not written anywhere and probably shouldn't be (take the class!). It integrates with the training and is thus inseparable. But it does make complete sense when you see it all together. It also became clear that when diving tables, a good dive timer/gauge mode computer is really necessary to not get task overload. The Suunto Stinger (NOT Mosquito -- it doesn't have the proper gauge mode features) is the best tool -- better than the Uwatec Bottom Timer and watch combination. With heads full of the good stuff, we headed off for dinner together.

Day 3

For the last day we dove at Point Lobos and started at 8:30. Tech 1 student, Clinton Bauder, joined us. We dove aboard a custom Polaris RIB piloted by Phil Sammet. Conditions were nice and flat in light rain. After suiting up we headed to the Great Pinnacle, anchored and planned the dive. We were going to dive two teams of two. Sami teamed with Clinton to be followed (and of course hassled) by AG and Gary and Nick would team together to be followed by David with the video camera (and perhaps sneaking fingers – who knows). Dive plan was 20 minutes bottom time, max depth of 120 fsw. (By the way, we are all diving 30/30 since our second dive at Monastery. Note how little focus helium itself has in the class.)

First dive: Sami and Clinton are first in the water with AG. They descend along the anchor line, then to MOD at 110', and head off following the wall. The team communication works very smoothly this time, probably aided by the fact that they’ve done dozens of dives together as a team! As they’re getting close to the planned time turning point, AG materializes just for Sami declaring him to go OOA. Clinton's long hose is on Sami's hand in less than 4 seconds from his last breath, so far so good. Before Sami has the reg in his mouth, Clinton's mask is gone. Turn the dive, square away dangling long hose, Clinton deploys the backup mask (only to disappear in 1 second afterwards, oh well), turn off and stow now unneeded primary lights. Sami leads maskless Clinton along the reef and compass heading back to anchor, and then up through the planned deco for a 20-minute dive to 110' on 30/30. Back on the surface they’re feeling great about the performance, until the debrief. AG points out that they had forgotten to do a bubble check on descent, never noticed a small leak in Sami's argon bottle O-ring, created several minutes of unnecessary deco obligation by staying at 110' for minutes after we aborting the dive, could have modified the ascent as actual bottom time was still shorter than planned, mistimed the stops on ascent, etc.. Doh! Nothing really serious, but this time focusing hard on proper procedure on each individual task stopped the team from thinking things through in the Big Picture.

Gary and Nick with David as shadow entered the water a few minutes after the first team. We descended through Salp City (they were thick near the surface) down the anchor line to the top of the pinnacle. One the way, we passed the first team coming back with Clinton maskless and Sami breathing off the long hose. So it doesn't look like we should expect a fun dive. We began a clockwise trip through great viz and lots to see, including big fish and harbor seals. We expected Dave to pounce at any moment so Nick and Gary snuggled shoulder-to-shoulder ready for the shoe to drop. It didn't so we created our own crisis once we got back to the top of the pinnacle. Our task was to shoot a bag. We found that, like the line drill, it’s much (much!) harder than it looks. By the time we got it out and deployed we looked like a sight gag. Something to practice. Our biggest problem with the lift bag was that both Gary and Nick got fixated on getting it filled and didn't watch their depth at all and ended up bouncing around in a 40ft range. Both wished we had more time to practice that skill (AG please note). Once back on the boat Sami and Clinton were "complimenting" us that at least the bag hit the surface a few seconds before the first diver.

Out of the water, surface interval of an hour plus listening to Capt. Phil's jokes and peeing off the stern.

Second dive: Nick and Gary enter the water this time with Andrew. Clearly not a benign presence. Expect trouble. We descend and go counter clockwise, uneventfully hitting 120 fsw and a gas turn point dictated by Gary's single. Moments after turning, a Great-White-Andrew appears and declares Gary OOA. Seconds later Nick's mask is gone. All at 118 fsw. No sweat. We trundle back around the pinnacle to the vicinity of the line, ascend to the upline, do our stops and out. Cool. Get out of the water. AG debrief: Did Gary check Nick's gas at OOA? (No). Why did Gary stay below 100 fsw all the way back around the pinnacle before ascending to the line? (OOPs) Andrew explains this is EXACTLY how many manageable situations turn CF. Lack of situational awareness. Gary should have ascended to the top of the pinnacle saving a ton of gas rather than a slow ascent profile that burned a ton of gas; same problem that Sami and Clinton had on first dive. If Nick had been low on gas as well (we never checked), this is how two people drown by not taking into account the whole situation. A lesson Gary and Nick now have seared into memory.

Meanwhile, team Sami & Clinton were planning to "be a video", since David would be taping us! And so it ends up being for the most parts: a clean, short dive, with good awareness and communications, great scenery, sealions buzzing around everywhere, and even our planned shooting of a bag from 40’ goes clean and neat. We end up feeling good and, most importantly, almost fully compliant with DIR Rule #6: "Always look good." ;-) In honesty Sami still had some trim issues when concentrating on other things, and Clinton's buoyancy shifted around by a couple of feet on the deco stops, but at least this video won't get Bob Sagget's commentary track added on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Back to Lobos on Capt. Phil’s great boat, doff gear, and head for lunch, final video review and debrief. The class is a wrap at 4 pm on the third day.


The class was excellent. I think the lessons learned by making mistakes in a training situation are much more powerful than any second hand experience. The result is a good balance of confidence and paranoia -- I know I now have basic skills that I didn't have before and I have exercised them in VERY stressful situations. My skills need a lot of practice but they should be adequate to keep my buddy and me alive. The paranoia come from the knowledge that I need to develop situational awareness especially connecting information in time-space, not just focusing on task space. "What important data am I not considering right now that I should"? This is particularly after the first problem hits. When you have a problem and you successfully handle it, expect more and seek them out. They're obscured by your own focus on doing.

Andrew is a fine instructor. He's patient with any question honestly asked. He'll repeat and explain and never invokes "just because". This is the finest recreational diving instruction you can get.

The biggest problem with the class is lack of notes or presentation material. Andrew says he knows and will remedy the situation but think it’s critical that he do so. Despite repetition and explanation, knowledge fell on the floor. While the other more experienced students didn’t feel the same, I think I am closer to the RecTriox student profile than Sami who has a ton of experience. When the notes come, they need to be handled responsibly by the recipients. It should be a rule that the class notes are NOT to be copied or shared with those not already in the class or higher level GUE training.

*** Gary Banta is 51 and has been diving for 15 months. He's logged about 75 dives with about 40% dry and 60% tropical wet. He has PADI OW/ AOW / Nitrox and GUE DIR Fundamentals training.


Overall, it was a definitely a worthwhile class. My main goal was to be able to deal with a serious problem at 120ft and still make it back to the boat unhurt. I'm a lot more confident about that now; we still make a lot of mistakes but usually not the fatal kind. Like Gary, I need to be more aware of my environment in terms of what equipment has failed, how much gas everyone has, where we are, etc. Detailed class notes would be nice, I guess, but I'm not so concerned about them as Gary. There are really only a few basic rules to remember and as long as you grasp the underlying principles you can work everything else out from those. If we practice the dive planning stuff on our own a few times I think it will quickly become second nature.

*** Nick Radov is in his 20s and has been diving since 1998. He has done about 135 dives, mostly local. In March he took one of the first GUE DIR Fundamentals classes that Andrew taught. Since that time he started using double tanks and blending trimix on his own.


For me, this class was very close to what I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed the practical application part, where multiple failures compounded. I think it says something about the qualities of the staff (Andrew Georgitsis and David Chamberlin) and my fellow students that I felt safe and comfortable at 100 feet with failed post, no mask and getting tangled in line; I felt pressured and at times frustrated, but not concerned for my safety. Law of primacy is true: what you learn through your own failures are much more likely to drive your future behaviour. I also second Gary in asking for classroom materials as handouts.

There must be something wrong with me, since I had a GREAT time while PAYING to hump heavy gear across sand dunes, have my gear being ripped off my face in 47 degree water, and in general being thoroughly embarrassed and humiliated in front of others.

I would highly recommend this class to experienced divers who are interested in extending their comfort zone and skill level, but aren't ready to commit to the discipline, practice and expense that working with longer deco obligations, big doubles, and separate deco gases associated with GUE Tech 1 training requires.

*** Sami Laine is in his 30s and has been diving since 1996. He has about 750 dives, mostly California waters and other cold places (BC, Alaska). He’s been diving in various levels of DIR configuration (or as he says: Doing It Close Enough) since 1997, but only recently moved to doubles. He’s a NAUI Instructor, NAUI Nitrox Instructor, and has TDI Advanced Nitrox and GUE DIR Fundamentals training.

These reports have been cut and pasted with many thanks from

Best regards

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I would appear Pierre that the guy was vastly overweighted, it's hard to imagine that someone could whip 7k off of you without you doing impressions of a polaris.

If what the guy says about the drysuit is true then I'm afraid I disagree, as far as I'm concerned gas in the suit DOES help keep you warm... when I go head down during a dive to look under a rock or whatever and the air migrates from the torso area of my suit I immediately feel the cold penetrating.. I feel here that the guy who wrote the report has made a mistake, otherwise why would we use argon during winter if it wasn't a gas helping to insulate.

I believe two YDers are taking some training in March with Andrew Georgitsis so I'd be interested to know what they are taught as far as drysuit diving is concerned.

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Hi Pierre

As far as making a deo stop with a failed wing while diving in wetsuits is concerned, well your question is a valid one and to tell the truth I'm not experienced enough to be able to answer it with any confidance, I think I know but I'll wait until someone with a greater degree of knowledge than I can answer you confidantly... one thing I am sure about though is that DIR configurations are dived all over the world and not only in waters requiring a drysuit, your question is a good one and I'd like to see the answer myself.

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As you dive with a wetsuit are all of your cylinders aluminium? From what I've been reading it's common practise to dive steels with a drysuit but only aluminium with a wetsuit, the reasoning being that the rig can then be swam to the surface.. How feasible that is I do not know but it made me wonder exactly which type of cylinders you used when diving wet.
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