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Hi

Its taken a while but here's day One. Hope you enjoy it.


I wake up early in my luxury ?! Aquahotel room both excited and apprehensive about the day ahead. Excited because I was on the first DIR course in the UK being taught by AndrewG, the GUE training director no less and Andy Kerslake, the only active UK instructor. Apprehensive because I am a relative newbie to diving, only having 60 odd dives and qualified as a BSAC club diver April 2002. I thought that DIR was well supported in the UK, full of diving elitists from the DIS  and other lists, and I would be shown up as a newbie thrashing about in the water and frowned upon for my lack of skill. What little did I know…

I went down for breakfast and met some of the guys. Chris and Daniel, who were laughing about their disastrous dives the previous day. Ruy who had come over from Portugal and was using twins for the first time!! Howard, or Bitz, of bitz.fsnet.co.uk, a trimix diver with lots of experience.  AndrewG and Andy Kerslake were there and we had a relaxing breakfast. They weren’t the militaristic, overbearing people I imagined, quite a good laugh really and I started to relax.

Before starting we had a little introduction and there were some instructors, some trimix divers, a couple of newbies like me, and a celebrity in the form of Chris Boardman, who not only is famous for his cycling accolades but now writes for Diver magazine and was writing up the course. He had a couple of photographers with him. I finally met nickjb from scubaboard, and also Mark Papp and a number of other familiar names from weblists and discussion boards. My recent DIR dive buddy and YD member Mark Emery didn’t do the fundamentals but was on the Tech1 course being run straight after the fundamentals.

We then started the day by getting our harnesses and thinsulates to check the fitting. AndyG told us that we should be able to touch the top of our backplate with our fingers. Virtually everyone had to have their harnesses tightened to do this. I was lucky really because I had done a lot of reading about DIR and researched thoroughly on the web and so my kit was close to how it should be. Some peoples gear was frowned upon and one guy had his harness taken apart and put back together because it had some quick release strap thing on it. I was amazed at the lack of DIR kit to be honest. AndrewG didn’t really slag anyone off but you knew when he didn’t approve. He would just walk around the class saying “Whats this ?” and “whats that for ?” The theme of DIR is definitely minimalist and reducing snag points as much as possible.

We then tiewrapped our regs to the plates and went through modified sdrills and sdrills. This was a good session as I had only done this under water and it was good to systemise the steps in my mind.

It was now time for the pool session. This was the first time AndrewG had done this course in a pool and it was to prove excellent because of the vis. It’s a 3 mtr pool and saltwater based so the water was warm but not uncomfortable, unless of course, you do what I did. When we got to the pool I needed the loo and so, you can imagine after wearing my suit all morning in a hotel room, and then dragging my cylinders and gear to the pool, I was perspiring somewhat and as I was taking my drysuit off I was a little rough and my neckseal split. Shit !! Chris had a spare suit he offered to lend me but I was well ‘ard being a Yorkshire diver n all and said I’d do it with ductape. Yeah right!! As soon as I got in the water I felt the trickle down my neck. Ugh!! Throughout the pool session my suit became fuller and fuller of water. When we finally got out I could hardly climb the steps (twin twelves!) and I had water upto my knees INSIDE the suit, and was totally soaked. Needless to say I took Chris up on his offer the following day.

Before we got in the pool we had to lay down and do some kicks and Andrew ran through the five basic kicks Frog, Modified frog, Modified flutter, Back kick, Helicopter turn. The trick is to squeeze your buttocks and try to flex the ankles more. If you start using your larger muscle groups like the thighs then you use more energy. We were then put in teams of 3. I was teamed up with Ruy and Howard, and we were to swim around the pool and at each corner do a skill such as backwards kick, helicopter turn. The lengths to do frog kick, and the widths to do modified frog and modified flutter. Ruy was struggling in his first ever session with twins and AndrewG had to help him with his buoyancy, but by the end of the session he was fine. I think it was even his first time in a drysuit !! After a few laps AndrewG told us we were ‘humping the dog’ pretty good and should squeeze our buttocks to keep our knees up. I took his advice and could see later on the video that it worked. Usually when frog kicking or breastroke kick you drop your knees. By intentionally squeezing your buttocks you create a flat surface along the underside of your body making you more streamlined in the water.

AndrewG split the group up so 6 of us were with AndrewG and 6 with AndyK. AndyK was looking at SDrills and AndrewG would demonstrate the kicks and then we would attempt them in front of the video camera. So AndrewG demonstrated the frogkick and we all followed, then modified frog, then modified flutter, then backward kick and finally helicopter turn. For the helicopter turn he placed a scout torch on the floor and spun round it without moving out of line. This is done using one leg in a backward kick and one leg in a forward kick. I had been practicing the kicks using the videos on the 5thD site in the pool and over the previous few months and so could backkick although this was vastly improved when AndrewG moved my fins for me for a couple of kicks. Its all about the ankles!! Anyhow my claim to fame is that I was the only one to do a backkick successfully on the course (Head growing exponentially!!) although later it was pointed out that I had practiced loads for the course and still wasn’t perfect. Ah well

A few people were extremely upset after the pool session, and I think AndrewG was right, it is a great leveller. Some even dropped out of the practical session the following day, which I thought was a shame, because the aim is to improve your diving and you only do that by diving ! Perhaps its an ego thing. I am always self critical of myself and so someone else telling me I can’t dive was not a big thing to me. I already knew. I was just surprised that there were others having the same, if not more problems than I was.

After getting back to the hotel and getting changed, sorting our gear out and having lunch, we got back on the floor and practiced our kicks again. This is hard work!! We were then shown the video of our underwater session in which AndyG would shout ‘WHO’S THAT’ followed by a sheepish ‘me…’ and then a blunt comment on what you were doing wrong. Everyone was ‘humping the dog’ and there was no one who looked any better than anyone else. It is truly a great leveller. Seeing how you look when your diving is amazing but at the same time humiliating as your faults are there for all to see. You can’t hide them from the video camera. At one point there were four or five people trying to do backwards kicks against the wall of the pool. It looked so funny, everyone was able to laugh at themselves, which was good. This has to be the best part of the course. There is nothing like looking at yourself underwater and critiquing yourself. Very rewarding and just this session I feel has improved my diving exponentially.

There then followed a lecture session with mpegs showing us the kicks, the valve drills and deploying an smb. A new drill was the CG drill or centre of gravity drill. AndrewG showed us why DIR advocate that particular kicking style and position in the water using a see saw as an example. Did you know that your head weighs 5kg and therefore if you look up and stretch your legs out (which we have all been taught to do when flutter kicking) then you effectively go vertical and at the same time all the energy is being forced downwards wasting energy and silting up the place.

After all the lectures it was finally time for AndrewG to cash in on his Guinness and for us to have a meal, and very nice it was too.

On to the next day….
 

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Nice report.
Matter of fact with few if any negatives, what diving should be all about, get something from every dive.
Matt
 

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Thanks MattBin. Here's day two...


The following day I was still a little apprehensive as this was the open water stuff. I was happy with the kicks and stuff but now we had to do it for real. Breakfast was relaxed and fun. I met Panos Alexakos who was going to talk to the british cavers about sidemounting, finning techniques with wellies, torch positioning on helmets etc (Sorry, cynical I know).

First thing we did was get our backplates back on and tiewrap the regs going through our sdrills. We also had a discussion on buddy skills and positioning underwater. This was mostly done in teams of three and was very interesting and I wish I could remember more of it. There is a lot of info to learn in the DIR fundamentals class and you can expect your brain to be fried and your muscles aching by the end of the course.

We were diving in the marina ?! in only 3m of water, very silty, and about 7 degreesC. Vis was about 1 – 1.5m and so you didn’t see the bottom until you were nearly on it. Add to that bad buoyancy and trim and multiply that by three divers and you end up diving in mucky soup. Of course, being in 3m doesn’t help as buoyancy changes are exaggerated massively. First dive I was teamed up with nickjb and ChrisB. We were doing the basic five skills which are; Remove and replace reg, modified sdrill (an sdrill but without actually donating air), Mask clear, mask remove and replace and valve drill. The mask clear went OK, but when I removed my mask and gave it to AndrewG, I just popped to the surface. He followed me up and we met AndyK who had lost one person (They had given up, This course is all about strength of character as your ego takes a right wupping). AndrewG then put me with AndyK and we went down again. This time we were doing proper Sdrills and I was teamed up with Hens (who had come over from Holland) This time I was better and kept my buoyancy but Hens had problems. We totally silted the place out one time and popped to the surface the next. After a very long 20 minutes we exited for lunch.

Lunch was a carpet burger from the hotel and was tastier than it looked. Or I was hungrier than I thought.

Onto the second dive. This time I was teamed up with Hens and AndrewG. A few people had given up by now and didn’t want to do anymore. Well, I’d paid £250 for the course and driven 5 hours and I’m a Yorkshireman and so I’d have dived no matter how crap I was (which I was by the way!) Firstly we did a valve drill and yes I did it OK. AndrewG came over after and said that it was coming on well but I loose trim when I turn a valve. Each time I finish a valve, I then sorted myself out and then went to the next. I must say that since then my valve drills have been crap. I think it must be my nice stiff cordura drysuit. Because I had split my neckseal I used a trilam suit which must be more flexible. And so a DUI is now on the shopping list ! Hens did OK with his valve drill and then we deployed an SMB. I’d been practicing this with Mark Emery and so this was straight forward. We then had to try to bring it back down again by finning downwards and pulling. No chance !

After that AndrewG said we could swim about and practice but we were not in the lesson anymore due to HSE regs. So Hens and I went for a fin up and down the marina to practice our finkicks and persuade ourselves that we could dive. It was quite good actually, plenty of crabs, a few fish and I found a rifle bullet, which I gave to Hens, as I’m not really into collecting. Apparently when they dry out they tend to explode and so I thought it best that he have it. He He.

After that we exited and as I was packing up Mark Emery turned up and asked how the course had gone. He was joining us for the afternoon lectures and it was good to catch up. Apparently he had asked AndyK how I’d been doing and was told very well. (Head swell again!!). The next lecture was about deco and gasses, stuff I like to learn about and this was excellent. Deep stops were discussed and the reasons why DIR uses standard mixes (its just easier to plan your dive) I wish we could have covered it a bit more to actually be able to use this knowledge after the course but I’ve been told they do it all in Tech1.

After the lecture finished we went for a well earned beer and then on to an excellent meal at the pub over the road before collapsing into bed totally knackered but well pleased that I had done it.

Some people are turned off by DIR because of the idiots who try to wind them up on the lists and stuff, but in essence its all about safe diving no matter whether you are on a red sea liveaboard or an 18000 ft cave dive. Using the same well thought out equipment, proper education and the right experience, means that dives are less stressful and therefore more fun. That’s what I like about DIR and why I’m a DIR advocate. My advice to other DIR advocates. Take the course. It really does give you a good foundation for safe diving in the future.

My future plans ?! To complete the Tech1 in September with AndyK and I’m planning a trip to Mexico at Christmastime to do Cave1.

Hope you enjoyed the report
 

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Great report

Every time I read a report from someone who's taken a GUE course they rave about it, it's a pity that the shallow waters and low viz made your 'day two' difficult but I'm glad that you enjoyed it all.

As a Yorkshireman did you feel that you got your money's worth??  
 

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Hi Lettuce, thanks for the great report, there is nothing better than being taught by divers with loads more experience than you/me.
The video sounds brilliant, we all think we dive horizontally  
we don't all get the chance to see we don't  


I've tried the backwards kick several times after looking at the 5th dimension mini-video, with unimpressive results, any tips??
I am really pleased you enjoyed it, it's why we dive after all  


Cheers, Malcolm.
 

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Hi

Thanks for the positive responses.

I definitely got my moneysworth Dave and I would be happy to do the course again. Day two was difficult but if you can do the skills in those conditions then you can do them anywhere. Doing this in shallow water just proves how bad most people, including myself, were before the course. You definitely need to do DIRF before any of the other GUE courses and they are making it compulsory as from June. Also DIR approved kit is mandatory after June as GUE feel that you will get more out of the course with the right configuration.

Tips on backwards kick. The backwards kick is really just a reverse frog. Keep your head looking forward as that will prevent you becoming inverted which is common. Also take your time. The more thrashing about you do the more forward motion you create. Stretch your legs out with soles of feet together and then spread your legs wide when bringing them back. Its worth pausing slightly, and then slowly bring your feet together before stretching your legs again ensuring you get the soles together again. Practicing in the pool with a wetsuit is better because you'll have less drag to overcome. Also biggest tip is scubapro jets or equivalent. Any other fin is pretty much useless as they are too long and floppy. And yes I have tried other fins. Once you've cracked it its unbelievable the difference it makes to your diving. Imagine driving around town without a reverse gear !

I wish the general attitude would change Heads Up, but until the majority of the so-called DIR people sort out their unfounded superiority complex, they'll just keep creating enemies. Luckily, the British DIR advocates aren't as bad and Yorkshire Diver has Mark Emery, Bob Cooper and myself who don't have that kind of attitude which I think is typified by the friendliness of the site.

Kindest Regards

WL

PS perhaps if we ask nicely Mark will tell us about Tech1 !
 

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Many thanks for the reverse thrust advise, incedently, you mentioned some of the course members did not complete the course, can you tell us what the/their problem was ?
Thanks, Malcolm.
 

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Hi

I think that some people didn't know it was going to be so hard. I think it is a real ego thing when you have 300 plus dives and loads of c-cards only to find that you can't even swim horizontal. In that sense being a newbie isn't so bad, less stuff to unlearn.

Then to have your performance watched by all on video with a brutally honest instructor must really p~~s you off!

I think the pressure of wanting to do well, and then the new skills needed in the poor conditions was too much for some. They all stayed for the final lecture but some who had booked to take the Tech1 and paid, didn't take it. They were seriously upset or dismayed by their own ability, I don't want to name names though.

I've kept in touch with some of the guys and they all say it was a real eye opener but that it has shown them were they need to improve and it has improved their diving, which is what its all about really.

Hope that helps

WL
 

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[b said:
Quote[/b] (wetlettuce @ April 11 2003,09:21)]PS perhaps if we ask nicely Mark will tell us about Tech1 !
<font color='#000080'>I really should do a report and I will but as Tech-1 was a five day course the report will be quite a serious undertaking.

Nice DIR-F report!
 

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Hi WL, thanks for that, I have done just short of 700 dives, and every next dive is a chance to learn something, lose the will/drive to learn/improve, and you may as well give it up and start something else.
Looking forward to the tech report Mark, your public awaits!!!
Cheers, Malcolm.
 

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WL

Just seen your DIRF report.  Excellent stuff!  I really enjoyed reading it.  You are (as far as I know) the first person to write up a report on the classes in March (despite me badgering a few people to do so!).  You were really lucky to have AG take the class and to meet him and Panos etc.  They really are a nice bunch of people (so is Andy by the way!).

I would agree with you about the DIR-bashing that goes on amongst some UK divers.  I have never once heard anybody say anything derogatory about any GUE class ever.  Just goes to show that if people start DIR-bashing, just tell them to go take a class, then come back and see what they think about it.

Reading your report has prompted me to write up my dive last weekend.  It was the first UE-UK (DIR Britain) dive of the year off Nauticat out of Brighton. To be honest, it was pretty uneventful.  Nevertheless, I will try to write it up soon.

Anyway, well done for completing the course and well done for writing it up and sharing your experiences with us.

Long live DIR!!!
 

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Nice report, but forgive my ignorance. What's a modified flutter kick?

Tips for reverse frog- Swim into the wheelhouse in a wreck. Wonder what all the pretty stringy things you're torch is highlighting. Realise you've swan into a room full of Lionsmanes tentacles. One rapid education in reverse frog. It might not have been very pretty, but it got the job done. We got to the front of the wheelhouse and looked to see about a dozen lionsmanes pinned to the front with the current and the tentacles were getting blown in through the broken windows.


Peter
 

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Hi

Standard Flutter is normal kick as first taught by all agencies except GUE. Modified flutter is done by being in a horizontal position, bending knees and kicking up just using ankles if possible so you don't raise any silt. You can see it on the www.fifthd.com site. Just go to dirf class and theres a whole bunch of videos with AndrewG performing the skills.

HTH

WL
 
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