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David "Rainmaker" Mauldin's Scuba Certification Info
The certification process for Scuba Diving International has 4 steps. First comes home study, then classroom instruction, followed by additional instruction and practice in a swimming pool. After that, 4 dives are required in "open water" (large lake or the ocean).
The home study portion was more intense than I'd anticipated. I studied 1 - 3 hours per night for 5 nights, completing the course (and tests) in about 15 hours.
On January 22, 2005 I drove to Bermuda Triangle in Greenville for the classroom instruction portion of the course, and for the first day of lessons in the swimming pool. The instructor was a very capable and experienced diver named Todd Criswell, and I liked him immediately. The classroom work took about 5 hours. After an hour's break for lunch, it was time to draw dive gear and head to the YMCA pool that is located a few miles from the dive shop.
Before my small class of 6 was allowed to put on scuba gear, it was necessary that we demonstrate to Todd that we were all capable swimmers, and that we were comfortable in the water. We each did 8 end-to-end laps in the Olympic-size pool, and then we treaded water for 10 minutes. With our instructor convinced, we assembled our dive gear and made final checks before heading off into the 10 ft. deep pool.
I learned a lot of new skills, including how to clear a flooded mask while underwater and how to find and clear my regulator after taking it out of my mouth and dropping it (imitating having the mouthpiece knocked out of my mouth or otherwise losing it while underwater). We learned about breathing techniques, maintaining buoyancy and how to decpiher the life-sustaining data that was supplied by our dive computers and gauges. The long, hard but interesting (and fun) day finally ended about 5:30 p.m.
The next day, I returned for another session in the pool. This was another intense day of learning and applying new skills, including "buddy breathing", underwater swimming techniques, avoiding decompression sickness, taking off all gear while underwater (and putting it all back on without surfacing), equalizing and clearing ear pressure (necessary to avoid ear damage when making descents) and emergency ascents.
Our instructor seemed pleased with everyone in the class. At the end of the day, Todd told us that we were all "pool certified", and that he would be happy to dive with any of us. "Pool Certified" means that we satisfactorily demonstrated all necessary skills to become certified divers. However, the process must be repeated in 4 actual open water dives.
I was scheduled to make my 4 "cert" dives the week-end of January 29 - 30. However, because of an ice storm, the dives were rescheduled for the following week-end.
On Saturday, February 5, I drove to Lake Keowee near Pickens, SC. It was a sunny and clear (but cool) day. The air temperature was about 60 degrees. The dive site is what the locals call "The Hot Hole". It is located near the area where the Oconee Nuclear Power Plant discharges the water that is used to cool the reactor. The water is warmed by the reactor to about 65 degrees. I made 2 dives on Saturday, and two more the next day. At the end of my 4th dive, my instructor (Randy Bayne) told me that I had passed, and that I was now a certified Open Water diver.
Visability in the lake was never more than 8 feet, and really there wasn't much to see. However, I enjoyed the underwater rock formations and the fish that were moving near us. Overall, it was fun and exciting, and it left me hungry for more. I feel that a whole new world has been opened to me.
The total cost of the course was $224.00. That included everything except a $10 donation for dive boat expenses.
Regardless of where someone dives, they must show their diver certification card in order to get his or her air tanks filled. One great thing about going through the certification process (in addition to being able to buy air), is that the certification never expires (doesn't need to be renewed). Unless a diver screws up very badly, it is not going to be taken away or revoked.
To see additional information about my certification dives, see "Dives 1 - 4" in my dive log.
Later, we used dive computers to do various calculations concerning simulated Nitrox dives. The last task was analysing the oxygen content of a Nitrox cylinder. At the end of the exercise, Reese told everyone that they were certified in the use of Basic Nitrox. The class ended about 10:00.
The total cost of the course was $99. This included the training manual, classroom instruction, certification card and first tank fill of Nitrox.
The training for this class actually began in March 2007 when I completed CPR and First-Aid training with the Red Cross in Clayton, GA. The classes lasted 1 day, and the written tests were a bit more difficult than I anticipated. The total cost was about $65.00. CPR and First-Aid certification are prerequisites for the SDI Rescue Diver class.
I signed up for the Rescue class in July 2007, and received my training manual from Bermuda Triangle Dive Shop in Greenville, SC only a few days before the classroom session was to begin. I read and studied the book for a total of about 15 hours, then drove to Greenville on July 27 for the class. The instructor was Randy Bayne, and he did a very thorough job of going over every chapter in the book. The class lasted about 4 hours.
The next day, I joined Randy, 2 other students (Micah and Chad) and our "victim", (a divemaster trainee named Cooper) for the in-water portion of the course. Randy and Cooper played the roles of either panicked divers on the surface, panicked divers underwater or unconscious victims on the bottom. Micah, Chad and I had to react to various scenarios that Randy created, and the training got very physical and very intense. Even though I knew that Cooper was only pretending, seeing an "unconscious" victim on the bottom after conducting a sweep-search is an image that will stay with me for a while. I made a total of 9 dives during the day, and I lost count of how many times Randy and Cooper got "rescued". At the end of the day, we were all very tired and it was very nice to hear Randy say that we were all certified Rescue Divers.
The total cost for the Bermuda Triangle course was $189, and I furnished all my own gear (including air) for the in-water portion of the training.
Master Scuba Diver
In early August 2007, Reese Davis (owner of Bermuda Triangle Dive Shop in Greenville, SC) informed me that when I completed by Rescue Diver course, that I had also qualified as a TDI/SDI Master Scuba Diver.
My Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver certifications, along with my specialties of Deep Diver, Navigation, Computer Diver, Night/Low Visability Diver and Basic Nitrox, and my 357 logged dives were more than enough to be certified as a Master Scuba Diver.
Reese submitted the paperwork to SDI/TDI, and since I'd received all my training through Bermuda Triangle, he even waived the fee involved. I received my Master Scuba Diver certification card from SDI/TDI on August 22, 2007.
When I picked up the thin little training manual for the SDI Solo Diver Course from Bill Routh of Off The Wall Diving near Salem, SC, I thought I'd breeze through the book in a couple of hours. Several hours later, mired down with loads of technical info and mathematical formulas in Chapter 2, I began to wonder if I'd EVER get through the "little" book. Eventually I did, but it took 10 - 12 hours of reading, studying and providing written answers to the quiz questions at the end of each chapter.
It took a while for Bill and I to get together on a date to do the classroom and in-water portions of the course, but we finally agreed on Sept. 3, 2009. I met him at his shop about 10:30 a.m. on an absolutely beautiful day. We took a couple of hours to go over the training manual and complete the classroom requirements, then we took his boat to Lake Jocassee and went diving.
We spent a mostly pleasant afternoon in the water near the dam, making 2 dives of about 40 minutes each. Surprisingly, navigation is a major part of this course. After taking 5 minutes to measure my fin cycles on a 100-ft. line, Bill asked me to traverse a box course, starting from the line. After swimming east along the line 50 feet (17 fin cycles), I then went north, west and south for 50 feet in each direction, and ended up within 8 feet of my starting point. Thankfully, Bill was satisfied with that.
Next, it was measuring my air consumption while at rest, while swimming relaxed, and then swimming strenuously. After that, I reacted to various simulated emergency situations that Bill conjured up (including switching regulators and masks underwater). Then we did the "fun" part (at least for me), which was shooting lift bags. I shot my bag twice and Bill's once.
After we left the water and went back to Bill's shop, he showed me how to use my air consumption rates to estimate how much gas I'd use on any given dive. After that, he told me that I had passed the course and issued a temporary card for me.
The total cost of the course (including the training manual and sales tax) was $162.50. I furnished all my own gear (including air) for the in-water portion of the course. I learned a lot, and I believe that the course is very worthwhile for anyone who is contemplating solo diving.