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  • April 16, 2013

    Before You Get Your Friends And Relatives Into SCUBA Diving, Read This!

    It has taken me a few days to write this, but I feel it is a very important story that others may learn from.

    I have a relative named Pedro De Pacas, who will now be referred to as Pedro.

    Pedro has shown up at many dive debriefings and has actually added to many diving events with his cooking, food and short videos, but has always escaped mention in this blog for one reason or another – maybe because he might be an illegal alien (Oh, sorry, maybe an “undocumented guest”).

    He is known in the local diving circle as “The guy who can barbecue beans, and not have them fall through the grill.”

    However, as I stated before, this is a very important story, and with the status quo, chances are, he will never get deported.

    Pedro has been around for many years, but is not a certified diver, and has not been able to take advantage of the actual underwater scuba diving events.

    For years everyone has been asking him, “When are you getting certified?”

    “When I have the time and money,” he would say.

    Pedro at work.

    Curb side fruit vendors don’t make that much money.

    Well, recently Dan from Divevets had an Open Water Class, and Pedro recently got the time, but not the money to spare.

    No problem, Dan made the class so reasonably priced, that I paid – diving has done so much for me, I wanted to pass it along.

    I signed him up for the class, and he spent many hours being tortured by the SDI online course; I believe Pedro finished 13 of the 15 lessons.


    ECO Dive Class Room

    So now, it was time for pool training and a short lecture on using the dive tables, dive computers and diving in general at the shop.

    We met at the pool in Hawthorne around 1 PM.

    The class had four other students.

    Pedro was quite winded after the swimming test, and even more winded after putting on his wetsuit for the first time; it was tight and very constrictive according to him.

    He started with 28 pounds of weight, but still was not neutrally buoyant – Dan and Mean Bob (who will now be referred to as Instructor Bob) put more weight on him so he could kneel and get used to breathing underwater.

    The class practiced skills – regulator ditch and recovery, mask clearing and breathing through a free flowing regulator.

    I had never done the free flowing regulator drill, although I had to do the real life scenario a few times, which was always resolved with a few hand hits to the regulator.

    I tried the drill myself, and it was not very comfortable.

    The giant stride and going to 12 feet was not very comfortable for Pedro either – equalizing really hurt.

    Pool Training

    He survived the brief pool training, next was the ocean test the next day at Veterans Park.


    I invited Professional Debriefer Paul to document Pedro’s first dive in the ocean, but he was not able to make it.

    Veterans Park

    The surf was sort of rough, but the dive wasn’t called; it was manageable.

    Some how I figured, I shouldn’t take my camera – I would have other things to worry about.

    Pedro asked, “You’re gonna be there if I get in trouble?”


    After dawning his wetsuit and putting his gear together, Pedro was already sweating bullets, and even more so carrying his gear down the stairs to the beach.

    The class entered the surf; I stayed with Pedro, just in case.

    The entire class made it out; Pedro was lagging, walking through the surf, with his regulator in his mouth.

    “I’m having a hard time breathing,” Pedro said.

    As the waves were breaking across our chests, I said, “Let me check your regulator…”

    “No, it’s not my regulator, I’m having a hard time breathing.”

    I should have called the dive.

    I should have called the fucking dive.

    In case you missed that, I should have called the fucking dive!

    I had promised that I would not interfere with the class, and I would have gotten a lot of shit – but I should have called the fucking dive.

    Instructor Bob yelled at us that we were spending too much time in the surf zone.

    “Pedro is having a hard time breathing!” I yelled.

    Not sure if he heard me, but he started to swim over.

    “Get through the surf and you can rest,” Bob said.

    Instructor Bob towed Pedro out.

    We made it to the buoy, where the rest of the class was.

    We rested, Pedro did not look comfortable.

    Logged SCUBA Dive #434

    Dove with the class
    Veterans Park, Redondo Beach, California, USA

    In With: 2000 psi
    Out With: 1000 psi
    Max depth: 33 feet
    Waves: Manageable swells, but sucked
    Visibility: 8-10 feet
    Water Temperature: 54 degrees
    Air Temperature: 70 degrees
    Total Bottom Time: 20 minutes for me, at best

    Instructor Bob buddied with Pedro; I was a spectator.

    The class went down the line of the buoy, Pedro and Bob last.

    Pedro, I found out later, had a hard time equalizing and was still hurting when he reached the bottom at 33 feet.

    Visibility sucked – 8 feet, maybe 10 at best, and with a bunch of students kicking up sand, it went to nothing quickly.

    We started to swim back – students tend to suck down a tank quickly, and I, at one time, was the same.

    I had a hard time telling one diver from another.

    Out of the silt, I saw Pedro, on his knees, next to Instructor Bob – Pedro was fucking with his regulator, bubbles coming out from the side of his mouth, his eyes were the size of golf balls.

    I thought, “What kind of skill test is this? What the fuck is going on?”

    We were in 20 feet of water.

    Pedro spit his regulator out of his mouth and bolted to the surface; Instructor Bob was right with him and jammed his regulator in Pedros’s mouth just before they broke the surface; I was right behind.

    Typical text-book panic ensued – Pedro was hyper ventilating, mask off immediately – “I started breathing water!” Pedro yelled.

    Fuck, I should have called the dive before we got in.

    Dan surfaced to see what was going on.

    Bob took Pedro’s BCD and tank off and floated it to me.

    “Take care of this, I’ll bring Pedro in and come back for his rig,” Bob said.

    The rest of the class followed ashore.

    So, I’m floating around, just outside the surf zone, reliving just what happened.

    Man, fuck.

    I’m floating around with Pedro’s rental gear and I had flash backs of the story of the 15 year old kid who died at Old Marineland about eight years ago.

    As the story goes, the father got his sedate and “unmotivated” kid into diving to try and get him a passion that he could follow.

    Wearing his sister’s gear that didn’t fit him, his mask leaked and he freaked out at 15 feet and apparently drowned.

    I actually sobbed a bit – did Pedro really want to do this, or was it peer pressure?

    Was he counting on me to call the dive when he was in distress?

    We always stressed that “You can call a dive yourself, if you don’t want to go.”

    This scenario could have turned out much worse, and thank God it didn’t.

    I took the regulators that Pedro had used and breathed on both, with my head under water – they worked fine.

    Maybe he was over breathing and water came in the side of his mouth?

    The hose was sort of short, and maybe he twisted his head too much, allowing water in?

    I have dove with Dan and Bob for the last decade, and have never needed help from them, but seeing their teaching style and how they manage emergencies, my respect for them has quadrupled.

    I was the dumb fuck that should have called that dive in the surf zone.

    Pedro made a fast recovery.

    Over a few debriefing beers in the parking lot, Dan asked Pedro, “So, at what time did you think it was better to spit your regulator out of your mouth and breath salt water, than to try your other regulator or share air with your buddy?”

    “I had no air in my lungs, I didn’t want to stay there where I couldn’t breathe.”

    It was panic.

    Pedro also told me, “I get 20 minutes underwater in a pool and I’m thrown through the surf in shitty visibility?”

    Well, I understand that.

    I should have called the fucking dive, I was there, nobody else was nearby.

    Dan said that Pedro can come back to the pool, and when he gets in better shape can finish the ocean part of the class.

    The morale of this story?

    Never pressure anyone into SCUBA diving; if they want to do it, they will – eventually; or at least try.

    Pedro might eventually get certified, and maybe he will have fun SCUBA diving in the pool, and get in better shape from jogging, or running from Immigration.

    “You guys make it all look so easy, but the shit you guys carry is so heavy – that’s why you call yourself macho,” Pedro said.

    Actually, in all honesty, I’ve always been sarcastic.

    The “macho” divers are the ones who either get hurt or die.

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