Nightmares of the Scuba Police

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Diving used to be a fairly laid-back and non-confrontational leisure activity. In fact, in the early days most divers were generally considered to have a few screws loose but that was part of the appeal. The idea that diving was inherently a flirtation with a real or perceived danger was pretty much a “given” by both the participants and their amused observers. Everyone seemed to get along just fine, and with the advent of a fledgling “dive travel” industry that allowed the sport to be pursued in the hospitable and intriguing islands of the Caribbean or Bahamas, diving became a true family sport for the first time. But over the years, our sport has increasingly become burdened with the ugly spectre of a crusading right wing “scuba police” determined to save divers from themselves.

Since the late 1980s, the trend of progressively more restrictive regulations in the sanctimonious guise of “safety” is rapidly turning the sport’s experienced divers into alienated and angry consumers.

Most importantly, there is no quantifiable data to support such rules as depth limitations, mandated no-decompression diving, absolute bans on alcohol consumption, denied use of diving computers, limitations to numbers of dives per day etc. Significantly, DAN and the UHMS have reversed their recommendation on not flying within a 24-hour period following diving for the simple reason that there was no evidence to prove this rule’s validity. During the period that this recommendation was observed, some overzealous resort operators used it as an excuse to deny diving to vacationers on the day before they departed.

Interestingly, those operators that were most rigid in enforcing the 24-hour flying rule were those that sold “inclusive dive/hotel package plans”. They were, in essence, denying a portion of the pre-paid diving service to customers citing this arbitrary “safety” recommendation. Many customers that purchased a typical week long vacation that would offer six full days of diving included in the price suddenly found themselves limited to five days of diving. You figure the real motivation here: safety or economics?

I am dismayed at the handful of vocal self-righteous apostles of diving safety that have tried advance their own agendas to influence our sport. Many point the finger at our legal system blaming excessive litigation and a bevy of lawyers waiting to pounce on dive operators. If anything, this restrictive mentality will ultimately lead to more avenues of perceived liability. In many cases, our court system bases standards of care, duty to warn etc. on “local community or industry standards”. This continuing assumption of more responsibility mandated by dive operators will ultimately result in a “standard” that WILL require even more ridiculous regulatory limitations.

Ask yourself how long the skiing industry would survive if they attempted to deny a lunch customer a beer with his sandwich, or if the ski patrol decided to deny a skier access to the expert slopes. The ski resorts know their business is SERVICE and they let their customers decide what reasonable risks they will take. If you buy a lift ticket, you get access to the whole mountain not just the “bunny hill”. If you are a certified diver, when you buy your ticket to go diving you should be extended the same courtesy and respect.

Otherwise where do we draw the line: do we exclude those who are twenty pounds overweight? Those who are too thin? How about smokers? Or coffee drinkers? Or those who stayed out too late last night? Or those who cannot prove that they have complied with the recommended fluid intake in the last 12 hours? Or those in lime green wet suits? You can quickly see the absurdity of these scenarios. (Although the summary execution of those in ridiculous outfits might have some validity…)

During my nearly forty years in the diving industry as an owner and operator of one of the Caribbean’s largest diving facilities, liveaboards, and later as Vice President and CEO of Ocean Quest International (the world’s largest diving operation in history still to this day), I handled almost 400,000 sport dives by a wide variety of recreational divers. In all that time, we NEVER imposed a limit on any dive activities. We made recommendations and gave good dive site orientations. Those customers who wanted to dive under the supervision of one of our guides were cheerfully accommodated and those who wanted to dive on their own or with a buddy according to their own dive plans were free to do so.

In spite of our policy of total diving freedom, we only experienced a total of 9 DCS cases in that large diver population. ALL of those bends cases were on dives less than 130 feet and none had any links to alcohol consumption, decompression diving, use of diving computers (or other decompression monitors), etc. Interestingly, 7 of the 9 cases of DCS were divers who were within the limits of their Tables!  So at least in my experience, which is considerable, none of the current restrictive regulations by some of the old-school die-hard operations would have made the slightest difference in preventing the incidence of bends.

And let’s remember that a large number of today’s resort divemasters and instructors (who are expected to interpret and enforce these “rules”) are relatively inexperienced themselves. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for the vacationing divers to have more experience than the staff that is supposedly supervising them. This also leads to a less than ideal scenario when differences of opinion as to whether certain restrictions are necessary.

Recently in Cozumel, I witnessed a hopeless exchange of hostilities between a freshly credentialed instructor only on the island a few weeks after graduating from his instructor program and a middle-aged diving doctor who had been visiting the resort since the early 1970′s. Incredibly…the instructor insisted that the divers in his charge use Tables instead of computers. For any diver used to the freedom and extra bottom time allowed by a modern dive computer-assisted multi-level plan, a sudden banishment to “square profile” Table computations amounts to theft of his underwater vacation time.

A real-life Mexican stand-off was rapidly escalating beyond the “discussion” stage into a shooting war, when I made a suggestion that satisfied both parties. The instructor only had orders to have all divers plan their exposures on Tables but no particular Table was specified. I asked if he meant the U.S. NAVY, DCIEM, PADI “Wheel”, or British Tables? He said he didn’t care what our diving doctor used as long as they were a published Table with set limits.

Presto: I handed him a laminated set of the Naval Medical Research Institute (NMRI) Tables calculated for a 5% incidence rate of decompression sickness in working commercial and military divers. They allow a 50-minute bottom time at 100 feet. A knowing smile passed between the doctor and me. He immediately volunteered to abide by this Table knowing full well that his dive computer profile would easily accommodate the same schedule on a multi-level dive. The instructor was satisfied because he was following the resort’s rules, no matter how absurdly. Everyone put away their dive knives and lived happily ever after.

Or at least until the next free spirit demanded to be treated like a thinking adult…probably the group on the following morning’s dives.

Those who like to promulgate further restriction in our sport should be reminded that one of the first elements of diving that attracts many participants is freedom. Informed personal choice should govern our sport once divers leave the confines of training. Continuing further down the path of increased “rules and regs” only again reminds me of this self-important mentality: “I’m cold, so everyone put on a sweater”.

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31 comments for “Nightmares of the Scuba Police

  1. Andrzej
    November 18, 2009 at 4:12 am

    Alas, this “big brother will take care of you” mentality is all pervasive in our western society, and not just limited to scuba diving.

    When you agree to act like sheep, don’t be surprised if you get shorn at wiil, and even end up as a rack of lamb on some “do-gooders” dining table.

    Brilliant and refreshing post, Bret! Keep ‘em coming!

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  2. mark hudson
    November 18, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    i have not dived at a resort location for over 5 years thanks to having to pay for a divemaster to ‘evalute’ my diving skills why should i have to pay for a check out dive (i have 5000+ logged dives) and be checked out by some one with minimum experience?
    its strange but when i have asked to check out resort staffs qulaifications, all goes quiet.
    i ski 3 or 4 times a year never get asked for anything not even from the guides on off piste routes – guess thats why i ski more than i dive now.

    well said brett but get ready for some flak from the ‘scuba police’

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  3. Stesh
    November 18, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    BJ loves you.

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  4. Bret Gilliam
    November 18, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Who’s BJ? I almost hate to ask… but it sounds good!

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  5. Dale Em
    November 22, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I”ll never forget one of our night dives off Palm Beach, FL, the “Trench” I think it was called. Our divemaster / guide was a young man fresh from one of those “dive schools”. He geared up all in Black, totally! His only dive light was a small pencil type light. I asked him how many dives he had done – “Oh, twenty or thirty.”

    Needless to say, he promptly lost his group by going the wrong way and nobody followed because they could not see him or his light. The captain picked him up last, knowing full well how far he had strayed from the group.

    I saw a Red Lipped Batfish on that dive but young DM interjected with “They are not found this far north.” OK, ’nuff said!

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  6. Joy S.
    November 22, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I suspect it comes down to legalities. Ski operations tend to be very large, with a lot of money riding on their legal protections. They have, for decades, bought the best lawyers possible, so there’s a fairly standard wording that I call the “existential statement” (you know the one–”Ice, variation in terrain, forest growth, rocks, debris, lift tower and other obstacles and hazards may exist”) and an explicit skier code of conduct. And they mark boundaries physically, with separate rules and laws that apply inside and outside the boundaries. They will they not be held liable if you cross that boundary marker and then hurt yourself–in fact, they’ll recoup the cost of your rescue, including hazard pay for the workers.

    Dive operators, on the other hand, can’t easily draw lines in the water that will hold up in court (though the depth restriction is exactly one such attempt at a legal line). Using a table or a non-programable dive computer as opposed to one with an override is an attempt to throw the risk back on some other, larger commercial entity, so they can say, “pay for your own damage, or sue someone else, not us.”

    In addition, the instructors and guides often push the envelope of safe diving themselves in the name of accompanying or rescuing their paying customers. They don’t get hazard pay for that. Because of the cumulative nature of CO2 buildup, the situation is not analogous to a ski guide or ski patrol member–his or her risk is at worst additive with extra time spent on the slope, and the risk is at worst proportional to your risk.

    I don’t like official depth limits, but I also realize that the guy or gal who is sent to police me is not a free agent. They’re between a rock (risking getting bent) and a hard place (getting fired for not keeping close enough tabs on the divers underwater and above water).

    One answer is “turn tec” in your diving, and dive with companies willing to take that on. That way, the company has your certification to point at, and a much higher level of risk-waiver that they can produce in court.

    Another answer would be for more of the dive industry to cooperate on, say, setting up two levels of waiver. The first would be a general one; the second, which would be barred from usage as the default waiver, would involve not merely initialing a statement, but writing out lines to the effect of “I understand that this operation requires divers to [insert conditions here]. If I choose to violate these guidelines, the operation is not obliged to warn me or prevent me from diving, though they are allowed to do so. I represent that I am a very experienced diver who dives on my own recognizance, and I waive any right to sue, or have others sue on my behalf, for any outcome, including equipment loss, injury, pain and suffering or death, resulting from my violation of the guidelines. I further request that I not be rescued or my body recovered if doing so puts staff or other divers at personal risk.”

    This is more extreme than the “out of bounds” language at ski resorts–but not by much!–because it has to cover the legal ground that’s covered, in skiing, by the existence of boundary markers.

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  7. November 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    As a diver for almost 40 years and an instructor for almost 20, I applaud Bret’s article. I teach my students from day one that certified means you have the ability to take care of yourself. I tell them to “Dive in conditions you are comfortable in and take responsibilty for your own safety”. Unfortunately, there are those who think we all need babysitting. The scuba industry needs to chill out and let divers reap the joys of our sport without officious interference! The ski industry gets it right.

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  8. George H.
    November 22, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Bret, you are exactly on target. Where does the NANNY State stop? This is a slippery slope that will continue until the ‘death’ of the sport. Perhaps some ‘industries or sports’ can sustain this do-gooder mindset — at least while their participation levels grow. To apply too many/ever increasing rules to a struggling sport is incredibly foolish.

    The resorts and live aboards will destroy their own businesses… (the only reason this hasn’t already happened is that it has been very difficult for individual divers to learn of the on-site behaviors of such commercial enterprises.) If the resort becomes the problem — competent divers will avoid them and find other ways to have the real world experiences they rightfully desire.

    The world is not an inherently safe place. We cannot MAKE it a perfectly safe place nor should we aspire to that ludicrous goal. Let individual freedoms be the rule of the day, not the exception. With all freedom comes responsibility. We have the responsibility to protect children and the infirm and to be willing to speak out for freedom. It is after all, the individual’s life. In the end it is about the journey and the living – not the ‘safe’ pre-school approach to life. Feeding the lawyers more rules and more money just makes it worse.

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  9. Garr Obo
    November 23, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Don’t worry. Obama will take care of everythng.

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  10. November 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Bret,
    As always enjoy your blog and all your other writings. I think we all are trying to protect ourselves from idiots and incompetency and not always too successfuly(just look into US politics). Reading “why divers die” in Undercurrent enforses this opinion. IMHO Darwin desribed this long time ago with natural selection concept. Yes we all can die or get bent while diving, and if some do not get it, too bad.
    On the other hand letting divers drift for hours or days and loosing people in the ocean is not good either. Return trip from the dive site is a part of our contract with dive operation.

    One thing is totally beyond me is why all wetsuits are black? We carry bright sousages, wistles, lights, etc. but wear black suits. This makes as much sence as black safety vest on a highway worker.

    As for overly restrictive operations, personnaly I do my homework before going, thanks to Undercurrent.

    Keep writing. Thanks

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  11. Marc H Landey
    November 23, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Brett,
    I applaud your comments , knowledge and experience. I have been diving since the ’70′s and primarily for the FREEDOM, coincidently the same reason I learned how to snowboard.Please continue to fight the Police state of thinking

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  12. November 23, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Applause Brett!!!! Phrases I hate “The first drink is your last dive” A nice lunch and a cold beer or 2, and a power nap before the 3 pm dive (not a 6 pack, just 1 or 2) It’s kinda what I pay for. Maybe the fault is the certifying agencies? Like drivers licensees, (at least here in California) are given to anyone anytime for any reason, therefore creating a whirlpool of crappy, unsafe drivers. I know selectivity does not help the large bottom line, just safer, independent divers..

    Cheers, keep up the good work!!

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  13. Judy Foester
    November 25, 2009 at 2:54 am

    Hi Bret,
    Here, here!!! It does not matter whether you are floating down the Delaware River or scuba diving in the currents of Raja Ampat….the participant is responsible for his or her own safety. I am not saying there is no imperative to give a good dive briefing but once the diver makes that decision to do the dive, there should be no policing. When I dived on the Pelagian a few years ago, the one owner scoffed at Americans and their laws and lawsuits. I look at the photos of long jetties in Raja Ampat with two and three-year-olds fishing and sitting on the edge, no railings, not even good timbers and I think that in the US this would represent a windfall lawsuit. Yet, somehow, the residents all manage to cope and live with those conditions. When did we become such ‘babies’ that every action must be overseen?

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  14. Jim
    December 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Well said. With the declining number of divers the changes will happen. If you want me to spend my money then let me. The current group of DMs need to understand that some of us were diving long before they were born and don’t take a lot of guff well. That said there is still room for tack full caution. The odds are that the newest gear is on the newest diver. There are many good DMs out there and they get my return business but the ones that aren’t won’t last long.

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  15. -hh
    January 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Reminds me of a visit to my local Quarry a few years ago – - things had changed a lot since my checkout dives there many moons earlier: the staffmember wanted my SSN# and was suspicious of my C-Card since it didn’t have it (or my photo) imprinted on it … he told me that ALL C-Cards have this and my card might have been a counterfeit because it lacked it(!)

    I first told him that he was incorrect (not all C-Cards have these things) and after this was rebuffed, I then suggested to him that he check the date of my certification on the card. As he looked down and read it, I asked him, “What YEAR were you born, son?”. Problem solved.

    This is also why I still carry my first C-Card, in addition to the fancy sheepskins.

    -hh

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  16. Steve Stokes
    January 5, 2010 at 3:40 am

    What a great series of comments.
    I agree almost 100%, with everyone.
    I am curious about the reference to “crusading right wing scuba police”

    I tend to find it is the “left wing” that wants the nanny state.

    Cheers
    Steve

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  17. MikeZDiver
    January 13, 2010 at 3:12 am

    Bret,
    Thanks for the excellent posting – one that I’ve considered writing myself. To give you an idea of how crazy the situation has become, I’d like to recount an incident that just occurred in Nov. 2009 while diving at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. I was doing my 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet when the dive master pointed to his watch and signaled me to go to the surface. I gave him the OK, intending to surface when my dive computer said that I had completed my safety stop. He went to the surface and I stopped paying attention to him. About a minute later I found myself being dragged to the surface by my tank valve. Needless to say I was quite angry and demanded an explanation. I was told that the state of Queensland does not allow dives greater than 60 minutes duration, and that he could loose his dive masters certificate if he allowed clients to do so. I never bothered to check this, but it seems plausible since the Aussies keep records of your time in and out of the water, and your tank pressure – an over reaction to divers being left behind on the Barrier Reef. It’s pretty obvious that over-regulation of the dive industry, and the actions of an inexperienced and overzealous dive master, can threaten rather than protect the diving community.

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  18. Pete
    January 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    If you go to Cozumel, dive with Charo – called Donkey Divers. Slow, blue boat. You get to the first dive about the time the other operators are passing out refreshments. He serves lunch with soda and beer. He is a true throw back but its great fun. Trust me. There are NO dive police on his boat.

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  19. Charlene van Someren
    March 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    I just had the same problem during a recent dive trip to St. Maarten, Great Bay, where I dove with “Scuba Fun” for three days. Believe me, it was no fun at all. Attitude is everything, and these guys have a lot to learn in life. They were the worst outfit I have ever dove with. I was not assigned a dive buddy after the briefing, and was berrated for solo diving, even though I stayed with the group, and did not venture off on my own. Even our safety stop was cut to half an 30 minutes instead of the usual 45-60 minutes (on regular air) in order for the dive to be cut short because the guides had plans, and were complaining that the divers were staying down too long….one of the guides whom had only logged just over 50 dives. I have done +300, and the two fellows I dove with +1000. I had even heard the guides making fun of a cruiseship passenger who had a very large camera. They were the absolute worst! We were also given !#@ for not surfacing with the group….this had not been mandated in the briefing. When the ‘majority’ of the group surfaced with the guide, we wondered why they were doing so as it was very rough on the surface, and there ws no boat. So we waited just below the surface at 15-20′ until the boat arrived instead of bobbing around on the surface and getting seasick. There is a definite problem when overconfident, and underexperienced newbies think they know it all just because they are now a guide. I realize they are responsible for the group, but there is also a point when common sense is also a factor. Such as a trip to the BVI on “Irie”…diving with another newbie Divemaster named Derek who got us lost underwater….and that was just for openers…. There is something to be said for experience…..

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  20. kilerdiver
    April 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    I agree that we as certified divers are being over policed. I realize that not all training is the same. Some instructors do a better job than others in training there students. Also people don’t dive as often as they should to keep up on skills or fitness. But that isn’t the big problem here. The way I see it is when a resort advertises six day of diving on a seven day vacation, then cuts you off after the fifth day because you have a morning flight on the seventh. I feel that all that is false advertising and that they won’t offer or grant a refund for the two or three dives you wont get, and paid for in advance. I think that as divers as a whole we could band together and do a lot more letter writing and posts on blogs or other walls that divers frequent about those resorts that treat us like puppets and avoid them. No place that we go on vacation has just one dive resort. We can always use another resort and start getting better results on what we pay for. And maybe the poorer resorts will either disappear or come on board and treat us fairly. Undercurrent and the diver’s chapbook are a few good places to start the postings. Thank you for reading my rant.

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  21. Stephen Smith
    June 26, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    As a long time diver (certified in 1988, 550 dives logged- most in the last 7 years) I find this situation extremely troubling. I live in Hawaii, and take a dive vacation app. once a year to some more exotic destination. On a recent trip to the Maldives on a liveaboard I was mortified to learn that it is a law in the Maldives that dives cannot be longer than 60 min. I was also berated by the divemaster for being 15 feet away from my buddy (in the context of a group of 14). I will concede that this divemaster had a lot of experience – and he knew the sites quite intimately- and that I respected.

    I am fairly good on air consumption, and most of my dives are between 80 and 90 minutes long usually (I have occasionally had dives longer than 2 hours). So as far as I am concerned Any destination or operation that has such a limitation is blacklisted to me. Perhaps such a list could be created somewhere on the UC webpage? I should note that if there is a reason for limiting dive time – such as strong current, poor viz etc – I don’t have a problem with certain limitations that are sensible because of the conditions. Galapagos has recently limited number of dives to 3 per day- something else troubling. Something that makes me consider if I want to pay out to go there when I could go somewhere else and get more water time. I also hear that in parts of French Polynesia there is a 2 dive per day limit!!!!!! (please comment if you know more about this than me).

    But I will not return to Maldives, where I was forced to surface with 1500 psi dive after dive. At Bandos resort, there was also a rule that you couldn’t dive until 24 hours after flight arrival. I told them I spent the night in Male (capital city) and got around this. I figure it is just a very rule oriented culture.

    If I arrived at a dive resort and some punk told me I couldn’t use a dive computer I would be irate. So I just have to spend hours pouring over undercurrent reports to figure out where I am going to plan trips. It helps to have a group of divers with like minded style and skill levels. Always easier to come to a creative and mutually amicable solution when you are a group.

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  22. Bret Gilliam
    June 26, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Stephen,

    There is a growing movement within the experienced diver community to “share” information about resorts and liveaboards to enlighten each other about the ones that have stupid rules and bad attitudes for competent independent divers. It’s sort of an unofficial fraternity that constantly updates each other about what to seek out… and what to avoid. Some of the worst for idiotic “rules” have traditionally been in the Caymans and parts of the Bahamas. But a lot of these places finally began to wise up when their business became almost exclusively based on a the beginner and inexperienced types who needed constant attention. Sadly, by then the diving had deteriorated to the point that the places were not worth visiting anyway.

    Even professionals like me have encountered divemasters or operators who simply could not be dealt with. My choice was to simply ignore them, do my own dives, and get away from their operation as quickly as possible. This was even more inane when I was doing feature articles for big magazines and they had to know that such treatment would result in bad reviews… no matter what they spent on ads. (Skindiver magazine was, of course, the exception. By the mid-1980s until their demise in 2002, they’d give anyone a rave review if you bought enough ad space. “Dive Fantastic World Class Nebraska!)

    Undercurrent still remains the best single source for unbiased objective information. Read their online issues and the annual Chapbook for good info, about both bad and good.

    When I sold the last of my big diving companies, I resorted to organizing my own trips and chartering entire vessels filled with hand-picked customers. And I made it clear what we expected from the operator: no hassles, good support, pleasant staff, no stupid rules, etc. I’ve still been doing it now for six years since I sold Fathoms magazine and keep a close-knit group of great divers heading off to Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and other exotic locations.

    I can recommend strongly the superb services of Dive Damai in Indonesia and the Bilikiki in the Solomons. Peter Hughes’ new operation called DivEncounters is excellent as is the Sea Hunter fleet in Cocos. One of the best in the world is the Odyssey in Truk Lagoon (Chuuk). Also, Sam’s Tours in Palau gets consistent high grades. Bill Acker’s Manta Ray Resort in Yap is excellent as well.

    But remember: it works both ways. Operations have a duty and a right to interdict and restrict unsafe or unqualified divers from getting themselves into trouble. I always vetted my customers personally and made certain that they were excellent divers… but also socially acceptable. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck for a couple of weeks with some moron that you can’t even stand to sit next to for lunch.

    But I counsel doing serious research in advance before laying out your hard earned money. If I can ever be of help, I’ll give it to you straight. Contact me: bretgilliam@gmail.com

    Good luck!

    Bret

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  23. Allen A. Smith
    August 19, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    As a prospective juror, I would say that forcibly surfacing a diver or denying a diver the use of his computer would void the liability waiver. Forcibly ending a safety stop might even constitute “reckless endangerment,” which is a crime.

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  24. bret gilliam
    August 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Allan,

    Basically, your perspective is pretty “right on”.There are a variety of liability issues and breaches of duty when a “supervisor” or a professional has a responsibility to perform as the “reasonably prudent instructor or divemaster” should… and then makes the wrong decision that endangers or kills a student or customer. It’s complicated. I live in this “real world” since I do so much litigation work as an expert witness, for both plaintiffs and defense. In spite of my best efforts to advise the current diving industry on standards of practice, we still see some incredible mistakes and simple departures from common sense. My advice is keep yourself educated on your computer, your dive profile and deco status, and never fail to use your own best judgment if confronted with some idiot who wants you to do something stupid. The current corps of instructors and divemasters that have been turned out in the last decade is, to be diplomatic, less than what I would hope for. The problem is that the overall curricula for divers and instructors has been “dumbed down”. Don’t fall victim to some dimwit if you are more experienced. It’s your life and health. Choose wisely and err on the side of caution.

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  25. Scott
    August 24, 2011 at 4:46 am

    Bret,

    Well stated, we fully agree, and I am sure to catch some heat for saying this but situation has been exaborated by the dive industry trends in getting more divers in the sport “ready or not” caused by resort certifications for vacationers on hand held dives. The “PADI” modular approach,”Put Another Dollar In” and HOPE to see you again Certifications, has put a strain on Freedoms regardless of individual skills/experience. I was 1st certified PADI in early 70′s and later NAUI Advanced while vacationing 80′s, training was very similar then unlike today, really scary from a liabilty point of view. I do alot of solo diving these days minimizes restrictions, freedoms, as well as the pains you mention here. Plus I always know where my dive buddy is without using extra tanks of air searching.

    These Quicky Certifications from resorts started this trend and now parinoid of it’s consequences, restrict everyones freedoms in the name of safety or $.

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  26. Robert Levine
    December 18, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    THANK YOU AGAIN AND AGAIN I LIVE AND DIVE NEW JERSEY EVEN IN THE WINTER MONTHS.I DIVE SOLO EVEN ON WRECK DIVES.INLET AND JETTY DIVES SPEAR FISHING.WE HAVE A SAYING WERE JUST DIVING ON THE SAME DAY IN THE SAME OCEAN I HAVE OFFTEN SAID EVEN IF YOUR BUDDY IS ON THE SAME WRECK AS YOU MOST LIKELY HE OR SHE CANNOT SEE YOU OR EVEN KNOW YOUR HAVING A PROBLEM SO ANY THING THAT HAPPEN YOU HAVE TO BE COOL HEADED AND FIGURE IT OUT YOUR SELF AND BE SELF SEFICENT. OR YOU SHOULD NOT BE DIVING. MOST OF ALL KNOW YOUR LIMITS.IF YOU NEVER WRECKED DIVE OVER HEAD ENVIRORMENTS TAKE A CLASS SEE IF IT FOR YOU GET A MENTOR JOIN A GROUP PICK A LOT OF BRAINS. I ALWAYS SAY IF YOU DO NOT FEEL RIGHT YOUR GEAR IS NOT RIGHT SOME THING BOTHING YOU MENTALLY OR PHYICAL DO NOT DIVE ONE ONE WILL PUT YOU DOWN OR SAY ANYTHING SIT THE DIVE OUT YOU CAN ALLWAY DIVE TOMMOROW OR NEXT WEEK BUT I DO TRAVEL AND DIVE THE WORLD. WITH OUT MY WIFE FIRST THING I DO I CHECK UNDERCURRENTS MY BIBLE.I HATE WHEN I AM TOLD EVERY DIVER WAITS TILL THE DM IS IN THE WATER TILL WE GO DOWN OR YOU MUST STAY WITH YOUR BUDDY IF HE GOES UP YOU GO UP..I FIND THIS MOSTLY ON LAND BASED OPERATIONS NOT SO MUCH ON LIVERABOARDS. COCOS UNDERSEA HUNTER 2X . TRUK ODDYESS. ECT TOP RATED IN MY BOOK FOR DOING YOUR OUN PROFILE DIVING .I ONCE WENT ON A CRUISE SHIP WITH MY WIFE SHE DOES NOT DIVE WE TAKE SEPRARATE VACACTION TOGETHER.LOL.ONCE IN A WHILE.WE TOOK A CRUISE SHIP IT STOPED IN ARUBA I BOOKED A DIVE ON THE UTILA WRECK THEY BUDDY ME UP WITH A DIVE WHO HAD A PROBLEM WITH HIS EARS. AFTER 15 OR 20 FEET HE TOLD ME HE WAS GOING UP I CONTINUED MY DIVE ONLY TO HAVE SOME DM COME UP TO MY FACE SHOWING OR TELLING ME WHERE IS MY BUDDY I LOOKED AND HIM AND POINTED UP AND CONTINUDED MY DIVE WHEN I GOT BACK ON THE BOAT HE CHEWED ME OUT I KINDLY TOLD HIM I WAS IN ARUBA ONLY ONE DAY AND I PAYED TO MAKE A DIVE NOT BABY SIT ON THE DIVE BOAT AND THAT WAS HIS JOB NOT MINE.BADGES I DIDNOT SEE NO STINKIN BADGES.I ALSO MADE HIM WAIT A GOOD 30 MINUTES EXTRA BEFORE I SURFACED KNOWING EVERY ONE ELSE WAS ALLREADY ON BOARD THE BOAT TOLD HIM MY COMPUTER MADE ME DO MY HANG AND I DID NOT WANT TO GET BENT ON THE CRUISE SHIP I WAS ON VACATION.AND STILL HAD 100PSI AIR IN MY TANK..AND I WAS FROM NEW JERSEY DID HE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT?

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  27. tinkerbell
    July 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    You are right on Bret.
    I am also sick of newbie dive masters telling me that (I) “need an intergrated weight BCD for safety”
    Leave me alone

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  28. November 27, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Why do the scuba police have to be Right Wing, it looks like must new regulations are coming from the lefties ??

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  29. David
    December 26, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Great article. One other important note to all dive operators – I am a paying customer, and a certified divemaster. i want to decide my depth and my bottom time, diving on my computer. I appreciate a dive guide with experience in the area. Being 60 years old with 25 years of diving experience, I dont need a baby sitter.
    Diving is supposed to be fun. Relax and enjoy. Focus on the customer service aspect of your job. In the early days, when the diving community was relatively small, things were much looser and more enjoyable. Now that PADI and other agencies are focused more on the business of diving, numerous “divers” are churned out on assembly lines; including divemasters and instructors that can get ever increasing certifications by passing tests. The result is a “dumbing down” of the skill level of divers.
    Safety is often used as an excuse to limit dive times or otherwise provide some financial benefit to the operator. Operators are full of stories about the divers who do stupid things, but having dived around the world for years, I have just as many stories about dive operators who forget to have fun, and focus more on being some sort of “dive commander”, lording it over customers for no apparant reason other than their own private power trip. I also notice that generally, these dive operators no longer enjoy diving. It has become a job; something they have to do instead of something they enjoy doing. My advice to divers everywhere is “if you love diving; don’t do it as a business.” Do something else to make money, and save diving for something that you enjoy doing.

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  30. Bret Gilliam
    December 27, 2012 at 12:59 am

    David,

    I agree completely with everything you noted… except your very last advisal: “If you love diving; don’t do it as a business.”

    If people don’t do it as a business there will be no infrastructure to support the divers that want to participate as customers. No compressors, no dive boats, no resorts, no place to buy gear, no training, etc. Yes, those of us over 60 have seen a significant decline in the professionalism and customer service ethos of divemasters and other “dive professionals” in the last 15 years or so. But the solution is for customers to demand the proper service… and don’t do business with the nutballs that can’t deliver something worth spending your hard-earned money on for vacations.

    Hopefully, this lesson in “Darwinism of Business” will wake up the bozos.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Bret

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  31. Sally Herbert
    June 16, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    I guess I have been very lucky. I’ve been to all of the places mentioned- Indian ocean,indonesia,,polynesia, micronesia, etc-and have never had a problem with depth or time. Maybe it’s because I do my research and have read undercurrent for many, many years. Even last year in the Galopagoes I dove 5 times a day…no problem , so that they were restricting dives, amazes me. I’ve been diving for 55 years and love to tweak to the edge but have never been bent. It’s been a good life

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