All posts by Matt M

Wednesday Night and Local Diving Schedule for 2017

Wednesday Night and Local Diving Schedule for 2017

The Wednesday Night and Local Diving Schedule for 2017 is well underway.  Get involved and get diving some of the best dive sites in the area this summer. 

All of our trips are full for the season now, so spend less time driving and more time diving shipwreck sites that are even better than most of the Tobermory shipwrecks by sticking around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario this summer.

We have some phenomenal end of season dives too which are shore based and some amazing DPV dives too, so lets get diving.

Charters and weekend dives require advanced sign up.  There is a charter form that will need to be filled out. Please book well ahead, many dives are already full or filling up.

dds-divengers

Divengers Age of Ultra Diving Wednesday Night Dive Schedule 2017

May 31st Ontario Rd. Bridge (Welland)

June 7th International Train Bridge (Ft. Erie)

June 14th Navy Hall (Lower Niagara River)

June 21st The Barge (Upper Niagara River)

June 28th Netherby Rd. (Upper River)

July 5th Swing Bridge (Welland)

July 12th Kings Bridge Park to Boat Launch
(Chippawa Creek)

July 19th Boat Launch to Stanley Ave. (Chippawa)

July 26th Peace Bridge/Thompsons Hole *

August 2nd International Train Bridge

August 9th Frenchman’s Creek

August 16th Ontario Rd. Bridge

August 23rd Barge (Upper Niagara River)

August 30th Netherby Rd. Drift

September 6th Swing Bridge (Welland)

September 13th Kings Bridge Park to Boat Launch

September 20th Boat Launch to Stanley Ave.

September 27th Navy Hall

October 4th Thompsons Hole *

October 11th International Train Bridge

October 18th Swing Bridge

October 25th Frenchman’s Creek

November 1st Navy Hall

Wednesdays require you to be on site by 6:30pm, gear up and dive in by 7pm, most dives are an hour in duration followed by a “Debriefing” at a local establishment.

A * Denotes Advanced Dive.  A ** Denotes Technical Dive. Charters have a Charter fee.

Gratuities for staff and boat personnel greatly appreciated.

DDS Weekend Charter Dives, Trips, Events 

Sunday May 28th DDS DEMO DAY & BBQ @Welland Scuba Park $15/person. 

June 11th Tiller Wreck Charter AM & PM * (Sold Out Waiting List in Effect)

June 18th Father’s Day Tiller Wreck Charters * (Sold Out Waiting List in Effect)

Thursday Night June 29th Lyman Davis/Sligo Charter off of Humber Bay, Toronto *

July 2nd Lake Erie Carlingford/Benson *
July 3rd Lake Erie Crystal/Tradewind *
July 7-9 Tobermory Dive Extravaganza 2017 * (Sold Out Waiting List in Effect)

Thursday Night July 13th Tiller Wreck 2 Dives *

July 22-29 Newfoundland Trip Wrecks, Whales, Mines and More!

July 23rd Lake Erie Acme/Stone Wreck *

August 6th Tiller Wreck Charter AM & PM *

Civic Monday August 7th Lake Erie Finnie/Niagara 

August 11-13 Rockport Thousand Islands Dive Weekend (Sold Out Waiting List in Effect)
August 20th St. James/Arches Technical Charter or Picton Wrecks **

August 24th Oakville Wrecks Birmingham/Barge *

September 1-4 Northwind Expedition 2017 (Sold Out Waiting List in Effect)

September 17th Tiller Wreck Charter AM & PM *

September 22-24 Tobermory Dive Extravaganza 2 *

October 15th Tiller Wreck Charter AM & PM *

October 19-21 Brockville Dive Exposé *

October 28-November 3rd Blackbeards Bahamas Liveboard Dive Vacation (Sold Out Waiting List in Effect)

October 29th Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest 2017

Friday November 3rd DDS RENTAL GEAR SALE

November 5th Rockport Wall Shore Dive

November 12th Waome Dive Carter Gravenhurst*

November 19th Bon Echo Park Scooter Dive (DPV’s available for rent with DPV Cert)

November 25th– December 2nd Mexico Cave Trip

December 3rd Brockville Daryaw *
December 8th DDS Christmas Party

December 29-January 6th New Years Mexico Cave Trip **

February 11-17 Florida Springs Trip (Intro to Tech, Cavern, DPV Training) *
February 18-24 Florida Springs Trip (Cave 1 Training) *
February 25-March 3rd Florida Springs Trip (Cave 2 Training) **

Dive Sites subject to availability. Locations subject to change. Please register in advance for all charters and weekend dives.

 

 

Unmasked A Modern Look at Scuba And Snorkel Masks

Unmasked A Modern Look at Scuba Masks And Snorkel Masks

Today we’re going to talk about Scuba and Snorkel Masks, which also hold true for Freediving.

Have you ever been to a resort where someone just hands you a snorkel mask our a dive mask out of a bucket and tells you to go and enjoy the water?  For some that can be a wonderful eye popping experience and for others it can be painful, irritating, uncomfortable or downright unnerving.

Today we are going to discuss some of the key features, technologies, materials, styles and levels of comfort you can come to expect from a good quality scuba or snorkel mask.

Key Features

Some would argue that the more expensive the mask is, the better it will fit you or the better quality it is.  This isn’t quite the case.

The best mask on the market is the mask that fits your face first and foremost.

Factors that affect the fit of the mask are face shapes, facial hair, buckle or strap design, single or double lens, type of mask skirt material, lens glass and frame shape to name a few.

Generally speaking the bigger the face the larger the mask skirt and frame will have to be.  Someone with a narrow face like a woman or small child can fit a small to mid size frame, while most average size faces would benefit from a standard fit, larger faces may require a wide fitting mask.

There are a handful of brands who offer small/medium fitted masks, as well as wide fitting masks, while the norm is to make a mask for the average face.

Once you’ve determined the size of mask you may need its time to weigh options, for example, if you have facial hair, you may favour a stiffer mask skirt with a frameless designed that will sit slightly higher above the moustache versus one that lays across the hair preventing a full seal against the upper lip and under the nose.  

The Moustache: Moustache divers or snorkelers can be one of the more challenging people to fit, so we often gravitate to a few good “moustache masks”.  These masks are shorter and stiffer in the upper lip area and aren’t as affected by the facial hair which can break the seal of a softer skirted mask.

The BARE Frameless Mask, Atomic Frameless Mask, Mares X-Vision standard and TUSA Powerview have been some of our most successful options. 

Avoid Purge Valves!  Rather than going for a proper fit, some people choose to go for a mask with a purge valve in the nose that allows you to simply blow out to evacuate water, however, we believe a purge valve mask is an excuse for an ill-fitting mask.  They also tend to fail over time having the valve curl or simply fall out causing the mask to fill up with water, so for this reason we simply don’t recommend or endorse the use of purge valves in masks, but are happy to add one into any mask you desire should you want one.

Wearing a Skirt?

Guys and girls both wear skirts when wearing a mask.  So what’s the difference in mask skirts?  Mask skirts can be made of a number of different materials including Rubber, TPR (transparent rubber), PVC, Silite, Silflex, Silter, Silicone, Crystal Silicone, Liquid Silicone, Liquid Crystal Silicone, Gummybear Silicone and more.

Rubber was the most common type of material throughout the infancy of snorkeling and scuba because it was inexpensive, created a seal, was black which helped the person see clearer without glare and refraction of light, but it was not a product that had offered a lot of longevity, however, in the late 1970’s silicone started to become more popular due to the fact that it didn’t break down in the sunlight, was more comfortable and chlorine resistant.

Alternatively TPR, PVC, Silite, Silflex, Silter are all harder skirted alternatives that cost less, are replaced more and are often found in the department stores.  Some manufactures promote a silcone mask/snorkel combo, however, a mask can be class as “silicone” with as little as 5% in the skirt.

You can tell how much silicone is in the mask vs. plastic or other materials by holding the clear skirt up to the light.  If the mask has an opaque colour that looks “clumpy” or more white it isn’t pure silicone.  If the mask skirt has an odour the smells like chemicals, its not pure silicone.

Many of our dive mask brands offer both “sport” quality and “dive” quality. Both can be suitable for snorkeling and in some cases diving too, however, fit and comfort are the 2 most important factors affecting your decision to purchase one over the other.

Pure Silicone mask skirts are still the most comfortable, last the longest, do not break down with repeated saltwater or chlorine immersion and are UV resistant.

Silicone masks can come in skirts that are acid washed to be perfectly transparent or they can be coloured black or other unique colours.  At DDS we prefer black silicone because it offers better vision through the process of eliminating excessive amounts of light which flow in through the normally clear skirt and then cause glare and refraction of light when compared to their black skirted brethren who provide eye and glare protection and less overall strain and eye fatigue.

Clear Skirted Masks Yellow over time.

Black skirted masks also age better maintaining their black colour, whereas clear skirted masks only stay clear for a little while, that is until the uv rays, dirt, sand, rubber and other factors start to cause a yellowing of the skirt and they become opaque over a rather short period of time, meanwhile the black skirted mask is still looking as fresh and good as it did the day it was purchased.

Regardless of the mask you choose it’s all about fit and comfort.  You can read review after review, but the mask should be fitted by a professional who understands your needs, wants and has a good selection.

We sell virtually every brand of mask, but have cherry picked among our entire staff the masks we feel to be the best fitting masks on the market.

Keep the gimmicks to a minimum.

The Fit

Make sure when you’re wearing your mask you can equalize your ears by squeezing your nose pocket, this will ensure you can get to the nose pocket when you need to.

Make sure the mask strap isn’t too tight.  A proper fitting mask only needs to have the strap snug, not tight because the water pressure is going to keep the mask on your face for the most part too.

Make sure the mask doesn’t sit against the brow area putting pressure on it if its a 2 lens mask (men generally have a protruding brow).

Make sure the nose pocket doesn’t dig into the bridge of the nose.

Wear the mask strap just over top of the ears centering it around the middle 1/3 of the skull.  Wearing it too high can cause the mask to push up under the nose causing chaffing and making it raw over time, so really pay attention to centering it and keeping it adjusted comfortably.

When wearing the mask you can check for proper width by looking in a mirror.  You don’t want to see the skirt too narrow that it sits on the eye, but you also don’t want it so wide that it lets water in through the top or sides.

Breath in through your nose without using the strap, see that the mask sits comfortably on the face.  If it does, put the strap on, snug it up comfortably and with the mask against the face exhale.  The exhaled air should go out the bottom of the mask not the top of the head by the temples or above the eyes.

High or Low Volume?  Which is Better?

Low Volume is always best.  The lenses sit closer to your eyes.  There’s a smaller airspace to equalize the masks internal airspace which is something you’ll notice when you go down on breath hold or on scuba.  With increased pressure the mask will suck to your face more and more and more eventually causing pain and discomfort.  To avoid this you’ll need to equalize the airspace by simply blowing some air through your nose into the mask to keep it from squeezing down.

tusa_panthes_mask_for_sale_online_in_canada
Black Skirted Masks maintain their colour and help eliminate light glare

Lower volume masks are more comfortable and are easier to clear water out of as well.  Imagine a big round window shaped mask and how big and how much water can fill that mask up.  Now picture a streamlined mask that has a similar surface area to that of a pair of swim goggles but with an enclosed nose so you can blow into it.  

Which mask is going to be easier to clear the water out of ?  The one with more or less water in it?  If you guessed less water in it you’re right.  The smaller the masks overall internal volume the easier its going to be to blow the air out of it.

Frame or No Frame?

Divers have long gravitated towards plastic framed masks that press the glass, plastic and frame all into one package with a lens retainer.  They’re durable, comfortable, most popular.

Frameless masks are a more modern concept that has less overall parts and simplified construction by simply moulding the silicone frame over the tempered glass lenses and bonding the silicone to the skirt.

The Different Mask Lenses

The market for different dive lenses have changed a lot since the initial introduction of simple tempered glass or polycarbonate lenses.

Tempered Glass lenses are still the industry standard because of their durability, relative cost effectiveness and the fact that they don’t shatter inwards due to pressure.  They can break like anything else, but generally the glass will stay together.

Tempered Glass is durable, they aren’t affected by scratches in the water, but they do have a greenish tinge to the glass which cuts back on light transmission.

Polycarbonate is plastic, scratches very easily and not suitable for scuba diving or much more than pool playing.  They’re typical of your department store masks which are cheap and not designed to last.

Ultraclear Glass Lenses introduced by Atomic Aquatics

Ultraclear glass is an optical quality glass with exceptional clarity and high light transmission, with no colour distortion.

Standard float glass (tempered glass) lets through approximately 86% of the available light but UltraClear lenses can allow up to 92% light transmittance. Combine that with the increased colour vibrancy and clarity and you’ll never want to dive with a standard lens again.

ARC Lenses or Anti Reflective Coating Lenses Introduced by Atomic Aquatics

Between 4-14% of light can be reflected back or “lost” by the standard “green float glass” mask lenses used by the more traditional mask makers.  ARC technology lenses are especially important for SCUBA divers underwater, where available light is quickly absorbed by the surrounding water because they help amplify available light.

Atomic Aquatics ARC Technology to reduce reflected light and actually increase the amount of available light transmitted to a diver’s eyes. The result is a greatly improved transmission of 98% of available light, compared to a loss of more than 14% of light with standard green “float” glass used on the majority of masks on the market.

ARC uses a multi-layer metal oxide coating process applied to both sides of the UltraClear lenses. This allows more light to enter the mask by reducing light reflections off the inside and outside surface of the lens. The metal oxide coating is only a few microns thick.

Anti-Reflective Coatings or ARC is a multi-layer metal oxide coating process applied to both sides of the Ultraclear lenses. This allows more light to enter the mask by reducing light reflection off the inside and outside surface of the lends. Clearer, crisper vision.  Reduces eyestrain, glare and prevents ghost images on the viewing area of the lens. A must for night diving and limited visibility conditions and underwater photographers.

Mirrored Lenses

Some Divers like the idea of mirrored lenses, however, they reflect back at the fishlife and can cause unwanted confrontations.  They also hide the divers eyes, which are essential when assessing diver comfort underwater, so for this reason we’d suggest staying away from mirrored lenses.

Types of Mask Straps

DDS Neoprene Mask StrapMost mask straps are made of the same material as the mask.  They’re designed to fit comfortably, not overly tight around the back of the wearers head and have side adjusters that allow you to often times pull the mask strap by tabs to tighten it.  

The straps can pull hair or can tend to be uncomfortable.  One way we fix this is by adding a neoprene mask strap backing or replacing the entire strap with a neoprene adjust-a-strap which uses Velcro on the sides and neoprene on the back of the head. 

You don’t need hair to enjoy a neoprene mask strap, they’re the best option for ease of donning or taking your mask off, plus they also float a little bit, so if you drop you mask into the water you may have faster response as it may not sink immediately .

Prescription Lenses

We can get a number of masks with prescription lenses.  We carry lenses in + or – diopters, as well as custom ground lenses for people needing lenses for different pupil distances and special features. 

The costs of lenses for negative diopters are very reasonable.  Positive diopters are more expensive.  Standard bio-focal lenses are also available.

We generally recommend TUSA or Atomic for prescription lenses.  They’re easy to install and the masks are the best quality you can buy.

Replacement Parts

When purchasing a mask consider the fact that this product will last you 20-30 years if you look after it.  My personal TUSA mask is one I’ve had since 1996.  Dan had a 30 year old TUSA mask.  When you buy quality products from reputable manufacturers who make their own masks (NOT OEM with a Log slapped on) you purchase a product that is going to have parts and service around for years (or decades) to come.

Mask clips can commonly break if dropped or stepped on.  Lenses can chip, mask skirt scan rip, lens retainer clips can break if you’re cleaning the mask and mask skirt on a regular basis.

Brands like TUSA, Atomic Aquatics, Mares Diving, Problue and Scubapro keep a range of clips and replacement parts in stock.

Pre-cleaning Your Mask

Pre-clean your mask with toothpaste rubbed on the inside of the glass and take a toothbrush with mild abrasive and brush the inside glass to remove a protective silicone residue that is tacked on the inside.  You can also carefully burn it off with a flame if you have a steady hand and trust yourself around silicone.

Pre-cleaning the mask will help prevent fogging and will give you a better chance of fog-free diving.

Defogging Your Mask

Mask defog is your friend.  Not because we’re a dive store, but because you don’t want bacteria ridden saliva in your mask that you may or may not fully rinse out.  We’ve seen divers with eye infections from using the communal “spit bucket” on the dive boats down south where 10-20 divers are all spitting in their mask and then rinsing in a communal bucket.

Commercial Mask Defog is awesome!  It lasts years and years despite the small affordable 2oz bottle it comes in.  McNett Sea Drops and McNett Sea Gold are the best defogs we’ve used.  No bacteria or eye irritation and you also don’t have as much black mould or bacteria growing in your mask after 6-12 months of using it vs. spit.

Spitting in your mask is a good temporary solution, but defog will prevent things from growing in the mask and give you the best fog free solution.

To use your defog properly though follow these steps. 

  1. Apply defog to mask lens dry 2-3 drops per lens or 5-6 drops overall if single lens max.
  2. Leave defog on the mask until you’re ready to hit the water
  3. Rinse defog off with your finger and water
  4. Put mask directly on your face or keep filled with water until ready to wear
  5. Keep mask on face, do not take off and let it air dry
  6. If taking mask off fill it up with water and leave lenses wet, don’t air dry

Maintenance For Your Mask

Your mask over time may get dirty, mildewed or saturated with salt crystals or sand which can get between the lenses.  Every 1-2 years or sooner, you should consider taking your mask apart and with hot water, some dish soap and a toothbrush, gently rinse and scrub every bit of the mask frame, skirt, lenses, and lens retainer clips (This isn’t possible with Frameless masks which do not come apart).

To learn more about care and maintenance of your scuba and snorkeling gear take our PADI Equipment Specialist Course.

In Closing,

The best mask on the market is the mask that makes you feel like its a part of your face, it fits naturally, it doesn’t hit off the brow, press on the bridge of the nose and doesn’t need to be overtightened.  It can come with a range of different lenses and price points, but at the end of the day its the mask that feels the best and has the features you want that’s the right one.

While technologies change, the fit criteria should all the same.  Comfort, ease of adjustment, ease of clearing because its low volume and it should look quasi-stylin’.

Matt Mandziuk
Recreational, Cave & Technical Diving Instructor
NAUI Cave & Trimix Instructor 45416
TDI Trimix Instructor 4767
PADI MSDT 207233
SDI Instructor 4767
IDREO Rebreather Instuctor (CCR)
Owner
Dan’s Dive Shop, Inc.
www.dansdiveshop.ca
matt@dansdiveshop.ca

Winter Travel Tips

Winter Travel Tips Repost from The Businesss Link Niagara

Planning a little underwater getaway this winter? Dan’s Dive Shop can help you enjoy the water to its fullest.

By Matt Mandziuk

A popular HBO TV series uses the catch phrase “Winter is Coming” which to many signifies that it time to set your winter travel plans. People travel for a multitude of reasons. For some, it’s about getting away and relaxing, while others look for new and exciting activities to participate in – many of whom gravitate to the beach to swim and explore the sea.

To enjoy the water to its fullest, you’ll want a few of the items listed below to make it more fun, exciting and comfortable.  

  • Get yourself a good quality mask to clearly see what you’re looking at. You’ll want one made of high quality, hypo-allergenic silicone which offers a comfortable face seal. We recommend black silicone so it doesn’t yellow or cause excessive glare and distraction with a low surface area so there’s less effort to clear the mask of any water. The nose pocket should be easily accessible if diving down to pinch, lenses made of tempered glass. A proper fit is the most important feature, so take the time to get fitted by a professional. Don’t use swim goggles if you’re planning to swim below the surface deeper than a few feet.
  • Snorkels are available as just a simple a tube with mouthpiece, or with a purge valve on the bottom to aid in easy clearing of water. Semi-dry and dry top snorkels that help eliminate water from entering the tube above or below the water are now the most popular.
  • Fins are very useful to propel you effortlessly through the water and help you cover more distance without exerting, especially if there’s a current present.
  • Mesh shoulder bags, duffel bags and laundry bags are great ways to carry your gear to and from the beach. Having a pair of surf shoes will help protect your feet if there’s rough terrain en route to your entry or exit point.
  • Rashguards, chillguards and wetsuits are great ways to keep the sun off your back or keep you warmer for extended time in the water.
  • Having the right equipment can really make the experience a positive one. If you’re nervous in the water but still want to swim atop and look down, use a snorkeling vest, which orally inflates with air and allows you additional buoyancy and peace of mind. We’d also recommend pairing this with a dry snorkel to keep the water completely out of your mouth.

Regardless of where you’re traveling this season, Dan’s Dive Shop brings the fun of the sea and the sun with you for activities above and below the water with the largest selection in the country and the most competitive prices – so stop in for a fitting today!

neopine full face snorkel mask easy breath

Head Pirate Jr Set Bluepink snorkel veststahlsac_panama_mesh_backpack_bag

Dan’s Dive Shop is located at 329 Welland Avenue in St. Catharines. For more information on Dan’s Dive Shop, call 905.984.2160, email: info@dansdiveshop.ca or go to https://dansdiveshop.ca.

 

Canada Day Cleanup 2016 Another Great Day For The Environment

Canada Day Cleanup 2016 & September 18th Cleanup

There was a light drizzle and dark skies flew overhead of the dive site, DDS divers had a happy Canada Day this year.   Eventually though, the dark overcast clouds made way to bright and beautiful weather for the great group of scuba divers who participated in the annual DDS Canada Cleanup Dive Against Debris, which was hosted by Dan’s Dive Shop of St. Catharines, ON.

This year the team decided to clean up the underwater section of the Welland Swing Bridge, as well as topside along the canal bank.  and a beaver dam that was interwoven with bleach bottles, construction foam, socks, plastic bottles and cans all throughout the wooden home of this local area resident.

Scuba diving is a beloved leisure activity that is conducted virtually anywhere it is safe to dive and explore, and divers are often times very protective of the earth and its resources, animals and countryside, which is why it was so great to see another amazing group of volunteers show their support for the environment on their day off.

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Surface support retrieving mesh bags full of garbage for the sorting and documentation process
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An inhabited beaver dam made of sticks and garbage

For those curious about what was removed from the dive site, the divers removed a pair of smart phones, lawn chairs, an entire garbage bag of random clothing items including shirts, hats, boxer shorts, sweaters, underwear, jackets and more.  An entire garbage bag was filled of items just from the beaver dam, with other bags being filled of just plastic bottles and plastic cups, another of soft drink and alcohol cans, glass wine bottles, beer bottles, fishing lures, electronic equipment, bicycle handle bars, antique bottles, an entire garbage bag of old plastic bags, strings of Christmas lights, bits of an artificial Christmas tree, plumbing supplies, toilet seats, aerosol cans, a wall safe and many other odds and ends.

 “It’s bittersweet conducting a cleanup because you feel good about yourself, but also frustrated with the naivety or outright selfish
nature of some people who carelessly or intentionally dump their trash where so many people splash.” – Matt Mandziuk owner of Dan’s Dive Shop, Inc.

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Matt assisting divers with gear and entry down to the water

Mandziuk also concedes that “On any given day in the summer you see children swimming, dogs playing, people wading in the Old Canal and if they only knew how much trash was tossed into their playground, they’d likely feel uneasy swimming in an underwater garbage dump.”

The scuba divers hoisted out hundreds of pounds of garbage and this is just from an isolated spot in the Old Welland Canal, where they then had to separate, document and then weigh the different types of garbage found.Divers participate in the Canada Day Cleanup yearly and have cleaned up locations between Lincoln Street Bridge to the Swing Bridge, as well as Sherkston Quarry and continue to make their way around the area doing their part for the environment, but when you see bags and bags of trash being hauled out of these small isolated areas, it makes you wonder what lies throughout the rest of the lakes and oceans.

Dan’s Dive Shop hosts this event yearly, with otherIMG_2473 cleanup initiatives offered on other dates as well, as the Dive Against Debris title is one coined by a not for profit 
environmental agency called Project AWARE, which is backed by the worlds largest scuba diving training agency, PADI, the Professional Association of DivingInstructors, for whom Dan’s is the oldest training facility in Canada and about the 3rd oldest now worldwide

This year dive patron Barbara B. took the initiative to have a meeting with Walker Industries, who happily agreed to accept our garbage and recycling free of charge as a debt of gratitude for the dive communities hard work and environmental awareness.

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DDS Divers doing their part to clean up the place we love to be the most….Underwater

As Canadians we are very fortunate to have such a beautiful country, with so much open space, fresh water, clean air, however, if we continue to take for granted that these resources will always be there for us and we don’t change our environmental habits, continue to litter,  over consume, over pollute, overuse our natural resources as so many people do, it can ruin this beautiful country just like so many other countries populations have done to their own lands.  

As a country everyone should be reminded that fresh water only stays fresh by keeping it clean, that the air only stays fresh by making sure we reduce the amount of combustable chemicals we put in atmosphere and that we replenish the trees and oxygen giving plants that we cut down to make way for new shopping malls and communities.

Do your part to keep your country beautiful.

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On September 18th, DDS Divers and the Welland 9th Regiment Scouts participated in another clean up dive in Welland where another truck bed full of garbage was removed from the Welland Recreational Waterway.

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The Welland Swing Bridge is one of the prettiest and most enjoyable shore dives in the area, with visibility often best in and around the dock pilings but its a haven for garbage as people throw everything off the bridge from guns to safes to shopping carts and bikes and everything in between
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DDS Divers cleaning up the shoreline and entering the water to retrieve more garbage.
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A great gathering of good hearted people.

 

 

Truk Lagoon DDS Divers In A Wreck Diving Paradise

Truk Lagoon DDS Divers In A Wreck Diving Paradise

A little over three years ago DDS Divers booked a trip of  a lifetime to Truk Lagoon in Micronesia, a pre-war Japanese territory which housed their air base, naval station and in the aftermath became a wreck diving haven of some amazing World War II shipwrecks and victorious systematic attacks throughout the islands by US Naval and Airforce teams, in what was a retaliation effort by the United States for the attack on Pearl Harbour.

Operation Hailstone
Operation Hailstone began February 16/17, 1944

The US launched operation Hailstone which began on February 16 and 17th most notably, but also sparked a long term battle which lasted months after, as the US forces maintained pressure on the Japanese throughout this time and kept kicking them harder and harder when they were down, eventually starving out many of the Japanese officers who were unable to receive supplies from merchant ships and instead had to resort to cannibalism of local islanders, Korean comfort girls (they estimate 10’000 women were taken from their homes and forced to perform as companions to the soldiers) and some of their own wounded or dead troops.

The stories of the war on this side of the world was fascinating and there are many books, documentaries and videos available if you’re interested in finding out more.  In the meantime, lets discuss the planning, the journey, the local area, how plans can change, shipwrecks, diving operations, diving itself, the experience and of course the very sad journey back home to reality.

The Journey

Have you ever heard the age old adage that if it was easy, everyone would do it?  We think that rule would apply here, you see, Truk (Chuuk)Lagoon is an area in the state of Chuuk in the Central Pacific region of Micronesia, among a series of beautiful islands that are located between Guam, Honolulu and the Marshall Islands (which are of interest to us, home to the worlds largest Shark Preservation Sanctuary covering over 200’000 square kilometres or 772’000 miles os protected ocean, as well as being home to another future dive destination….Bikini Atoll).

We departed Toronto in the wee hours of the morning with sand still in our bloodshot eyes as we marched like cattle off to an untimely fate….customs and baggage inspection stations.

White-Arrow-Explorer-Rebreather-Carry-on
White Arrow Rebreather is compact, streamlined, versatile, fits in carry-on!

I carried on my White Arrow Rebreather and the majority of my sensitive equipment, which I knew was going to be a unique experience for all involved, as we usually have quite the ordeal when it comes to getting regulators and a canister light through inspection points. I was searched or had to demonstrate application of the unit everywhere I travelled. 

Air Canada was the carrier that took us to LAX, where it is highly likely they will want to weigh your carry-on bags.  It’s about $400 if you had to check an additional bag all the way through round trip, so its worth chancing it or packing as lightly as possible.  My checked bag had a weight allowance of up to 50lbs and was mostly clothes, fins, wetsuit, boots, trimix analyzer in a heavy duty pelican case and my shaving kit.  I think the comment was made that divers should bring 1/2 as many clothes as they think they’ll need and twice as much money.

My carry-on backpack housed my regulators, backplate and harness, some books (I didn’t even have time to read), liquids, gels, pills, and I was able to stow my jacket and sweater in there.

My carry-on bag had the rebreather, wing, counterlung, breathing loop, tank bands, isolation manifold, canister light, backup lights, spool, primary reel and 2 Shearwater computers.

Once you switch airlines to United there is a much less of a chance that the carrier will weigh your carry-on bags.

Once we arrived at LAX we disembarked and had to change terminals, which involved walking 1/2 way across the entire airport and going through baggage check and customs yet again, this is where I got hassled and detained for the better part of 45 minutes because they kept insisting the rebreather canister was a scuba tank and that I was going to have to check the baggage, until finally after the 4th person tried to tell me this, they located a scuba diver on their inspection staff who verified that it indeed was not a scuba tank and they decided to X-Ray it one more time before letting me go to board my plane which was only minutes away from boarding by this point.

From LAX we flew to the beautiful Central Pacific Island of Honolulu, where we overnighted, got a great meal and a wonderful Teppenyaki experience at Benihana restaurant in Waikiki, where they chef did a fun choreographed show as he prepared our meals right at the table.

Flight Route to Truk Lagoon
Our Route to Chuuk included 5 island hops from Honolulu to Chuuk. Total distance from YYZ, LAX, HNL, TKK was 13220km’s over 32 hours

With our bellies full and anticipation high, we returned to the hotel, got a few hours of sleep and readied ourselves for the final leg of the trip, which would prove to be the longest as well, as we participated in the island hopping to 5 islands including our final stop in Chuuk.  

 

After a total distance (approximate) of 13220km’s and about 32 hours (over 22 hours were spent in the air) we arrived to our final destination. 

The Local Area

Chuck state was so beautiful, very reminiscent of when I was a child and my parents would take me on vacation to Caribbean islands that now are modernized and built up, but back then were very authentic, often poverty ridden and full of local culture that is unspoiled by foreigners.

The airport was located on the island of Weno, where we saw first hand a very simple and modest single story airport that had only 1 lane, a large single un-airconditioned waiting room with a giant fan at the snack bar fanning the patrons, while all the rest were trying to fan themselves as the a/c units were either not turned on or broken.

The runway was a single landing strip where the plane fly’s in and takes off from the same landing strip and they can only host 1 single plane at a time or they’d run out of room.

Chris lets out a bit "Yes!  We Made it"!
Chris lets out a bit “Yes! We Made it”!

Like all of the landing strips we saw on the way into Chuuk, they were all on a picturesque and beautiful ocean backdrop, often times coasting into a narrow passage on the atoll that in this case developed into a beautiful island with lush greenery, while others were not much more than a sand island with a few palm trees and buildings and others were lush with mountains, their own microclimate and some lovely fishing bays and villages.

After a short distance but very long drive on an uneven road with potholes the size of a small crater, we made our way down past the shipping port and marina where the petroleum shipments, sea containers and any imports and exports take place in a bus playing some local authentic Chuukese folk music that was reminiscent of Bob Dylan or Yoko Ono, but yet strangely intriguing and hypnotic, but then again it could’ve been the jet lag starting to set in too.

12039539_10156748944395037_7629883196897363183_nWe travelled at a snails pace of approximately 10-15km/hour and arrived a mere 3km’s later 25-30 minutes into the future at the Blue Lagoon Resort having driving through a very simple, poor and absolutely beautiful countryside with large mountains, palm trees as far as the 1917441_1178647278814533_3342327891376429440_neye can see, bunches of bananas in trees, local children playing ball, chopping coconuts with machete’s, girls dressed up in their best school clothing, giggling and waving as we passed by them, while we also noticed many buildings that were old wartime barracks converted to Churches, school houses, homes and more.

We were told that many of the roads and buildings are still the original constructed ones from over 70 years ago when Japan was ruling this territory.

Even The Best Laid Plans………

12144665_1178647065481221_6526104153967548143_nWe booked this trip 3 years ago, with its intention to dive in style and enjoy a brand new 5 star dive experience aboard a boat that hadn’t yet been built, but last March that boat, newly minted and not even a full year of age (designed not for the rigorous winds, constant waves) built for a peaceful serene environment like Thailand, was caught in some unpredictable weather when a full out hurricane blowing winds of 100 miles an hour or more blew the ship around like a paper, sending it on a trip around the lagoon before its final fate of being beached on the reef, where it was later stripped by the crew of its valuables and burned to the waterline and then blamed on the locals who now truly resent their returned presence and would love to see the next boat sink after making such slanderous comments.

When such a tragedy befall upon our trip plans, many of our original guests were crushed morally and since time was of the essence, we had to quickly look for other alternatives to keep the forward momentum of the trip going.

We turned to “Plan B” which was a combination land and sea package with 4 days on resort at the Blue Lagoon Resort and Dive Shop, which are both located at the end of the islands west/southwest point.

We hadnt the faintest idea what to expect with a number of the reviews being so mixed about the resort, which was the now known as the first leg now of what had turned into 2 part trip with the  second leg of “Plan B” to take part on a live aboard dive vessel that also had good and bad reviews.

The Blue Lagoon Resort was a blessing and having the opportunity to stay on land, it gave us time to reset our internal clocks, slowly get used to the time change and soak up the sun and scenery as much as we wanted, with dives in the morning and afternoon if we wanted them.

Truk Lagoon Ocean View
The view from the boat as it departs the marina looking back on the hotel
Truk from the Air
The view of the atoll all the way around as we prepare our descent into Weno

Flying to Chuuk put us ahead in the future 15 hours as we are normally in Eastern Standard Time, so we took the time to adjust to the changes, enjoying some well needed sleep, some awesome local cuisine and our first series of 2 tank dives, which turned into a late morning early afternoon start by the time all of our gear was setup, tanks obtained and rigged, rebreathers (for those diving CCR) setup, calibrated, tested, doubles (for those diving twins) assembled and checked and then aboard the dive boats we went.

The photos online didn’t do it justice, but we figured regardless, the diving would be fabulous, we were surprised how much fun we had!

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Looking down the island towards the direction of town as the sun begins to set in the sky

The resort staff were kind, food was great at the restaurant, the dive staff spoke english very well and the boats were efficient, although nothing special.

We are already planning our trip back here because it was such a great experience and a great value.

If you want glamour and glitz, you’re in the wrong sport, this rating of 5 star is for divers. 

The Sun Kissing the daylight sky goodnight as it sets and another night begins its shift
The Sun Kissing the daylight sky goodnight as it sets and another night begins its shift

Bare in mind we are visiting and diving in a Third Worldcountry, if you want to be pampered find a different hobby or rent a luxury yacht for a week and try it yourself.

Additional Costs:

Be prepared to pay a lot for tank rentals and such at BLDS, unless you can pre-arrange a dive package, that was the only negative , as all of our divers had a $200-$300 tab at the end of the week, despite pre-paying for the lodging/dive charters ahead of time.  If you’re diving single tanks its not an issue.

For rebreather divers, Sofnolime was available by the keg for purchase, while helium is stocked, so you don’t have to pre-pay for an entire bottle which ships over from Guam on a boat, which is what we had to do on the 2nd leg of the trip.  Divers could request whatever mixes they wanted and the state of the art blending system made mixing quick and easy, so we were quite happy overall.

Helium is expensive as in around $5.75/ft3 in US Dollars, so blending for best mix or lightening up your END (equivalent narcotic depth) may be an option.  Don’t expect to be blending 18/45 every day, unless you brought $1150usd cash with you (credit card add 3-3.5% most places) and want to burn through several K cylinders, which are rated at 217 cubic feet of gas per cylinder at 2015psi.

Next trip we’ll be looking into tank/gas packages with BLDS, as we got spoiled on the Thorfinn.

“Plan B” Leg II SS Thorfinn

As the week progressed we neared the final tenure at our Blue Lagoon Resort time and began to look ahead to the second leg of the trip aboard the Steamship Thorfinn or SS Thorfinn as its know as.

1688380_1178646948814566_728906357114400059_nAt first glance online the Thorfinn looked older, had a few less amenities than our fantasy boat that was becoming an artificial reef with each passing day, and the reviews were not all that promising, nor was the massive black cloud of of coal smoke that was spouting out sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, soot, and ash as it slowly chugged towards us for pickup on the resort.

For a brief moment we stared eyes wide, mouths open, asking ourselves if we could just spend the rest of the week on the resort where we had land and clean air, but then we met the staff who came to collect us and our bags with 2 of the nicest laid out rigid hull aluminum chambered dive boats we’ve ever seen and they were nice and friendly and helpful, so we took the leap of faith off the dock and proceeded forward on to the next chapter of our journey.

The SS Thorfinn was massive, which makes sense as they’re known as the Largest Liveaboard dive vessel in the world at 170′.  

Chilling between dives
Chilling between dives

The SS Thorfinn was originally a Norwegian whaling ship in its former life, prior to being sold.  It was known as the “luckiest ship in the fleet” because it often got closer to its prey catching the most game because the hull was made out of military grade type 201 steel, which was non-magnetized, therefore masking its signal and having the animals swim along side the ship rather than avoiding it.  That benefit cost the company a little bit of extra money, as sailors are a superstitious bunch, so it costs more to purchase the “luckiest ship in the fleet”.

 After a little bit of a backstory of the ship, we were even more excited now and began to suspect that this part of the trip was going to be amazing.  

As I wandered around the ship, I was suffering from sensory overload as there was so much area to explore.  The ship was reminiscent of one of my favourite liveaboards, the  Nautilus Explorer (whom we are a travel agent for), which was a similar looking ship with a similar layout, however, we weren’t expecting the SS Thorfinn to be as well equipped or stable.

The common room was where we could be found most days between dives, it was spacious, offered a wide array of movies, had wifi (10 mb per day is your daily allowance) so we could check emails and sparsely use the internet.  There was small bar that the hospitality staff kept open from morning until 11pm for divers wanting cold water or non-alcoholic punches during the dive days, coffee or tea to warm up and a few drinks for those feeling so inclined after the day of diving had ended.

The decor inside the ship was cozy, clean and the hospitality staff were so efficient at picking up after us when we dropped a food item or left crumbs on a table, which was very impressive.  Cleanliness is a huge thing aboard the Thorfinn which is what you want, as liveaboards in remote areas have to content with insects and rodents that are in abundance in an island paradise.

Our briefing and orientation was conducted by the captain himself, Lance Higgs, who at first glance instantly reminded me of Lloyd Bridges.  He had a deep voice, reminiscent of a radio announcer, narrator, or a movie star, which made sense as to how Captain Lance was so natural at keeping the audience of excited scuba divers engaged for the duration of the speech.  

At 78 years of age, Captain Lance has over 1/2  century of experience sailing around the world, until his journey took him to Chuuk where he has run diving excursions throughout this area for many decades.  We hope he continues for many more.

The Rooms on the SS Thorfinn were very clean and comfortable, with the bathroom facilities impressing me the most, as they were spotless.  The beds were made daily and they were comfortable to sleep in.  The air-conditioning could’ve been a little more powerful but the oscillating fans did their job and most nights we had good sleeps overall.

The Food on the ship was great, although a little more North Americanized in comparison to Blue Lagoon, so we were treated to eggs, toast, pancakes, french toast, omelettes, spam, bacon, ham.  Lunches were very good and varied but usually had a soup or salad, meat and veggie entree with a side and dessert, oh so many desserts, one for lunch and one for dinner on this ship.  

Dan Celebrated his 71st bday on the trip.  He was renamed Young Tan
Dan Celebrated his 71st bday on the trip. He was renamed Young Tan

Our dinners were great with the kitchen staff working hard to keep us well fed.  They even made Diver Dan a very special birthday cake as he turned 71 on the trip!  The last night we were on the boat they even had a massive barbecue for us as a thank you.

The Staff on the ship were quieter than on Blue Lagoon, as some were more shy or less fluent with the english language, but we had 2 dive guides (Katsashi and Erik) who were both very quality oriented and very kind, caring individuals, especially Erik, who was the recreational boats guide.  Its so nice when you can feel the positive energy that the staff project, especially having been on some not-so-good trips on ships where the staff are infighting and don’t want to be there.  Some of the staff care about the ship, the success and know the value of having happy divers, because they know they’ll try their best to come back if they had fun.

The SS Thorfinn is essentially a floating hotel and from this floating hotel divers depart aboard the ribs (rigid hull inflatable boats) that take the groups to different dive sites.

The Boats on the SS Thorfinn tries to vary where groups go daily, encouraging divers to mix it up and get a sampling of as many different sites as they can hit.  Each boat goes to a different location unless otherwise agreed upon to facilitate the needs of advanced/technical divers, as well as less experienced/recreational divers, which is what we had, a mixed group of both rec and tech divers.

600434_10156720473035512_5606804602022712273_nThe dive boats were aluminum hulled air ribs that were perfectly laid out for recreational and technical divers.  Divers had a bench seat that opened up and had more than enough room for all but the largest camera systems to keep the deck free and clear.  The ladder could’ve been 1-2 rungs longer and on more of an angle, but the surface staff handled the logistics of getting the divers back on the boat very efficiently in rougher surface conditions.  

The Diving (The Part You’ve All Been Waiting For)

Simply put, it was awesome!

1558564_1178647778814483_5052794766133479853_nAnytime you put giant steel battleships in the water to dive around and through and there are guns, tanks, airplanes, trucks, cars, torpedoes, ammunitions, mines, portholes, artifacts, gas masks, human remains, great visibility, sharks, beautiful sea creatures, some varied coral formations and nice clean interiors free of coral to see the ship as it once was, you’re going to have a phenomenal experience.

1610075_10156720481255512_6496198950869951096_nMost of the sites were within recreational limits with some wrecks being in 65fsw/20msw, most being in the 100′ range, while a few more were in the 100-150′ range, a couple in the 160-180′ and the deepest dive, the San Francisco Maru at 210′.

Many of the ships were upright, with a couple of them laying on their sides.

Our dive logs looked something like this:

Yamagiri – Maru a stunning ship laying on its port side.  The Yamagiri was hit by bombs or a torpedo on the starboard side.  It features some fabulous swim-through’s with access to the entire ship.  As you swim through this wreck you notice cases upon cases of Saki and empty bottles throughout this wreck and the many wrecks.  Maximum depth was 100′ and we saw a cool black and white Lionfish on this dive.

Skull Lodged into the ceiling
Skull Lodged into the ceiling

The most notable feature of this wreck is in the engine room there is a skull wedged into the ceiling from a soldier being blown to pieces and the rest of his bones below and strewn around.  There was possibly a second skull where it looked like only the back of the cranium was embedded into the wall and a large number of bones atop the machinery down a catwalk. 

This was a phenomenal dive!

Momokawa – Maru lays in 90-130′ and features some stern bomb damage, while boasting a beautiful bridge area and torpedo casings throughout the holds.  

10600582_1178647098814551_155630827414111913_nS.S. Nippo – Maru was one of our personal favourites because we had the ability to dive a beautiful upright ship that had guns on the bow, truck frames inside the bow hold, direct access to the engine room via the hatches atop the ship or by going down onto the seafloor, you can swim in through the torpedo hole.  As you make your way through the twisted metal, you see the damage explosives can do until the metal reforms back into a recognizable ship again after entering about 20′ in and up and through the hull.  As you make your way towards the bridge the ship boasts a beautiful telegraph and a pair of Howitzer guns after of the bridge.

The Nippo featured some beautiful hallways to explore with access forward or aft.  This was one we dove a few times.

Rio De Janeiro – Maru was one of the last wrecks we dove.  It lays in a maximum depth of 100′, starboard side down and features helmets, guns, a phenomenal engineroom, a large aft gun, plenty of cargo holds full of goodies, including cases of saki stacked floor to ceiling up the walls.  

San Francisco – Maru was our most favourite of the dives, not because it was the deepest, but because it was the best.  

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Matt hovering in awe over the tanks on the deck

This wreck starts at 140′ to the bridge, 160′ to the deck and had a little bit of everything from torpedoes and shells in the holds, 2 tanks on the starboard side bow, 1 on the port side, trucks and truck bodies in the bow hold, a large bow gun in 150′, a pretty windlass on the bow, sharks, skulls, turtles, fish, it was our favourite dive for a reason.  

We did 3 dives here, including 2 in the same day.

Maximum depth was 210′ and most of us dove this wreck as a technical dive on CCR or Open Circuit Trimix.

Shinkoku – Maru gave the diver the bonus of diving a beautiful coral encrusted ship from the mid ship point to the stern in a reasonable depth range of 30′-125′.  The wreck sits upright and featured great fish life and a fun wreck with lots to see.

10421303_1178646878814573_5215844947796027395_nShotan – Maru was a more technical dive in terms of depths with the average depth ranging from 140-180′.  The ship was a lovely upright wreck featuring a gorgeous windlass, crane trucks in the cargo holds one off the port side mid-ship.   An anti-aircraft gun was one of the highlights on the mid stern of the ship, with a stern gun as well.

Aikoku – Maru  was one ship we were the least enthused to dive, yet, it was one of the most impressive wrecks and one of the most fun.

Skulls and Bones on the Aikoku Maru
Skulls and Bones on the Aikoku Maru

The wreck was involved in a freak explosion when the side gun on the stern shot down a US plane that crashed into the first cargo hold where the ammunition was stored.  The explosion apparently was a massive mushroom cloud reminiscent of an Atomic bomb, as there was so much in the way of explosive mines, shells and torpedoes that everything instantly blew up, taking the front 1/2 of the ship off.

The bridge section of the wreck was ripped off by the liveaboard vessel the Odyssey, which was very unfortunate, as we would’ve liked to have explored that more, but it was ripped and lifted and twisted like a can of sardines.

535316_10156720450900512_7335541029952717658_nThe Aikoku was double the size of the San Francisco Maru making it the largest ship in the Lagoon.

A commemorative plaque is placed before the destruction of the forward section and there are lots of human remains around.

What made this wreck so interesting was the layers of what looked like melted, shifted and randomly laid out sheets of metal on the bow area.  As the ship ceased looking like a ship suddenly, it became a scrap metal pile that dipped down deeper and deeper sagging down towards the seafloor at 205′.

We’re looking forward to exploring this wreck again on a return trip.

Fujikawa – Maru is a very fun dive in 80-120′.  It has everything from planes in the holds, to scenic swim-through’s, to pretty deck corals, ammo all over the ship inside and out and it sits upright very prim and proper like she’s on display for all to see her and her former glory.

Betty Bomber is a Mitsubishi G4M bomber that now rests in 50′ of water.  The motors are a long swim from the sandy resting place of the planes nose and port wing over a bit of coral and about 300-400 feet away.  

This is a great spot for the last dive of the day or for the beginner recreational diver. 

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Can you find the diver?

Gosei – Maru is a great intermediate to advanced open water dive with loads of great penetration and lots to see.  You start the dive on the bow in 15′ and make your way down the starboard side going towards the structures, holds and other sections.  The wreck is 270′ x 40′ and max depth is 110′.  You can see a torpedo hole on the starboard side midship.

I-169 
is a submarine and one of our more fun dives.  It was not a remarkable wreck as far as penetration, but it was fun because it offered great wildlife with lots of manta rays and other critters.  It also posed a fun challenge when we were told the Japanese soldiers who served on this wreck were only 4 feet 6 inches tall typically, so we wouldn’t be able to get inside the wreck…….Challengewas accepted and the fun began from there, as a couple of our divers were able to enter at midship and make their way forward, until part of the wreckage collapsed on us and we turned the dive at that point because the wreck was very unstable.

Depth range 70-90′

Kansho – Maru This wreck suffered some stern damage above the waterline, so there were some questions as to how it sank.  The ship featured yet another stellar engine room, where boiler gauges were still in great shape, dials and even a clock still were in place.  Like many of the engine rooms, there were switches and levers galore, and a beautiful propeller and rudder.  Depth range to the stack was 40′ and the deck 65-100′.

Back To Reality

This Trip was one that had so many positives and it was thanks in part to the dive sites, the dive operators, the travel providers, but at the end of the day it was the guests who participated in the trip that made it all worth the distance.

We had such a magical group of people who shared in the experience, the unity, the inside jokes that random people will never understand (Turdle), but I can honestly say that this trip felt like family, and we’ve all become closer as a result of it.

We travelled together, watched each others backs, made sure that everyone was always accounted for, all the while trusting each other above and below the surface.

Truk was a trip that I think has stayed in all the guests minds and memories of late, with random texts being received, messages being shared and people reliving the moments that mattered on a regular basis.

We are very lucky as a shop to have such great divers, customers and friends whom we can share in these adventures with and for that I am truly grateful.

Here are a few random pics from the trip, we hope you enjoy them and we’ll see you on our next trip to Truk hopefully.

DDS and Diver Edge Hailstone Explorers
DDS and Divers Edge Operation Hailstone Explorers 2016

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Additional Videos and Information:

 

 

Justin’s Green Ranger Blog 

Ontario Scuba Diving Trips and Events 2015 with Dan’s Dive Shop

Ontario Scuba Diving Trips and Events 2015 with Dan’s Dive Shop

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Photographer Fawn Messer being captured capturing a shot

It’s that time of the year again where the weather is warming up, the birds are singing in the morning as the sun kisses the earth with its inviting rays, the lakes and surrounding bodies of water warm up and Canada awakens from a deep, long winter freeze….Just in time for the best part of the year……Dive Season and some great Ontario Scuba Diving Trips & Events.

As always DDS has a wide range of fun dive trips and scuba diving events for you.

We offer a number of diving opportunities for the beginning recreational diver looking to hone their craft and gain more experience under the watchful eye of one of our DDS Instructors, Assistant Instructors or Divemaster, while we also have a number of trips and dive charters lined up for more advanced divers, cave and technical divers.

Over the years we have had the unique experience of growing our travel market, offering TICO approved dive travel through certified operators for international travel. As we are expanding at such a large rate that we are moving forward with plans to offer in house wholesale travel to our clients!

Here’s a look at the dive trips and events we’ve got on the books for 2015 so far:

DDS 2015 Season Kick-off BBQ & DEMO DAY

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 This year our season kick off BBQ and demo day takes place on May 31st from 9am to 5pm at Welland Scuba Park. Demos will include:

  • Precision Buoyancy Workshop with Wreck/Cave Explorer and Instructor Matt Mandziuk & DDS Staff.  Learn how to fin properly, how to balance yourself better in the water, as well as learn some of the foundation skills that all divers should have a handle on.
  • Yoga for divers with Kristen Mandziuk-Hardy.  Yoga for divers can be very beneficial in improving comfort, slowing your breathing rate and maximizes enjoyment underwater.
  • Drysuit Demo to experience the magic, comfort, warmth, freedom of donning/doffing and dryness of diving in a DUI or Santi Drysuit and start your journey to more comfortable diving that doesn’t revolve around the weather.  There is no “dive season” when you have a drysuit, you can dive year-round.
  • Demo The Latest Gear try the latest gear from Halcyon, Shearwater, Dive Rite and more:  Backplates, regulators, computers, and more.

For full info and schedule visit our Event Page. Tickets are on sale now. CLICK HERE to order yours today!  Ticket cost includes shipping and Paypal convenience fee; or pick up your tickets in store for only $15.00+HST.

Rockport – Thousand Islands

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One of the best things about diving in fresh water is the artifacts you see on a dive.

Nothing makes us happier than having a chance to get out and dive the US wrecks from Rockport Ontario to Boldt Castle and beyond, as we plan to dive our favourite shipwrecks like the Keystorm, America, Vickery and likely a  fun wall dive to finish off the day on Sunday.  Diving is also available on the Friday for tech divers looking to do some deeper dives.

Trip Date June 19th, 20, 21, 2015. 

This trip is currently sold out, but a waiting list is being put together.

Tobermory – Fathom Five Marine Park

Tobermory has been a favourite trip for divers since the 1970’s and continues to be one that gets bigger and bigger with each year, so this year we’ve added more lodging and more boats!  

Join us for 2 nights of lodging, 3 days of diving (1 shore, 2 days of boat diving) and food all wrapped into a price that you couldn’t do cheaper yourself (unless you camped).

This trip is geared for recreational divers primarily while technical divers take advantage of longer bottom times on the same sites.

Immerse yourself with the Wreck Diver specialtyExplore shipwrecks with the right gear and comfort

Complete your PADI Drysuit Specialty and Advanced Open Water Course on this trip.

July 10, 11, 12, 2015
October Date Coming Soon

Cost is only $350/person + HST including food, diving, lodging. Space is limited.  

When the “premium lodging” is booked up we will be offering a discount for simpler accommodations in housekeeping cabins with hydro, no onsite bathroom (there is a bathhouse) Cost only $295/person +HST and includes the same meal package and dive charters, just simpler accommodations.

Brockville – Dive the 1000 Islands

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Join us this August for warm wreck diving in Brockville

Brockville is another favourite trip similar in cost and structure to Tobermory, but with warmer water, diving what many call the Canadian Caribbean!

Join us for 2 nights lodging and 2 days of 2 tank boat dives. Shore diving is available Friday.  Lunch and Dinner included Saturday, lunch Sunday.  No Breakfast included.  We have kitchenettes to make an early morning meal.

Cost is only $350/person +HST. Space is Limited.

August 21-23, 2015
October Date Coming Soon

Northwind Expedition Style Dive Weekend – North Channel Lake Huron

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Dive one of the best shipwrecks in all the Great Lakes.  A perfect dive for advanced open water divers through to technical divers with wreck penetration, this perfectly preserved time capsule offers you a window to what the roaring ’20’s were like.

The Northwind is the premier shipwreck in the North Channel, but don’t be mistaken by thinking its the only shipwreck in these waters.  Much like where the trail of shipwrecks begins in Tobermory when

Learn how to steer, stow, care for and enjoy a DPV

Highway 6 ends, the carnage continues across the water where Highway 6 re-commences as you make your way further North towards Little Current, ON (near Sudbury).

382695_10151038751555512_1834590869_nThe North Channel of Lake Huron is home to hundreds of shoals and islands that often have a hidden secret below the surface.  There are a lot of great wrecks here where the water is warmer, but not quite as blue and deceivingly inviting as Tobermory, while offering wrecks that are near untouched in comparison.

The Northwind is a 300′ long shipwreck resting in 75-140′ of water with ability for certified technical decompression divers to enjoy longer run times and with penetration endorsement enjoy swimming through the cabins, hallways, galley, tool rooms and more.

Cost includes 3 night accommodation in Little Current at the Anchor Inn, 3 days of full day boat diving for a great price of only $499+HST.  Meals are not included.

Technical Decompression Diver with Helitrox and Wreck Penetration courses will be available on this trip.

Check out the Pictures in the Gallery

Check out our Northwind Video

DUI Drysuit DEMO DAY – Alexandria Bay, NY

Have you ever wanted to try a drysuit without the financial commitment?  Well now you can and not just any drysuit, but a DUI Drysuit!  DUI offers the worlds most comfortable, flexible, customized drysuits on the market. Stay warm and dry underwater and enjoy the best diving in the world…..cold water diving.

Immerse yourself in total diving comfort year round regardless of depth or Temp. Take the Drysuit Specialty Course
Immerse yourself in total diving comfort year round regardless of depth or Temp. Take the Drysuit Specialty Course

They have several racks of drysuit that can fit XX Small to 5XL and virtually every size in between for men and ladies, as well as their full line of amazing drysuit undergarments, heated drysuit underwear like the DUI BLUEHEAT and More!

Extend your dive season to 12 months of the year.  Increase the number of dives you can do in a day due to greater heat retention.  Increase the duration you can spend underwater when you’re dry and warm.  Dive Dry.

September 26/27, 2015 

Cost only $15.00US plus food and lodging or take your PADI Drysuit Specialty Course at a special discount of only $160 CDN including the admission to the event.

Curacao Dive Trip November 2015

Enjoy the warmth, the colours and the excitement of the beautiful island of Curacao with DDS, as we invade and enjoy some fun in the sun.

Curacao2015.ticoNon-stop flight from Toronto to Curacao (includes transfers to and from hotel) means that good diving is only a few hours away.

5 days of 2 tank boat dives on wrecks and reefs and unlimited shore diving await you.

Rooms are double occupancy staying at Lion’s Dive, which is right next door to Ocean Encounters, our hosting dive shop. 2 bedroom suites or apartments are also available at an upgraded price.

Sign up before July 15th and get a $50.00 DDS Gift Card to be used towards your next purchase!

Non Divers welcome cost is only $1595 +$120 tax

Diver Rate (includes 5 days of boat dives and unlimited shore diving) only $2195 +$120 tax.

Breakfast is included daily

For questions and booking, please contact our travel partner:
Fly and Sea Dive Adventures
8528 123 St.
Surrey, BC
1-888-995-3483
diving@flyandsea.com

Florida Springs Trip 2016

Sidemount Cave Dive in Twin Cave, Marianna, Florida
Sidemount Cave Dive in Twin Cave, Marianna, Florida

Join us in Florida’s gorgeous freshwater springs for the most challenging but rewarding training opportunity of your diving career. Step up your diving by taking the right courses, learning the right skills and techniques and take your diving to the highest level possible. You won’t regret it.

This is ideal for recreational divers who are looking for more experiences and who want to finesse their diving skills. During our hallmark Florida trip we offer one of our best foundation courses – Intro to Tech. This course will give you more control in the water. Coupled with our Cavern and DPV courses, you’ll have an action-packed week. 

For those who are seeking continuing education in the overhead environment we offer Cave 1 and Cave 2 classes. You’ll experience what so many divers from all over the world travel to Florida for – the rugged beauty of the caves.

Local Diving Opportunities and Events

Wednesday Night Dives

Diving is social, the dive community is fun and diving is fun!  Don’t forget that every Wednesday from mid May through until November/December we offer Wednesday evening dives throughout the local Niagara area.

This is a great opportunity practice new skills and learn some new techniques on a weekly basis as you dive and improve yourselves underwater with DDS Staff members.

Drift Diving, Night Diving, Canal or Quarry Diving, and maybe even the odd wreck dive await you.

Remember every dive you do this year LOG YOUR DIVES.  Once you get to season dive number 50 you’re eligible for FREE AIR for the rest of the year.  Rules are simple tanks must be current with DDS VIP and Hydro.

Tiller Wreck Charters

Join us for regular dive charters to the majestic Tiller Shipwreck off of Port Dalhousie in Lake Ontario
Join us for regular dive charters to the majestic Tiller Shipwreck off of Port Dalhousie in Lake Ontario. Photo by Stu Seldon.

We’ll be hosting a series of dives to our amazing Lake Ontario Tiller Wreck this summer.  Enjoy this pristine pre-1850’s wooden schooner as much as we do with great visibility as you gain new experiences diving bigger, better, deeper sites like this one.

Join us June 14th, 2015 for a fun day on the Tiller.  Cost is only $75/person.


Lake Erie Dive Charters

Wreck Diving in Lake Erie is awesome! Join us this summer for something different

May and June we’ll have some Lake Erie charters, as well as a big charter July 1st for Canada Day Weekend.

We have dive charters available departing from Port Colborne, Long Point and out of Barcelona, NY.

Costs vary based on distance and depth range. 

 


Weekend Shore Dives

Every weekend this season we’ll have dives going out with DDS Staff, so the excuse “I don’t have a dive buddy” or “I don’t have anyone to dive with” won’t wash with us.  If you want to dive as bad as you say, we’re listening to you and willing to take you out, make the commitment and let’s go diving! 

Log Your Dives

Remember every dive you do this year log it.  Once you get to season dive number 50 you’re eligible for FREE AIR for the rest of the year.  Rules are simple tanks must be current with DDS VIP and Hydro (or a new tank purchased from DDS).

Tech Talk Tuesdays with Matt Mandziuk & Guests

techtalkEach year we run a number of informative information nights discussing whatever topics people seem to be interested in. 

There are a range of topics in the can including “Rebreathers 101”, “What Is Technical About Tech Diving?”, Sidemount Diving, Dive DRY, Underwater Photography, Decompression Theory – What’s Actually Happening in Your Body and many more topics throughout the year.  Stay Tuned as we publish the upcoming schedule to Tuesday Night Tech Talks.

Use The Hashtag #ddsdivers #dansdiveshop

Show your support and love for DDS when you engage your friends on social media.  Use the hastags: #dansdiveshop or #ddsdivers and get a change to be a featured DDS Diver on Facebook, or win cool prizes randomly drawn.

What’s the purpose of a hashtag?  

Hashtags categorize a relevant picture or post with the use of the # and corresponding keyword or keywords.  Those words show up in searches for that subject on Twitter, Instagram or other social media sites. 

Next time you’re on a site like Twittter or Instagram, type in #ddsdivers or #dansdiveshop and see what comes up.  Make those tags part of your social media ritual when posting dive pics of you and your friends.

Don’t miss out on any of our dive trips and events!

Contact us today via Facebook, email or give us a call at the store to join us for some fun dive trips and interesting dive events!

Don’t forget to join our email list if you haven’t already.  Scroll down to the bottom of this or any other page and fill out the form and get the latest updates, information, specials, sales and more.

 

 

 

Do Backplates Tip You Face Down on the Surface?

Backplates Tip You Face Down on the Surface?
by
Matthew Mandziuk

There is a common misconception in the world of scuba diving that backplates  and wings can push a diver facedown on the surface.  Those people are wrong.

In this blog we will outline with video evidence how a properly setup and weighted backplate does not push you facedown, but in actuality can be the most comfortable, efficient, most streamlined and safest buoyancy system available.

Misconceptions

Halcyon_infinity_bcd_for_sale_online_dans_dive_shop
Backplates keep things simple and streamlined above and below the water.

The false mindset that backplates tip you forward on the surface  has ultimately come from divers who were using an improperly balanced back floatation bc with a horseshoe wing shaped bladder that was wider/thicker on the bottom of the wing and narrower/thinner in shape closer to the top. Other causes could be that there are high capacity integrated weight pockets located horizontally across the waist area of the bcd causing the force of gravity to shift.  This is why we opt for a vertical pocket that sits back towards the hip area. Or they just plain have never tried it.

A back floatation bcd with an improperly shaped wing design as described above coupled with front loading weight pockets that put the weight pocket closer to the front of the body laying the pockets from the middle of the body to front of the body rather than how they should be oriented, which is from the back of the hip moving from the middle of the body to the back of the body towards the backplate can create a very troublesome scenario with respect to body orientation and tipping.  As a matter of fact, some jacket bcd’s will even push you facedown.

Halcyon Active Control Ballast positions weight from the hips backwards towards the plate, which helps sit the diver vertical on the surface
Halcyon Active Control Ballast positions weight from the hips back towards the plate, which helps sit the diver vertically on the surface

A backplate doesn’t generally have this problem because it is a more balanced rig offering a wing that generally allows for even air distribution around the bladder like a circle or a doughnut that allows the air to move unrestricted and doesn’t trap air. Some units even offer a weighted single tank adapter with up to 6lbs/2.2kg of lead placed inside the STA with little to no weight needed with even the thickest wetsuit in salt water.

Divers may experience a tipping sensation on the surface from any bcd due to the action of over inflating the wing or a jacket bcd, however on a backplate and wing style system like a Halcyon Infinity MC System you don’t generally have this issue as shown in the video below.

Join the Zero Weight Club

There's nothing more freeing than enjoying your backplate on a DDS dive trip to Mexico
There’s nothing more freeing than enjoying your backplate on a DDS dive trip to Mexico

Ideally You’ll want to get to a point where you aren’t wearing much/any weight with a wetsuit and have a balanced enough setup that you can simply just swim your gear up without having to kick hard to get there.  The more weight you have on the surface, could pull you facedown if the weight pockets are in the front of your harness and the wing is overinflated.

Explore shipwrecks with the right gear and comfort
Your Backplate can grow with you from singles to doubles, wet to drysuit, recreational or technical and rebreather diving. 1 bcd for everything.

If you’re using a drysuit you may need a little more weight, but a steel tank is also a suitable option or a set of doubles.  They balance you out even better and for diving locally offer redundancy in the event of a regulator failure.

How do you tell you’re overweighted?  Go up to 10 feet/3 meters with a 1000psi in your tank and see how much air is in your wing.  If you reach back and can feel a substantial amount air try venting the air out while laying horizontally and lifting your rear up, orienting your head slightly downwards to get the air to the highest point and use the back dump to vent the gas.  If you start going down quickly you’re overweighted, but this is another conversation to discuss in another blog post.  You should basically have no air in the wing and be able to hold a stop at 1000psi in an aluminum 80 at 10-15′.

To This
Hovering horizontally motionless underwater enjoying total diving freedom. No bulk, No clutter, No discomfort

The Unsung Hero

Backplates are the most streamlined, balanced, and versatile diving system for recreational divers, cave divers, technical divers and rebreather divers, offering you ONE uniformed diving system that grows with you throughout your diving career, making it the best option for a new scuba diver who doesn’t know where their diving will take them because they won’t outgrow their unit.  It can be dived with any exposure or tank configuration, in any environment, while offering the most streamlined swimming profile and neat and tidy equipment configuration when rigged properly for modern and progressive scuba diving activities.

Backplates allow for better buoyancy distribution and promote body position
Backplates allow for better buoyancy distribution and promote body position

A backplate can allow you to minimize bulk and clutter if you keep the harness clean, also streamlining your body if you are utilizing proper trim and posture, which should allow for you as a  scuba diver to maintain horizontal orientation in the water when swimming and when just sitting there hovering horizontally, even on ascent and descent, rather than being pushed or pulled vertical, which is the position a jacket or a bcd with the weights in the front of the harness generally do by pulling your body knees and fins down towards the bottom.

Backplates allow for motionless hovering keeping the diver within 10% midline of horizontal underwater but allowing you to lay perfectly flat and comfortable with head out of the water on the surface.

Simple and Streamlined

Backplates are more robust than a more traditional bcd, which are often ladened with excessive fabric, padding, straps, d-rings and breakable plastic buckles, whereas a Backplate simply has 1 release buckle if rigged properly, which is located just off to the right side of the waist and is right handed release like a weight belt buckle uses.  

Backplates and Wings are available in all different shapes and sizes including regular, short and even tall plate lengths
Backplates and Wings are available in all different shapes and sizes including regular, short and even tall plate lengths

Clips and Buckles on a jacket bcd can increase task loading and may prolong rescuer response in comparison to a  backplate, as you’ve got a minimum at least 3-4 clips and a cummerbund to free the diver from their gear in a jacket compared to a simple right hand release buckle on the waist followed by pushing the harness free of the divers body.

Since more clips create a delay in freeing the diver in an emergency divers may want to avoid a jacket style bcd with fancy clips, gadgets and clutter in favour of diving more simple and streamlined.

Some backplates offer adjustable cinch harnesses to allow for easier donning and doffing, while not compromising the structural integrity of the harness with breakable plastic clips. To operate the cinch you simply pull the waist straps to tighten shoulders or lift the shoulders up to loosen the harness. There is no sternum strap to compress your chest and inhibit breathing, so you aren’t starved for air on the surface, the backplate thanks to a crotch strap and a proper fit prevents the bcd from riding up on the surface, and there is no chance that the backplate can crush your stomach and ribs like a jacket bcd with a wraparound aircell can when fully inflated.

Progressive Dive Training

Many of our divers are mindblown when they begin their journey into scuba diving and they see the poor job that the vast majority of dive stores and instructors are doing with scuba diving certifications.

Training with a more progressive dive store is a great way to get solid diver training, however, they are few and far between.  

10309646_10156720498530512_7638916031124415553_n
Good Trim, Knees Up, Fins away from the reef. This is a great example of Progressive Diving.

At the time of this article Dan’s Dive Shop is the first and only dive store in Canada to be offering entry level training in a backplate system and a long hose/short hose regulator configuration at the Open Water Diver level.

Buoyancy and Trim and the most important skills a diver will learn and as such, those skills, along with air sharing, proper horizontal ascents and horizontal descents are things that need to be perfected.

Perfect Example of what not to do.
Perfect Example of what not to do.

Progressive Diving means to have the right skills, abilities, diver and team awareness, safe diving practices and understanding that they need to maintain their skills through practice and repetition on a regular basis.

In some circles this philosophy is known as Hogarthian, DIR, Doing it Right, NTEC and more. In all cases these methods have made diving safer, better and more enjoyable.

Buy it Once

If someone told you you could have 1 BCD to take you from singles to doubles, wet to dry, down south dives and on warm reefs and walls to the most beautiful cold water shipwrecks, cold water reef and walls or ice diving, would you listen?

Take a look on Kijiji or any of those used gear websites and you’ll see something that often states Jacket Bcd used only 6 times or 12 times.  When you talk to the owners a lot of the time you find out they upgraded to a backplate, or they bought a drysuit or a 7mm wetsuit and their original jacket doesn’t fit.

Not only is a backplate the most stable diving system, but it is also built to be the first and last bcd you ever need.  

The Proof is in the Pudding

If you have been told that backplates tip you face down please take the time to share this video with the source of this misinformation.  Not all back flotation bcd’s are innocent, some will push you facedown, but a properly shaped wing and proper weight distribution and pocket design will not.

Scuba Diving Fins Review the Good, the Bad and The Ugly

Scuba Diving Fins Review the Good, the Bad and The Ugly

This is a rewrite of a previous fin report I did up a few years ago.

When divers are searching for dive fins there is a lot of miss-information, too much choice and too few actual “experts” out there who try all of the different fins in a real world environment using different exposure suits, diving in different environments and with different equipment configurations.

bad_fins
“Aqualung Slingshot Fins are the best fins”. Said NOBODY Ever! Slingshots, Split Fins, Hinge Fins, Seawing Nova Fins, Floaty lightweight plastic fins are a waste of money and lack propulsion

It never ceases to amaze me the things divers put on their feet and attempt to kick underwater with and the amount of energy the exert, the extra air they consume and the additional CO2 they create in the process, not to mention the fact that many dive stores look at the almighty dollar instead of customer satisfaction.

We are at a point in our educational path where we really can’t handle students showing up on referrals or open water courses with the wrong gear.

What makes it the wrong gear you ask?

Inability to perform in the environment that the students are diving in. Inability to propel oneself through the water in an efficient and streamlined manner without stirring up the bottom and inability to maintain proper trim and buoyancy, the ability to move at a reasonable pace without over kicking or over breathing.

Each year we get divers from different dive stores on Open Water “Referral” dives where they often time show up in fullfoot fins (Slip-on fins people wear barefoot) or lightweight, flimsy plastic fins.

Technical 1 Divers doing a Helitrox Dive on Dufferin Wall in Tobermory, Ontario
Technical 1 Divers doing a Helitrox Dive on Dufferin Wall in Tobermory, Ontario great trim and buoyancy with the right fins

The problem with this is the fact that the divers can’t actually maintain proper horizontal trim with these lightweight buoyant fins as they generally speaking have their feet floating up inverting them away from a horizontal position to a vertical foot up head down orientation.

The fins also lack propulsion to actually properly move them through the water.

When a diver kicks what you want is to push the water off the end of the blade of the fin, which is only about the first 13-15% of the blade, while the rest of the fin is designed to be rigid and provide a stable platform for the water to roll down off the end of the blade, so when you put a very lightweight plastic or rubber blade on the end of a foot pocket it just bends and twists and requires side rails to keep the structure of the fin intact.

You need a stiff blade to move more water a soft blade will not displace as much water.

Photographer Fawn Messer photographing Giant Manta Rays in Socorro Mexico
Photographer Fawn Messer photographing Giant Manta Rays in Socorro Mexico

The problem we find with most divers is their inability to kick properly, their inability to stay perfectly still in one spot without moving hands or fins frantically or their lack of awareness.  

Many divers use a flutter kick because that was what they were taught in Open Water, but its inefficient and often times they kick from the hip or the knee straight down rolling the knee/ankle and using excessive energy, while silting out the entire dive site kicking silt up as they channel the water down towards the sensitive bottom fanning up silt and sand one leg at a time, or worse, the divers cause serious damage to the reef as they’re bicycle kicking vertically like a rototiller towards the fragile coral.

At Dan’s, we teach our students a different kick, a more efficient kick, well actually a series of kicks.  Modified Flutter Kick, Frog Kick, Helicopter Turns and Back Fining . These kicks allow for greater control and comfort in the water, while offering more finesse and easier mobility in the water, while eliminating the need for people to hand swim, which is inefficient and a terrible open water diver habit that occurs from divers who aren’t maintaining proper trim or balance in the water.

Why don’t we teach flutter kick? 

Most stores teach their diver to flutter kick because that’s what they’ve always done. We don’t recommend using the flutter kick as your main kick because it creates more drag through the water moving 1 fin at a time causing increased air consumption and energy usage, as well as the most logical problem of it channeling the water straight down to the bottom which reeks havoc underwater with the visibility creating massive clouds of silt that resemble a nuclear mushroom cloud.

Inefficient flutter kicking with a flimsy split fin
Inefficient flutter kicking with a flimsy split fin. Do you notice how the divers body rolls from one side to another?

I was in Tobermory one July 11th weekend and I heard an instructor instructing a student that they needed to get their entire leg into it and kick from the hip straight down. All I kept thinking to myself was what does the visibility look like after these 2 have fluttered through the water? Split fins, hinge fins, fins with funky angles, Seawing Nova fins or really flexible materials are not ideal for diving unless you only ever plan on diving a single tank and flutter kicking. Most fin blades over flex and don’t become useful with divers who have good leg strength. I can over power most fins on the market from the gimmick filled brands.

Nothing offers a better, more efficient, more powerful fin kick than the following APPROVED fins for more progressive diving use: Scubapro Jet Fin, the original, tried, tested, true high performance, high efficiency fin. OMS Slipstream Fin a lighter version of the Jet Fin, Hollis F-1 fins, Diverite Fins plastic fins with exceptional thrust, Mares Quattro a good fin that is longer, but less efficient that the above mentioned fins, Mares Plana Avanti X-3 lighter kick than a quattro, Mares Super Channel stiffer kick than the x-3, Mares Power Plana (New Rubber composite material) good thrust and short blade makes it the best Mares Fin for progressive diving, XS Scuba Turtle Fin a jet fin inspired option, Hollis F-2 fin a shorter, lighter fin than the F1 that allows for the standard kicks with less power and propulsion, not recommended for high flow currents/caves/heavy gear.

The above list of fins although relatively short, cover a broad spectrum of options when you figure there are over 100 different fin models on the market from the major brands at the time of this blog post.

What fin technique is better? 

Here at Dan’s we teach “Frog Kick” or “Modified Frog Kick” to our divers as their main propulsion method because it is an effortless way to swim around your favourite dive site.

You Simply Kick….Glide…..Kick…..Glide.  With a good frog kick you can kick and the push you get will allow you glide for several feet afterwards, allowing you to re-load position of your feet and kick again, often times breathing on the gliding portion and exhaling often on the kick.

You’re channeling the water straight behind you in the same direction the fins are moving. In between kicks there is a glide effect as your momentum moves you forward on your rest stroke and continue on from there.

The biggest issue we have with fins is watching divers floundering around with no control. In an effort to try and keep their knees bent while arching their back to keep their fins at the high point for proper trim, they have a serious lack of control because they can’t seem to do anything with these fins. At that point, the hands come out with sculling to try and stabilize, the flutter kicking starts which is usually followed by a silt out.

Floaty Feet

Some plastic fins are positively buoyant, so when you’re in proper position which should be 10 degrees midline of horizontal, they can bring your feet up too high and keep reaching for the sky so to speak, bringing you inverted and to the point where if you don’t correct it to a point where  you turtle flipping and rolling.

A little bit of weight from the fin, not in the form of ankle weights (which will bring you legs down too low) may keep your feet in the perfect position.

I am a big fan of the Scubapro Jet Fin for this reason.  It offers the best quality fin, lifetime guarantee on the fin even against breakage, and gives me a nice stiffness in the blade, while allowing me to dive it with singles, sidemount wetsuit, drysuit, rebreather or doubles and allowing me to maintain perfect trim offsetting my “floaty feet”. 

Scubapro Jet Fins available in many different sizes, colours and with or without spring heel straps
Scubapro Jet Fins available in many different sizes, colours and with or without spring heel straps

So how do you know if you have floaty feet?  Many people male and female who are thicker through the calves/ankles likely have a bit more need for heavier fins, as do drysuit divers who have buoyancy in their thick undergarment socks or a neoprene boot.

dive0
Dive Rite XT Fins with spring heels

If you don’t suffer from Floaty Feet, find that you don’t need a heavier fin, have a look at the Dive Rite XT Fin.  You won’t find a fin on the market that gives you as much speed and performance in a plastic material than the XT Fin.  Its outperformed virtually every fin on the market in real world and simulated testing.

For more on the XT Fins or a good second opinion of fins have a look at the Dive Rite Blog posted by Lamar Hires back in 2007.

Try getting into the water in your normal setup with no fins on and see which way your body floats, most times your head will drop and your feet will go up if you’re using a proper buoyancy control system and are distributing your weights properly (NOT ON YOUR HIPS). Do this with a tank that is at its lowest tank pressure (if you’re diving aluminum 80’s try it at 1000psi).

If you’re finding your feet go up in a balanced rig for singles or doubles, you can add a trim weight, tail weight or you should try adding a rubber fin to the mix.  If you find your feet drop downwards, you have too much weight on the waist, remove and re-distribute and try again.  If you find your feet still sinking something isn’t right and a Rubber Fin will make it worse.

You can really benefit from additional training as well.  Courses like Intro to Tech or a Fundamentals style course can really improve your skills, knowledge and understanding of the concepts of buoyancy.

Fin Buckles

Likely one of the most often overlooked features of fins are the strap and buckle assemblies.  Fins with plastic buckles and plastic buckle posts and inner roller pins often are made of a breakable plastic material and the loose straps can often find their way into an area of entanglement.

Purchasing fins with spring heel straps makes more sense, you have an near unbreakable stainless steel spring and a stainless or delrin post that is pretty well unbreakable too.

The boots you wear whether wet or dry will stay in place as the stainless heel strap will tighten up as the boots compress with pressure from descending to depth and loosen off as the boots expand back to normal size upon going shallower and the neoprene expanding (if diving wet) or the drysuit boots being filled with a little more gas in them.

Worst Fins for Scuba Diving

The Worst fins without really discriminating against all major fin brands is more of an overview; Avoid the majority of overpriced, overly expensive fins that have hinges, splits, are very light weight, offer unfounded claims of propulsion and performance and of course you can ask us.

Stay away from fins that dive stores are classing as “beginner” fins, there shouldn’t be a designation of “Beginner” or “Expert” diver when it comes to gear configuration.  Every scuba diver should be taught to dive the same way, utilizing the more progressive kicks in the more progressive gear and not be limited by their equipment or their training.

My unwritten rule is if the gear is really pretty or has a lot of hype or bells and whistles it’s likely not that good.

A True Story

Once upon a time I was introducing my ex-wife to double tanks, but she had pretty Pearlescent Pink TUSA Tri-Ex fins, which were very buoyant and I told her she should leave behind at the store as I was loaning her my wetsuit Jet Fins.  When we arrived at the dive site, I got her all buddy checked and I entered the water.At the last moment with my back turned she had a second thought and grabbed her horrible pink fins and put them on in the water and we began our dive.

Seven minutes into the dive she aborted the dive because she was tired and out of breath.  I asked her what the problem was? Knowing full well as soon as she fell behind what the problem was and I noted the pink fins.

She called the dive and told me she wasn’t going anywhere in her fins, so i asked the princess what fins she was wearing and she smiled at me innocently and uttered the words “my pretty ones”.  I told her to get out of the water, grab the Jet Fins and get back in, so she did and she loved them.  For 3 years she dove those fins.  You’ll actually notice them in the top right photo in the background with the pink tanks.

The moral of the story was that she noticed right away how inferior her fins were, how despite the look of the old Jet Fins that they outperformed her newer, more sleek looking fins and that when it came to diving, one little modification like getting better fins can make a world of difference and no longer limits your progress forward.

I’ve always been an advocate of simple and streamlined and doing it right for a reason.

We believe in good fins and proper finning techniques

Maybe it’s because we teach our students a different way of diving, but these divers whom we’ve retrained end up having to buy new fins because their fins just didn’t live up to their diving needs at the open water diver level.

An improperly balanced scuba diver wearing the wrong gear using the wrong techniques
An improperly balanced scuba diver wearing the wrong gear using the wrong techniques

We believe in teaching diving the right way and giving you the tools to make a more informed decision when you purchase your equipment and additional dive training. After learning the pros and cons the customer is able to make a more informed decision. We are happy to sell anything we have or can get if people who insist on them, but it doesn’t mean we recommend or endorse the products at that point. Here are a few photos of us teaching proper fin techniques, proper trim and fit and functionality to new open water and advanced divers.

Our methods and training teaches you how to dive right from the beginning, purchasing the best gear and training available. Check out our training section for more information your next diving course.

DDS Diver maintaining proper trim, posture and buoyancy
DDS Diver maintaining proper trim, posture and buoyancy

Please don’t be insulted if you read that your fins are no good. They’re likely good fins for flutter kicking with a single tank on a reef in a shorty wetsuit, but add a drysuit, a large single tank or a set of doubles, a mild current, more weight to offset that wetsuit or drysuit and now you may find your fins don’t cut it anymore.

Diving is about versatility, evolving and personal development of skills is a big part of that. All divers both recreational and technical should know proper frog kick and they should all have fins that will enhance not hinder in water performance.

If you read our blog and like what we’re doing, we’d appreciate your feedback and business as we share the most up to date and modern information available. Come diving with us, train with us and harness your maximum potential.

The Rescue

One a most recent trip ocean diving in Cozumel 2 divers on the trip were equipped in the wrong fins. One a pair of TUSA Split Fins and the other a pair of Sherwood Elite Fins.  Neither were able to swim against the surface current back to the boat and had to be rescued.

So why did this happen?  Simply put, they had the wrong fins!

It doesn’t matter how much cheaper a pair of inferior, lightweight, plastic Sherwood fins are when you have the fear of your life and panic, which is exactly what happened to the diver in these fins.

The other diver, an experienced DDS diver decided to favor weight for travel over performance and thrust and when they were returned safely to the boat, they said they wished they’d brought their Jet Fins and uttered the words, “Never Again”.

Don’t put yourself in harms way, don’t favor your pocket book over your life, do yourself a favor and get the right gear the first time and the best stuff you can.

Your fins are the most important piece of gear you’ll have as a diver.  Don’t make the same mistakes thousands of new divers a week around the world do.

Buy The Best Fins

Dan’s Dive Shop offers the best selection and pricing you’ll find on scuba diving and snorkeling equipment in Canada or the United States, so please, if you feel that this article has helped you and you would like to purchase the best fins, take a browse through our online store and add a set to your shopping cart today.

Thank you for reading this.  If you have any questions about gear, training, diving techniques, please email me.

See you underwater,

Matt Mandziuk
Recreational, Cave & Technical Diving Instructor
NAUI Cave & Trimix Instructor 45416
TDI Trimix Instructor 4767
PADI MSDT 207233
SDI Instructor 4767
Owner
Dan’s Dive Shop, Inc.
www.dansdiveshop.ca
matt@dansdiveshop.ca