Category Archives: Dive Store & Scuba Equipment

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.

 

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.  

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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.

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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

New Dan’s Dive Shop Website Launched!

Well here we are, 2014!  40 years of Dan’s Dive Shop adventures in scuba diving equipment and education!

amobile-laptop-tabletWe couldn’t think of a better way to finish off the last quarter of the dive season than by reworking our website to make a more user friendly interface that is easier reading, more friendly for scrolling, totally responsive for mobile and tablet applications, while also increasing the efficiency of our online store, newsletter signups, social media plug-in’s and of course making something fresh, clean and new!

The old site was great and still stands up above the many great dive store websites out there, but us being the innovators and leaders in the industry that we are, we decided it was time to up our game yet again.

A website for us should be a reflection of the dive store and we’re making some major changes at Dan’s each week. We’re making many visually pleasing improvements internally as the store undergoes some minor renovations. We’re getting prepped for some major overhauls over the fall and winter months.

It’s nice having such a great customer base to share in the fun and excitement with as well, so please feel free to give us any feedback you have with the changes, with our staff and instructors and just anything at all dive trip, store, gear or course related, we alway love hearing form our divers.

Some key features about the website you should know and use:

Social Media Links: 

We’re going social! Stay connected with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And help us find you by showing us your best dive pics with the hashtag #dansdiveshop.

Get Diving Directions:

We now have maps to all the dive sites we visit on Wednesday dives, as well as many of our favourite local dive sites. Check out our dive sites page where we have Google map links to show you how to get to them, instead of having to call the store and ask for directions, with 1 click your dive direction problems are solved! 

Interactive Calendar: 

You can integrate our courses and events section into your Google + account, Apple Calendar, Outlook, Timely Calendar, just scroll down the calendar page and hit the subscribe button.

Blog:

If you found this blog, you’ll notice we have a more professional blog site that is dedicated to you and easily updated, archived and searchable for keywords or topics. Check back frequently as we add in more content regularly on all of our diving knowledge and experiences.

Enhanced Mobile and Tablet Applications

You’ll notice that our site has a responsive screen for mobile and tablets to make viewing on small screens as pleasurable and as easy to expand and reduce as possible.  This was one of our favourite features.

Improved Shopping Experience

We have always wanted a shopping cart e-commerce site that was easy to use both at the customer and admin level and we think with the new store you’ll find answers to your questions.  We have a new fully integrated shopping cart that lists stock availability (which isn’t interfaced with our actual POS store inventory, but should be closer to giving you real stock status), specials, a couple of different shipping providers, easier reviews to write and the ability to share products with the world of social media. Start shopping! 

eLearning

We have integrated more of our PADI eLearn links throughout the site to make signing up for your next PADI scuba diving course easier than ever. 

Photos and Video Galleries

Something that everyone loves is looking through photos and watching our videos, so we’re going to make every attempt for you to keep these areas fresh and up to date.

Thanks for growing with us and we hope you enjoy the new site experience.

Yours in diving,
Team DDS.