As with so many others, my fascination with the Underwater World also began well before I started scuba diving. It began in front of a black and white television set watching programs such as "Sea Hunt" and a silly animated program called "Diver Dan". I would have never guessed that nearly 40 years later I would meet Zale Perry who was one of the stars of Sea Hunt. She is a very sweet lady with tons of diving experience and stories to boot.
In the 1970's, an incentive program gave shoppers a reward
for spending money at various grocery stores or gas
stations. This reward came in the form of "Blue Chip
Stamps". These stamps could be traded in for goods at
various Blue Chip Stamp Stores. At the ripe old age of 10
my Mother traded in her latest collection of these stamps
for my very first dive mask and snorkel. I still remember
that mask. It resembled the US Divers, Pacifica mask that
my buddy Jim Hoffman still wears today.
Born and raised in Southern California and the son of a
"River Rat" family who owned properties at both the
Colorado River and Lake Havasu, meant plenty of water time
executing serious dive missions early on. These often
included collecting Clams, Beer Cans and occasionally a
Bikini Top. If I was lucky a Bluegill, Carp or even a
Catfish would swim by. Hours on end floating face down on
the surface generally produced a serious sunburn that made
for a restless night in bed.
Once high school began, I found scuba diving as an option
for the physical education program. Wow! The academics
immediately began in a class room and I was fixated.
Because this course had to absorb the span of an entire
semester, most of our time was spent in the swimming pool.
The training was much more rigorous then your "typical"
entry level scuba course today. Our skills involved breath
hold dives and picking up bricks from the bottom of the
pool. We were required to jump in the water with our tank,
regulator, mask and fins in our hands. While descending
we'd attach the regulator, turn on the air and start
breathing before we were out of breath. Then we'd attach
our mask , flip the scuba unit over our shoulders and put
the fins on. Air sharing was called buddy breathing back
then and no one had a spare "octopus" regulator. After
completing the three required ocean dives, and presenting
the instructor with 50 bucks, we received a YMCA Scuba
Diver certification. Yes, I had hair back then.
After high school, college began and I found some real
important courses, like "Advanced Scuba Diving". The
Instructor was Harvey Suprenent. Harvey taught anatomy by
day and scuba by night. This was surely going to help with
my degree. So I thought. This became much more than just a
class and more like a dive club. We dove our butts off. It
was such a blast, that I took the class a second semester
just for the fun of it. The hell with chemistry !
During one of our lectures we were presented with a flyer
for an upcoming PADI Divemaster course being held at a dive
shop near by called "Water Toys and Schools". After finding
dive education to be a fantastic way to learn and meet like
minded dive nazi's I knew I must sign up. The shop had
recently been purchased by a couple of highly motivated
divers and the name was soon changed to "Scuba Toys. I also
joined the Blue Water Dive Club in Orange County
California. Dive clubs can be great places to met fun
people. And some might actually dive.
Things were really started to take off. I met some great
people at Scuba Toys. Particularly the owners, Jim and
Carol Hoffman who took me under their wings. After a year
and a half long Divemaster course they ended up certifying
me as an Assistant Instructor. I didn't realize that Jim
had misplaced my DM card. What's in a C-Card anyhow?
Somehow I was suckered into signing up for an upcoming NAUI
Open Water Instructor course, ran by the shops previous
owner, Jim Hick. This was an intense week long course that
left little time for sleep. The 1984 summer Olympic were
going on and I couldn't watch more than a minute of two of
it. But after all the suffering I became NAUI Open Water
I continued to teach entry level, advanced and wreck diving
courses for several years. They were fun but repetitious.
There had always been that 130' recreation depth limit
hanging over my shoulders. I was convinced that if I
crossed it, I would become seriously bent and possibly die.
But with that ever lasting impression of "Diver Dan"
wearing that old copper hard hat still etched in my mind, I
figured I could venture just a little deeper.....
In 1994, I met a gentleman named Charlie Johnson who owned
a dive shop in Laguna Beach, Ca. Charlie taught a class
called ANDI Nitrox. Not knowing much about Nitrox, I
thought it might somehow help me in my endeavors. After
putting together a group of students, consisting of Scuba
Toys Dive Masters and Instructors, Charlie drove to Scuba
Toys and taught a class for us. A few weeks later, Jesse
Sanchez and I decided to test out this Nitrox as a
decompression gas. While diving in Scripts Canyon with very
low viz, I become entangled in something. I thought I was
seeing things but eventually realized exactly what it was,
a monofilament gill net. Nitrox was not going to save me
here. I didn't panic, but it did scared the crap out of me.
Jesse came to my rescue and helped me out of this
Sport Chalet Dive Club had a guest speaker at one of their
meetings talking about "Technical Diving". Thats when I met
the "Flying Dutchman", Frans Vandermolen. It was 1994 and
this was very exciting because I didn't realize anyone
taught this style of diving. I began training under Frans
and quickly gained a completely different view of
recreational diving. Frans had constantly talked about Cave
Diving. It didn't sound all that exciting to swim deep into
a hole in the earth. He invited me on a cave diving
expedition to Yosemite California. I said,Yes! In Yosemite
National Park exist an aquifer called "Bower Cave". After
repelling into the cavern with our gear we jumped into the
42 deg water and tied in a primary guide line. This water
had the 2nd highest e-coli count in the entire Sierra
chain. Oh, Boy! The cave got deep fast and our dives where
not all that distant. An exciting experience, none the
During Michael Menduno's 1995 Tek Conference in San
Francisco California, I met several interesting characters.
Some of them were inspirational. Most were met during a
social gathering that was named the "Legal Narcosis Party".
Having no idea who I has hanging out with, a guy named Phil
Nuytten explained difficulties with a articulating joint in
the dive suit he was designing. Bill Hamilton and Dick
Rutkowski were a couple of really nice guys who loved to
party. They spoke a level of physiology that really
inspired me to learn more about a subject I had been trying
to teach. And there was that very narcissistic guy who
would not shut up. His name was Brett (something) and it
was clearly a relief to all to get away from his obnoxious
voice once the party ended.
Scuba certifications are simply an agencies consent to
carry on with a particular type of diving that you have
trained for. It does not make you an expert and in no way
should certifications be used to weigh a divers stature in
whole. The 1995 Tek Conference was a big eye opener for me
in the sense that I had been diving for 17 years and
thought my education was based on acquiring certifications.
The lecturers at this conference spoke in such a broader
realm than I had ever heard. This was intriguing and
motivated me to seek out more in-depth education outside
any of the mainstream scuba courses that are readily
available to us.
Lectures have been some of the more informative places that
I have acquired information on subjects such as hyperbaric
physiology. This is a particularly important subject for
extensively deeper, long range diving. One of my favorites
lectures called "Advanced Decompression Physiology" was
given by Michael R. Powell, PH.D. at the Wrigley Institute
on Catalina Island. It was hosted by the Program Manager of
the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, Karl E. Huggins PH.D..
Dr. Powell is a hyperbaric
physiologist working with astronauts at NASA and
Johnson Space Laboratory. Astronauts are required to
decompress before their space walks just as divers
need to decompress as they ascend to the surface.
Lectures are not nearly as beneficial for in-water skills.
These need to be demonstrated by a "skilled" educator and
performed and practiced extensively by the student.
Unfortunately there are few venues to find great training
by a skilled educator. One of the newest training agencies
quickly making it to the forefront is Unified Team Diving
International. UTDi promotes diving as an art
through various building blocks that create thinking
divers, rather than robots. UTDi founder, Andrew
Georgitsis, is one of the most dedicated people to the
sport of Scuba that I have ever met. His agency offers
entry level to the most advanced forms of scuba diver
training currently available.
Below is a simple flow chart of some courses I have taken
and received a pretty little plastic certification card
for. Although I have learned a lot by taken classes, I have
also come to realize how much more there is to learn.
Taking dive courses can be fun and challenging if you can
find the right instructor. But education is only part of
the equation of becoming a really good diver. Applying what
you have learned in these courses to real world diving
experiences is where divers really excel.
1978 YMCA Scuba Diver
1982 NAUI Advanced Diver
1982 PADI Dive Master
1983 PADI Rescue Diver
1983 PADI Equipment Specialist
1983 PADI Wreck Diver
1984 NAUI Assistant Instructor
1984 NAUI Instructor
1985 NAUI Rescue Diver
1994 ANDI Safe Air (Nitrox)
1994 IANTD Adv. Deep Air
1994 IANTD Tech Nitrox
1994 PADI Emergency Oxygen Admin.
1995 Trimix Diver
1995 NACD Full Cave Diver
1995 IANTD Nitrox Instructor
1996 IANTD Technical Instructor
1997 IANTD Instructor Trainer
2000 GUE Technical II Instructor
2010 UTD MC90 Rebreather 1
These days, video documentation of a variety of scuba
explorations is something that truly interests me. It has
required a ton of patients but I am slowly picking it up.
To view some of my work in progress, check out my underwater video section.
This site is NOT intended to teach anyone how they should
dive. It is simply reflecting on what I have done and
continue to do and is my opinion only. Proper dive training
should be gained before attempting anything involving the
use of a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus