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Old 06-13-2014, 03:10 AM   #1
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Exclamation Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

I've been thinking about safety esp given a few factors that are found (or not found) in the Pac NW, so I'm posting it in our forum.

o What is NOT found easily in the Pac NW is free dive training. (rarely scheduled vs California or Florida!)

o What IS found in the Pac NW is poor viz and gnarly wave conditions, esp on the coast (eg Oregon), which means buddy monitoring can be challenging even with the best of intentions. This makes self-reliant safety disciplines even more vital. My experience is with Oregon free divers. I haven't been around WA and BC free divers.

I still consider myself a newbie free diver/spearo since I started free early this year after decades of scuba. I have some Level 1 FII safety training (thanks to Ian Elstrom aka "Transporter").

My attitude toward safety is informed by 44 years of scuba diving and alpine climbing including extreme first ascents in Alaska, and other adventure sports, without a single substantial injury (cuts, bruises, and a bit of frostbite doesn't count ;-) I'm only still alive due to objective assessments of risks, safety disciplines and establishing muscle memory to do critical procedures reliably, even in difficult situations.

Driving back from the coast recently I was reflecting on a pattern I'm seeing after diving with or just chatting with a fair number of Oregon free divers, and learning from some expert free divers and an instructor.

As my buddy Jeff has noted, driving to the coast is objectively more dangerous than diving. True that for well-trained divers, but as I've been free diving I've been seeing some divers that do not 'fasten their seat belt" so to speak. How many of you think it's OK to drive without a seat belt because (a) hey, accidents aren't really that frequent, and (b) you can navigate curves well? Not many I'd reckon...

SWB's or sambas aren't that frequent either, but the consequences can easily be more disastrous than a car accident.

The list of risky practices I've personally observed:

1. Diving with snorkel in mouth. (Deadly for several reasons)

2. Not doing recovery aka 'hook' breaths at surfacing.
2a. Talking or shouting immediately at surfacing, or blowing out hard to clear a water-laden snorkel (see #1).

(90%+ of SWBs happen at surface within the 1st 30 seconds, because pO2 drops dramatically in the last few meters at the same time as you're getting low on O2.)

3. Not keeping to a 2 or 3:1 surface-recovery-time ratio.

4. Ignorance of the several different, NON-intuitive, life-saving, in-water holds/grips and procedures for SWB and Samba buddy rescues, at surface and below surface.

5. "Taught by a friend" who did not cover essentials, lending false confidence to the newbie. Or "kinda been ignoring what he told me" .

Best practices:

1. FII, PFI or other free dive training. (The above list is wholly inadequate vs instruction.)

http://extranet.freedivinginstructor...ocatorfull.php

http://www.performancefreediving.com/team-bios/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elstro...63017187132550 <<< Oregon instructor Ian - please let him know if you want to commit to a class.

2. Wearing an FRV (Max is a NW lead-by-example for this new technology.) http://www.spearboard.com/showthread.php?t=172292

Some useful Do's and Don'ts on the utube...

Do's www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gDCipRAQr4

Don'ts www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lG9vi1Jwgo

Hoping that instructors will schedule something soon in PDX or SEA or ...

Don't mean to be preachy, just want y'all to be safe out there. Life is too precious and free spearo is just too much fun not to keep doing it for a longgg time.

Cheers,
Leigh
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Old 06-13-2014, 04:27 AM   #2
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

Thanks Leigh. I appreciate your safety conscious attitude. Education is the key to safety, and the discipline to follow the rules consistently is the key to survival.

We have not lost a PNW diver that I know of, so let's all work at keeping it that way, by encouraging each other to safe practices, and by having the humility to receive guidance from others regarding how we can be more safe.

Be sure to check this link: http://freediversafety.com/safetytips.html
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Old 06-13-2014, 12:11 PM   #3
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

Thank you very much! This is great information.
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Old 06-13-2014, 03:16 PM   #4
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

I posted this a while back in another thread I could not find, so here it is again.

The guy who put this together, Michael Burton, died from SWB. Had he had an FRV (as he recommended) he would still be alive. Had he refused to dive without a buddy, which he recommended, he would still be alive. His buddy had to go back to the boat, and he just kept diving solo. That's when he died.

You can know the rules, but if you don't have the discipline to follow them, then they do you no good. Michael was a great diver, had taken a class, and was well experienced.

Max



The Idiot's Guide to Freedive Spearfishing Safety

(This guide is by no means exhaustive nor meant as a replacement to formal training by qualified instructors!)

If you're reading this you already know how awesome this sport is. Between the thrill of the hunt, the serenity of, and connection with, the underwater world, and the ability to put food on the table, there are many good reasons to engage in this lifestyle. With the many positives comes the reality that this can also be a deadly activity if not done with the proper knowledge and discipline. What is particularly tragic about the vast majority of the deaths and injuries in this realm are that they could have been avoided by following some pretty simple guidelines.

”A successful dive trip is one where you make it back safely to your family and friends.”

Buddy Diving

Having a dive buddy is essential to safe diving. Not only are they there to support you in the case of an accident or injury but you help keep one another accountable to the tenants of safe diving.

Have a buddy that understands safe diving and that knows CPR (recruit your dive partners to take Freediving and CPR courses with you).

When diving have one buddy stay at the surface while the other dives (consider sharing a gun).

Be on the same page as your buddy. Go over the dive plan before getting in the water.

Watch your buddy when they surface and wait several seconds (around 20) after an OK sign before assuming that all is well.

When possible, meet your buddy half-way on deeper/longer dives.

Bring an unconscious diver to the surface by cupping your hands under their chin and the lower-back of their head.

While at the surface with a blacked-out diver tilt them on their back, remove their mask (and weightbelt if necessary), and blow on the upper part of their face while tapping them, talking to them between blowing. Most divers will resume breathing on their own as long as this is done very soon following black out.

Be ready to tilt your partners head in the event that they puke.

If your buddy does not start breathing on their own within 20 seconds then immediately move them to the boat or shore, if possible, to administer CPR.
Avoid administering CPR on the water surface whenever possible. Water-surface CPR is very difficult as water is prone to entering the nose/mouth which further complicates the situation.

If you or your partner blackout or lose motor control (Samba) during a dive session stop diving for the day. Blackouts can be subtle including temporary loss of vision or a weird head-rush.

Breathing

Proper breathing is essential to safe diving. Holding your breath while doing demanding activities underwater can be a quick recipe for disaster if not done correctly.

Breathe normally (in a relaxed manner) at the surface.

Never hyperventilate prior to a dive (avoid breathing quickly or exaggerating length of breaths).

Remove your snorkel as you start your dive.

Recover at the surface for twice as long as your dive time (or even longer for deeper dives).

Avoid explosive breathing when you resurface. Take controlled breaths and remain relaxed.

Recovery breaths should start with a few "Hook breaths" (hold an inhale for a couple seconds while drawing blood to your head using the “constipation squeeze”).

Avoid panicked ascents if you end up staying down too long. Ascend in a fluid and controlled manner to avoid blackout.

Blue-tinted lips, tingling/burn in the extremeties, seeing stars, feeling euphoric/weird can all be warning signs of low oxygen (Hypoxia).

Loss of consciousness often comes suddenly and with no warning!
Proper Weighting

Being properly weighted not only helps increase the odds of your survival but makes diving generally more effective and enjoyable.

It’s better to be too light than too heavy. More weight means more danger.

Always rig your weight belt/harness in a way that can be easily dumped in case of an emergency.

When diving deeper water your goal should be at least neutral buoyancy at 30 feet/9 meters.

The thicker your wetsuit, the more compression (and loss of buoyancy) that you will experience at depth.

Remember to alter your weight when you change wetsuits, body composition, or water type (salt vs fresh).

To allow you to dive with less weight, consider holding onto reef/rocks/kelp while at the bottom.

Gun Safety

If diving deep underwater without oxygen was dangerous enough then adding a weapon designed to kill really puts it over the top.

Never point a loaded gun anywhere near another person.

Never trust or rely on a mechanical safety.

Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Wait to load your gun until you are in the water and ready to hunt and unload in the water once you are done hunting.

Never shoot what you can't positively identify.

Secure your spear so that nobody accidentally stabs themselves on the boat, shore, or home.

Consider using a tip cover to block the tip of your spear when out of the water.

When shooting larger multi-banded guns, lock your elbow and damper the rear of your gun with your hand to avoid being struck in the face.

Be ready and willing to ditch your gun if you are having trouble getting to the surface.

Routinely inspect and clean your gun, especially paying attention to any cracks forming around your handle.

Avoid metal wishbones when possible and be careful when loading them as fingers have been severed by them.

General Safety

In addition to the specific areas that have been outlined, there are several general safety guidelines when spearfishing.

Pay careful attention to the weather and avoid diving when surge/current/chop is bad.

Equalize early and often. Don't wait until it hurts to do so and be ready to stop/abort your descent if your ear(s) is stuck.

Always carry a knife (or two) in case of entanglement.

Use a dive flag whenever possible to inform passing boats of your presence (it’s the law in many places).

Always have a person manning the boat in situations of current to avoid getting stranded in the water.

Avoid handling larger fish with fight left in them. Let them tire out or quickly brain them while they are stunned.

When braining fish be very careful as it can be easy to slip or overpenetrate your fish and stab your arm/hand/thigh.

Educate yourself on, and be aware of, the pain points (teeth, spikes, spines) that your target fish have.

Consider a break-away rigging or a reel so that you are not fighting your fish all the way to the surface.

Avoid entering into caves too deeply or at all, especially in surge or current situations.

When possible, avoid keeping your stringer on your person, especially in shark infested water. Consider returning them to the boat or keeping them connected to a float.

Consider the Freedivers Recovery Vest as a potential purchase.

General Health

In addition to following a set of rules/guidelines, it's important to take care of your body in general.

Stay well hydrated before, during, and after your dive sessions.

Eat a good meal before extended dive sessions keeping a 2 hour gap between a full meal and a dive. Eat some snacks to keep your energy up during the dive.

Get good sleep and avoid too much alcohol the night prior to a dive.

Consider cancelling a dive if you are sick and remember to factor your sickness into the length and depth of your dives.

Never freedive after doing any scuba diving the same day.

Many health factors such as aenemia, smoking, history of seizures or blackouts, concussions, medications, etc. should all be taken into account and extra vigilence should be shown in light of them.

Consider seeing doctors with knowledge of physiology in the context of diving.
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Old 06-14-2014, 12:23 AM   #5
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

Quote:
NorthStar's post.

Yea, that. The FRV is a big expense at first look ($1350); but I bought one and will not be "leaving home without it".
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Last edited by Tewills; 06-14-2014 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 06-14-2014, 01:11 AM   #6
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

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Originally Posted by Tewills View Post
Yea, that. The FRV is a big expense at first look ($1350); but I bought one and will not be "leaving home without it".
Good move Todd. You will be a lot safer with it. Just consider it cheap life insurance.
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Old 06-15-2014, 03:11 AM   #7
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tewills View Post
Yea, that. The FRV is a big expense at first look ($1350); but I bought one and will not be "leaving home without it".
Best investment we can make as freedivers. I will not dive without one now.

Good post Max, it was so ironic that OC/Michael had created that post shortly before he died from SWB, just knowing these things won't save your life, practicing them while diving will.
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Old 06-15-2014, 03:13 AM   #8
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

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Old 06-15-2014, 12:50 AM   #9
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

What are the safety tips for instances like this?


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Old 06-15-2014, 02:25 AM   #10
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikePierce170 View Post
What are the safety tips for instances like this?

http://youtu.be/-m3N_BnVdOI

Ummm... don't jump off of cliffs into shark infested waters?

I couldn't believe how long it took him to swim back to shore.
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Old 06-15-2014, 05:10 PM   #11
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

Good reminder thread guys. That shark video has been shown to be fake. Guys please let us know how the FRV works, good or bad. Hopefully it's never needed.
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Old 06-15-2014, 10:19 PM   #12
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

Since I was very likely the reason this post got started, I did some reading and gave spitting my snorkel a try yesterday.

I gotta say it felt pretty weird at first, but I started to get used to it by the end.

Definitely ate a lot more salt water this way....I was able to keep all the water out with a full time snorkel.

On the flip side, I think I had some longer breath holds...couldn't verify because I didn't realize I had to clear the old Pyle.

Had a nice day at Barview, got to ride in a zodiac for the first time thanks to Jeff.

I'll continue to try to get used to the no snorkel thing, hopefully it will get better

John
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Old 06-16-2014, 12:09 AM   #13
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

John - I dove for decades with my snorkel in - all of this freedive class/ safety stuff wasn't even heard of then. I have to admit that it was a hard switch for me when I gained further education later in life. You really have to learn a new set of habits to dive snorkel out, and sometimes I still don't do it right.
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Old 06-19-2014, 01:17 AM   #14
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

OP - A couple more things I've thought of that are kind of PNW'ey:

1. Snorkel viz: When there's a bit of chop/waves, it can be hard to locate your buddy after surfacing. Suggestion. Many snorkels are all-black and virtually invisible at even short distances. Solution: Get some fluorescent orange tape and apply to the top several inches of your snorkel.

2. Reels and float-lines: I know some spearos really love their reels and not having to fuss with a float line, but objectively, it adds at least some risk. Your buddy no longer has a higher-visibility always-at-surface object to find/track you in our low-viz waters and chop, let alone find you u/w. Limp line mgt is more challenging https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkVNjV7RhLI). Solution: consider a high-viz-color vinyl float line with bright yellow crab-float, inflatable buoy, or Banks board... for find-ability by your buddy, plus visibility for boats. For a really slick kelp-bed float, www.neptonicsystems.com/kelp-carrot.php (Speardeals.com is out of stock currently)

....and imho, newbies should stay away from reels, experienced spearos can do well with them. If you decide to stick with reel-only, even more important to consider an FRV, imho.

Vinyl float lines are safest, foam-filled rope next safest, and hardware store poly rope the least safe as it is limp, sinks some, and more prone to tangles. (haha, I tried it once, retired it.)
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Old 06-19-2014, 01:24 AM   #15
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Re: Safety thoughts & observations, Oregon free diving

I don't know that a reel would drown me, but my experience angling with a level wind makes me think it will at least give me a headache
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