Thursday, June 20, 2013

So, what makes a good instructor?

So, you’ve got the bug! Good for you. After a few short weeks of diving your socks have been blown off by all the amazing underwater encounters you’ve had and you’re already looking beyond Rescue Diver to Divemaster and beyond into the dizzying realm of the instructor. Some frantic googling and a bit of research later and you now have a mapped out route to diving greatness. Giddy-up. But like everything else you do, you want to be good at it right? So what does make a good instructor?
                Think back to your Open Water course and how much fun it was. After all, it’s what hooked you on diving in the first place and started you off down the path to diving awesomeness. What was it that made the instructor so memorable? The way she got information to sink in? How cool he looked (vitally important as you will later learn in your IDC - Instructor Development Course). Or perhaps the way she managed to save your happy ass on numerous occasions as you bumbled off into the blue blissfully unaware of everything around you? Perhaps it was all of these things.
                A good diving instructor, as with any decent instructor really, needs to have 3 core qualities as a basic prerequisite:

1.       The knowledge and skills to teach the subject.
2.       A passion for what you will be teaching.
3.       Good people skills.

The Knowledge
Well obviously if you are going to teach anybody about anything it really helps if you know what you’re talking about in the first place. Luckily for you the Divemaster Course is going to give you a lot of information above and beyond your average recreational diver. You will cover diving physics, physiology, the RDP and decompression theory, diving skills and dive environment. This knowledge is basically the same as what an instructor knows and will give you a solid foundation for the IDC.

A Passion
There’s no doubt that the best educators are the ones who are deeply passionate and enthusiastic about their area of expertise. Makes sense right? If you love what you do then being able to share this with others is a pleasure and never a chore. And you love diving. Perfect.

People skills
You may be the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic diver in the world but if you not exactly a people person then you may not be suited to teaching diving. As a dive instructor you will be dealing with all kinds of people from all walks of life and from all over the world. In many ways it will be the ultimate test of your people skills. Some students will be great off the bat. Others may need a little extra help and encouragement. And others may be…  well, wait and see.

So far so good. You’re enthusiastic. Soon to be knowledgeable. And a great people person. But hold your horses champion, there are a few other things worth bearing in mind. There is a lot of competition to work in the top dive destinations such as the Maldives, Indonesia and the Red Sea. Don’t expect to be shipping off there the day after your instructor exams. Unless of course you can fluently speak 5 languages. Which is one of the most valuable skills you can have as a diving instructor as it will often get you into the more exotic far flung destinations. You may well have to cut your teeth somewhere a little closer to home at first. But this is ok as it gains you valuable experience.

The whole “living the dream” lifestyle is not always as sweet as it sounds. There will be days, especially in low season, when you might find yourself scrubbing barnacles off the bottom of a boat, or mopping the floor in the toilet. Or rebuilding that old outboard that’s been sat in the compressor room for 8 months. All of these things are vital to running a thriving dive business and good people usually don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and getting stuck in to help out. But be prepared to walk away from any establishment that has you doing this all the time. It’s not what you became a dive pro for. The point is, you sometimes have to take the rough with the smooth in this game.

Beyond the 3 core prerequisites what else makes really great instructor? Well, I mentioned languages, which can open doors to those more exotic locations. But languages themselves won’t make you a great instructor. Here then is another list of things that separate the great from the good.
1.       A good sense of humour.
2.       Understanding of divers needs.
3.       Ability and willingness to learn.
4.       Look cool at all times.

Sense of humour.
There will be days that, despite your meticulous planning and ruthless attention to detail, things don’t quite go according to plan. The weather has taken a turn for the worse and your first choice of dive site is now out of the question. Or the boat was loaded with empties instead of full tanks. These mishaps can put a downer on things, for sure, but how you deal with them is what marks you out as a great instructor. And a good sense of humour is a vital part of this. Plus it’s good to be funny!

Understanding of divers needs.
I’ve seen this before on more than one occasion. Here’s the scenario. You’re a dive guide in the Red Sea and it’s June, which is whale shark and manta season, and your guiding the boat for the day which is off to the world famous Ras Mohammed National Park. On board are a group of photographers armed to the teeth with strobes, macro lenses and a burning desire to find a Long-Horned Nembrotha and photograph it to within an inch of its life. You know that the best chances of finding such a beast are on Ras Ghozlani but there are thousands of schooling snapper, batfish, baracuda and unicorn fish on Shark Reef and you love that dive site, it’ll be amazing!

So what do you do? Tell them that they are just as likely to find one on Shark Reef as they are on Ras Ghozlani and drag them round the front of an 800m deep wall while you clown around with the batfish or do you head for Ras Ghozlani and its sandy bottom because that’s where you are going to find your divers a Nembrotha even though, for you at least, it will be a far less exciting dive? Sounds easy huh? You’d be surprised. Looking after you guests is your numero uno priority and that means understand what they want, need and desire and how best to accommodate that. And although not a skill as such, it is a highly desirable attribute.

Looking cool at all times
You can keep your flying overalls and your captain’s uniform. The real cool is found at 40m (142ft) resplendent in black neoprene, blacked out mask and long sexy fins. Yes, looking cool has never looked so cool. And as a diving professional it is vital that you maintain the reputation of not just yourself, but your peers, at all times. This means staying trim. Growing long hair. And wearing long fins. We have a very cool job. Accordingly we must BE cool.

So there you have it. A basic summary of things that could help you be a great instructor. One final piece of advice…  you may have noticed something throughout this blog. Nearly all of what I have mentioned comes under attitude. And that is the most valuable thing you can have if you want to be considered one of the greats among diving professionals. The right attitude!

Happy diving!

By Terry Nichols
Terry has been diving for over 25 years and is a PADI Master Instructor. He has logged well in excess of 5000 all over the world.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Evidence for the existence of their kind dates from the Ordovician period, about 450–420 million years ago, before land vertebrates even existed and before many plants had colonized the continents. They not only predate the dinosaurs by some considerable margin, they also survived whatever it was that ultimately wiped them out. It would be fair to say, therefore, that these creatures must be pretty darn good at what they do and that they must have well and truly earned their place in the current ecosystems of this planet.

This is down to, in no small part, their incredible design which is so much more than just hydrodynamic perfection. An almost legendary olfactory capability able to detect blood as diluted as 1 part per million. Tapetum lucidum (a shiny layer of tissue in the eye that reflects light back to the retina to you and me!) equipped eyesight, adapted for lower light levels. A series of receptors running the length of each flank known as nueromasts make up the lateral line which is used to detect movement and vibration in the surrounding water.

Electromagnetic field receptors called the Ampullae of Lorenzini bestow them with the greatest electrical sensitivity of any animal allowing them to not only detect the minute bio-electric fields of potential prey but to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. And finally some of the coolest, most highly specialised, and just plain gruesome dentistry the world has ever known. You add all of these things - these components on the wish list of a perfect predator – with a pinch of elegance, grace and panache and you are left with - a shark.

Sharks teeth literally come in all shapes and sizes from the needle like Sand Tiger, to the circular saw of the Cookiecutter shark, to the 7 inch serrated daggers of Carcharodon Megalodon. One thing they all have in common, however, is that they are all exquisitely adapted to their specific task at hand. It can also make them look mean, dangerous and menacing. Which of course they are – if you happen to be on their menu. Which by the way, humans are not!

And this, unfortunately, does them no favours in the public relations department. It is because of the fact that they are so beautifully equipped to dominate their habitats - true masters of their environment – and equipped with sharp, pointy, frightening looking dentistry that, to most of us, they carry a label and that label reads “evil dangerous man eaters”. And this, one imagines, must make it much easier to tuck in to a bowl of soup containing select parts of these gruesome evil killers without even the slightest hint of guilt. I mean after all, they’d do the same to us in a heartbeat right!?

Well actually…   er, no. That’s not correct. As I said, we humans are not on the menu. Why would we be? Our natural habitat is terrestrial for starters. Sharks don’t hunt so well on the savannah. Nor are they to be found roaming the isles down your local Wallmart. “Oh, but I’ve seen shark attacks on the news…” I hear you say. This is, you will find, largely to do with the fact that we are prone to wonder into their environment from time to time. In much the same way as you would expect anyone strolling through the Serengeti in khaki shorts and sand shoes to arouse the interest of the local lion prides. Yet most of us appreciate that people do not constitute the daily dietary requirements of a lion. And let’s not forget the fact that more people are killed by vending machines, lightning strikes and the humble bumble bee every year than by sharks.
It’s true that is, you can look it up.

In comparison a recently published report in the Journal Marine Policy new data on the global mortality rate of sharks and the impact of the shark finning industry has come to light. It suggests that between 63 & 273 million sharks were killed in 2010 alone. Just read that again. 273 MILLION a year. That’s 31, 164 an hour! Every single day. Or 519 a minute. Given the fact that most reproduce very slowly and cannot keep up with the rate at which we are destroying is it logical to think that shark fin soup is going to remain available indefinitely?

Or will there come a point where there are simply no more sharks left? Think about it. Every time somebody orders a bowl of shark fin soup we are one step closer to ensuring the demise of a group of animals that has more than earned its right to exist on this planet, by trial, over the last 450 million years. All because of a dish that is more status symbol than nutrition or taste.

Sharks may not appeal to all of us but as divers and marine advocates can we really continue to turn a blind eye to this kind of slaughter? Food for thought.

Happy diving.

By Terry Nichols

Friday, December 28, 2012

Check Out Gigglin' Marlin's New Trimix System

We at Gigglin' Marlin are proud to announce the completion of our new state of the art Trimix Blending Fill System. This project required many years of planning and preparation, hundreds of hours to complete. At a value of nearly $80,000.00 it is the result of input from top gas blending diving experts and is the finest blending station of its kind in our great state of Texas. Here is a brief look into the creation of the system and how it works.

Gas Blending

There are basically three methods to blend gas for scuba. Partial Pressure Blending(Enriched Air Nitrtox-EANx), Continuous Gas Blending with a Nitrox Stick(also EANx), and Nitrogen Separating Membrane(De Nitrogenated Ait-DNAx) 

How It Works

Before any work could be done, we looked at what we wanted to achieve and the best options for it. Before the new system, we were partial pressure blending Nitrox. This means we would put a specific amount of 100% O2 into a tank then filled it with air. The resulting mix would be the desired Nitrox percentage for the diver. While this method works very well, and allowed EANx fills up to 100% for deco bottles, it is not the quickest or most efficient way to fill Nitrox. We decided that installing a Nitrox blending stick would allow even more versatility by allowing us to fill premixed Nitrox from large gas storage banks.  This not only allows divers to wait for their Nitrox fills, it becomes safer than injecting 100% oxygen through valves into cylinders.


By installing a Nitrox stick placed at the air intake on our compressor, air is sucked into the top of the stick 100% O2 is introduced. The Nitrox stick has a series of scaffolds inside that then forces the air and O2 to mix together creating blended Nitrox. An oxygen analyzer is located at the bottom of the stick to ensure the correct percentage is being made. This Nitrox is then run through the compressor where it is sent to our storage bottle system until it is needed. We have multiple storage banks for 32% and 36% ready for you when you need it.
 System Creation

The first step in this process was obtaining a Nitrox Stick while this sounds easy it is difficult to find a quality Nitrox stick that accurately blends the gases. Once we obtained the Nitrox stick we began running 100% oxygen gas rated piping to our compressor. Since the fill panel and compressor are not in the same room it was quite tricky in planning out the system. 

Because this long run of PVC could over time potentially create a strain on our compressor we knew that it could not be used all the time when we were filling air storage and tanks. In order to remedy this we created an additional air PVC intake. Both Nitrox and air intakes run into a Y-valve that then goes to the compressor. Because air cannot be added at the Y-valve we had to install a gate valves that could block the air intake when we were filling Nitrox. Once this was all done it was just a matter of plumbing in our new Nitrox storage bottles and running them to our fill panel. 

The piece that makes our new system truly awesome in our new 100% Oxygen clean Haskel pump. The Haskel is able to suck air out of bottles so that no helium or oxygen is ever wasted. By plumbing our Nitrox and Helium lines through the Haskel we ensure that all the gas we have could be used.


The filling process has been simplified by the fact that each storage bottle holds a different percentage of O2 so that we can fill Nitrox tanks directly. To fill Trimix we began by filling with Helium first and then add the determined amount of Oxygen and Air to the mix. With the addition of our new Analytical Industrial Inc. Trimix analyzer we can guarantee accurate percentages in all our Nitrox and Trimix fills.

Come by the shop and check out our new system. While you are here why not sign up for Nitrox or Trimix Specialties, or become a gas blender so that you can enjoy this new system and all the benefits it offers. Your first Nitrox fill is free with the purchase of a Nitrox Specialty! We look forward to seeing you in the water soon!