Any PADI/TecRec certification: PADI Trimix Instructor Trainer and Poseidon MKVI Rebreather Instructor Trainer
Usual Country of residence: Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras
What is your background and current involvement in diving?
I took some time out from an office job in 1997 and trained to become a Divemaster and fell in love with the pro lifestyle. I was working in Thailand filling tanks, driving boats and guiding divers, even if just for a few $ a day it was enough to convince me to quit the corporate world and go on and become a PADI Instructor. I travelled to Honduras for my Instructor course and the start of a 2 year gap-year with the plan to travel the world and work as an Instructor, that is now a ‘15 year gap-year’ and I’m hoping for another 15 years at least! I’ve been conducting professional and technical level training and am the Director of Training for the Utila Dive Centre, a PADI CDC in Honduras.
How did you get into tec diving?
I was working as a PADI Instructor in Dahab in 1999 as tec diving was emerging in the area, and my interest in exploration was awakened, and to dive deeper sites like the ‘Arch’ at the Blue Hole safely. There’s nothing like memorials at a dive site to reinforce the limits of recreational diving and to seek out proper training and equipment for deeper technical diving.
Do have any specialised areas of interest?
I’ve been cave qualified since 2003, and in the last 3 years have moved into sidemount configuration, and living so close to the Yucatan of Mexico, I make at least 1 cave trip a year to explore off the beaten path. I’m also still exploring deeper sites around the island of Utila using trimix in my rebreather, and have been running rebreather trips to the Galapagos Archipelago in the last few years for the Hammerhead shark encounters.
What do think the greatest challenges are in this kind of diving?
Recognising your current limits as a technical diver, and developing your own attitude, discipline and finesse before advancing to the next level, or out of your comfort zone.
What are the most important attributes of a tec diver for the type of diving you do?
Preparation, patience, open-minded and a healthy dose of paranoia!
What are the most likely mistakes a tec diver can make in your kind of diving?
Not accruing experience as a diver between levels of training, particularly in the field of rebreathers.
How do you prepare for a demanding technical dive?
Aside from team briefings and planning, I like working out and running to get both physically and mentally prepared, and spend time mentally visualising the profile and plan.
What were your best or worst tec diving experiences?
I’ve been fortunate not to have any ‘worst’ experiences as far as executing dive profiles or in teaching. I have been involved in a recovery project on a ‘ghost fishing net’ off our reefs several years ago, and whilst I was happy to have been part of a technical team that helped lift a damaging and destructive fishing net from the reef, it was saddening to see first-hand the destructiveness of such a large net and the aquatic life lost through entanglement. I was also involved in the recovery of a $2 million dollar helicopter that went down in Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, an inactive volcanic lake at 1700 meters/5500 feet altitude, conducting searches in the 60-90 meter/200-300 foot range, and it was great to have been part of a team that located and removed the helicopter before the aquatic environment was damaged.
What influences your selection of dive gear?
I’m a big believer in practising what you preach, getting out in the field and not just spending time in the classroom, and I favour the manufacturers who also spend time in the field and who develop their products not just on customer feedback or marketability, but through their own diving and exploration.
What kind of person do you want diving in the same team as you?
Someone who really understands the mechanics of a profile/plan and knows their equipment or rebreather inside out, has forethought and vision, and is a team-player.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of getting into tec diving?
Find an Instructor, with well-rounded technical dive experience, who is willing to mentor not just teach, and is also actively educating themselves as well.