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We all know that drinking and driving is a bad idea but what about drinking and diving? Grabbing a bite, a beer and some good conversation seems like a great way to spend a surface interval to me. But before opening a beer when diving, we first need to understand the unique effects that alcohol presents to us as divers. When our mental and/or physical capabilities are impaired due to alcohol consumption, there are specific things we must consider that are irrelevant to nondivers and nondiving situations, such as heat loss and decompression.  

Water pulls heat from our bodies 25 times faster than air does so heat loss is an obvious concern when diving. While a stiff drink may “warm you up” on a cold night it definitely won’t do that for you when diving. Alcohol is a peripheral vasodilator, it causes blood vessels in the skin to open up more than normal and cause that warm, flushed feeling in our body. The blood flow responsible for that warm feeling is diverted from our body’s core and this loss of blood saps heat from more vital areas of our body and makes us more - not less - prone to hypothermia. Alcohol also delays shivering, our body’s warning sign that we’ve lost too much heat. How much sense does it make to spend hundreds of dollars for an exposure suit only to reduce its effect by having a few drinks?

Another issue with drinking and diving is that alcohol causes the vessels supplying our muscles with blood to constrict. This constriction causes an increase in blood pressure and can place significant stress on the heart. Some doctors believe this stress on the heart could be a contributing factor in the increasing number of diving accidents involving those with underlying heart disease.

And what about decompression sickness? While a direct relationship between drinking and an increased risk of decompression sickness hasn't been recognized,  a little bit of common sense tells us that such a connection might exist. It’s thought to work like this: alcohol consumption increases peripheral circulation (blood flow). The increased blood flow could cause higher levels of nitrogen absorption than predicted by your computer or the RDP. This possible increase of nitrogen might raise your susceptibility to decompression sickness, even if you dive within the no-decompression limits. Other ways that alcohol can make divers more susceptible to DCS is alcohol's diuretic property, i.e. dehydration. The decreased fluid in your blood makes it "thicker," reducing its circulatory efficiency and further altering the absorption and elimination of nitrogen from your body.

 Dehydration can also put divers at risk for DCS combined with neurological symptoms (often known as "Type II" bends). This is caused by the brain’s susceptibility to dehydration from alcohol consumption, and explains why a headache is the most common symptom of a hangover. You must also realize that dehydration lasts longer than the headache you sometimes experience. This is why it's extremely important that anyone drinking alcohol the night before a dive, even if they feel well the next morning, drink plenty of water prior to diving.

If you do decide to consume alcohol, follow these guidelines:

- Avoid drinking to excess anytime, but particularly before diving or while on a diving vacation.

- Avoid alcohol for at least 8 hours before diving

- If you drank the night before and feel hung over, don’t dive.

- If you drank the previous night, you may still be dehydrated so drink plenty of water.

- Avoid alcohol completely for at least one hour after diving, or even longer if you were diving deep (below 80 feet) or near a no-decompression limit.

Views: 1056
Posting: 08-26-2014
Tags: booze vs diving, scuba, sober divers

Growing up on a tiny island in Southeast Asia, it is ironic that I was an aquaphobe till my early twenties. Refusing to give in to my irrational fear of the water, I decided the best course of action was to do something extreme. During summer break in 1999, I traveled to a tiny island in Malaysia, and got certified as an Open Water Diver. Since then, it has been an amazing odyssey which has brought me diving all over the world. Now I want to share my love of the underwater realm with students eager to jump into the water and explore. Few things can compare to the satisfaction of seeing a wide eyed student brimming from ear to ear after their first encounter with a playful sealion. I love all types of diving; wreck diving in Florida and in San Diego, Drift diving down the Colorado and in Cancun, muck diving in Redondo Beach and Lembeh Straits, wall diving in Roatan and in Sipadan, and of course reef diving in Catalina and in the Great Barrier Reef. But one of my favorite types of diving is swimming thru the kelp forests off our California coast. It is like a magical hike through an enchanted Redwood forest with the sun beams shining through between the trees…only underwater!


Having grown up around the ocean, saltwater is in my blood. Whether it was catching a wave, snorkeling, skin diving, or just hanging out at the beach, the ocean is always where I wanted to be. I first discovered Scuba while traveling in Thailand in 1996 and fell in love.


But eventually, ”grown-up life” caught up with me and I found myself in an office in front of a computer screen, and then playing stay-home dad for my 2 kids. Getting to the beach got harder and harder.


I finally found my way back to the ocean and into diving in March 2013 and haven’t looked back. You could say I dove in head-first: after open water certification I couldn’t wait to take the next class.


When the time came to think about going back to work, I didn’t want to go back to the office so I decided to get outside and do something I truly enjoy. Naturally I chose to teach scuba and am now working towards my instructor certification. I have had a great experience learning to dive with Eco Dive Center and I hope to pass that experience on to yJeff Hoogs scuba manou.

Views: 1047
Posting: 08-21-2014
Tags: eco dive center, jeff hoogs, scuba

Santa Barbara Island is the smallest of the Channel Islands.  The 1 square mile island (640) is so small you could blink and miss it.  It is famous for two things: It is the largest breeding colony for Xantus’s Murrelet, a threatened seabird and a large sea lion rookery.  I was obviously there for the latter.  We boarded the Pacific Star on Sat night and drove through the night arriving at Santa Barbara Island at around 7am.  The conditions were so so on the first dive but got progressively better as the day went on.  As soon as the anchor hit the water the sea lions swarmed the boat.  It was an amazing sight. They are very playful and curious and love to blow bubbles in your face and mimic your movements. Just don’t touch them.  As friendly as they seem they can bite. [Tip: One of my favorite things to do is lie down on the ocean floor and wait until they come by and do the same.  You can get some truly unreal pictures looking face-to-face with one of them.]  The water was super warm so most people went no gloves no hood.  There is a lot of life in the area surrounding the island if you can pull yourself away from the Sea Lions.  About 100 yards off the island there are huge patches of sand.  We saw a ton of angel sharks there. YAY SHARK WEEK!  They are one of my favorite shark species.  They look harmless and usually are but don’t be fooled.  They have a serious set of teeth and will not hesitate to bite you if you do something idiotic like grab their tail. Fun fact: The shark responsible for biting the most people is actually the nurse shark. People grad their tail and they get bit.  For the record if I had a tail and you grabbed it I would bite you too. All in all it was a great day. YAY SHARK WEEK! So sad it is already over.  But I have 15 hours of shark specials to keep me going for a while. 


If you ever get a chance, book a trip on the Pacific Star.  Captain Dave and his 3 sons are a fantastic crew that really go above and beyond to ensure that you have a great day.  They are also the only boat that carries you gear from the car for you – can’t beat that!  

Views: 975
Posting: 08-18-2014
Tags: angel sharks, rookery, santa barbara, scuba diving, sea lions, shark week
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