Thursday, November 7, 2013

What is GUE about?

For people in the know, one of the most hotly debated topic is what GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) is about. On one hand, we have those who believe so strongly in GUE that anyone who does not dive the same way, is considered unsafe. On the other end of the scale, criticisms range from "bunch of militants", "regimented and inflexible", "boring divers", etc. I usually enjoy discussing about the matter with critics by asking them a series of questions so that they'd be able to understand why I dive with GUE

Let's be honest: no diving agencies will train a diver to be unsafe. All agencies essentially teach divers with the necessary skills to be prepared for worst case scenarios. GUE is known for its demanding standards of training, and personally, it's bailed me out of my many challenging situations during technical dives. With what I've learned, I'm also able to carry it over to recreational diving. The purpose with all the drilling and training is to simply so that we can enjoy our dives and yes, have fun (did I hear some gasps of shock?). All that training, is simply a means (and a really effective one, if I may add) to an end. 

I'm attaching a link of a dive report written by my early GUE mentor, Lynne of GUE Seattle. She was reporting about the day when Jarrod Jablonski, the President of GUE, joined the good folks in Seattle for some dives after a presentation of the latest GUE project. Lynne had the privilege of diving with him and she was stressed out because she felt that she had to be perfect while diving with JJ. What transpired during the dive was a wonderful surprise. I'll leave you to enjoy Lynne's wonderful writing and the lessons from the dives. Here's the link to the lovely article, and enjoy!

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Monday, November 4, 2013

I Paid, Therefore I Should Pass... Or Should I?

Is an instructor obliged to pass a student even if, in his professional opinion, the student is a danger to himself? Over the years, I heard of first hand accounts of how friends were able to pass their dive courses even though they felt that they had not shown the necessary competencies to pass the course, which resulted in a lack of confidence to continue diving. Are instructors obliged to pass students just because they had paid? I've even heard stories of dive resorts promising prospective students of guaranteed passes. 

There can be many reasons why a student might not be able to pass the course, but there is one standard reply: "did not meet standards". One example is that the student is unable to complete the number of dives due to injury or ill health. However, there might also be examples of students who are a danger to themselves, such as the failure to display adequate buoyancy control, resulting in uncontrolled ascents. 

Now, the big question is, how is an instructor to tell the student that they have to come back again because they did not meet standards? In our age of instant gratification, it seems like some students do not expect to receive a dive education, where they LEARN to become better divers, but rather, the whole education bit is just a means to an end, and they expect to receive their cards at the end of the course. 

For an instructor to tell a student that he needs to redo his course, takes strong belief and conviction, and even courage especially if the student refuses to accept that he did not meet standards. I have heard of ugly (and sad) allegations by angry customers of some dive operators who get upset because they were unable to meet the requirements, that the company is failing them to fleece them. And after witnessing first hand of one particular incident, I do wonder about the mindset of the customer.

Let's come back to the purpose of a dive education. Scuba diving IS a risky hobby, make no mistake about it, and a dive education is about learning how to manage those risks. It's great that diving has been marketed as a cool activity, and a fair number of divers are proud to chase down as many cards as they can, as a show of their level of competence and proficiency. Now, I have no issues with the card collecting, but the card is supposed to certify that the diver is competent for that level of certification. And if he is not able to display competence, should he expect to pass just simply because he has paid? 

I had an excellent student who tried his darnest but was not able to meet the competency that was expected. However, the student walked away with a big smile and said that he had learned plenty about himself, and how he should handle the difficult situations. We had a good discussion and the verdict was that the student needed more practice to overcome the obstacles, and then I'll have another look on a trip before signing him off. And the words that he left me, taught me (yes, the instructor) a great deal: "I'd rather do it again just to get it right, rather than rush through it and learn nothing out of it". 

I've always said that diving is a risky sport, and with so many accidents and fatalities during this local season, any prospective divers should take their dive education seriously, and look for a good education that will help them enjoy diving in a safe way. Do not make a decision based on how much you can save, choose a dive operator that you know will have your interest and safety at heart. 

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