This past Sunday (November 13), I attended the National Association for Cave Divers Rebreather Summit in North Florida. This annual get-together follows the regular NACD social and symposium held Friday and Saturday; and is a low-key affair… but the topics discussed usually speak to the heart of what concerns the technical CCR crowd in N. Fl and beyond.
The format for the summit is simple: brief presentations in the morning, a break for lunch, and a panel discussion in the afternoon. The audience submits questions for the panel to answer, and the panel — consisting of representation from rebreather manufacturers, training agencies, and related “stake-holders” — does its best to provide answers.
The vast majority of questions focused on CCR training rather than innovations in design and technology, and seemed to be looking for answers about training at both ends of the spectrum: sport and hard-edged tech.
So what were the topics raised?
Moves within the industry to make rebreathers available to sport divers through simplified machines and “abridged” training was one thing questioned. The suggestion of three-day programs for sport certs raised a major alarm with some audience members, and the panel was asked to comment.
The consensus really was “let’s wait and see,” because central to these New and Shortened programs is that the academics are completed onLine before a student steps into a class. Given that this would allow a full three days (as a minimum) for practical skills development, the panel cautiously agreed that sport rebreather certs could work. Since making rebreathers available to sport divers was the major hum at DEMA the week before, sports certs and sport-level rebreathers ARE promising to make the industry an interesting study over the coming months.
(For example, I’ve just read a post in one of the onLine diving forums wondering how come an essential piece of a recreational CCR (an ORing) mysteriously “came off” almost causing some serious grief. What is more disturbing is that the missing ORing (which in this case is designed to prevent CO2 blowby around the sorb canister and which should have been noted as missing during the initial assembly and checks) seems to have been overlooked a second time when the unit was reassembled prior to a second attempt to dive it. This seems to be a classic case of either complacency or poor training… or a mix of both.. but was absolutely operator error.)
As controversial, or at least engendering as much interests among the audience, was the question of CCR specific cave instruction.
Two issues on this topic. The first was if someone with training and experience with OC in a cave would gain anything from taking a full CCR cave class. The second asked about the need for a full curriculum of cave classes aimed at divers who have no desire to dive OC ever.
The panel seemed to agree to a person: there are techniques unique to CCR that may not be intuitive to OC cave divers — therefore at very least a day or two Orientation Workshop seems appropriate — and a cave CCR program for “new” techdivers is a must. In fact Ben Remenants, who has developed TDI’s CCR cave program, was in the audience and offered his opinion on this score. Certainly as more divers gain their experience totally inside the world of CCR, it is totally counter-intuitive expecting them to take a cave class wearing anything but CCR gear.