GUE Primer Class Report: Tuning the Basics to become Safer and More Competent [Archive] - ScubaBoard - Scuba Diving Forum - Diving Social Network

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August 13th, 2011, 01:17 PM
Hi y'all. I just got back from taking the GUE Primer class with Douglas Mudry in High Springs Florida. I would like to do a trip report that comments on the class, and also some observations from other aspects of my trip; namely GUE and Extreme Exposure. I will write separate posts in this thread for various topics, to make my ramblings easier to read. And I apologize in advance for the length of this post.
Before I start, I would like to say that the past week was truly amazing. It was 200% worth the cost and time of coming from Israel for this visit to Florida cave country. (even though I never entered a cavern or cave).
I am putting this thread in Basic Scuba, not DIR, for a reason. I am on the Basic level, and my experiences and short term goals have nothing to do with Tech, which is the general connotation of DIR. This is one of the main points that I would like to make, so I am not burying this in the DIR corner. However, semantics aside, I use a single tank, no canister light, I do simple recreational diving but I happen to prefer a BP/W, and would like to be able to dive safely by using good planning and to also be able to handle the situation if something goes wrong. I am writing this for newish OW divers who would like to learn to be safer and more competent. I want to write about the side of GUE that serves people who do not have short term goals of cave or tech. The Primer course teaches only Basic topics.
A little background: I took PADI OW this past Feb, followed by a few other PADI bits and pieces (AOW, Peak Buoyancy, Deep, and ANDI Nitrox). I was glad for these opportunities, but the bottom line is that I earned a handful of cert cards, but did not end up feeling like a competent and safe recreational diver. Maybe it’s the courses, maybe it's that I am not an athlete and don't pick up physical movements quickly, I am in my mid-50's and overweight (trying to deal with this), maybe it's that I haven't had experienced divers to buddy with, maybe it's all of the above, but that’s how I felt. I learned about GUE on Scubaboard, and that seemed to be an agency which embraced higher standards, and most important to me, had the student keep working on a skill until they really actually mastered it. Primer sounded like the medicine that I was looking for to get my skills up to a level where I felt more confidence that I was competent enough to be a good buddy and keep myself out of trouble.
So that’s how I ended up signing up for a GUE Primer course. As long as I was coming halfway around the world to take a 2 day course, I asked the instructor, Doug Mudry, if I could also have some private instruction in order to make the most of my visit to the States.
I was a little worried that a diver on the level of the GUE Instructors would not be able to communicate with a newbie, but that was not the case. While it is a little intimidating at first to be looking at perfect trim with perfect buoyancy control, while you are flopping about, Doug tried hard to put the students at ease and indicate clearly what reasonable goals for them would be (eg trim of 30 degrees). Also, he was a font of helpful suggestions.

August 13th, 2011, 01:20 PM
Primer is a 2-day "seminar" course, meaning that there is no certification, and no pass-fail. Having read about how even experienced divers get stressed out in Fundies, Primer sure sounded like a much more comfortable first step into GUE; and it was.
There were 5 students, with a variety of experience.
The first day started out at 9 AM in the classroom at Extreme Exposure dive shop with a bit of a lecture, explaining the goals of the course and giving a bit of background into GUE and its educational offerings. Also in the first morning was the "equipment check-out". Each student laid all of his gear out on a table, and Doug looked at it all and made comments. We all learned a lot, but what really surprised me was the attitude. There was never "use that and you will die". Doug would point out alternatives, and then described the pros and cons of the alternatives. He used the phrase "Stacking the odds in your favor" a lot, when one alternative had more pros than cons. He never insisted on any change of equipment. It was left up to the student whether to make a change or not. I can't say what might have been different in a certification class like fundies or a tech class; I can only report my experience from Primer. Here are a few examples:

• Plastic spools can be either injection molded or cut from a solid piece of Delron or other plastic (more expensive). He pointed out that injection molding usually leaves small air bubbles in the plastic. These bubbles add buoyancy. If you accidentally let go of the spool as you are deploying an SMB, if it has negative buoyancy, it will probably fall back down to you. If it is positively buoyant it's gone, along with the SMB now at the surface. I took my nice new never-used HOG spool to the sink, filled it (the sink) with water, then unrolled half of the line off the spool, submerged it (the spool), and it popped to the surface. Things made from injection molding are also less strong, for the same reason.

• One student had a back-inflate BC without a rigid backplate, lots of quick releases, etc. Doug went through every feature, with pros and cons, and no nasty comments. There was a BP/W available for him to try instead, but the student wanted to use the BC he was used to. On the second day, after all of the work on trim and buoyancy, he asked to try the BP/W.

• Another student and I both had loose connections on the hoses from the first stage. (not loose enough to leak, but eventually would have). I have new equipment that has only been worked on by the dealer, so that really surprised me. One of the things that Doug emphasized is getting familiar with your gear and taking responsibility for it.

• Knives: if the blade goes all the way down the handle it is less likely to fail.

• Bolt snaps: exposed springs can allow sand to enter.

• Regulators: some regulators (like my Scubapro) have a pin that keeps you from removing the faceplate, which might be needed to be removed in order to clean out sand. He popped out my pins for me.

• Lights: a switch provides an extra failure point.
We then broke for lunch. I think that the last equipment was dealt with after lunch, and then we made a caravan with our cars and drove to Ginny Springs.
At Ginny Springs we started out by lying on picnic tables seeing a demo then doing the 4 major kicks (flutter, modified flutter, frog, and modified frog). Then we got our equipment set up, ran thought the GUE EDGE check-out, and went to the water.

We did one very long dive in shallow water (4-10 feet). Being in shallow water was useful, because we could surface for discussion easily, and the air seemed to last forever. It started with Doug demonstrating each kick and us trying to repeat what he did. Most of the dive was spent hovering and following a piece of cave line back and forth, practicing kicks, and trying to be in trim while doing the kicks. Doug gave a lot of individual attention to each of the 5 students, and helped made minor adjustments to students' equipment to help with trim. After an hour and a half, most of us got tired or had to leave, but Doug stayed in the water until darkness fell with anyone who wanted to stay.

One interesting activity that we did was to go down to a deeper area and try to swim up with no air in the BC, and then hold buoyancy at 10 feet.. My previous training emphasized having ditchable weights for if the BC failed. This other view is that as long as you can swim the rig up, you don't need to be able to dump a lot of weight.

Everything was filmed. Our video diver was none other than Kate "katepnatl" ‎ who wrote her own report here on Scubaboard about her fundies experiences "3 times a Charm". Kate was a true inspiration to us beginners, having travelled that path before. And at the end of the dive of our Day 1, Doug told her that she had just earned the upgrade from Rec to Tech on her Fundies! That was cool!
Because we stayed in the water so late on day 1, we waited to review the Day 1 video until Day 2.

One student dropped out of the class because he got a bloody nose and a headache. So by the end of Day 1 we were down to 4 students.

August 13th, 2011, 01:22 PM
At 7AM we were back in the classroom at Extreme Exposure reviewing the video from Day 1. Doug gave helpful and encouraging critiques. Video is a really great tool.

Then we got back in our cars and drove to Blue Grotto, with a stop at a supermarket because some students were not able to buy their lunches before the 7AM meeting. Blue Grotto was a little deeper, so we didn't have the annoyance of fin tips breaking the surface that we had sometimes on day 1. Day 2 was similar to Day 1, but we added Helicopter and Back to the exercises. Rather than trying to do the back kick just on the picnic tables, we went in the water with just mask and exposure suit (no fins or SCUBA) to do our first back kick practice. Then we got our complete gear on. Instead of going back and forth over a piece of line, we set up residence at a submerged platform. One at a time we would swim what was requested down the platform, interspersed with some more demonstrations from Doug. Doug and Kate also did a demonstration of a valve drill and deploying an SMB.

Our lunch break was a bit longer than planned, because of a thunder-lightening storm that kept us from returning promptly to the water. Doug kept us entertained by answering questions about the WKPP projects.

After lunch and thunderstorm we did a second dive. Doug had run cave line around on a course, so we got to practice our kicks and trim and explore a little more of the area at the same time. We at no time entered any of the caves on either day, but the clear fresh water surrounded by really pretty wooded areas was a pleasure to be in.

We didn't get to do a 3rd dive on day 2 as originally planned, because the site closes at 6PM and we had that long lunch break. So at just about 6 we were rolling out, back to EE to review the videos and talk about what each of us needed to work on and where to go from there.

August 13th, 2011, 01:23 PM
Overall, the Primer course was a lot of fun and low stress. I personally did not progress as much as I wanted to, when I was with the group. I started the session with some buoyancy issues, and in general pick up things like dance steps a little slower than some people do. One of the hardest things was staying in one place while waiting your turn in line to do the kicks. It was really easy to drift into another student, or drift away and then other students drift into your assigned spot. However, when I compare the before and after, on buoyancy, trim and propulsion, there is a huge step forward. I think that all of the students felt the same.

August 13th, 2011, 01:24 PM
I hired Doug for 3 half days to help me progress towards my goals. The first session was before the course, and then 2 after the course. For me, this was really helpful and very enjoyable. In class I sometimes felt discouraged (totally self-inflicted), but with private instruction you can talk through things and deal with them as they happened. Also, he gave me homework to do exercises to build muscle memory. I left Florida feeling that I had made a huge step forward in buoyancy, trim, propulsion, and equipment awareness. No other event in my diving career have I progressed this much. I left thinking of Doug not only as my Instructor, but also as a mentor and a friend. And most importantly, I am starting to think of myself as a diver.

I still don't have a solid frog kick, and my back kick doesn't exist, but all in good time.

It just so happens that there will be a Fundies taught locally in a couple of weeks here (in Eilat on the Red Sea), so I am going to give it a try. I won't go in with expectations, but rather just work on continuing my progress.
I highly recommend Primer to anyone who would like to improve their trim, buoyancy, and propulsion techniques.

August 13th, 2011, 01:26 PM
I have seen some strange comments on Scubaboard about GUE and Extreme Exposure, so I just wanted to take this opportunity to make a few comments, and clarify a few facts.

• GUE offices and Extreme Exposure Dive Shop share a modest single story building, each with their own front door.

• Jarrod J. is the CEO of GUE, EE and Halcyon, which is down the street.

• Extreme Exposure carries what their customers want to buy, which clearly is not just Halcyon products. They stock products from a number of manufacturers and sell non-DIR products like split fins. They offer both PADI and GUE courses, according to what the customer wants. In their little book dept, I saw the PADI OW and TecRec books right next to the GUE books.

• Everyone in the GUE office, Extreme Exposure, and Halcyon (I got a tour of the factory) were really nice, open, helpful people, and I never saw or heard any evangelical propaganda like I have heard complained about on the web boards. I know little of what went on in GUE in the olden days when George Irvine was around, but I think that a lot of people are misrepresenting today's GUE on the web. Everything that was recommended to me either during instruction or by EE shop employees was recommended for a logical reason. My observation was that no Koolaid was being served.

August 13th, 2011, 03:27 PM
Excellent report!

You flew halfway around the world for a two-day class! Wow. That shows dedication. Even with the private days tacked on the front and back making it more worth the trip, it's still admirable and quite an effort.

My brother is getting certified later this month, (either by myself or one of our instructors), and I've got him taking Primer ASAP. I think as a new diver he'll get a lot out of it, then he'll fall in with our dive crew, who are all GUE trained, to keep it up.

Which raises a point, is there a GUE or DIR dive group there in Israel that you dive with? Diving with a like-minded and like-trained crew helps keep the skills sharp, and the more experienced ones can act as mentors for the n00bs.

(To head off any accusations of "elitism", I and our entire team will dive with anybody, in any configuration, at any time, (unless you prove yourself to be unsafe), but it sure is nice to dive with likeminded folks who share the same procedures, checklists and mindset.)

August 13th, 2011, 03:57 PM
Excellent report!

Which raises a point, is there a GUE or DIR dive group there in Israel that you dive with? Diving with a like-minded and like-trained crew helps keep the skills sharp, and the more experienced ones can act as mentors for the n00bs.

Hi 50Fathom,

Thanks for making it through the long post!

You raise a good point that has concerned me. There are a scattering of GUE trained divers here in Israel, but they would be mostly doing dives well beyond my training and comfort. I actually have plans to dive with one of the guys next weekend, which would be the only time that I dove with a GUE trained diver outside of the class described in this thread. In the future, I hope to figure out a way to do it more often. I think that after the local fundies class, that there might be a few that wouldn't mind a bit of reef diving in the Red Sea, since they will not yet have done their technical training. But unfortunately I don't think that there is a regular organized group. GUE is not even officially recognized as an entity here, because there is no local instructor.

August 13th, 2011, 04:01 PM
I think that after the local fundies class, that there might be a few that wouldn't mind a bit of reef diving in the Red Sea, since they will not yet have done their technical training. But unfortunately I don't think that there is a regular organized group.

Then it sounds like you're gonna be starting the group from the ground up, kinda like we did for our area. It's hard, but fun.

Best of luck on that one!

August 13th, 2011, 04:08 PM
Thanks for the post. Note that there are a few GUE instructors in Sharm across the border.

Enjoyed reading your experiences. I've not had much experience with Primer but it seems like a great way to organize a gentler introduction to the system. And very impressive flying all that distance for a class. Glad to see the trip was clearly worth it!

August 13th, 2011, 06:02 PM
As I recall, there was an article a while back in Quest magazine about GUE diving in Israel . . . if you join the organization, you get access to all the back issues.

I am really, really glad to see you post your report here. One of the things I constantly try to tell people is that GUE diving is NOT just for dark, deep, scary or caves. A logical, standardized system works great for single tank open water diving, too -- and the better you get at buoyancy control and positioning, the more fun you have, because you can STOP to look at things, and not silt anything out, and not drift away from what you want to watch. These skills work fantastically well for photographers, too! And honing your situational awareness means far fewer stressful episodes of lost anchor lines, misplaced buddies, and the like.

I'm glad you had a good experience, and my hat is absolutely off to you for dedication!

One last word . . . you don't have to find someone with whom to "practice" at home. Every dive you do is practice -- pay attention to your buoyancy, use your kicks, chant your SA mantra (if you have one; my instructor told me to think, "What's my depth, where's my buddy, look at the fish.") Plan your dives, and be a PITA and insist on gear checks. Everything will slowly come together. I did 100 dives between my Fundies class and my provisional upgrade, but only 12 of them were "skills dives".

August 13th, 2011, 06:15 PM
Why is it that EVERY time someone takes a GUE class, they have to make a new thread about it?

Also fyi, there is a "DIR" forum on here.

August 13th, 2011, 06:23 PM
Why is it that EVERY time someone takes a GUE class, they have to make a new thread about it?

Also fyi, there is a "DIR" forum on here.

Why is it that every time an OW student takes a non-GUE class, they have to make a new thread? It's an online dive forum. That's a place where people talk about diving.

He specifically explained why he didn't post in the DIR forum.

August 13th, 2011, 06:41 PM
This is great information! Thank you. My goals in diving seem to be identical to yours, so hearing about the Primer course from someone you makes it all the more useful to me. Last year I was looking into taking GUE Fundies at Ginnie Springs, but the course was canceled and I was chickening out anyway. It sounds like Primer may be the way to go for me.

I hope you did some more diving while you were here than just that 2-day course.

August 13th, 2011, 06:44 PM
Why is it that EVERY time someone takes a GUE class, they have to make a new thread about it?

Also fyi, there is a "DIR" forum on here.

Why is it that EVERY time someone takes a GUE class and makes a new thread about it, just wanting to share their pleasure and joy with the larger diving community, some individuals feel compelled to come out and crap all over it with snide remarks and snarky "advice"?

Also, fyi, don't like a thread? Don't post in it.

August 13th, 2011, 08:12 PM
Great report BluewaterSail..
At first I was a little apprehensive about the length of your report but you broke it up nicely and kept it very informative.

I have been to EE a couple of times and noticed that they do have a pretty wide range of products to choose from.

Good luck and keep us updated.

- FB-Florida Scuba Diver (

August 13th, 2011, 08:39 PM
Why is it that EVERY time someone takes a GUE class, they have to make a new thread about it?

Also fyi, there is a "DIR" forum on here.

Why do you care?

August 13th, 2011, 08:51 PM
Congratulations, BlueWaterSail!!! :clapping:

Most excellent trip report! Sounds like you had a perfect instructor - I heard Doug rocks!

I love your detail and observations, and hope you continue to post more reports from Israel. :)

Selchie in LB
August 13th, 2011, 09:15 PM
Awesome post. Clearly thought out and presented with enough detail to really give a thorough appreciation of the material covered in the course. I think that all of these types of posts help the diving community to evaluate the content and instructor(s) to determine the worth of such courses. Obviously the OP is serious about his diving and improving his skills to travel around the globe to do so.

As for the placement in basic discussions, I feel it is totally appropriate for the OP honestly states his ability and expectations. For many divers certified as Open Water divers primer seems to be the perfect followup course. I have been considering "fundies" since first learning of GUE, but the more I read about primer courses the I feel that is the way to go rather than being overloaded with too much information and expectation of skill. I too like the sensibilities of GUE, but don't ever see myself going to doubles, caving or deep >130 ft diving. I am not suggesting that only those interested in such diving pursue "fundies". Anyone interested improving their diving should take advantage of whatever skill improvement courses are available.

August 14th, 2011, 03:51 PM
Thanks all for your nice comments. I will let you know how Fundies goes in a couple of weeks, but that I will put in the DIR forum to keep from offending anyone!


August 14th, 2011, 06:18 PM
Thanks all for your nice comments. I will let you know how Fundies goes in a couple of weeks, but that I will put in the DIR forum to keep from offending anyone!


Exuberance is almost always likely to piss somebody off. Put it in what ever forum you like. A lot of people appreciate exuberance. You don't have to hide it in the DIR forum.

August 14th, 2011, 08:32 PM
Thanks all for your nice comments. I will let you know how Fundies goes in a couple of weeks, but that I will put in the DIR forum to keep from offending anyone!


What a great thread!! Congrats, Linda for taking the Primer and good luck in your Fundies class.

Regardless of where you post your Fundies report on SB, someone is going to be offended, it's an online forum. :D

August 15th, 2011, 07:46 PM
Thanks for posting this Linda - you beat me to it!

I was one of Linda's classmates and would agree with all of her comments. Great intro to GUE diving - I really liked that Doug didn't have the "if you use brass bolt snaps you will die" attitude which I think turns a lot of people off to what is really great training. Fortunately I think GUE is aware of this perception and making an honest attempt to be more open and inclusive, without compromising on safety or skill level. Fundies is certainly in my future, possibly in December or sometime in the spring. I would highly recommend the Primer to anyone interested in GUE training, but unsure if they are "ready" for Fundies.

Safe and happy diving!


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