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A little confused about overhead environment

Discussion in 'Basic Scuba' started by samwiley, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. samwiley

    samwiley New

    # of Dives: 0 - 24
    Location: Ohio
    My wife and I are planning on doing some camping and visiting some friends in the Orlando area in March. We are looking to dive some of the florida springs ... we have been to Blue Springs SP near Orlando before (snorkeling; wasn't fully certified then).

    We both have 10 dives and are *very* new divers. All of our current experience is inland Michigan lakes. We are both PADI AOW.

    I am reading stuff on Ginnie Springs, both the 'official' website and somebody else's page... both say that you can enter the Ginnie Ballroom to a certain point until you reach a grate, the sites say that OW is the only cert level required to enter the ballroom and you are allowed to bring a light.

    I have done some breathhold freediving into overhead environments at Wekiwa Springs ... not much, maybe 10'-15' into the cave, but enough to have to swim diagonally out to surface, not straight up. Wife is pretty uncomfortable with any notion of overhead, at least until we get more experience. The idea doesn't make me uncomfortable, however, I am patient and cautious and willing to wait until I am more experienced and have had some training. If that's 400 dives and several years and more training, whatever. I've got plenty of time.

    So I'm confused. In my OW and AOW, both the PADI books and my instructors strongly emphasized NEVER to enter an environment with overhead without training... ie don't even go under the training dive platform. At what point does it become OK to enter a "safe" or "less risky" overhead environment and what determines such a thing?

    I hear a lot about 'swimthroughs' in reefs, some are simply holes in a wall with functionally no overhead, others are several feet or more long with at least that much overhead. What is the distinction that makes something an 'overhead environment' that I now need to be extra careful in or avoid?
  2. Tortuga68

    Tortuga68 Divemaster

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Puerto Galera, Philippines
    Welcome to scubaboard

    Overhead is generally defined as an environment where you don't have direct (vertical) access to the surface - eg cave, wreck or deco ceiling dives. While 'swimthroughs' technically qualify as overhead by that definition, there are varying degrees of challenge depending on the length, depth, confinement etc

    Not having direct access to the surface eliminates your 'escape route' - meaning whatever problems you have, you'll need to stay calm about and deal with effectively where you are. That's not always easy to handle for new divers

    I don't know if your 10 dives includes your certification dives (in which case you must have done OW immediately followed by AOW and no other dives?), or are additional to your training - but either way you are, as you say, very inexperienced divers

    Not that you couldn't swim in and out of the dive you describe without any further training - but it's nice to be prepared for the 'what if's, if and when they occur. I'm guessing you've never had an OOA experience for example. So it's like the Boy Scouts - Be Prepared

    There is no fixed number of dives to equip you for overhead environments - IMHO it's more a case of OW competence followed by gradual increases in experience. 400 dives in warm shallow OW are probably worth less than 100 dives in varying conditions for example

    Similarly certification doesn't mean much - there are plenty of people who only have OW cert. but with lots of varied experience, and vice versa

    I'd imagine there are other dives you can do while you gain some more experience/confidence/buoyancy control/buddy awareness etc - then you'll both be happier when you do overhead dives :)
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2008
  3. Michael Schlink

    Michael Schlink Instructor, Scuba

    Ginnie Ballroom is a full on overhead with a couple of places that are actually a cave dive (can't see daylight+distance) Ginnie allows OW divers in, what the divers do or don't do as regards to going in is a function of their training and personal dive habits. More than one diver has come scurrying out of the cavern "zone". What you do about going into overheads is up to you, that "rule" has been debated for quite some time and will never be settled. Have fun but be safe
  4. krbailey

    krbailey ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Pittsburgh, PA
    I posted a question similar to this awhile ago.


    The best response in my opinion was from Walter (even though I disagreed with him at the time). You are responsible for your own actions, above and beyond what any one individual or organization deems "safe"for you. I think by posting the question you realize there are situations that you are not comfortable with at your current level of experience, same as I did.
  5. ScubaSteve

    ScubaSteve Wow.....what a DB

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Acton, Ontario
    The definition of what an overhead environment that was given earlier is correct. It is defined as any dive where the diver does not have direct and clear vertical access to the surface (can be a hard stop such as a ceiling or a deco obligation).

    While it is always the best answer to stay witihin your training, certain judgment calls are often made. My rule is that if I can clearly see the other side and there is way too much room inside, then I will swim through but only early in my dive. I will never do this towards then end of a dive because I will have less air to troubleshoot if the need were to arise. This is what I am comfortable with but it does technically break the rules of my training.

    You need to to make the judgement call as to what you feel your training, experience and comfort will allow you to do. You are a very new diver, so I would hope that your brain would err much farther on the side of caution but you are the only one making your decisions.

    Unfortunately divers are always making wrong decisions and they find out the hard way just how unforgiving mother nature is when it comes to judgement errors underwater. Often, the divers do not surface alive. Not to scare you or overdramatize, but if you are not equipped (with training, experience or comfort) to handle any problem that could arise at the worst possible time, then you should probably stay away until you feel you are equipped.

    Your call. But remember that if you are your wife's dive buddy and she does not want to go through, for you to go through is to leave your dive buddy alone. And that would be unforgiveable.
  6. BabyDuck

    BabyDuck Rebreather Pilot

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Winterville, NC
    this is an ongoing discussion with many facets.

    your ow instructor tells you repeatedly not to go into an overhead, then takes you through the bus in the quarry during checkout dives. i have to say, i thought at the time that it was some sort of trick to see if i would do something stupid.

    many many people go into places like blue hole or devil's throat on vacation dives. almost all come out just fine. does this make it right? i dunno.

    same thing with ginnie ballroom. it is finite and not much navigation is needed, so you can't get lost. it has a sandy bottom, so you can't silt it out. it has a light at the entrance at night. do brand new ow divers dive it? yep. i did on my second post-cert dive. happens every single day. have people died there? yep. i don't know the stats, but it's happened more than a few times. so, should you dive there? we can't answer that for you. the risks are very low, but absolutely there. the same is true diving in the ocean and the river and the quarry, though the risks might be a bit different. so discuss things with your wife, and nobody gets to pressure anyone else. if you'd like to go, maybe another time with another buddy. maybe she'd feel different next trip after a bit more experience.

    the worst thing is if you love it. then you're about to spend major jack to get the equipment and knowledge! :D
  7. Web Monkey

    Web Monkey Omniheurist ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Your instructors were right.

    Any time you can't directly ascend to the surface, breathe and relax, you have entered an area where your OW training is no longer valid.

    I'm not talking about "The SCUBA Police", but conditions where you no longer have the training or equipment to stay alive.

    Although I've never been to Ginnie Springs, I'd recommend staying away from any areas where you can't ascend directly to the surface.

    There is an entire world of open water, and I'd suggest that right now you don't need to be inside an overhead.

    Also, whatever you do, don't base your risk assessment on what someone else will "let you do". If I "let you" jump off a cliff, you'll still be dead and I won't. Nobody is responsible for your life except you, and there's absolutely no reason for you to do a dive that's any more risky than you were trained for and are ready for.

  8. mkutyna

    mkutyna NAUI Instructor

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: FL
    There are plenty of wonderful springs in Florida that you can dive and not be in an overhead environment. I'd visit those and save Ginnie for a future dive.
  9. piikki

    piikki Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Northeast USA

    welcome to Scubaboard! Ginnie's Ballroom is definitely an overhead dive. It has a good stretch of overhead, opening to the cavern is fairly small and not visible from every nook and cranny, and in addition the cavern has some flow. There are probably some good pictures on the internet to show you how the cavern looks.

    You are not trained to dive in overhead, please get the training if you plan to do so! Don't do it just because someone said they did it too or because it is now all of sudden safe in special places!
  10. Reg Braithwaite

    Reg Braithwaite Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Toronto, ON
    I applaud you for asking this question and for indicating you are patient and willing to wait. Re-reading your words, can you see how the first sentence describes your wife's comfort level and the second describes yours?

    If you are diving as a team, you go with the most conservative of the two of you, always. The two of you turn back when either of you reaches their turn pressure. The two of you stop descending when either of you put your palm flat and signal to level out on a dive. The two of you return to the surface when either of you jerks a thumb up.

    In this case, your wife has doubts. Respect them, regardless of whether your training suggests she is qualified to do this dive or not. If you are hell-bent to do the dive and want to cajole her into it, I would suggest exploring some sort of guided trip where an experienced dive master or instructor agrees to take you both down, IF, and I say ONLY IF, that would make your wife comfortable trying it. If she still hesitates, I would find another dive for now.

    That cave has been here awhile. I will be waiting for the two of you a while longer. Do it when you're both eager. When you see her counting the days to a cave dive, you'll know it's the right time for her.

    (None of the above suggests that I have an opinion as to whether it is safe for you to do this dive with or without a guide. I am not qualified to make that diagnosis. I can only say that EVEN IF you are satisfied you will not be killed doing this dive, you still need to have both divers eager and willing to dive it.)

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