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Donating the "primary" regulator

Discussion in 'SSI: Scuba Schools International' started by jwllorens, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. jwllorens

    jwllorens Angel Fish

    Before I say anything, I wont name the dive shop that certified me but I would like to commend them. They really did do an excellent job tailoring the class to the individual's needs and making sure that everyone is safe. My question is specifically derived from one exercise performed during the class, which I have noted is mandatory as defined by the SSI 2016 standards.

    SSI 2016 standards states that SSI advocates donating the primary as this method can be used with almost any regulator configuration (one of which is listed as the long hose configuration, which I personally use for my recreational diving and would advocate it to any certified thinking diver).

    I don't understand this. Students are not trained to use these other regulator configurations, so why teach a method of air sharing that is (in my opinion) sub-optimal for the typical regulator configuration that most students are trained on?

    After taking the SSI open water certification course (and shadowing several courses afterwards), I have noticed that the procedure that is taught seems needlessly complex, confuses students, and generally results in tangled hoses, regulators being pulled from mouths, and panicking divers swimming immediately to the surface of the pool.

    I personally feel (now that I own a set of regulators with a long hose configuration) that donating the primary regulator makes the most sense if your equipment configuration is optimized for it. Take the long hose configuration, for example. With a long hose setup, you donate your primary. You were just breathing off of it so you know it works, the OOA diver is probably going to grab it out of your mouth if you don't offer it anyways, and it is on a long hose. Assuming you aren't routing it improperly and trapping the long hose, you literally just hand it to the diver (with a bit of learned wrist-movement), pop your backup in, and pull the hose out of your waist belt. After that, the OOA diver can do his thing and swim in any position relative to the donor. The donor can keep his distance from the panicking diver if needed, face the panicking diver, or have the OOA diver swim in front, to either side, or behind him. Plus, the donor is more equipped to deal with a malfunctioning back up regulator at this point, should that occur. It is simple, lightning fast, and just plain awesome. It is also streamlined and there are no quick releases (read: release when you don't want it to) involved that will release your octo to drag along the pretty coral you just swam past.

    Unfortunately, the typical recreational regulator setup that almost all OW divers are trained on, will rent for dive trips, or purchase on their own does NOT work like this. Unfortunate, but true. With the typical "octopus" setup, if you donate the primary, you still know it is working and you are better equipped to deal with a malfunctioning octopus so that is nice, but the primary is on a 3' hose. This means that the OOA diver is panicking, right in your face, as he or she tries to catch his breath, while tugging on your primary regulator that could very well be twisted up with your octopus. Your octopus is clipped somewhere on your chest (which is a rental BC so it will be in different places every time if you get a different BC every time) so you are now fumbling around and trying to find it.

    In our OW class, we were taught to donate the primary, and then do some funky hand signals to communicate with the OOA diver that is right in our face, and then switch regulators so the OOA diver goes to the octopus, all while trying to keep track of what position the OOA diver should be relative to the donor so that the octopus doesn't end up upside-down and unbreathable (some octos are reversed for "face to face" buddy breathing.) Keeping hoses from getting crossed during all this is a nightmare.

    Is it worth going through all that extra stress in an already stressful situation just to have the knowledge that a working regulator (the one in your mouth) is being donated?

    In a situation where you are donating a regulator (and not having it taken from your mouth) would it not be best to go ahead and donate your octopus for the extra foot of hose on it alone? Extra hose length alleviates a lot of stress by separating the divers and giving them room to sort out the situation, and makes sure that they aren't tangled or jerking on hoses. Donating a regulator that you know works does not seem worth it when you consider that you are donating a regulator on a very short hose, and you are going to have to switch regulators afterwards which in my experience is a confusing, inelegant, and long-winded procedure that rarely works even in controlled circumstances.

    Obviously neither donating the octopus straight away nor donating the primary and then switching regulators afterwards is optimal in an OOA emergency, but donating the octopus straight away seems like the lesser of two evils with the traditional regulator setup. (If you can't tell, I dislike this traditional setup immensely, as my dangling octopus has come loose from the quick release on almost every dive I have rented one for and gotten stuck on something or dragged across soft coral or simply not been in a position where I would find it if I needed it.)

    The advantage that donating the primary works with all regulator setups is not really an advantage unless you are actually using other regulator setups, which almost all OW students will not ever use.

    So why teach donating the primary at all, and not just teach handing off the octopus immediately instead? Am I missing something?
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
    Skulmoski likes this.
  2. Redshift

    Redshift DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Finland
    Why not? Why not having the proper configuration from the start? I know dive schools who do it.
  3. 2airishuman

    2airishuman Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Greater Minnesota
    I think what you've done there is made a cogent argument for buying and traveling with your own regulator set, equipped with a long hose.

    Octos must have seemed like a great idea, back in the way, when they were seen as a big improvement over buddy breathing. Maybe the long hose would have been too much, too soon.
  4. jwllorens

    jwllorens Angel Fish

    I would agree with you. After I got certified (a year ago) and after doing a few dives, I got my own BP/W and a long hose single tank DS4/XTX50. I did this after reading about places I wanted to see, and realizing I would need to get much more training to see a lot of them. So I started reading into some things, I started reading about tech diving, DIR, and a whole bunch of other stuff and there was a lot that made sense to me even as a recreational diver that doesn't go below 100'. It makes sense even if I wasn't trying to make it easy for myself when I take intro to tech by already being familiar with it.

    I got the BP/W first, and IMMEDIATELY when I got in the water I could trim out much better, I could hover, I wasn't exerting myself to get in a comfortable position anymore. I'm anything but an expert, but I can hover two inches off the pool floor without finning, and the only thing that gives me trouble is staying put when I take my mask off (and close my eyes). I dropped the weight belt entirely (in fresh water, I use QR weights on the harness to add 4 lbs when I load up with cameras and stuff in salt water.) It was amazing how free I felt after using rental jackets that fought me the entire dive to force me to go head up, rode up around my neck without the crotch strap, and required 12 lbs of additional weight just to descend at the beginning of the dive! I do not understand how anyone can prefer a jacket or why they are the standard rental BCD. It seems some sort of cheap back inflate wing with a plastic backplate and adjustable harness should have been the standard for recreational rental, but that is not the case.

    Just recently I grabbed a set of regulators. I opted for a DS4 with two XTX50 second stages. I got a 7' long hose and a bungee necklace. I picked up a DIN to Yoke adapter. At first I thought I would get hit in the back of the head with the first stage because of how far out the first stage extended from the valve with the adapter. It was actually more comfortable and I could angle my head back further when trimmed out using this regulator. I was already familiar with the air-sharing procedure with these regs. It made SO MUCH MORE SENSE. Aside from learning to pull the reg hose over your head, twisting your wrist a bit to angle the reg down to avoid free flow, and remembering to deploy the full length of the hose afterwards, the procedure for donating was so simple. You just give the out of air diver a working, high quality regulator on a hose with enough length for both divers to remain relaxed and comfortable and you do not worry about twisting up hoses with other hoses. Then I practiced the duck and punch in the pool. It is so easy, and so fast. It took two tries to do it without making the reg free-flow. Even just donating the octopus directly on a standard recreational configuration is not as fast.

    So I would absolutely advocate back-inflate BCDs with very little or no padding to recreational divers getting their OW certification, and the long hose regulator setup seems very beneficial from a safety perspective. Though I can see that a diver that is just starting off that has no bouyancy control yet might struggle deploying a long hose. But it could be argued that bouyancy should be taught to brand-new OW divers from the start. Obviously, a diver that is comfortable without touching any solid surface is going to be a much safer diver than one who isn't, so in my opinion bouyancy control should be THE primary skill, as such a diver will be less of a danger to himself and others and will be much more equipped to help others in an emergency.

    From a financial perspective, it makes sense why the traditional recreational gear configuration is still predominantly used to teach open water. It has been the standard for upwards of 20 years, and there is a big market for fancy jacket BCDs with levers and buttons and fancy diddles, and shiny colorful or sleek regulators. Regulators are sold as units with a first stage and second stage and a standard length hose. From a dive-shop's perspective, it would be way more expensive to maintain rental gear using the long hose regulators or back inflate BCDs, and way more expensive to train divers on this gear.

    It still doesn't explain why SSI advocates teaching students to air share by donating the primary regulator first regardless of equipment configuration. Donation of air presumes that the OOA emergency is occurring in an ordered fashion to begin with (nobody is panicking and ripping a reg out of anyone's mouth, a reg is asked for and a reg is given). So why not donate in the fashion that is quickest, and the least stressful, according to your equipment configuration? Jackets and octos aren't going anywhere, why not teach people to use them them in the most efficient and safe method possible?

    Or am I missing something?

    ---------- Post added December 31st, 2015 at 11:57 PM ----------

    Side note: In my experience with these air sharing exercises, the limited length of the hose is the PRIMARY factor in the stress induced by the exercise itself (meaning that there was no prior stress due to an OOA emergency).

    I have a buddy that uses a 3' hose with his primary, and a Scubapro Air 2. I admit, he has minimal hoses when he is diving, it is all very clean. In his setup, he obviously donates the primary, and does not undergo the regulator switch that SSI teaches.

    In fact, he went through Dive Control Specialist training not too far back. They had an odd number of students in the class sometimes, so they paired him, since he was shadowing the class, with a student for the air sharing exercise. He mentioned that after he donated his primary, it confused the hell out of the student when he didn't have an octo to present to the student after donating his primary. All they had to do was swim off down the pool, but the student was already confused by the complex regulator swap that the student thought they had to do.

    Interestingly, I shadowed the class in preparation for Dive Control Specialist training last semester, and the same thing happened to me, but in reverse. I got paired with a student. The student had been trained to offer his octopus (I believe he had previously had PADI training, he had his own gear with an Air 2, and was taking SSI OW.) So during the air share exercise he gave me his Air 2 and never took the primary out of his mouth! I stayed calm and tried to make hand signals to him to direct him to give me the primary, while occasionally taking a breath off of his Air 2 (which probably looked erotic and highly embarrassing from a third person perspective) to try and simulate that I was actually really out of air.

    With this equipment setup, obviously you donate the primary to the OOA diver and go to your alternate on your BCD inflator. But I will say that I do not like this setup primarily due to how short the hose is. You have to get REAL comfortable with the donor when receiving air, and the reg is always being pulled out of your mouth even when holding on to the donor's BCD. Add to that, you lose your alternate air source if one of two failures happens (free flow or BCD inflator valve stuck open) rather than just one.

    So why not just teach students to use the gear they have, possibly meaning donate the primary (long hose, alternate air source, ect) or donate the octo (traditional recreational gear) and ascend, rather than teach donating the primary and then switching to the octo? Donating the primary doesn't make sense if you have the traditional setup, and you can't switch regulators to put the OOA diver on an octo if you don't have a traditional octo.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015
  5. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    First, I learned to donate my primary because it was my only reg and we buddy breathed.

    Later I learned to donate my safe second if the OOA diver hasen't snagged my primary already. No big deal as I knew where my safe second was, as I have never had it come loose from its attachment on its own.

    Now I donate my primary (40 something inches ) as I carry a bungeed second. I tried a long hose but switched because it had a problem with my snorkel.

    I have never had a problem sharing air in a drill or emergency. I would suggest that anyone that dives and has a problem in this area has poor instruction and/or no practice. I have had no formal training in anything but buddy breathing and that was 17 years after I learned how to dive and probably 10 or so after my first emergency air share.

    Mostly I dive solo so the problem doesn't come up much anyway, but if one can't do it properly in the rig one dives, one should be ashamed.

    Snoweman and Perry D. Vogel like this.
  6. jwllorens

    jwllorens Angel Fish

    That seems a little unreasonable.

    First, let me re-state my question. Why does SSI advocate donating the primary regulator and then switching regulators rather than advocate donating the octopus immediately during air sharing with a standard 3' primary, 4' octo reg configuration?

    Second, when an instructor asks someone to perform a task the first time, and this person is obviously not as awesome as you are and doesn't take to doing things underwater naturally, they are going to make mistakes and the magnitude or number of mistakes will be amplified based on the complexity of the task. Keep in mind, we are talking about people that signed up to try diving and most do not even know if they like diving yet. These are not people with any experience whatsoever, they are just giving it a shot and trying something new, like I was when I took the course. I am not like most people, and I fell in love with it immediately. Most people only ever become mildy interested and do not pursue more information about it on the internet or sign up for low paying jobs just because it involves a regulator in your mouth like I do. Many decide they hate it. 99% of people that go through OW training are garbage divers well after they finish, and that is not their fault nor necessarily their instructor's fault. The student has to want it and the instructor has to be able to provide, if the student never really wants it, nobody is to blame.

    Donating a primary regulator on a 3' hose is easy. A serious of hand signals to confirm the OOA buddy is OK, and to signal that regulators are switching, gets more complex. Then when the reg switch occurs, the octo has to go in a direction (buddy over the left shoulder for an octo that is the same orientation as the primary, buddy over the right shoulder if the octo is one of those crappy reversed face-to-face octos) well, that adds more complexity. Now add to that that a primary and octo are likely to get tangled or wrapped in each other as they are changing hands, it is a common accident that occurs when someone is popping their rental-reg-sharing cherry (note that no such problem exists when regs are not swapped).

    This is not the instructors fault in the slightest, as everyone that I have seen that has problems with this exercise eventually gets it. This problem (I believe it to be a problem, but clearly many do not as it is "standard") originates with the training agency policy.

    The entire point is that I believe it to be needlessly complex, and that the reason for it as stated in the SSI 2016 Standards is irrelevant. So I am asking why it is done.
  7. Aquavelvet

    Aquavelvet Divemaster Candidate

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Seattle WA, USA
    At some point while I was working toward my Master Diver qualification, I realized that the standard Octo on the 40" hose had a nasty habit of coming un-clipped and dragging along the bottom. I switched the 40" hose to my primary and used a swivel at the second stage, which allowed the hose to be routed under my arm. I put the backup reg on a 24" hose and hung it under my chin with a bungee necklace.
    There are two main advantages to this setup. One which I noticed right away is that my backup reg was always where I could easily find it. Say if, hypothetically speaking, I fell over in chest deep water while pulling on my fins, the backup was right there under my chin. The second advantage is that the buddy may immediately get a working regulator without either of you having to go looking for the errant octo.
    After adopting this configuration, it was a short step to adopt a long hose for the primary. Most of the time I use a 7' hose because it's just an easier way to share air, regardless of whether there might be an overhead restriction. It also has plenty of slack for wrapping around a bulky drysuit. When traveling to warmer climates, I use a lighter weight 5' hose for the primary. This wraps neatly around my torso when wearing a thinner exposure suit.

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Perry D. Vogel likes this.
  8. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    There's more reasons to donate primary than just the long hose. AIR2 type devices also demand a primary donate, and these are quite popular.

    Primary donate works for any configuration, without rehearsal, whereas secondary donation would fail in some configurations.

    So... the logic must be... use the sure-fire, universal method, not the 'majority' method.

    After all, you can still primary donate with a 3' hose...

    The other (secondary) logic is that primary donate ensures a proven gas supply. Some (too many) divers never check the functionality of their AAS regs, or drag them through muck, or tuck them inside pockets, or leave them dangling... So primary donate ensures that someone desperate for gas... when seconds count... gets gas. And yes, teaching primary donate also encourages divers to give a damn about the state of their AAS...
    StefinSB, BeijaFlor and gwklein like this.
  9. Bob DBF

    Bob DBF Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: NorCal
    I'm not SSI so I have no definitive answer, however donating the primary reg insures that the OOA diver gets air. If, for any reason, you can not use your secondary reg, you can initiate buddy breathing as the OOA diver has now had air and can share the reg.

    If buddy breathing is an unreasonable skill, make sure your second in perfect operation and it stays where you put it.

  10. KenGordon

    KenGordon Rebreather Pilot

    What about a primary on a bungee necklace?

    OP: there are many ways to skin a cat. SSI has chosen one, some agencies allow the instructor to choose, one at least (mostly) prohibits teaching SSI's choice.

    Regulator configurations and OOA responses are one of the more religious parts of diving on the Internet.

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