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How to choose a Cave Instructor - My opinion

Discussion in 'Cave Diving' started by Capt Jim Wyatt, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. thorndog

    thorndog Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Mexico
    Mostly pretty well put Capt. Seems a few people know and like you too, that's a good sign. I agree with the guy who talks about experience not being the best measure though. The worst Cave Instructors I know of are also some of the most experienced. Like any other scuba instructor, I think some get jaded perhaps or maybe too casual or maybe it's overconfidence and a lack of attention to detail.
    One thing is for sure, you can consistently see a huge difference in divers trained by different instructors. Just ask the best cave diver you can find about that.
  2. CCRMichael

    CCRMichael Dive Shop

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Utah
    Come by Dive Addicts and we will talk more about the Cave courses.

    Jims advice is very good and I think it applies to all tech training not just cave diving. Thanks Jim!
  3. PhatD1ver

    PhatD1ver ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Shanghai, China
    so this thread has basically died, but I thought I would just pop in and ask a couple of questions. I've always been about overcoming my fears and weaknesses. I've had experiences thru life that affected me by doing things I used to do with no fear. For instance, I used to snorkel and free dive to 20-30ft with absolutely no problem... then I did a cliff dive one day into tight little pool on Maui, and got hung up for a minute in the dark water... as a result, I developed a strange fear of being under water...

    the first time I dove, I had to push everything out of my mind, we were diving with Chinese Navy divers who were making extra money with vacation divers and no real 'training' of any kind... I wasn't very smart on what SHOULD have been going on, but for my wife and four kids that all were participating, I put my fears aside and focused on them and all of them safely getting back to the surface... then a couple years ago we did DSD in Philippines with a great instructor, but still, I was almost panicking under water, feeling a little claustrophobic and wanting to just breathe normally, no just thru my mouth... it took a few minutes, but again, I pushed it to the back of my mind.

    This spring, we went to Thailand, and I did DSD again, and since we were on the boat the instructor just kept supervising and training thru two more dives even if they wouldn't count 'officially' for PADI OW qual... each dive I got more comfortable, so when I decided to go back at the end of April to finish my OW, that week of diving and 8 dives were all great, no panic, no claustrophobia, just lots of practice with dive skills.. I figure that feeling is still in the back of my mind and will probably want to surface some day if I have a complication, but I think I've also learned to manage it.

    So, what does that have to do with cave diving? well, I like exploring, but when I was a kid, I got trapped in a cave at a pinch point, of course once I relaxed, they got me out easily, but I've hated tight cramped places ever since. And that begs the question... seems like there are lots of cave diving locations, and I should be able to enjoy the feeling of exploration in many, many places without the extreme kind of cave exploration that some people do right?

    So, it is bad to want to overcome my fears, enjoy that exploring feeling, but avoid the stuff that I know will make me so uncomfortable, I compromise my ability to control my irrational thoughts?

    Long story short, I want to cave and wreck dive because I want to see places that few people see, but I also will choose to simply take the easier router while others might have the ability and desire to go farther.
  4. TracyN

    TracyN Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Ocala, Florida
    The caves are no place for anyone prone to panic or even remotely claustrophobic. Conditions can go from good to bad in an instant. One errant fin kick and poof zero vis. You don't want to be in a cave system and discover that your fears of claustrophobia haven't resolved. You will be putting yourself and your dive buddies at risk. Caves are no places to play to try to overcome any fears. They will kill the unprepared and untrained and any deaths or accidents can potentially get caves shut down which makes for very angry cave divers.
    TSandM likes this.
  5. Capt Jim Wyatt

    Capt Jim Wyatt Hanging at the 10 Foot Stop Staff Member

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Key Largo
    Since writing the original post almost ten years ago I have something else to add as to How to choose your cave instructor.

    Ask them about their training pipeline to become a cave instructor. It is often way too easy for instructors to be certified as cave instructors these days. Some have done their training over a weekend and with only one evaluator.

    Cave instructors historically were mentored up through the ranks with many co-teaching sessions and were evaluated by several cave instructors before being certified as cave instructors, this is not so anymore, at least for some.

    For instance: NSS-CDS cave instructors must have a sponsor and do a minimum of three co-teaches with three different cave instructors. Once they complete the three co-teaches all three instructors must recommend that person to the training committee for an instructor evaluation. After that recommendation the instructor candidate must sit and pass an instructor evaluation institute by at least two members of the training committee.

    All NSSCDS instructor candidates evaluations are formal, written and kept in the file.

    This weekend the NSSCDS is conducting an instructor evaluation institute (Oct 2014). There are two candidates. These two candidates have already been evaluated by at least three NSSCDS instructors, and over the weekend will be evaluated by two more. So....if these candidates make the grade and are certified as NSSCDS instructors they will have been evaluated by five separate instructors.

    Along the way these instructor candidates pay no fees to any of the five instructors.

    Ask your prospective instructor: How many instructors FORMALLY evaluated them and ask them who and how much they paid to become an XYZ cave instructor.
  6. shellmoundal

    shellmoundal Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Gainesville, Florida
    I was certified through the NSS/CDS. My instructor dives all over the world in caves several times a year. The one thing I was looking for in an instructor has the passion for cave diving. My instructor has such a passion that he protects the industry by failing a student who may eventually make a fatal mistake in the system.
    As stated before, not only is a diver putting s/himself in danger but also endangering the lives of all others on the team.
    Great thread to read for all cave divers rather they be instructors or recreational divers.
    Every cave dive I do is a practice dive. My goal is to make the next dive better than the last one. I log every dive as soon as I exit the water, I make notes of situations that I should improve on. My second dive for the day will be exactly the same plan as my first dive. When I get to the place where I found I needed improvement, I hover and think about my next step. Swimming slowly and deliberately I concentrate on how I can make this dive better than my last. By doing his I find that no matter what system I am in, my recall of improvement plugs in and my mussel memory has corrected my error of the past.

    That is why every dive is a PRACTICE DIVE. No matter how long a surgeon has performed the same operation, he is still PRACTICING MEDICINE.
  7. Superlyte27

    Superlyte27 Cave Instructor

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Florida
    Just stumbled across this thread while looking for the Cave Diving Forum here. This is still excellent information. This thread started just before I became a cave instructor, but I am proud to say that @Capt Jim Wyatt was the primary on my cave instructor training. Bill Rennaker actually taught my cave class back in 1998. I’ve co-taught with Tom Mount, Bill Bird, Ted McCoy, John Jones and a dozen others, but I truly believe I learned the most from Jim. It’s sad that he’s not teaching cave anymore because in all of the classes I’ve co-taught, there was no one better at conveying what and why we do things the things we do in cave training. I think his Cavern and Intro to Cave classes are easily head and shoulders above anyone. I try to teach the class he taught.

    But that brings me to another point. I recently certified some Open Water instructors to Full Cave. Almost immediately they self certified through their agency to teach cavern class. The guys have been Full Cave Divers for less than a few months. They probably have less than 20 total cave dives period, but are already teaching cavern class. I, and many others, believe that the skills and ideas in cavern class are the foundation for every technical class that follows. This early class in the progression of your tech diving seriously needs to be done by someone who has been cave diving a long time. Has been teaching a long time and understands the pitfalls and perils because they’ve witnessed them and survived them. Ask your instructor what classes they can teach after cavern. If they can only teach cavern, why? Is it because they are with a recreational agency that allows you to self certify? If so, move on. Sometimes, you don’t even get what you pay for.
  8. rabe

    rabe Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Brisbane
    This is a very interesting topic...
    I'll avidly read everything you've written so far.
    Meanwhile, I have open this discussion that is related to Australia Cave Diving in Australia and maybe, advertising it here, some of you might be able to help me...
  9. seanmeboy

    seanmeboy Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: orlando
    And I would add that some of these cave instructors fall into the category of never having an ah **** moment. In addition to Jim's advice and all the advice here I would add:
    Call the agency to verify the instructors credentials, standing and experience. Ego, Bravado are useless when the chips are down in a cave. Besides humility and integrity there should be no doubt how an instructor behaves when a life is on the line in a cave
  10. 1atm

    1atm DIR Practitioner

    I fully agree with you. However, there is a slight twist: if the criterion is that the instructor should have heaps of experience in teaching this particular class, or they must be certified to teach beyond cavern, then there isnt really a way to make new instructors. So while absolutely desirable that the instructor has been teaching this class a lot, the truer criterion maybe is that they have:

    - heaps of experience in doing real dives (ie non training dives) above the level they are teaching
    - have heaps of teaching experience to be able to convey, correct etc, even if this teaching experience is in parts from other classes

    (Which is probably what you meant in your post?)

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