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Dive Bio

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How I got interested in Scuba diving...

Certified: Open Water Diver 1989
Current Rating: Master Scuba Diver Trainer (emeritus)
Total Logged Dives: 1,786
Warm Water: 1,596
Cold Water: 189
High Altitude: 6

I got into diving by accident. It was never something that I had imagined doing. I just sort of fell into it. I had returned home to Oregon after a term of service in the U.S. Army to find that one of my good friends, Roger Butenschoen, had recently gotten certified as a Open Water Diver. He had taken the certification classes alone and was in need of a diving buddy. Roger bugged me for about a year before I finally gave in and took a PADI certification course at Eugene Skin Divers Supply. My thinking at the time was I would dive with him once or twice to get him off my back and that would be that.

At that time I was not a very confident person in the water, so the first night in the pool was a struggle. Swimming laps and the water tread just about killed me. I am sure my instructor Ed Rogers thought I was never going to make it though the class. But then we started playing with the gear, and I thought, “Hey this is cool, I can breathe underwater!”

Sunset Dive Resort, Hoodsport, Washington Overturned boat taken in front of the Sunset Dive Resort, Hoodsport, Washington.

Our first certification dive was at Woahink Lake on the Oregon coast. It was a damp and chilly morning as we put on our wetsuits, and I remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into.” We walked into the water and kicked 40 or so feet off shore, the water was cold, but as we began our descent to the bottom, it again hit me how exciting it was to be able to breath underwater. Our second certification dive was that afternoon off the South Jetty outside of Florence, Oregon. I remember the underwater tour of this dive. Swimming around just off the sandy bottom in cold turbid water, I was amazed at all the things I was seeing for the first time. They were simple things, small things, crabs, fish, car batteries but to be in forty feet of saltwater and to see it everything first hand, I loved it. The following day we made the last two certification dives and I was hooked. I decided this was a great hobby and I wanted more!

Clear Lake in the Oregon Cascade RangeFirst dive after certification at Clear Lake in the Oregon Cascade Range.

I got certified as a Open Water Diver June 1989, took my Advanced Course November 1989, and Rescue July 1990. Everyone at Eugene Skin Divers Supply was very friendly and helpful. Their professional instruction, their knowledge of local diving locations, and their willingness to share their vast knowledge in anything having to do with Scuba really encouraged me to continue diving and peruse continuing dive education. I still feel indebted to them for my success in diving.

Fall of 1990 I transferred to University of Oregon from Lane Community College. Eugene Skin Divers Supply had an agreement to teach the Diving curriculum at the U of O. I had by this point decided I wanted to become a Divemaster. So I started taking some swimming classes and began helping with diving classes at both the U of O and Eugene Skin Diver Supply as a safety diver. Now you might be asking yourself why the swimming classes? I believe that you do not have to be a very good swimmer to be a good Scuba Diver. You just have to learn how to control your equipment and lean to trust it. But now that I was beginning to start to have responsibility for divers other than myself, I thought it important to be comfortable and proficient in the water without Scuba gear. Over the next year and a half I spent untold hours assisting with numerous classes both in the pool and in open water. This to me is a very important part of becoming a Divemaster. Without experience with students in the water you simply can not learn to see and anticipate the signs that indicate a potential problem. I finally received my Divemaster rating December, 1991. And since my experience with the Eugene Skin Diver Supply and the U of O Divemaster programs were so complete the next step to Instructor was a small one.

Hyatt Regency, on Kaanapali Beach, MauiBlack Spotted Eel, taken in front of Hyatt Regency, on Kaanapali Beach, Maui.

I took the Instructor Development Course in Portland Oregon March 1992 and passed the Instructor Examination the same month. Now a junior in College I was certified as a Open Water Scuba Instructor by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). Summer was fast approaching and I decided it was time to make some money diving.

Black Rock North of Lahaina, MauiPeacock Flounder, taken at Black Rock North of Lahaina, Maui.

I took a job as a Scuba Instructor with Island Scuba in Maui Hawaii. Island Scuba had at the time a P.O. Box and a contract to provide Introductory Dives at both the Hyatt Regency and Maui Marriott resort hotels on Kaanapali Beach just outside of Lahaina on Maui's west coast. An introductory dive is perfect for your tropical tourist. You spend an hour in the pool then go on a supervised and guided tour at a depth no greater than 40 feet. For the instructor intros pose some interesting challenges. In a limited time you need to teach the “guest” enough that you can easily control them in the water, but you do not want to teach them too much where they may try something unwarranted and get into trouble. Island Scuba allowed, for a percentage, the instructors to sell underwater photo albums to the diving guests. I quickly became proficient at teaching groups of up to 6 guests in the pool, then leading them around the reef in front of the hotel, while taking their pictures, making sure they stayed together, didn't panic, didn't get hurt, and had a great time.

Airport north of Lahaina, MauiMy Dad and Sister on their one and only introduction dive, taken at a site called Airport north of Lahaina, Maui.

I worked for Island Scuba the Summer of 1992 and again after graduating from the U of O. When I returned to Maui in March of 1993 Island Scuba had added a contract on one of the largest catamarans in Hawaii called the “Pride of Maui” It was on this boat that I first gained boat diving experience. Oh, and to teach an intro from a boat you just compress the one hour pool lesson into 5 minutes while hanging on the anchor chain in 15 feet of water. I learned a lot while working on Maui. I honed my teaching skills, gained valuable underwater photography experience and began to learn how to read the Ocean. Remember my friend who got me into diving? Well Roger came to visit me while I lived on Maui and I certified him as a Advanced Diver. I left Maui and took a job on San Salvador, Bahamas in May of 1994.

Airport north of Lahaina, MauiMy Dad and a turtle, taken at Airport North of Lahaina, Maui.

Working on San Salvador, formally Watling Island was one of the best experiences of my life. The island is the most eastern in the Bahamas, 5 miles at its widest and 12 miles long, maybe 14 if you count the Cays. There is only about 1000 people who live there and they made me feel at home from the beginning. I worked at the Riding Rock Inn and Marina, one of only two dive operations on the Island. The RRI had been the only dive operation on San Sal for close to 20 years until the Club Med Corporation opened “Columbus Isle” in 1993 on Bonefish bay. Working for the RRI was a Scuba Instructors dream. The RRI provided room and board, paid for my Instructors insurance and my work permit. The RRI had the only Marina on the island and due to the remote location of the island my duties where many and varied. Divers typically came for a week of diving. Arriving on the island on Saturday via the company charter. The charter flights would bring the arriving guests for the week and take the departing guests. The guests would dive Sunday through Friday typically making 3 dives a day for a total of 18 dives for the week. Virtually all the diving guests who came to RRI were already certified.

All the diving is done on the west and south sides of the island. The longest boat ride is 40 minutes with 90% of the dive sites within 20 minutes of the marina. The water slopes down to about 40 feet deep ? mile off shore, where is drops of to a shelf at about 600 feet. The worst visibility I ever encounter on the island was 60 feet and that lasted all of one day. The vis is almost always in excess of 150 feet. We are talking about some of the best wall diving in the world. Nothing else like it anywhere!

Starboard bow of the Pride of MauiMyself, taken on the starboard bow of the “Pride of Maui”

Other than the walls, the best part about diving on San Sal was the Hammerheads. In the cooler months you would almost be guaranteed to have an encounter with 2 or 3 Hammerhead Sharks a week. Sometimes, maybe twice a month, in the winter, I would drop down off the wall into a school of 20-50 Hammerheads. I never got a good picture of them, you really have to swim hard to keep up, but I have some great video. Someday I will post it to this site.

Follow this link if you would like to know more about a typical week diving at the Riding Rock Inn and Marina.

Riding Rock Inn and Marina

Jeff Moore... Jeff Moore wrote:

Nice Bio. Would make anyone want to take up diving. Nice new look to the site also.

15:48 GMT on Oct 18, 2005

Melanie Philippi... Melanie Philippi wrote:

I don't know if you remember me, but I was working with and diving with you at the U of O. I stumbled onto your web site searching the Riding Rock. I have been living and working in Bimini for the past 10 and a half years!! Hope this message finds you well and happy. Love your blog, I will keep reading. Take care.

11:10 GMT on Jan 20, 2006

drware... drware wrote:

Great to hear from you Melanie! What I remember most about you is standing around Hoodsport Washington in dry suits waiting to divemaster another group of University of Oregon students on their certification dives. But then I am getting old and memories fade. It is great to hear that you are still diving, glad it is in warm water this time. I am glad you like the site, keep in touch!

11:16 GMT on Feb 02, 2006

kim franz... kim franz wrote:

This site is very intreging to me. Ive never had the oppurtunity to dive yet but I feel so strong about it, this write up just makes me that much more interested. Good going! I think its so awesome to see someone go for what they like... good luck and great adventures for you and be safe... kim

17:36 GMT on Jan 10, 2007
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