by / Saturday, 05 May 2018 / Published in DAHAB, NEWS, PADI, PRESS, SAFETY, SPECIALTY

… squeeze harder? make lemonade.. ? demand to see life’s manager?

In my previous life I taught outdoor pursuits in the UK. I taught sports like rock climbing, kayaking and caving not just for fun but also to help groups develop as teams. A large part of this was looking at communication.

What does this have to do with diving? Well, clear communication both underwater and on the surface are a huge part of making sure everyone has safe, fun dives. As a tech diver, I need to be sure that we all understand and accept the plan before any dive, that we all know the safety procedures in place and that we can all communicate clearly underwater. One thing I am always monitoring is my students stress levels. On a technical dive, especially during training, it’s very easy to push someone beyond their ability to be able to function well. For years I have used a model by Karl Rohnke which explains how we best learn. It’s fairly straightforward; imagine 3 areas. Most people spend most of their lives in the first area, their “comfort zone”. In this zone we can carry on with our lives indefinitely and we will learn small amounts as needed. The next area is the “stretch zone”. This is the zone where we learn the fastest. We might be in a new situation or environment and possibly feel slightly uncomfortable but things are still manageable. The final area is the “panic zone”. This is where we don’t want to be. At this point not only are we not learning, we’re also potentially forgetting previously learnt lessons. This explains why divers have been known to try and ascend fast to the surface having run out of gas despite having a buddy there who’s trying to give them their alternate air source.


As with every instructor, I’m always on the lookout for this. I try and push my students into their stretch zone for as long as they are able but am careful to not let them enter the panic zone. One way of monitoring this is by keeping an eye on their stress levels. I do this by counting lemons (yes, you read that right!). On a fruit machine, 1 lemon isn’t good. 2 lemons is worse and 3 means end of game. Lemons can be anything that raises any divers stress level. On a recent deep dive to 100m, one of the team forgot his mask. On the way back to H2O to pick it up the support diver leaned over and said to me “one lemon”. He knows my system well and it was great to see him looking out for us. The dive was successful with no further lemons but there have been cases previously where we’ve called a dive or changed it into a less stressful no decompression dive due to too many lemons.

So next time life gives you lemons…. Count them!