Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Brief Introduction

I learned how to dive in the tropical waters of Malaysia in 1996, just before moving to the US. Back then I didn't know what good instruction was, so the class was just a ticket to be able to dive and have fun. I dove that way for a few years, mostly just once a year on vacation to someplace nice and warm. In 2000, I graduated from undergrad and moved to New York City. By then, I had caught the diving bug and wanted to dive more regularly, locally if needed. Upon further investigation, it appeared that I would need more training to do local dives, as most of them were deep, dark, and cold. I stumbled upon GUE as I was researching what classes to take in order to dive safely in the Northeast US. DIR made a lot of sense to me and I began the journey of converting to DIR.

In August 2002, I took DIR Fundamentals with Andrew Georgitsis, Mike Kane, and Sonya Tittle in Dutch Springs, Pennsylvania. I thought I was hot shit, with something like a total of 20 dives in doubles and a drysuit. I got my ass handed to me and it became clear that reading about DIR on the internet was very different from diving DIR. DIR-F wasn't a pass/fail class back then, but I have no doubt I would have failed if it were. But I had a great time and I was convinced this was the way I wanted to dive.

I went away, strongly motivated to improve and come back with a vengeance. In July 2003, I went to the St. Lawrence River to do DIR Fundamentals again with Bob Sherwood. I figured since I did so poorly the first time around, I should take the whole class again. It was also nice to get a different viewpoint from a different instructor. Bob is a great instructor and a real nice guy. The class was excellent and I'd improved a lot by this point.

Shortly after taking DIR-F the second time, I got a knee injury and had to get a minor surgery. I was out of commission for a few months.  I did a lot of diving locally and off the coast of Florida during the next couple of years.

I had some time off in the middle of 2004 before going back to business school, and I finally felt confident to sign up for Tech 1 with Gideon Liew, conducted in Malaysia. Boy, was I in for a shock. Tech 1 is a very demanding class. We did it on a 7 day liveaboard. It was a very intense experience, but also a lot of fun and a great opportunity to improve my diving skills. If not for the extended class, Gideon's patience, and my buddies' determination, I wouldn't have made it.

In March 2005, I went down to High Springs, FL to do Cave 1 with Tyler Moon. I was interested in learning cave diving, but was apprehensive about the whole idea of diving in a dark hole in the ground. Surprisingly, I loved the experience. Tyler is a very knowledgeable and patient instructor and his experience as both an instructor and cave diver was evident. Because I had my ass kicked so bad in Tech 1, I was quite well prepared for Cave 1 and the class went smoothly.

In March 2006, I went to Mexico and completed my Cave 2 with Chris Le Maillot. I also got my NACD Full Cave certification at the same time. The class was extremely challenging but a lot of fun. The Mexican caves were breathtakingly beautiful and very different from those in Florida.

In mid-2006 I left the US for good and moved to Singapore. After a lot of local technical and recreational diving, I completed GUE Tech 2 in August 2008 with Gideon Liew in Puerto Galera.  I have been mostly diving in Asia since then in a combination of technical and recreational diving.  I also try to be opportunistic and fit in some diving whenever I travel, so I've also managed to squeeze in a few dives in Australia, Hawaii, and the west coast of the US in the last few years.  

In 2007 I bought my first proper camera in the Nikon D40.  I got an Ikelite housing and strobes to start my underwater photography journey.  As I had never used anything more than a point and shoot camera before, I took a long time to climb the learning curve.  I would say I figured out the basic technicals of underwater photography only in 2011.  In late 2013, I upgraded to the Nikon D7100 in a Nauticam housing and Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes.  Since then, I have been learning supermacro and wide angle photography.

I've completed more than 700 dives in a broad variety of environments.  I am comfortable in warm or cold waters, drysuit or wetsuit, deep or shallow, salt or fresh water, and in all kinds of environments (caves, reefs, wrecks, etc.).  Nowadays most of my diving involves photography and is in the region.  I am a regular visitor to many of the best diving spots in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.  I also dive close to home at Tioman Island, Bintan Island, or off Singapore on weekends when I can manage it.

No comments: