Kiss GEM Rebreather Training:
How This All Happend? &
What is involved in the training?

By Ab Kurk

Ab standing next to a Kiss Rebreather


How this all Happend

I am a scuba diver. This is the best way to describe what I like to do and what I am. I got hooked 10 years ago after a discover scuba session, and the rest is history. I had done over a 100 dives in less than a year.

 

It was such a life changing experience that I became an instructor and dropped my IT career and became a Manager of a dive shop for a while. Over time I evolved into a diver who was obsessed with going deep. Three years into my dive adventure and here I was strapping on twin tanks and doing all kinds of deco dives.

 

During this period I was introduced to the Rebeather. The idea to strap on the ultimate dive toy was hunting my dreams. The cost of these glorious dive dreams made it impossible for me to own one.

 

So I picked up another habit instead; underwater videography. Videography changes your style of diving. Depth is no longer the goal, but subject matter is. Dragging my twins around was getting old and not necessary for this type of diving. The only benefit it gave me was the size of my gas supply.

 

Out of the blue a life changing moment came along in the form of my buddy Dane. He is one of those people that keeps the dive industry afloat by buying any dive toy he sees. As I come to think of it the dive industry should have an international holiday named after him.

 

Ok I digressed a little, most of the time we laugh at Dane’s latest acquisition, but this time he had something really cool. He walked up to us and said "here is my new rebreather". Yes, toy boy Dane had purchased a Kiss GEM rebreather.

 

After a short conversation with Dane I needed to get one those GEMs. The GEM is a recreational SCC Rebreather that fits on a single tank and extend your gas supply by 3 for a price that does not break the bank. After some soul searching I picked up the phone and called a dealer and told them I want my GEM.

 

Rebreathers are more complicated dive systems then Open Circuit scuba. Even though the GEM is a really easy system to use, specialized training is still required. This is why the next step in the process would be a Rebreather training course on howto use my new toy.

 

What is involved in the training?

 

Because Rebreathers are so specific each type has it's own course. I live in Vancouver and the closest facility for me was Silent World Diving located in Bellvue WA. The course covers all the base requirements and like any dive course they are on the thin side, but adequate. In short these requirements include6 hours of academics, an hour of pool time and 5 ocean dives lasting at least 200 minutes in total. As an instructor reading these requirements make me smile. Every scuba course I have ever taught had a similar list of requirements. A good instructor will follow these guidelines but will make sure that the student actually learns what is important.

 

My instructor Craig Wilemsen from Silent World in Bellevue WA makes you feel so at ease like all great instructors do. He made sure that I understood the important things even beyond the minimum course requirements. It has been a while since I have been on the other side of the fence; taking a course not teaching it. As any student I went through the excitement and worries of having to learn how to use a complex new piece of equipment. But in the end it is always a lot of fun and you walk away with the bragging rights you have concurred a new facet of the scuba world.

 

The theory part of the course covered all the important bits. It explains how to use PO2 (pressure of oxygen) and how your rebreather displays it.  Physiology of your body is another big topic. You will learn all you need to know about hypoxia, hyperoxia, and hypercapnia and how to prevent it. After sitting in the classroom for about 4 hours we did a quick jump in the pool to get a first glance at what it feels like to strap this machine on. After this we were off to the ocean.

 

Ab Kurk with his Kiss GEM RebreatherWhen you submerge for the first time in the ocean and start breading from your GEM it is like trying to breathe from a 20ft garden hose. This is because of the placement of the counterlungs. The purpose of this first dives is to get the placement of your counterlungs dialed-in. Every dive you do during your course it becomes a little better as the little adjustments start to work.  My last dive it was almost as if I was breathing without the use of any device.

 

After you get the counter lungs squared away you are going to notice the difference in the way you control your buoyancy. In open circuit scuba you go up and down as you breathe in and out. And after 10 years this has become automatic. With a rebreather breathing in or out has no impact on your buoyancy. The only way to change this is either with your BCD or Dry Suit. This is not completely true as you start to assent. When you start getting shallow those counterlungs will become two lift bags that you control by expelling the expanding gas through your nose.

 

Ab Kurk with his Kiss GEM Rebreather and CharleyYou also have to learn how to bail out when your rebreather stops functioning. You learn to close your breathing loop and switch to the second stage that hangs around your neck. You learn to check your PO2 every 1-3 minutes. Then suddenly you get a moment of Zen where you just feel right and you notice how quite it is under the ocean. You will be surprised how close you can get to fish that normally dart into their burrow. I had a school of rat fish swim by to check me out. Finally I understood what all these crazy rebreather divers were talking about. After you completed all your training dives you get the feeling that this can be fun. You figure out that other than your breathing, your buoyancy and having to watch your PO2 nothing much changes. 

 

After my six training dives I had no illusion about how much I still have to learn. This was the same 10 years ago when I finished my OpenWater course. You know enough to be safe but you still have to learn and practice. This whole experience was humbling but exciting.  The goal of this whole exercise is to swim up to a fish with my video camera without it swimming away. I had a little taste of this during my training, I can’t wait to get the full meal.