As with so many others, my fascination with the Underwater World also began well before I started scuba diving. It began in front of a black and white television set watching programs such as "Sea Hunt" and a silly animated program called "Diver Dan". I would have never guessed that nearly 40 years later I would meet Zale Perry who was one of the stars of Sea Hunt. She is a very sweet lady with tons of diving experience and stories to boot.

 John Walker and Zale PerryZale PerryLoyd and Jejff Bridges

In the 1970's, an incentive program gave shoppers a reward for spending money at various grocery stores or gas stations. This reward came in the form of "Blue Chip Stamps". These stamps could be traded in for goods at various Blue Chip Stamp Stores. At the ripe old age of 10 my Mother traded in her latest collection of these stamps for my very first dive mask and snorkel. I still remember that mask. It resembled the US Divers, Pacifica mask that my buddy Jim Hoffman still wears today.
Example of my first Scuba Mask
Born and raised in Southern California and the son of a "River Rat" family who owned properties at both the Colorado River and Lake Havasu, meant plenty of water time executing serious dive missions early on. These often included collecting Clams, Beer Cans and occasionally a Bikini Top. If I was lucky a Bluegill, Carp or even a Catfish would swim by. Hours on end floating face down on the surface generally produced a serious sunburn that made for a restless night in bed.
201RiverRat
Once high school began, I found scuba diving as an option for the physical education program. Wow! The academics immediately began in a class room and I was fixated. Because this course had to absorb the span of an entire semester, most of our time was spent in the swimming pool. The training was much more rigorous then your "typical" entry level scuba course today. Our skills involved breath hold dives and picking up bricks from the bottom of the pool. We were required to jump in the water with our tank, regulator, mask and fins in our hands. While descending we'd attach the regulator, turn on the air and start breathing before we were out of breath. Then we'd attach our mask , flip the scuba unit over our shoulders and put the fins on. Air sharing was called buddy breathing back then and no one had a spare "octopus" regulator. After completing the three required ocean dives, and presenting the instructor with 50 bucks, we received a YMCA Scuba Diver certification. Yes, I had hair back then.

John's YMCA scuba diver card

After high school, college began and I found some real important courses, like "Advanced Scuba Diving". The Instructor was Harvey Suprenent. Harvey taught anatomy by day and scuba by night. This was surely going to help with my degree. So I thought. This became much more than just a class and more like a dive club. We dove our butts off. It was such a blast, that I took the class a second semester just for the fun of it. The hell with chemistry !

During one of our lectures we were presented with a flyer for an upcoming PADI Divemaster course being held at a dive shop near by called "Water Toys and Schools". After finding dive education to be a fantastic way to learn and meet like minded dive nazi's I knew I must sign up. The shop had recently been purchased by a couple of highly motivated divers and the name was soon changed to "Scuba Toys. I also joined the Blue Water Dive Club in Orange County California. Dive clubs can be great places to met fun people. And some might actually dive.

The old Scuba Toys Jim Hoffman

Things were really started to take off. I met some great people at Scuba Toys. Particularly the owners, Jim and Carol Hoffman who took me under their wings. After a year and a half long Divemaster course they ended up certifying me as an Assistant Instructor. I didn't realize that Jim had misplaced my DM card. What's in a C-Card anyhow? Somehow I was suckered into signing up for an upcoming NAUI Open Water Instructor course, ran by the shops previous owner, Jim Hick. This was an intense week long course that left little time for sleep. The 1984 summer Olympic were going on and I couldn't watch more than a minute of two of it. But after all the suffering I became NAUI Open Water Instructor #7732.

1980's scuba class diver cove laguna beach meet 2nd weds of each month at Mr. B's in Los Alamitos
I continued to teach entry level, advanced and wreck diving courses for several years. They were fun but repetitious. There had always been that 130' recreation depth limit hanging over my shoulders. I was convinced that if I crossed it, I would become seriously bent and possibly die. But with that ever lasting impression of "Diver Dan" wearing that old copper hard hat still etched in my mind, I figured I could venture just a little deeper.....
twin scuba tanks
In 1994, I met a gentleman named Charlie Johnson who owned a dive shop in Laguna Beach, Ca. Charlie taught a class called ANDI Nitrox. Not knowing much about Nitrox, I thought it might somehow help me in my endeavors. After putting together a group of students, consisting of Scuba Toys Dive Masters and Instructors, Charlie drove to Scuba Toys and taught a class for us. A few weeks later, Jesse Sanchez and I decided to test out this Nitrox as a decompression gas. While diving in Scripts Canyon with very low viz, I become entangled in something. I thought I was seeing things but eventually realized exactly what it was, a monofilament gill net. Nitrox was not going to save me here. I didn't panic, but it did scared the crap out of me. Jesse came to my rescue and helped me out of this predicament.

Sport Chalet Dive Club had a guest speaker at one of their meetings talking about "Technical Diving". Thats when I met the "Flying Dutchman", Frans Vandermolen. It was 1994 and this was very exciting because I didn't realize anyone taught this style of diving. I began training under Frans and quickly gained a completely different view of recreational diving. Frans had constantly talked about Cave Diving. It didn't sound all that exciting to swim deep into a hole in the earth. He invited me on a cave diving expedition to Yosemite California. I said,Yes! In Yosemite National Park exist an aquifer called "Bower Cave". After repelling into the cavern with our gear we jumped into the 42 deg water and tied in a primary guide line. This water had the 2nd highest e-coli count in the entire Sierra chain. Oh, Boy! The cave got deep fast and our dives where not all that distant. An exciting experience, none the less.

During Michael Menduno's 1995 Tek Conference in San Francisco California, I met several interesting characters. Some of them were inspirational. Most were met during a social gathering that was named the "Legal Narcosis Party". Having no idea who I has hanging out with, a guy named Phil Nuytten explained difficulties with a articulating joint in the dive suit he was designing. Bill Hamilton and Dick Rutkowski were a couple of really nice guys who loved to party. They spoke a level of physiology that really inspired me to learn more about a subject I had been trying to teach. And there was that very narcissistic guy who would not shut up. His name was Brett (something) and it was clearly a relief to all to get away from his obnoxious voice once the party ended.
Newt Suit
Scuba certifications are simply an agencies consent to carry on with a particular type of diving that you have trained for. It does not make you an expert and in no way should certifications be used to weigh a divers stature in whole. The 1995 Tek Conference was a big eye opener for me in the sense that I had been diving for 17 years and thought my education was based on acquiring certifications. The lecturers at this conference spoke in such a broader realm than I had ever heard. This was intriguing and motivated me to seek out more in-depth education outside any of the mainstream scuba courses that are readily available to us.

Lectures have been some of the more informative places that I have acquired information on subjects such as hyperbaric physiology. This is a particularly important subject for extensively deeper, long range diving. One of my favorites lectures called "Advanced Decompression Physiology" was given by Michael R. Powell, PH.D. at the Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island. It was hosted by the Program Manager of the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber, Karl E. Huggins PH.D.. Dr. Powell is a hyperbaric physiologist working with astronauts at NASA and Johnson Space Laboratory. Astronauts are required to decompress before their space walks just as divers need to decompress as they ascend to the surface.

Lectures are not nearly as beneficial for in-water skills. These need to be demonstrated by a "skilled" educator and performed and practiced extensively by the student. Unfortunately there are few venues to find great training by a skilled educator. One of the newest training agencies quickly making it to the forefront is Unified Team Diving International. UTDi promotes diving as an art through various building blocks that create thinking divers, rather than robots. UTDi founder, Andrew Georgitsis, is one of the most dedicated people to the sport of Scuba that I have ever met. His agency offers entry level to the most advanced forms of scuba diver training currently available.

Below is a simple flow chart of some courses I have taken and received a pretty little plastic certification card for. Although I have learned a lot by taken classes, I have also come to realize how much more there is to learn. Taking dive courses can be fun and challenging if you can find the right instructor. But education is only part of the equation of becoming a really good diver. Applying what you have learned in these courses to real world diving experiences is where divers really excel.

1978 YMCA Scuba Diver
1982 NAUI Advanced Diver
1982 PADI Dive Master
1983 PADI Rescue Diver
1983 PADI Equipment Specialist
1983 PADI Wreck Diver
1984 NAUI Assistant Instructor
1984 NAUI Instructor
1985 NAUI Rescue Diver
1994 ANDI Safe Air (Nitrox)
1994 IANTD Adv. Deep Air
1994 IANTD Tech Nitrox
1994 PADI Emergency Oxygen Admin.
1995 Trimix Diver
1995 NACD Full Cave Diver
1995 IANTD Nitrox Instructor
1996 IANTD Technical Instructor
1997 IANTD Instructor Trainer
2000 GUE Technical II Instructor
2010 UTD MC90 Rebreather 1

These days, video documentation of a variety of scuba explorations is something that truly interests me. It has required a ton of patients but I am slowly picking it up. To view some of my work in progress, check out my underwater video section.

Disclaimer:
This site is NOT intended to teach anyone how they should dive. It is simply reflecting on what I have done and continue to do and is my opinion only. Proper dive training should be gained before attempting anything involving the use of a Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA).