Peter Sotis (Add helium)
In today’s world, navigating available rebreather information can be confusing, frustrating, and misleading. Consumers enquiring about rebreathers are often surprised by how disconnected the industry is.
Over the years the Add Helium staff has had the pleasure of speaking with many people that wish to purchase a rebreather. Usually, we are not the first rebreather retailer they have spoken to. What is most surprising, though, is the amount of misinformation given to the potential consumer by rebreather instructors, manufacturers, and sales people.
Where can consumers get information that is accurate, thorough, and unbiased? Many people seek advice from manufacturers, local dive shops, the ‘local expert”, and online forums. What do these sources have to offer?
Manufacturers can be very thorough and accurate about their product. However, rarely are they accurate and unbiased regarding any competitor’s product. It’s surprising how incomplete many manufacturers’ websites are. Consumers can barely find photographs, ‘specs’, or price lists that they can follow.
Local dive shops that offer one or two rebreathers for sale are rarely thorough or have accurate information. If you want unbiased information…you might not find it here. They often have limited products to offer, and while they might be experts on the products they do sell, rarely are they experts on the products they do not sell. This is difficult to detect for someone that has no knowledge about rebreathers. The dive shop may tell you how their products compare to another, but often they are not qualified, or up-to-date with their opinions. In short, they have a very narrow perspective and their bias is unmistakable.
The local “expert” is another avenue. They love to offer information with incredible enthusiasm. But their perspective is narrow and they have even less to offer than the local dive shop. Again, be aware of the bias toward one specific product line in general.
Online forums are full of opinions. That says it all.
Prospective buyers need to keep an open mind and speak to many sources before making a decision. It’s easy for someone that knows nothing about rebreathers to assume someone that knows even a little about rebreathers is knowledgeable…this is the most common mistake. Make sure you are dealing with true experts that are in the rebreather market full time. In most cases, part time = amateur.
Let’s set the record straight regarding the most common misperceptions.
Do you have to be Advanced Nitrox Certified to take a rebreather class?
No. In other words, the dive shop that is attempting to sell you a rebreather and is insisting you take a class on doubles and learn advanced Nitrox procedures for Open Circuit is simply trying to sell you another class. There is no standard by any training agency that requires this certification prior to CCR training.
Do you have to buy a unit before you take a class?
Any reputable rebreather retailer will have rebreathers on hand for you to rent for training. Renting allows you to learn about CCR diving and helps you decide if it’s for you. Renting a unit also allows you to decide what features you may wish to purchase when you finally place your order.
Is one rebreather safer than another?
No! Any mainstream rebreather is subject to stringent, independent, third party testing. A rebreather salesman that tells you that any tested rebreather is less safe than the one he is selling is being less than honest, or simply has no idea what he is talking about. There is no factual data or information that suggests any particular rebreather is safer than another. Should anyone try to convince you otherwise, simply ask for the data to backup the opinion. You’ll discover all they have is opinion and no data. We call that “leading and bias” in the sales industry. It’s a common ploy of rebreather salesman to scare you into buying the only brand or two that they have to sell. A real popular “line” is when they tell you their brand is the only safe brand they can sell in good conscious. When you hear that you should recognize that you are dealing with someone that has no conscience…it’s that simple.
Will a pool demo help me make an informed decision?
Taking a pool demo dive when you have never been on a CCR before will not help you to make an informed decision. Retailers often use the “pool demo” as a way to “bond” with the perspective client…it has nothing to do with assisting you with your decision. Knowing and understanding a product well enough to make a $10,000.00+ decision takes a lot more than that. It takes a 5-day certification class.
Can’t seem to get a direct price quote?
It should take about 15 minutes for anyone to give you a quote for a rebreather. If the person you are dealing with cannot give you a complete quote for the unit, training, spare parts, etc. in a reasonable amount of time, you should question if they know what they are doing. This may also be a red flag that this dealer does not sell or teach many rebreathers very often. Again, delays = amateur.
How much teaching experience on this unit does your potential instructor have?
You might want to enquire and get proof of how many CCR classes your potential instructor teaches each year. Do you really want to be trained by someone that teaches this kind of diving occasionally? It costs just as much for a full time, experienced CCR instructor as it does for an inexperienced one…think about it. You might also be skeptical of discounted training prices. More often than not, you will get what you pay for. Less never equals more in the rebreather business.
Is your potential instructor telling you that you need to find a friend to take a class?
If so, you might want to question why you would want to train with someone who cannot fill their own class roster. You may even go so far as to expect that the school you are training with has a regular class schedule for almost any month…just a thought.
Can anyone dive a rebreather?
Yes! Anyone can learn to dive a rebreather! Many instructors and salesman love to say; “Only certain people can dive rebreathers”. Wrong! Diving a breather is a very simple thing to do when you are properly trained.
ANYONE CAN DO IT!
Is rebreather training hard?
No! Rebreather training is challenging and involved, but the class structure allows for an easy progression. The academics are easy when explained by a competent, experienced rebreather instructor.
Are there many dive destinations that cater to rebreathers?
Many organizations offer dive trips for CCR divers to numerous locations around the world. There are a large number of CCR friendly dive locations worldwide. Check the online forums for more information.
How do I find people to dive with?
Once you commit yourself to CCR diving, a new world will become available to you. There are far more CCR divers than most people realize. The forums are a great place to find divers. Of course, you will meet people in your training classes or on any CCR trip.
Are rebreather’s expensive to maintain?
No. Rebreathers are not expensive to maintain. Batteries and sensors are your primary consumables – $300.00 to $500.00 per year is average.
Is buoyancy more difficult than OC?
Buoyancy is different on a CCR, but is no more difficult. In fact, in many ways it is easier. The people that find buoyancy difficult on a CCR have not been properly weighted and balanced by their instructor. It’s that simple.
Can I skip OC Technical training and go right into rebreathers?
Absolutely! Most of our students today have never been trained for OC technical diving. There is no need to waste your money or time training for something that you will not use. Today’s divers are going straight to rebreathers in the first place.
Can I dive with an OC dive buddy?
Yes! There are a few things to explain to your buddy about your equipment, bailout requirements, etc. But there is no reason CCR and OC divers cannot dive together. In fact, it happens quite often.
Can I still dive OC once I am trained on a rebreather?
In CCR training, it is recommended that you make the CCR your primary choice of equipment. However, this does not mean it has to be your only choice of equipment. Sometimes, conditions make more sense for you to dive OC…there is nothing wrong with that.
How long does it take to setup a rebreather to go diving?
Some rebreathers take less time than others. Usually units of more recent design are faster and easier to assemble. Some units only take about 15 minutes to build and prepare for diving, some take as long as 60 minutes. Build time and how easy the unit is to assemble for use and disassemble for cleaning is something to consider when enquiring about which model may best suit your needs.
Be sure you are working with a full-time, experienced CCR instructor and CCR retailer to ensure you get the best available information. Making an informed decision is what it’s all about. Be sure your information source is equal to the value you assign to it.
Product bias and limited knowledge about other rebreathers is a problem. At the end of the day…review your conversations and see if you notice any sense of bias, we call this “leading” in sales. Biased information, emotional ploys, and trash talking are the trademarks of amateurs. Do you really want to do business with an amateur?
Most importantly, amateurs distinguish themselves by trash talking other products and other instructors. Our best advice to you is to avoid this kind of retailer all together. Look for a professional, there are many to choose from.