Green Manelishi R Michael Small

My dive related thoughts and opinions based on experience, observation, and what I believe to be simple common sense. Send an email to me if you would like to tell me what you think of my opinions. Visit my gear if you are curious about what the Green Manelishi uses for dive gear.







Popular opinion and current marketing strategy is that diving is for everyone. I disagree. I believe it is especially not for certain types of physical challenges. Under the best circumstances you are likely to require assistance. Under the worst circumstances, such as loss of assistance, you might end up a statistic.

Furthermore not all types of diving are for those who dive. Even if you pursue training in specialized types of diving, such as night, it might not be for you. If you don't enjoy it, or you have to overcome a fear of some type, then don't do it. It's that simple. There is no shame in saying "I am not interested in doing that type of diving." The fictional character "Dirty" Harry Callahan said "a man's got to know his limitations". So true. If you don't know your limitations, or are stupid enough to ignore them, you might be injured, or worse.
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A friend once told me "Too many divers spend more time managing their gear than they do diving." His point is that cool gear, new gear, or a lot of gear does not a diver make. Learning how to dive makes a diver.

Dive gear is a life support and experience enhancing system. Like any system it should be reliable, comfortable, robust and familiar. It should also be tested and 're-learned' if any modifications are made. Gear 'that is right' for you will not make you a better diver but it can help you enjoy the experience and dive comfortably so you can concentrate on learning how to dive. On the other hand, gear that is not right for you can ruin the experience and adversely affect your ability to concentrate on learning how to dive.

Too many divers (newbies especially) seek approval from others for the type of gear they are planning to buy. Unless you actively seek it, you cannot buy junk gear. It's like buying a car; you can purchase basic transportation or high-performance. Yes, equipment reviews and LDS recommendations are helpful, however, you should buy gear that works for you, not what someone else tells you to buy. Your budget, your 'style', the environment in which you dive, your objectives and physique all need to be factored into your purchase decision.

A brief comment or two regarding exposure protection. To be most effective, a wetsuit has to properly fit. Too loose and it will allow water to "flush through", too tight and you'll not be able to properly breathe. If you choose, or need, to dive dry, don't use "sweats" as undergarments; use proper garments that are lightweight and will help maintain body warmth even when damp and/or wet.

With all that said, basic gear such as mask, fins, snorkel and knife should be as uncomplicated and failure proof as possible. Long ago a mask was a faceplate with a skirt and a strap that passed through a metal buckle. Snorkels were "J" shaped tubes, and fins were molded rubber with a (perhaps adjustable) strap. Now "slap straps", purge valves, "splash resistant" and "quick release" rule the day. Unless your head or feet increase or decrease in size between dives I see no point in a strap that almost invariably needs to be adjusted for each dive and is too easily made too tight, or can become 'unadjusted' during a dive. Simple straps are adjusted once for proper fit, taped down and left alone.


A purge valve on a mask is a potential failure point. Additionally, the purge valve will work only if it is the lowest point on the mask therefore it is useless in all but one position. You should be able to purge your mask in any position; if you can't, learn.


A snorkel with a purge valve and "splash guard" is sillier than a mask with a purge valve. If the purge-valve malfunctions it can be an entry, as well as exit, point for water. A snorkel needs only to be a hollow tube with a mouthpiece. Learn to properly use a snorkel and you won't need a complicated model. Indeed, some snorkels are so large they have the profile of a ship's rudder. If you need a "foldable" snorkel buy a simple rubber snorkel, fold it and place it in a pocket. To use it, just slide the snorkel up between your mask strap and head; it's that simple. A snorkel-keeper can be fashioned by hand from a piece of rubber or shock-cord.


Fins and their strap connections should be simple and robust. SCUBAPro JetFins, IDI Turtle fins, and similar models are simplicity in design, form and function. The basic design has been around for years and they consistently are a top performer in tests so I'd suggest that you at least try a pair.


The primary purpose of a dive knife (or any knife for that matter), is to cut something. A proper dive knife is simple, sharp, will maintain a sharp edge and be capable of being sharpened by you, strong, large enough to be easily held and used, small enough to be easily carried and can be reliably drawn, used and re-sheathed without having to "unlock" it from the sheath. Notice I said nothing about being rust proof. Unless you are willing to spend serious money on high grade stainless or titanium, just buy a decent high-carbon stainless with a simple sheath, keep the knife clean and sharp and you'll be fine. One final word ... dive knives do not need "scales" (what some would call the handle) or a fancy handle . Scales, or a fancy handle, on a knife intended to be used in water only trap that water unless you take the knife apart after every dive. The Green Man uses a (modified ... by him) Buck Intrepid as his primary blade. For a backup he carries either a SpyderCo Atlantic Salt folder or Abyss line cutter.
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To best determine what gear works best for you, rent or borrow as many models and brands as possible and test dive them in open water several times before you make a decision. Why?

  • Most dive gear looks nice in the shop or catalog.
  • Some feels comfortable in the shop.
  • Less feels comfortable and useful in the pool.
  • Even less feels comfortable and useful in open water.
  • Less than that still feels comfortable and useful after several dives.
  • It's only after you've made several dives that you start noticing problems, or that 'little annoyance' becomes a major irritant and you regret having purchased the gear. It's important to wear all of your typical exposure protection during test dives. Loss of tactile sensation and/or peripheral vision can greatly affect your ability to use, such as put it on or take it off, some gear. Do a little research and save yourself a bundle of cash. Otherwise, that 'not quite right' gear will have to be Ebayed (probably at a loss) or you will constantly try to "make it right" via modifications or other puttering. If you are being constantly irritated by your gear you will probably not fully enjoy diving.

    Many divers create their own new gear or modify existing items to make them a little better suited for their personal diving. I enjoy doing that myself and if you'd like to see the results of what I've done, visit my gear. However, changing gear means it is no longer what it was and it should be tested under very controlled conditions. You'd be amazed at how often a modification that works "so well" in your work shop, or standing on dry ground, fails miserably in water. Been there, done that. So, have at it and have fun but be careful.

    In summary, when buying (additional) gear or modifying existing gear:

  • Never modify gear when packing for an important dive. Check it, pack it, leave it alone.
  • Always try new or modified gear first in shallow, calm water.
  • Always wear all of your exposure protection when trying new or modified gear.
  • Always carry your typical equipment load when testing new or modified gear.
  • Simplify resolving problems caused by change; add or change only one thing at a time.
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    I am not a personal trainer, nor a nutritionist, so I am not offering professional or specific advice, just simple generalizations of truth. Check out dive fitness for excellent, and professional, advice.

    Diving, depending on the amount of gear you carry, the environment and the "mission" for the dive can be relaxing or it can be work. However, at any time, and perhaps as a complete surprise, it can become a test of your fitness level. You owe it to yourself to spend time, on a regular basis, engaged in some sort of physical fitness activity. Ideally you should train for muscle strength and endurance as well as cardiovascular endurance. You should choose an exercise program that you enjoy. If it's not enjoyable, to some degree, you'll have to force yourself to do it, will find excuses to not, and sooner or later will quit.

    The type of exercise is, to some degree, relevant and you should choose with care based on your body type and motivation. For example, if you are thin and wiry it's probably not possible to turn yourself into "Ahnuld" but you will be able to strengthen your muscles. Conversely, if you are built like an offensive tackle don't try to turn yourself into "Twiggy". Start slow and build up reasonably; it's not a contest. It's not necessary to be an Olympic class athlete, and for most of us that is not even possible, but you should be capable of "holding your own."

    If you are "overweight" (a greatly misused term) don't focus on losing weight; focus on developing fitness and altering your body composition. As your body sheds fat and increases muscle you might not lose much weight but you'll probably find your clothes hanging a bit more loosely in some areas and tightening in others.

    Proper nutrition is very important. Your diet should consist of good, wholesome food in sufficient, but not excessive quantity. Do not think that supplements, powders, bars, and shakes are a substitute for proper, healthy eating. They are excellent for augmenting a proper diet, if you need them, but they are not intended to compensate for a diet that consists primarily of soda, candy and chips.

    Also, a 'diet' that overemphasizes protein, carbohydrate or fats is unhealthy. Your body needs all three to be healthy. Protein is necessary for building, maintaining and repairing muscle. Carbohydrates are your body's best source of energy as well as many nutrients. Fat is a very concentrated source of energy as well as necessary for proper health of various parts of your physiology. Additionally, some vitamins are fat, rather than water, soluble. All three, protein, carbohydrates and fats, are sources of calories and too many total calories, regardless of source, will be stored for later use.

    I think smoking and drugs can be discussed briefly; don't be a smoker or a dope(r). If you are a smoker, do non-smokers a favor and smoke in your car, not in the fresh air they are enjoying. If you smoke, and regularly exercise, you might be in better shape than a non-exercising non-smoker, but imagine how much better your condition would be if you stopped smoking. If you are a dope(r) tell your buddies so they can find someone else with whom to dive.

    In closing, eat smart and well, exercise regularly and properly, dive well and enjoy your time underwater.
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    The key to any diving and training is attitude and maturity. You must be focused and disciplined. You must ask yourself "Why do I want to pursue (this type of) diving?" and be willing to accept the risk. When doing the dives, if you are not "there" for the dives, don't do the dives. Comfort levels can vary from day to day and if you push yourself you are placing yourself and others at risk. "Tech divers" have a rule that 'any diver can call any dive at any time for any reason'. No diver should think less of you for saying "Not today" or "no further". Diving is supposed to be fun and if you are not having fun, why bother?

    Specialty certifications have been taken to the lunatic fringe. Specialty courses exist for two reasons: to keep you interested and to keep the money flowing. Many divers pursue specialty certifications before they've done more than the minimum requirement number of dives. Additionally, many divers enroll in an AOW course immediately after completing their BOW. Regardless of what a training agency tells you, a fixed number of dives does not make you an Advanced Diver. Nor does a few hours of discussing some type of specialized diving, such as night, then executing a few dives, make you a specialized diver. Diving, like any other skill, requires practice and effort. You owe it to yourself to dive, dive, dive and dive some more. Dive under various conditions while practicing and perfecting basic skills. If you can't handle yourself well in the daylight hours in shallow water, what makes you think you'll do it at night or in deep water? Square yourself away with the basics then pursue the Advanced or specialty certifications and practice those disciplines.

    Some types of diving do require training and certification or you are likely to not be allowed on the dive or to obtain the necessary supplies. For example, you can buy a book on diving "Nitrox", learn the information and know it perfectly. However, without a "Nitrox Diver" certification you will not likely be able to buy the gas. Yes, I know all about the Oxyhacker, brewing at home and diving from a private boat. I am talking about "Joe Average" who wants to dive store-bought nitrox and dive from a charter boat. It can become even more problematic if you are interested in trimix and technical diving.

    Needless to say, any diving involving an overhead environment (cave, wreck penetration, deco) is an absolute must for training. The mistakes have been made in the past and sometimes fatally. Learn from the past and avoid the mistakes rather than learn the hard way.
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