Links from GUE home page/Fundamentals training page and maybe in both new and tech diver sections..?
Add places for photos please.
Divers are attracted to GUE training for a variety of reasons; some of which may be a desire to increase their level of comfort and
safety in the water, to continue their diving education with world-class instructors and instruction, dissatisfaction with previous
training(s), or to begin their training in technical or cave diving. The reasons are as varied as the individual. For most divers who
are already Open Water certified, the first step in the GUE training ladder is the GUE Fundamentals course. So, what is a Fundamentals
class? What should you expect and what actually happens throughout?
Fundamentals is a four-day class that includes a minimum of 30 hours of instruction. The class includes both academic class work, out
of water drills and instruction in the water. You will most likely participate in a pool session as well. During your classroom work
you will cover several subjects including, but not limited to, buoyancy and trim, streamlining and equipment configuration, propulsion
techniques, situational awareness, communication, breathing gas overview and dive planning and gas management. Many of these subjects
will be familiar to you from previous diving courses, however in the case of Fundamentals instruction, you should expect a standard
that is superior to what you have been exposed to previously. If you are not already certified to dive Nitrox, you will also be
certified to dive 32% Nitrox.
Someone once explained to me that the GUE Fundamentals instruction was best summarized as “simple things done precisely”. Nothing about
Fundamentals is complicated, however, you will be expected to achieve a particular objective standard of performance before you will
achieve passing this class. This objective performance standard is spelled out clearly in GUE Standards and your instructor will go
over this with you very thoroughly at the beginning of your class. For the majority of divers, this will be the first time in their
diving education that they will have been exposed to an objective performance standard. There is no subjectivity here, you either meet
the performance standard or you don’t. On this basis, your instructor will then decide if you have met the performance standard
Receive a Technical pass, which allows you to continue your GUE training in either Technical or Cave diving. Achieve a Recreational
pass Receive a Provisional pass, which is essentially the advice to “practice and be reevaluated later”. Failing the class
None of the performance criteria are complicated in and of themselves. For example, maintaining neutral buoyancy throughout the water
column is not a complicated task. However, you will be expected to maintain a “buoyancy window” that is either 3’ or 5’, depending on
whether you are looking for a “Tech” pass, or a “Rec” pass. A Tech pass is necessary to proceed further up the GUE training ladder to
either technical training or cave diving training and the standards for this pass are substantially higher than those required for a
Rec pass. The standards are clearly spelled out on the GUE website, and are included here, and I strongly encourage anyone planning on
taking any GUE course to read them. They are very straight forward and clearly spell out the requirements of the class.
Throughout your Fundamentals training you will be expected to demonstrate advanced propulsion techniques, such as the frog kick, the
modified frog kick, the flutter kick, the modified flutter kick, and the back kick. These propulsion techniques are not difficult, but
they will require some practice. You will also be expected to maintain a certain standard of “trim” in the water. Trim refers to your
ability to demonstrate a stable horizontal attitude in the water.
In addition, you will be expected to demonstrate a series of drills in the water while maintaining appropriate buoyancy and trim. This
is probably the most difficult part of the course. It is amazing how much a little bit of task loading can complicate an otherwise
reasonable demonstration of buoyancy and trim.
One of the central tenants of GUE instruction is the importance of the ‘team’. Thus, your course will begin with a substantial
introduction of all your team-mates and your GUE instructor. You will have the chance to get to know your instructor and learn about
his or her background. GUE instructors are experienced divers and educators and they truly enjoy sharing their experiences with their
students. In many cases, you may not be familiar with your teammates and this introduction serves to begin the team-building process.
Your instructor will also take this opportunity to spend some time introducing GUE as an agency.
GUE students are expected to prepare and arrive with the required equipment specified in the course outline. During the first part of
your class, your instructor will go over all your gear thoroughly. They will provide a review of your equipment and offer guidance on
its appropriateness and fit. This is the opportunity for you to start asking questions; GUE divers are thinking divers and we do not
adopt a particular piece of equipment or gear configuration for a less than an optimal reason. If you have a question about the “why”
of something, ask. There are no “because” answers in GUE. Each question has probably been addressed somewhere, by someone, and if your
instructor does not have a logical and concise answer, they will find it for you.
The rest of your class will consist of classroom lectures and open water diving where you will practice and demonstrate your skills.
These water sessions will be somewhat different than what you may have experienced in your previous training(s). This is not training
composed of “follow me” diving instruction, and is instead education where you are expected to organize, lead, and run your own dives.
A team captain for each dive will be appointed and they will be in charge, as much as a captain of a hockey team or a football
quarterback marshals the team on their respective fields. This role will be rotated throughout the team and everyone will get multiple
opportunities to lead. Your instructor will evaluate your progress and provide you with meaningful feedback and specific suggestions.
This feedback will also be supplemented by your instructor’s secret weapon: video review. Each dive session will be recorded on video
to assist in the debriefing and your education. It is amazing the power of a video replay! You will be able to see, in glorious HD, how
you are progressing. Thise video provides very useful information for your instructor to assist in correcting mistakes, reinforce
already existing good skills, and the ability for each diver to actually see their positioning and skills in the water.
You will most likely have at least one pool session where you will be expected to complete your swim test and your breath-hold swim
test. If you feel that your swimming may not be up to Olympic caliber, not to worry. Pacing yourself is far more important than
blasting out of the gate aiming for the next world record 25-meter time, only to flounder at the 30-meter mark. Slow and steady will
always cross the finish line. If you feel this may be a problem, I strongly suggest you get a few lessons and work on your swim
technique and practice. Considering that as a diver you are in an ocean, a lake or a river and the only thing keeping you from drowning
is your life support equipment or your ability to float or swim. It only stands to reason that you will be able to demonstrate a
moderate ability to swim! If needed, get a couple of lessons and hit the pool. It will take the stress off the swim test and let you
concentrate on more challenging tasks.
Throughout the class, you should expect to be spending a lot of time in the water. I suggest you make sure your exposure protection is
sufficient for this. Make no mistake: this course is intense and comes fast and furious. Your instructor will allow as much time as
possible for you to practice or repeat your skills during the course, but the course does have an end date.
There are several things that you can do to make the most of your time in the class.
First, I strongly suggest that you come to class prepared by having done all the required reading and pre-class exercises. As mentioned
above, this is adult education and you should not expect your instructor to slow the class down or repeat sections because you didn’t
complete your required work. You and your teammates are investing a good deal of time and money in this training, and it is not fair
for your teammates to receive less value for their training because you did not do the preparatory work. Also, due to the intensity of
the course, you will be tired at the end of each day and some classes can go into the evening. Do not expect to be able to catch up if
you start from a deficit position. Instead, prepare yourself according to the instructions provided by your instructor and on the GUE
website. Do not assume that any of your previous training will make up for not having done the required reading or exercises.
Second, if you are unsure about the equipment requirements, contact your instructor for advice in advance. These requirements are very
specific and not open to debate or modification. You will understand why once you start the course. If you are lucky enough to have the
opportunity to dive or socialize with GUE trained divers, quiz them about their gear arrangement. Moreover, I strongly suggest that if
you decide to take the class in double cylinders, that you get some experience with them beforehand. A Fundamentals class is the place
to bring out your “A game” and not the place to experiment for the first time with a new drysuit or a new set of doubles. You will have
enough on your plate with the class without adding additional task loading of managing new equipment.
Third, as previously mentioned, if swimming is not your thing, hit the pool. For some reason the swim test seems to be one of the most
dreaded parts of the course, yet it is also the part of the course which you can easily prepare for and practice beforehand! Hit the
pool and remove this variable from the equation. Three times a week for a month will make the swim test a sure thing and allow you to
concentrate on other things.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, find some GUE divers in your area and dive with them. They have all “been there, done that” and
can be a useful resource regarding your upcoming course. Mentorship is a very important part of GUE diving, and I don’t know a single
GUE diver who wouldn’t be prepared to help a “newbie” with advice, and most likely will be happy to jump in the water to help with
skill development. One word of caution here; remember you are coming to the class to learn from a trained instructor and it is often
much harder to “unlearn” bad habits than it is to learn new ones from scratch. I have watched divers train together until they had
thoroughly learned a new skill……..completely incorrectly! In that case, we caught this before their Fundamentals class, or they would
have had to “unlearn” that skill while they were learning the correct one, and that is tough to do. Your instructor doesn’t expect, and
neither should you, that he or she will see demonstration quality Fundamental skills during the first dive of the course. Better that
you come prepared with an open mind and a desire to learn. Keep this in mind as you prepare for your course.
GUE Fundamentals is all about simple things done precisely. I have yet to meet someone who came away from the class without the feeling
that he or she received good value for his or her dollar. Remember that while beginning a journey requires the knowledge of where you
want to go, it also requires an understanding of where you are when you started your journey. At the completion of the GUE Fundamentals
course you will have a very clear picture of where you have progressed to in your diving skills. The nature of the course provides
everyone with an objective and standardized frame of reference. You will also have a very clear picture of where you are in relation to
what is required for you to be competent in the water. Remember that it doesn’t matter where you are in this learning curve so much as
it matters that you know where you are. Many problems and incidents in diving come from unprepared divers encountering unexpected
circumstances. The real value of the Fundamentals class is that it will show you exactly where you are on that learning curve and
substantially move you along it!
By Guy Shockey