Re: Ken Kurtis and the Solo -v- Nitrox discussion/promotion

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on January 13, 2001 at 00:20:01:

In Reply to: Ken Kurtis and the Solo -v- Nitrox discussion/promotion posted by MHK on January 11, 2001 at 14:19:30:

First of all, I thank Michael for the civil tone of his response. He and I have very divergent views on both nitrox and solo and we're not going to change each others minds.

Some quick thoughts as I'm off to Australia for two weeks and haven't started packing yet, let alone written some articles (and our newsletter) that are all due while I'm away. So perhaps I can more fully answer when I return but to be honest, I think we've beaten these to death.

Some quick points:

1. You can dive safely on air.

2. You can dive safely on nitrox.

3. You can get the same "benefits" of nitrox by diving on air. Just dive shallower &/or shorter, and perhaps extend your safety stop.

4. Nitrox's biggest benefit (IMHO) is extending your bottom time.

5. However, nitrox adds a whole host of somewhat unresolved issues (see other posts below) about which there is still great debate. Some apply only to stores.

6. I have many concerns about selling nitrox which include oxtox (but that's not the only one, though it's the only one that will kill you), training for employees, handling O2 if we blend, cost of a membrane system if we don't, OSHA concerns, CalOSHA concerns, whether or not non-nitrox trained people can adequately supervise nitrox divers (the people I've talked to at both PADI & NAUI say my concern is a valid one, though legally untested), other added equipment costs, and whether or not there's really much of a market for this.

7. Stores that I talk to who pump nitrox say it's not a very big part of their business and are somewhere around break-even. (But they certainly could be lying to me so they can keep all the nitrox business for themsevles.) One store that tried to make it as a nitrox/tech store went out of business. Sport Chlaet got into nitrox some years ago but has dropped it at most if not all of their stores and my understanding is that they found it not to be profitable. NAUI & PADI estimate the nitrox market penetration at 10-15% of the total active diver population. Scuba is already a niche sport, and nitrox seems to be a niche within the niche.

8. I don't think you "need" nitrox. As I said, I believe you can dive safely on air and not get bent. That you can do the same dive on nitrox and be more not-bent seems to me to be irrelevant.

9. People are NOT getting bent left and right on air. DAN stats indicate roughly 800 bends hits for Americans who made an estimated 25,000,000 dives (1998 stats I think). That's a rate of 0.0032%, or one hit per 31,250 dives. Again, I fail to see the need.

10. In our opinion (don't forget I have a business partner), nitrox is not something we choose to get into at Reef Seekers. It's a business decision. There are other things we don't do, too. We have choosen not to do deco diving, deep diving (below 130'), tech, rec-tech, etc. These are all business decisions. We don't mind being known as a newbie-friendly store that doesn't get into more extreme types of diving.

11. In addition to the reasons given, from a practical standpoint, we also use air on the boats to limit the number of tanks brought on board. Since we tend to fill most of our trips, we prefer people only bringing a single tank so the deck doesn't get too crowded. With nitrox, you're talking multiple tanks and a more crowded deck.

12. Although I don't hold a nitrox card, it's not like I haven't read up on the issue. I've gone through the entire NAUI Nitrox text (Joel Silverstein told me, "Well, it's about time"), read numerous articles, had this dicussion numerous times, and feel I'm well-versed in the issue. And the more I've read, the more I feel nitrox is not a needed choice for me. For me, it just doesn't compute on a cost/benefit ratio. I think it's over-hyped as a Wonder Gas.

13. As far as not diving nitrox, as I said above, the more I know about it, the less I feel I want/need it. And since you can't feel the physiological difference of nitrox (forget about the fatigue factor, which has yet to be clinically proven - about 50% say they feel better and about 50% say they feel no difference), it seems to me the key thing to diving nitrox is not doing the dive and breathing the stuff, but having the knowledge.

So much for brief.

I guess the part that I don't understand is what difference it makes what I think about it either way. You want to dive it, go ahead and dive it. You don't want to, then don't dive it. Just make an intelligent choice and dive as safely as possible, regardless of which way you choose to go.

I'm going to try to make this my sole comment on the issue. If you want to e-mail me privately, feel free to do so, but I think I've said what I need to say, have covered this ground before, doubt we're really going to change anyone's opinions, and I'm sure we can find other unexplored topics of interest to discuss.

Ken Kurtis
NAUI Instr. #5936
Co-owner, Reef Seekers Dive Co.
Beverly Hills, Ca.

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