Michael Menduno has been diving and reporting on technical diving since 1990 when he founded the AquaCORPS magazine and its sister publication Technical Diver. A reporter, technologist and member of the Board of Directors for the historical diver’s society, Michael is the editor-in-chief of Global Underwater Explorers online magazine InDEPTH. He is also a contributing editor for Dan Europe’s ALERT DIVER and X-ray magazine, and he also writes for DEEPER BLUE. To top it off, Michael also worked with Captain Billy Dean to set up the first tech diving centre, based in Key West, which rapidly became a global mecca for tech diver training.
Michael is also the organiser of the Rebreather Forum, with the latest conference being RF4 (20-22 April 2023). Held in Malta, the Rebreather Forum has a stellar line-up of presenters including Mark Caney, Brian Carney or designee, Simon Caruana, John Clarke, David Doolette, Vince Ferris, Oscar Franberg, Timmy Gambin, Kevin Gurr, Richard Harris, Paul Haynes, Gareth Lock, Alessandro Marroni, Michael Menduno, Simon Mitchell, Andy Pitkin, Neal Pollock, Frauke Tillmans, and Paul Toomer. So if there is anything you ever wanted to know about rebreather diving, this is the place to be.
Topics of conversation
- Michael’s background in diving
- The origins of the term “Tech Diver”
- Rebreather Forum origins and Rebreather 4
- Michael’s first breaths underwater to technical diver
- Historical overview of tech diving
- The origins of AquaCORPS and InDEPTH magazines
- The background of Michael and Captain Billy Dean
- The passage of information prior to computers
- PADI joins the tech chat
- The bridging of the gap between recreational and technical diving
- The importance of Human Factors in diving
- Close Calls, authored by Stratis S Kas (Amazon link)
- ‘Stoned’ with Bill Stone – A harp back to the early days of reporting
- What’s next for Michael?
- Links and exit.
Michael Menduno, Matt Waters
Matt Waters 00:00
Hey, there dive buddies and welcome to the show. Did you ever wonder where the term tech diving came from? Well, my next guest was completely oblivious to anything beyond open water diving when he first became certified way back in 1976. However, he became the guy to coin the phrase, Michael Menduno has been diving and reporting on technical diving since 1990, when he founded the Aqua Corps magazine and its sister publication Technical Diver. A reporter technologist and a member of the Board of Directors for the historical divers society, Michael is the editor in chief of Global Underwater Explorers online magazine InDepth. He is also a contributing editor for Dan Europe’s alert diver and X-ray magazine, and he also writes for deeper blue. To top it off, Michael also worked with Captain Billy Dean’s to set up the first tech diving centre in the world, based in Key West, which became a global mecca for tech diver training. Michael, welcome to the show, sir. How are you after us tech? I’m assuming with all this, like, you’re going straight back into the editorial driving seat.
Michael Menduno 01:09
Oh, I know we having a monthly magazine. As you know, a taskmaster, you have to say who? Who thought of doing a monthly? I don’t know. I did. Yeah. But so that has kept me busy. And we’re in the process, of course of rolling out rebreather forum for which will be held next April in Malta, industry and scientific symposium. So I’ve been working hard on that to get that all put together and get our new website up and, and prepare for Dema which is coming up in two weeks. Yeah, it’s just I’ve been busy, too.
Matt Waters 01:44
Right. Are you are you doing any kind of presentations at Dema or have you got on there?
Michael Menduno 01:50
I’m quite Yeah, well, I’m coordinating where I’m a board member with the historical diving society. And we are awarding the Pioneer Award this year posthumously to scheck Exley kind of legendary cave diver. So we have a big exhibit that we’ve put together a historical cave diving exhibit with some of shacks read drysuit and Goodman belly bag and Dr. X decode programme and stuff like that. Yeah. And then we’ll be doing a on the tech floor. We’ll be I’ll be coordinating what’s supposed to be a talk about Shaq, but I we have a little video to show. And then we’re gonna make it more stories by people who knew Shaq kind of gathering the people who knew him and we’ll all be able to share some anecdotes and stuff like that. And then that night, the second day of Dima? Yeah, second day, there’ll be the NoGi awards. And that’s where this presentation will be made. So
Matt Waters 02:49
happy days. So yeah, it definitely keeps me busy, then, hey, we should back it up a little bit and just let the listeners know who the hell you are. Because obviously, in the tech world, and over that side of the world, especially but Dan Aaron Oz, dude from California, so
Michael Menduno 03:09
Well, I self identify as a journalist, I’ve been writing and journalist for a long time, maybe 40 years now going on 30 years. I got started actually, my writing career got started around the same time as my diving career. So my the first story I ever published was a diving story. And I just kind of kept at it from there. published a magazine called Aqua core back in the 1990s Aqua core, the journal for technical diving. And in fact, we coined I coined the term technical diving, we needed something to call it and high tech diving didn’t really fit and advanced diving didn’t really fit. So technical from technical climbing friends or a rock climbers. So I’ve done that launch the tech conferences, we’re seeing some of those today, AWS tech and Euro tech and Baltic tech. Well, the original tech conferences were in the we did them in the States. And then we did one over in the UK, actually, with Bernard eden, in conjunction with the beeswax shell, and then went over in Asia with or before a Dex with Asian diver. So kind of got that going. And then also back in the day, that was rebreathers. Were just coming into the sports market. So we launched the rebreather forum, to get the industry and science people together to look at rebreather technology and out how we’re going to adopt this for our own without, you know, hurting too many people in the process. And that continued to review the form one and two. There was a third one about a decade ago that I didn’t put on and now I’m putting on the rebreather forum for companies to organise it so and I’m a tech diver cave diver tech diver back from the early days when mixed gas was just coming into the market back in the late 80s, early 1990s. So,
Matt Waters 05:08
well, let’s, let’s talk about just Just be careful with your banging on the table there, mate. It’s just coming through on the microphone. It’s, yeah, you’re an animated Italian and it’s coming through on your desk.
Michael Menduno 05:24
Exactly. My hands speak for themselves. Yeah.
Matt Waters 05:26
I used to do all the time, I tend to grip myself, just to stop myself doing it. Back in. Right, right at the start, actually, how the hell did you get into diving? Let’s go there.
Michael Menduno 05:41
Hmm. I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau and Mike Nelson of sea hounds. So I was always motivated by you know about the ocean. I grew up in near a lake like Michigan. I didn’t learn to dive when I was a youngster. But I learned to swim. I was an avid swimmer. And it wasn’t till I came out to graduate school at Stanford out in California, where we have the lovely Monterey Bay world class diving that I decided to that I needed to learn to dive. And I still I still remember my first breath underwater on a regulator at brollies pool in Redwood City, and it was like, oh my god, this is so cool. I mean, I still remember to this day and that just hooked me the night before my open my open first open water dive at Lovers Point in Monterey. I watched Jaws which I was hungry for anything ocean. So Jaws, you know, and I went to see that the night before my first open water dive. And of course, there are great whites in Monterey and actually was bitten by one so it makes it interesting
Matt Waters 06:59
explains why you’re a pig on your first dive. 18 minutes spending your time
Michael Menduno 07:05
waiting for that thing to come around the corner. Yeah, and at that point, man, I love diving. So I continued on I got my Advanced Open Water. I remember that pretty well, my my rescue course my PADI divemaster course. And around that time, my career well from graduate school, I ended up going to do an internship in Washington DC, as a technologist, actually, so I had to put diving on hold for a while and went to Washington and then picked it up again when I came back. And
Matt Waters 07:43
what’s a what’s a technologist? What’s a technologist,
Michael Menduno 07:47
technologist, some of the so I went to work. We had a programme, I was in a programme called the at the time, it was called the engineering economic systems department at Stanford. And it was a cross disciplinary programme with math and modelling and looking at computer networking, and macroeconomics, and things like that. So I went to we had a relationship with people on the Hill, and no up. So I went to work for Senator Ted Stevens. And I was an economist on his staff and his representative to the Office of Technology Assessment, which was a congressional office that analysed and looked at the impact of new technologies. And so the to inform the senators so they can make good rational policy decisions, legislative decisions. So you know, that’s what I did. So you focused on technology. Yeah.
Matt Waters 08:42
So you were the young kid that knew everything about new technology, while the old farts that were running the show didn’t have a clue. That’s how I feel nowadays with my friend.
Michael Menduno 08:56
Right, right. It’s the youngsters, you know, how to do all this stuff, right? The power use, so but you know, that, that perspective, and then I came back to California and I was in the computer industry, before getting back into diving. So I actually brought that perspective with me into diving because what was happening at the time, was that there was new technology. It wasn’t really new, and it had been around developed by the military, the US Navy and the 30s. And I’m speaking of mixed gas technology, they developed it because they needed to go deeper to rescue sailors from down sobs than in the 1960s the commercial divers, you know, a winter mix because they’re, you know, they’re they’re getting to the limits of air diving. And the oil fields are getting deeper than, you know, 70 metres 80 metres. And so they want to mix and then so what was happening is people started because the limits of air diving people starting to experiment with mixed gas diving, and it seemed really cool. There to me that it was parallel to the computer revolution that had gone on there. You’re old enough to remember the personal computer
Matt Waters 10:08
Michael Menduno 10:11
Governments have computers to start, they were the first ones. And then same same paradigm, commercial industry got computers. And it wasn’t till, you know, Apple, Steve Jobs and Apple came along and said, gee, we should give this technology to consumers and see what they do with it. And that’s exactly what happened in the diving world, makes gas technology moved from government to commercial to being scaled down to the consumer, the sport market. And we were the guinea pigs. You know, unfortunately, unlike the government and commercial diving that had tonnes of money, you know, centralised control protocols and standards, the sport diving community, it was just a do it yourself. You’re on your own kids. Yeah. And as a result, there were there were actually a lot of fatalities in the early days from IX gas diving, because people were just figuring out how to do it. It took us as a community, a decade to sort that out. We eventually did. But, yeah, we paid the price.
Matt Waters 11:14
So right back in those days, because if you were starting to effectively, you know, intelligently play with this gear, we were just left to do your own thing. There was no kind of guidance you were where you’re mapping the way forward.
Michael Menduno 11:32
pret Well, pretty much I mean, they were what I found at the time, so I got, I came back, you know, from Washington, very much wanting to get into diving. And there was actually an incident that that pushed me into tech diving, there was a citizen science group called the Cordell expeditions. It was a group of Silicon Valley software engineers, they bought a boat. They were all divers. And so they were doing, you know, bioessays surveys of the deep sea mounts off the coast of Monterey in California. And they were looking for volunteers for an expedition. So but you had to have had to have a dry suit, have to dive doubles, et cetera. So I got myself a set of doubles, I got myself a dry suit, I you know, and I went and tried out, did some dives with these people. And I got accepted. And it was just mine. You know, it was just incredible. They were doing dives to it was like 50 5060 metre dives on there. No gas for Decaux. I mean, it was, you know, looking back now, but I was just thrilled with it, you know, and back in those days, remember that the story was there’s nothing to see below 40 metres. And you should never do decompression dives. You know, never ever. So these guys were going deeper than 40 metres, there was lots of stuff to see. And they were doing decompression dives. So this got me to start looking around and realise that there were all these small groups, pockets of individuals in the open water community, the cave community, and they were doing these dives, but nobody was talking about it because you weren’t supposed to do it, it was taboo. And in fact, none of the publications would talk about it. I I finished this expedition with Cordell and wanting to do a story about it. I must have gone to 10 or 15 magazines, and everyone turned me down. You’re not supposed to do that, you know, you’re not supposed to be doing those kinds of knives. So eventually, I found a brave soul, Ken Lloyd’s from Discover diving. And so he wrote, he published my story, but not without all sorts of, you know, warnings This is beyond the realm of sport diving. Never, never do this never did that. But that got me going and realising that there are all these groups doing this, but nobody was talking. Everyone was just trying to figure it out on their own, you know, going to commercial diving tables, reading the US Navy manuals, stuff like that. So I was hungry for information. And there wasn’t an so I thought hell I’ll start a newsletter, I’ll you know, I’ll start a magazine or a newsletter to talk about this stuff. Because I was so interested in that. That led me to finally octacore my first magazine and getting going and, and ending up pulling really started getting these communities to start talking together because we were really very unsafe, because no one could compare notes or, you know, there’s just no information. Yeah, so that was my goal from the get go.
Matt Waters 14:31
And what year was this? Well, yeah, did you start with Africa?
Michael Menduno 14:34
This was I launched Aqua Cora January 9090. Back then Dima was in January every year. Okay. So that was my first my first deal. And I brought my magazine it was like Do you deep dive Do you decompression dive and I remember a group led by Al Hornsby from Paddy kind of marched over to my booth, looked at my signage and magazines, kind of pierced through it and then stormed off that because again, you weren’t, you weren’t supposed to even though people were doing these dives, you weren’t supposed to talk about it, which, you know, had some logic to because you didn’t want to. You didn’t want to entice people who shouldn’t be doing it, who had no experience or etc. To be trying these kinds of dives, likely to just get themselves hurt or killed. So
Matt Waters 15:21
yeah, I, I don’t know you can, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but back in 1990, I would assume that there’s not many kind of guidance or standards on that type of diving. So to be fair, there
Michael Menduno 15:38
were no classes yet. Yeah, right. There were no agencies trading it. I looked into there was a guy named Captain Billy Dean’s Key West diver yeah to dive Senator called Key West diver and Key West. His his longtime deep air diver, his best friend John Ormsby died on the Andrea Doria on a deep air dive in 1986. got tangled up in the wreck of Billy ended up recovering his body. They weren’t diving together. They’re diving to different teams. Yeah. Billy recovered the body. They actually filmed it coming up bringing it up on the watch. And that convinced Billy that there had to be a better way to do these kind of dies. And so he started investigating hooked up with Dr. Bill Hamilton, who had already been helping some of the cave diving community like Bill stone and Chuck Exley. So some of the W early W KPP. People like Bill Gavin, and Bill me. So he created a tech centre, the first tech diving Centre in Key West. I was out there in 1991 training with him. And the way you’re trained in those days you came out You said I’m coming up for a week or two weeks or three weeks. And you’ll learn to mix gas and you learn to carry stage bottles and you you just learned how to do kind of apprenticing with Billy. And this again was Dick Rakowski was around with the International Association of nitrox divers. This was before Tom mount joined. So that was that was that was it you just learned from other people who knew how to do it. Bill stone with the famous we’ll call it springs 1987 project. I mean, again, 30 people but they were just figuring out what to do and how to do it. Yeah, you know, and Bill eventually wrote his book, which was a Bible for us in the early days. The agency started coming in I think Tom actually formed iantd top mount this would be in 1992. And then from there, Andy was there really to well, it was Andy American, nitrox, divers, international iantd. And then a couple of years, and psi, hell lots with professional Scuba Association International. And then a few years later, I think in 1995, Brett Gillum and Joe Odom formed TDI technical diving International. And then from there there, there was training age. Yeah,
Matt Waters 18:03
yeah, that’s when people started really focused on how to train to do this. Kind of.
Michael Menduno 18:09
Right. And it was a bit of a wild, it was definitely the Wild West. A lot of people were dying. I mean, this was a real concern to us at Aqua core, is that, you know, there were all these spate of fatalities. 1992 was particularly bad. There was a series of deaths in Cape country on the Victoria and then a famous, well, well known father and son team the rouses Chris and Chrissy rouse died on diving a wreck called a Yoo hoo, which later became the UAT 67 of the John Chatterton and Richie Koehler and found it was a you know, 6070 metre dive. They were diving in on air, even though they were mixed certified, but they wanted to save some money. Well, they both lost their lives. So there was a lot of pressure for the tech community to get its act together. You know, and stop killing people, you know, people had to stop diving. And so we that was the first tech conference that year and 99, January 93. And that was the focus, like, how do we do this safer? Really, that was up of course, focus from the beginning, you know, perform safety and performance. Those are the two things and you really can only dive as deep as you can dive deep safely. Yeah, right otherwise, particularly for sport divers, otherwise, it takes all the hitter don’t come, you know, get hurt.
Matt Waters 19:36
Yeah. And the thing we’re going to point out here as well, are the important element here as well for those that are younger than you and I in the 90s the only form of information that you could get was through books and by people with experience. It wasn’t by jumping on Google and just asking a question to find out what someone’s put on Wikipedia. So
Michael Menduno 19:57
we’re on dial up modems remember the
Matt Waters 19:58
US Jesus I had a, I had a games console in the 80s. It was a Commodore 64. And it took 45 minutes to load with a scratching screen that usually failed anyway. Rest of my shitty pixelated plane go across.
Michael Menduno 20:14
Yeah. Yeah, so printed printed matter was was was the issue, I was under constant pressure to get the issues out quicker. It was always hard because I had to raise the money, you know, pay the printer, I had to get advertising, et cetera. But people were hungry for information back then. And again, you couldn’t just go online. There were forums right. CompuServe and other forums, text base forums, but there wasn’t a visual web. Like there is today. Yeah.
Matt Waters 20:45
Yeah. And so do you remember the first issue? I mean, you must remember the first issue? Have you still got a copy of the first issue?
Michael Menduno 20:58
Yeah, around a lot of issues. Yeah. The first issue is called under pressure. Yes. And the the lead story was call it let’s call it high tech diving. This was a bill Hamilton’s term for it really wasn’t high technology. It was, you know, technology that have been around for 60 years. But it was new to the sport community. Yeah. Yeah. And so it sort of took off from that. I had a lot of great advisors, people like Bill, Bill Hamilton, Hillstone. Others who got involved with us.
Matt Waters 21:40
Yeah, a few days and
Michael Menduno 21:43
heady times. Yeah.
Matt Waters 21:45
At what point? Was there a turning point where all of a sudden, there was a kind of explosive explosion of attention on the magazine, because this is clearly something that’s significantly new. And very important within the diving industry.
Michael Menduno 22:02
Yeah. What happened? Interesting, and it evolves the name tech dive into so in the early days, again, we call it advanced diving, that, you know, the high tech diver, we didn’t know what to call it. But there was a great constant, great upset, the recreational diving community was not happy with tech diving coming out of the closet. Skin diver magazine went on a whole rampage against nitrox against deep diving, etc. And it was fueled by fatalities, you know that there are fatalities. And so they didn’t want anything to do a tech diving. So we needed something to call it, it clearly wasn’t recreational diving, what to call it. And we cast about, as I mentioned earlier, I have friends who are tech, rock climbers, technical climate, where you, you’d rate a rock faces a five point 10 or a 5.8, you know, based on degrees of difficulty. And it just seemed to have the right ring for what we are doing technical diving. And I even envisioned a time where you would be able to rate dives based on their degree of difficulty, you know, why not? So, I in in our winter, the fall of 1991, I published you know, I use the technical diving on the magazine. So what happened was Patti, meanwhile, was getting all these queries from people as this was coming out, like, when’s Patti gonna do some of this? So that fall drew Richardson? Who was that a vice president? Of course, he’s now the CEO penned an article in the undersea journal, which, you know, had huge distribution, called technical diving, does Patty heavens happen to say, I think I was quoted in the article and so and that put it on the map, you know, it was like, boom, that cemented the name, and got everyone who’s like, what’s technical diving, you know, so that, that was like 9092. So that was really an inflection point that people started getting into,
Matt Waters 24:01
you must be quite, quite proud of that little elements as well, you know, what’s technical? Well, let me tell you something.
Michael Menduno 24:10
I became sort of the I don’t know the arc of it, you know, archivist and the scribe of technical. So, you know, just writing about it. And, and, you know, our, the whole philosophy with the magazine too, was to aim it. I wanted to, we were aimed at the bill stones, and the Billy Dean’s and the check X leaves, and those people to read it and those people to write for. And then my strategy was everyone else could just, you know, if they’re interested, they would move their way up. So that was kind of the approach I took with Aqua core. And it’s, it’s actually an approach I take with my magazine today in depth is sort of aqua core for the 21st century, at least I think of it that way. But that, that same formula, you know, to write for the people who really care about this and are, you know, really into it. Yeah, you know, and then
Matt Waters 24:58
it’s the same reason I started this blog. Just just for, you know, to feed inquisitive minds, and it’s so addictive. Yeah. So addictive. So that was a nice little lean and let’s talk about in depth. When did that one first come into play.
Michael Menduno 25:13
So in depth, we started we’re just completing our fourth year. It’s a project in my gut. I took after Aqua core went out of business in 1996. I went on a hiatus. Just being a reporter I wrote for Wired Magazine, Scientific American news, we, a lot of the business magazines that suck and got back, came back to diving about 2010. I started writing again, and Jared Jablonski was from GE, the founder of GE was an old friend of mine from back in the day and we started talking about the possibility of, of creating a new sort of magazine that wouldn’t wouldn’t you know, God had its membership magazine called Quest. It’s still but kind of a broader magazine for the whole tech community. And we got talking about it and 2018 We, it was sort of time and so we just decided to push it out there. It’d be an online magazine, a monthly magazine, and hosted by G UE, but not for G necessarily. It really is aimed at the whole broader tech, and mission oriented diving community scientific diving, that sort of thing. And yeah, so we started it monthly magazine. And here we are four years later, we started without any advertising or sponsors for the first year. And then second year, we added sponsors and and then this last year, I added a team of people. Prior to that, it was just myself and I had a couple of people to help me implement it. Amanda White, who was the GME marketing director at the time. And then this last spring, I brought on some people production director and art director, etc. So now, we have about four or five of us producing the magazine and loved it.
Matt Waters 27:05
Okay. And obviously keeping you rather busy.
Michael Menduno 27:09
Yeah. And it’s the only tech diving magazine on the planet. I mean, all the other magazines, of course, have tech in them. But their general purpose. And so we’re kind of freed from that we’re just focused on on tech and kind of high end diving and in the likes,
Matt Waters 27:28
yeah, yeah. What about the people that might be listening to the show right now that aren’t necessarily tech orientated just yet, but starting to get inquisitive about it? Is, is in depth a good place for them to start?
Michael Menduno 27:41
Very much. So. I mean, we, you know, good question. Yeah. You know, if you were just starting, it will point you all articles we were. And we we’ve taken this approach on purpose. We there, it’s information dense. So we have hyperlinks to stories, each issue we have each story, we have a dive deeper sections, so you can peruse if you’re interested in this, you can go further at cetera. So I you know, I think it is a good resource for for people who are interested in this, we don’t pull any punches, and we don’t dumb stuff down. And you know, and I magazines tend to do that. And I don’t know why, you know, just because someone’s a new diver doesn’t mean they’re a new human. You have to kind of make it real simple. A lot of, you know, obviously, our sport tends to be more well heeled people, more educated people, etc. Because it takes money to be a diver. So we, you know, have a lot of intelligent, cool people in our in our world. And, yeah, so we try to appeal to those people.
Matt Waters 28:53
And to be fair, the people that stay within, dive in and do it as a pastime that they very quickly get addicted to tend to have the mindset of being able to understand a little bit of the technical structure of the components you’re using. So
Michael Menduno 29:05
I was gonna say one of the things I love about tech diver in particular, it makes it a little different than recreational maybe that it just has all the elements, right? It’s got science, it’s got technology, it’s got spirit. It’s got just the zen of being there in the water. So, to me some of the academic aspects of diving, physiology and everything else, kind of add to the richness for me, yeah. You know, back in the day, in the early days, it was sort of binary, you know, there was recreational diving and technical diving and nothing in between. Whereas now, I think things have changed just because of our community’s experience and knowledge. You know, and back then you’d walk into a store and ask about him or oxy, you know, oxygen fill, what’s that? You don’t do oxygen, whereas now you can Walk into pretty much any dive centre, dial up your mix at cetera, et cetera. I think it’s more continuum these days, you know, there’s just sport diving. And it really kind of depends on what you want to do you know, how deep you want to go? What do you want to go see? And if you want to all you want to do that, well, here’s the training and tools you need, you know, it’s, it’s sort of wide open to feel people’s imaginations and their interests, you know,
Matt Waters 30:27
yeah. And that’s
Michael Menduno 30:27
a point to go wherever they want, it’s all available.
Matt Waters 30:30
And that was a point I’m gonna kind of gonna come on there as well that, you know, that, that mass gap at chasm between technical and recreational isn’t there anymore. You know, I’ve only got to go down to chowder bay here in Sydney, or Manly Beach. And you can see CCI alignment for recreational divers that are just gonna go and have a play for a few hours. It’s it’s no longer a massive bridge.
Michael Menduno 30:57
Yeah, we’ve we’ve talked about that, you know, 1010 years ago, actually. breather forum three, the, you probably remember this, there was a big push on the recreational rebreather. You know, we saved maybe closed circuit rebreathers, which use pure oxygen and a little more complicated for technically, but you’d have semi closed rebreathers, which just sort of bleed the gas in and use a single gas like nitrox. They’re much easier, much simpler to use. And so the thinking was that that was you know, every like, why wouldn’t you be on a rebreather? It’s quieter, you get extended gas. But it never really materialised. I think it’s still might. One of the things about diving, that’s interesting. It’s a cannon. Most of the world is water, and 70%. And increasingly more as everything melts, yeah, we are the people that go underwater. So we’re really important in some ways, but we’re just like this tiny little group of, you know, point oh, one humans. But as a result of that, there’s no there’s no investment in diving, there’s no money or very little money and therefore, product life cycles. You know, you buy a rebreather, it’s good for six or eight or 10 years, I don’t know, you know, whereas our computers or watches or you know, have six month life lifecycle of a year. They’re all so So diving moves very slowly, again, because there’s not hundreds of millions of dollars poured into it. A colleague of mine, Darcy Kieran, with the business of diving Institute, estimates that the whole diving market is about if you take away travel, because that is a little more complicated. It’s about $4 billion a year of equipment and training for a billion that’s like iPhone sales for Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s time so so it’s taken a while for things to progress, but, but they are, you know, like nitrox, I mean, I trucks has become pretty ubiquitous. And there’s not really a good reason to die there. But though people still do for for finances, and just location stuff, but so yeah. So I think it’s we’re moving in that way where? For the small percentage of us who breathe?
Matt Waters 33:19
When Yeah, it’s actually a bit of an eye opener when you think about in a larger scale like that, isn’t it? I think there’s a lot of divers. When you look at one of the guys that assists in running the group in Texas, there’s like, seven and a half 1000 divers, just in Texas, and over 4000 here in in Sydney, anything. Oh, there’s there’s a lot more people than what you think. But then when you put it on that platform, you know, 4 billion a year. That’s it. Not that big at all.
Michael Menduno 33:47
I think they’re estimating. He was asking that same study about 7 million active divers globally, which sounds like a huge effort. But you know, as it gets into fuzziness, right, the person who dives once a year on holiday or twice, which is great. There are a lot of those. A lot of those right but dedicated diving every week. Yes, there. You know, we’re just we’re a small population. Yeah. I don’t know why. Because it’s so fun. Yeah, I think everyone wants to
Matt Waters 34:19
do it. Well, there must be a lot of numbers in there as well that are just people that have done their ticket when they’ve been backpacking in Asia 25 years ago or whatever. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So speaking the same was speaking to diving when we’re talking about the magazines. What about you? What are you still dive in? Do you get chance to get out and go down?
Michael Menduno 34:40
Yeah, no, I definitely do. I’ve gone back and slowly. Well, I went back a few years ago, maybe five six years ago and because I had been cave diving for a while and got my research. recertified as a full cave diver, so I love cave diving out here shipwreck diving, certainly. So I tried to dive as much as I can him but it’s not as much as I want. But yeah, still active diving I think last year the year before I went, I’ve been trying to do my Gu e certs as well since since I work with Gu E. So I got my tech one and et cetera, and just just got recertified on the Liberty rebreather, I had been certified about a decade ago on the AP, the inspiration. And so recently just did the dive soft and waiting for my unit to show up.
Matt Waters 35:32
Okay, what do you think of the dive soft? Must be pretty sexy.
Michael Menduno 35:37
I think it’s I think it’s a really great machine. They’re a very innovative company. And, you know, I think they’ve helped move rebreather technology forward. And all rebreather technology as has as advanced, you know, from you know, rebreathers came out about 20, late 1990s, Martin Parker’s AP inspiration was in 1998. And I think the kiss 1999 followed by everyone else. I mean, today, they’re think they’re 2526 manufacturers global for small markets. So some of them are very small. But, you know, they’ve gotten much more reliable than than 20 years ago, I think. rebreathers have?
Matt Waters 36:22
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think that’s it as technology advances, and, you know, people learn more about it, the techie geeks get their nose into how things work, it’s, it’s a no brainer is gonna get safer.
Michael Menduno 36:37
And we’ve gotten safer, too. It’s not just been the equipment. I mean, I would say most of the problems probably diving in general, but certainly with rebreathers are human factors. It’s not the machine breaks and you you die, it’s you forget to turn on your oxygen, or don’t pack your scrubber or, and so the use of checklists, which was a big emphasis a decade ago, I think that is helped. And just awareness. You know, what Gareth lock from diver calls, creating a just culture where we can share our mistakes and, and all learn from them without blame or judgement. So, you know, I think we’re, I think we’ve made improvements. Yeah, sure.
Matt Waters 37:21
I think God has done an amazing job and, and bringing that forward. You know, I’d say it’s that, you know, having the balls to say, right, the awkward conversations or the conversations we need to have rather than avoid, you know, right. And it’s good.
Michael Menduno 37:37
I just took his, his in person seminar. I mean, I had, you know, taken online stuff and read the books, and I met Gareth, about a decade ago when he was just getting started. But I took the actual two day online seminar. It was fantastic. It was really a good a good, great experience. Yeah. To see all these principles play, rather than being lectured about, you know, these various concepts. You could actually see them in play while you work through the simulation with your team. Yeah.
Matt Waters 38:08
Did you do the like the asteroid simulation?
Michael Menduno 38:12
Yes. Yeah, exactly. What jumps? Yeah, it’s really
Matt Waters 38:16
Yeah. I did the the two days, kind of as a tester, isn’t it the whole the taster, the Essentials, where he’s got the three, five minute videos. And then he was down here, Holding, holding a course at Bondi dive centre, and asked if I’d like to jump on it and join. So yeah, fantastic couple of days. And it harkens back to my time in the military as well, because, you know, it’s heavily weighted, especially in the Air Force, about human factors. And it’s, it’s enlightening, you know, to see that people are jumping on board with it and, and taking it forward. It’s really good
Michael Menduno 38:57
to apply this body of knowledge to which came out of military and Air Force and to die. Yeah, yeah. results that come out. It’s really
Matt Waters 39:06
Yeah. And just getting rid of that. Almost embarrassment factor. Hey, yeah, you’re fucked up. Let’s have a conversation about it. Rather than being sheepish and hiding on the boat.
Michael Menduno 39:16
Right, I have to give a shout out to Stratos cos with the book close call. And if people haven’t read that, definitely recommend it. It’s in the, in the spirit of human factors, human diver. It’s a story as of about 6667 high profile diving individuals and close calls and mistakes that they made. So it’s a great read someone called again. Yeah, the whole idea is if if the top a close college called it’s called. Yeah, you can Google it. It’ll come up but it’s a it’s really good reading. And again, about 60 individuals from our Around the world, you know, people you know, and mistakes they made. So in screwed up, I have a story in there and embarrassing story. But you know, that’s the point. You know, we don’t we don’t go out and plan to do something stupid and die or get hurt. But we’re humans, so we’re valuable and so errors happen and we need to create system so that as Gareth says we fail safe. So you screw up but you don’t die as you just you just get a good lesson to go Holy shit. I won’t do that again.
Matt Waters 40:34
Well, I know you mentioned chain I’ve just picked up on that you said that you’ve got a story in the book yourself and urge people to go and read the book. I do. But let’s have it from the horse’s mouth. What’s the story brother?
Michael Menduno 40:48
Oh, god yeah, my embarrassing story. So interestingly, as far as I was, I this was a came right after my cave class. So I was up in cave country doing you know, recertification with the National Speleological Society cave diving section. You know, diving, we were up there diving. So just had finished that. And I was gonna go down to the keys for a couple of days. And a friend of mine who’s a dive instructor and runs the history of diving museum down there said, Let’s go diving. You know, it’s like, great. So I think it was in this summer, it was warm, but I just had all my cave gear. So I just brought that she was a recreational one, but I don’t have anything else to dodge. So and right before that, like a day or two before I got a call from Gareth or an email saying, hey, you know, I’m looking for close call stories, if you know of any, or have any, you know, let me know. So I didn’t respond because I didn’t didn’t think of anything. Anyway. So long story short, so we were diving on the Spiegel grove. There’s some current we do our first and I have a pair of all aluminium 80s I mean, I’ve been diving one oh fours and 120s. So my mindset was, you know, lots of gas. And we don’t have that much. But anyway, we went down the Rex, the deck of the Rex at about 30 metres. There was some current we went down, swam around, and came back up and I was just, I had like, half my gas equivalent of an aluminium ad. And so we’re gonna do a second dive, there’s no gas to be had on board and then stage bottles and and nothing no refill. People just, you know, my, my dive partners swapped out tanks. And I thought, well, you know, I just have this funny feeling like, yeah, that’s not really enough. Yes. But I thought, Well, no, it’s a recreational dive, you know, we’ll go down 30 mile swim around a few minutes and come up. No big deal, right. So we go to the there were, there was peer pressure, too, because I hadn’t died with her before. And it’s like, you know, what, I’m gonna be a dick and go mad. I’m gonna sit up this next dive. I don’t have enough gas. So sorry. So as as we’re gonna jump, she jumped in first. And as I was about to jump in the divemaster, handed me a line and said, do not let go. So I jumped in. And it was like this ripping. I mean, it’s like flag. Like your mask. So there was a group decompressing there were some tech divers decompressing it at three metres. So we actually literally had to climb over them, because if you let go down, you would in history. Yeah. And what’s worse is when I jumped in, had a new pair of fins, and my fin came off like it’s the strap stayed on but the foot, my foot popped out of the pocket. So that’s it. So I tried to get as like, there’s no way I can deal with this. Have to go down to the bottom and then fix it. So you know, we climbed over and climbed down the rope because you couldn’t let go. We get to the rack and I look and it’s like eight 900 psi. I thought nobody would just do a quick and then right but I didn’t communicate this well to my partner and she started swimming off and there’s a door in the rack that we had done early in the morning and she’s swimming off to go in this door and it’s like no I’m flashing my light she doesn’t didn’t respond. Another little fault Another contributing factor we didn’t really go over light signal you know, I’m Tech divers, I got my light and signals and she recreational anyway, she was going in so I that decision at that moment saved my life. I think I thought I better go getter. So I swam hard chased her down grab the fin justice she went inside you know said call the dive we got it. We gotta go. Turn to exit you know, now gas was getting low and I was a long swim and suddenly I’m breathing and it’s like But I had gotten my game set I still had, you know, like three or 400 psi, but it was not coming out, you know. So at that point, I had this existential moment of like, holy shit, I can’t breathe. What am I gonna do you know? So fortunately, she was following me I hit the line. I signalled off the gas, and we shared her aluminium at gas going up. I was horribly and it just, you know, it’s just one of those and I was worried still like getting to the surface. I have no, if we got separator design happened, you know, there’s no buoyancy, I would just drown. So, are we both what? So anyway, I made it to the top divemaster Are you okay? It’s like now. Anyway, and then once I got once they actually got on board, there’s I had a little gaffed I think it was just a pressure. Yeah. So yeah, so about two days later, I woke up in the middle of the night is still in the keys and like in a cold sweat. Realising that holy shit, you know, I almost died. I could have very easily died. And that’s, you know? Yeah. So I called Gareth
in the middle of the night, which is morning in the UK and said, Gara they got his story why you
Matt Waters 46:23
don’t ever ask me for a story again, before I go dive in.
Michael Menduno 46:32
So what was interesting, though, more interesting is like within an hour of this happening, I get, you know, just because I’m a known person. Already in cave country, I got a call. Instructor one of my instructors say, I heard yellow. Anyway, so interesting, too, on the question of just culture. So I got my cave card sent to me. And I was supposed to get a double card. The agency which shall go unnamed, I was I done the class, and I was gonna get both k from both of them. But I never got the agency card. And so eventually, I call the VAT instructor. And I said, Ah, I was supposed to get the card. What happened? He goes, Well, we heard about your little incident, and we don’t feel you’re ready for a cave card yet. Yeah, you need to do a little more work.
Matt Waters 47:27
Michael Menduno 47:28
So anyway, that’s that’s the story. Yeah.
Matt Waters 47:32
Judgement. I was gonna say yeah. Anyway, after the after the course is done.
Michael Menduno 47:39
Right. Right. You know, so so, you know, I never thought I would run out. Yes, but you can you can.
Matt Waters 47:48
Thankfully, diving with a with a woman. She’s probably got a full tank still when you’re out. Plenty of air to share.
Michael Menduno 47:56
She was very cool. Lisa, my friend Lisa. Yeah, she was very cool. And was there and did all the right stuff. So again, that that could have been a disaster situation if she had not followed me back. And I turned around and there was no one there. You’d have been taken. I could have gone for the surface, but that would not be so good either. Yeah. And I would have been at the with the current
that would have been at I’ve never
Matt Waters 48:22
seen them anyway to Mexico. Yeah. Right. So So what’s on your diver from? Have you got a particular style of diving that you prefer for you? Do you go out and seek cave diving more than anything?
Michael Menduno 48:38
More I find? I am more a cave diver. I think that shipwrecks are quite I guess I’m more natural person. Nature, caves, reefs walls that I like that stuff more. I found in my later years, I was up in Canada diving. This spring. It was like six degrees. And I didn’t have heat. You know, I just had all my underwear. My, my, my underwear on. I find warm water. I’m moving. I’m becoming more of a web. More of a recreational Tech Tech raise. Yeah, I think in my old age, but I just love being in the water. I mean, I’m a free diver as well baby free diver and swimmer. It’s just great. You know, just just being in the waters.
Matt Waters 49:27
Yeah, it’s my exam place. I mean, even if I’m not diving, I tend to go down to the pool. And just, if I’ve got a lot of things to think about and what I’ve got to do for the week, I just do 50 100 laps and think about everything and just get the head in the right space. Good to go.
Michael Menduno 49:40
Yeah. I can totally relate. It’s funny
Matt Waters 49:45
you mentioned Canada. I was I was only having a chat last week with a good mate of mine, Phil, he’s he started out as a customer of mine and then he’s turned into a good buddy and he lives in Canada and works in oil fields and you know bloody Hold, and COVID has forced him into having a dive in Canada. So he’s gone from seeking out warm water diving with me all the time to having to get a dry suit on and have it go in cold water. And it’s actually started to enjoy it. To my surprise. I think
Michael Menduno 50:17
I mean cold cold water diving is beautiful. Yeah. And there’s certainly some great, incredible place, but it is easier just to be in a skin and you know,
Matt Waters 50:29
we’re heading out to Indonesia in December. May the message just have a couple of weeks out there. 30 degrees every day. 16 to 23 degree water. Perfect. That’ll do for me. Yeah. Right. Let’s jump on to the rebreather for
Michael Menduno 50:48
the rebreather. Yeah, yeah. So yeah. So this is a meeting really bringing together industry people, you know, vendors, instructors, people professionally involved with rebreathers. And then the science community, there’ll be a science meeting at its core. And it’s really to help move our knowledge forward our understanding of rebreather technology and the juicers, with the goal of improving safety and performance. There’s been a lot of research and works from over the last 10 years since the last one at that time. 10 years ago. Sport diving, the rebreather community was a bit of a bit of a crisis in that there was a lot of fatalities. In fact, Dr. Andrew Fock, from Melbourne, Adelaide, Melbourne, Melbourne, I believe He’s based in hyperbaric dock and a rebreather diver did a paper for the forum that estimated and you’ve probably heard these stats, that diving rebreather, you’re 10 times more likely to die diving a rebreather than open circuit Scuba. So anyway, the there’s been a lot of new science. I think safety as we’ve talked about this improved, you know, some of the initiatives like checklists we want to revisit and the new one request is mouthpiece retaining strings. These are standard in military rebreather diving. And the idea is if you lose consciousness, you won’t lose your mouthpiece and drown immediately. So your your saveable. Yeah, point. So there’s been, again, work on that. And there’s a question of the efficacy of these things. But again, there’s been work on that, looking at full face masks as well with like the Thai rescue. There’s new technologies, solid state sensors have improved other things. So. So it’s a time to get people together and kind of go through the science suite. My science team for this is Dr. Simon Mitchell. Dr. Neil Pollack, Dr. Frog frog and Tillman from damn us, Dan world, and John Clark from the Navy experimental diving, and he is the retired scientific. So they put together the programme. And the idea is we’ll have kind of the best people representing all these different topics within rebreather diving, focused on safety, physiology, the technology itself and then training. So we expect about 300 people give or take, we’re going to video it as well as have a scientific proceedings. The video won’t be live video, but after the event, we’ll have on demand video to be available for me awesome. Yeah. So the the purpose is really to kind of advance are the communities us and the military? Well, we’re not only we’re really featuring the the groups that use rebreathers, which are tech divers, scientific divers and military. I mean, commercial divers have some use of rebreathers. But it’s it’s basically a bailout bailout system for seven years. So which is very different than than guide diving? So yeah, so we’ll have those communities represented and, and we’re going to hold it in Malta this year, the first three, we breather forums were held in the US, and it just seemed like a good time to get out of the US and Europe. Dan, Europe is a client of mine, you know, editor with him, et cetera. So they seem to natural group to host to be one of our hosts. So they’re a sponsor, Dan, in the US as a sponsor, Patty. Inherited which is a quasi government organisation that controls the cultural resources manages them like bricks, so we’ll have good shipwreck diving along with the scientists some
Matt Waters 54:44
great shame that diving out there is no
Michael Menduno 54:48
Yeah, yeah. Some historic wrecks, because they were in the middle of all the shipping. Yes. From you know, antiquity for
Matt Waters 54:56
- Yeah. Yeah. And you’re gonna have that But representatives from people that are putting this technology to you, so I’m just thinking off the top of my head, like the likes of Matt Carter with the marine Projects Foundation. And, you know,
Michael Menduno 55:13
I talked to him, I think he’s gonna be there will have been to I shouldn’t say we’ll have an exhibit area for people to bring their rebreathers. And they’ll be you know, we have a pool for demos and tie downs. And the like, so, yeah. So I think it’ll be kind of the professional leadership, if you will, of the dive on the sports side of the sport industry. And
Matt Waters 55:37
yeah, yeah, not necessarily needed and people that use this stuff. I mean, the people that are going to be that are gonna know how it’s used anyway.
Michael Menduno 55:47
Right? Yeah, there’s so they’ll be both users. Some of the topics for us, I mean, people like Richard Harris and Craig challen from the wet mules. One of our presenters is going to be Andy Pipkin, who’s anesthesiologist and explore with Carson underwater research. They’re doing these huge big push dives in Florida, and then the US will have some of the military, Kevin GRE. Probably someone you heard of, had developed rebreathers. And now he actually has developed a military rebreather. He works for Avon protection, and works kind of in the military side. So he’ll be there people like that. So it should be it should
Matt Waters 56:28
be sounds awesome. Is there a is there an after party even Bill stone gonna be up on stage with guitars in hand again?
Michael Menduno 56:38
That was so fun. There will be a banquet evening and we’ll have some music. I don’t know. Well, that maybe we have to invite the Aztecs. Bill, Bill’s gonna be underground. Unfortunately, every spring the reason we were able to get bill to come to us tech this year was because it was in the fall, like every spring bill is underground. It’s sistema Shev or y la, you know, exploring. So he’ll be there during the review there for him so we won’t be able to get him to come up
Matt Waters 57:09
and that guy lives under that Wunderground.
Michael Menduno 57:14
He’s amazing. Bill. Bill’s definitely one of my
Matt Waters 57:17
Yes. I enjoyed watching his presentation. And unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to talk to him. One on one, but maybe at some point in the future, maybe even get him on the show. You never know. He’d be
Michael Menduno 57:28
a good one on your Yeah, it’d be a good one on
Matt Waters 57:31
your buddies within time to come on. But you got you guys go back the way
Michael Menduno 57:41
we do. Now he was early on one of my heroes from early on, and we’ll call it springs that that was really, you know, out of nowhere, it was sort of like a moonshot, you know, from zero to hero, I mean, a moonshot in the early tech days. You know, we had Air Products as a sponsor, and I have that book. Still though, we’ll call it springs Project 1987. That was like our Bible, we just pour over it and annotate it for a long time. So I got to meet him early in the day along with people like Shaq, Exley, and others. So it was a very, very heavy time. Bill was in our bill was in our seat to issue Yeah, Bill was in our closed circuit, each issue of aqua core was named. And this was the rebreather issue C two. And so I had a big interview with Bill called stone that was in that in that issue. So and in fact, I remember this my weird mind. It was the first issue that we use the word fucking issue. So well, we’re an adult. I’ve magazine so we should run it. Yeah.
Matt Waters 59:03
I’ve gotten into the habit. Now. I don’t know what days I just I click that E for explicit on every podcast that I put out, because I think the word fuck is just, it’s just used in common day, everyday language nowadays, it’s not the 1980s where you get slapped around the back of the head from a small boy for using it in the high street, you know?
Michael Menduno 59:20
Right, so we can
Matt Waters 59:24
just leave it in if it works bollocks to. Today’s Yeah, so what’s, what’s next on the agenda for you? Obviously, you got the foreign coming up. When?
Michael Menduno 59:37
Yeah, I’m just trying to get through. Lots of travel this year. We’re actually headed to well, I’m going I’m headed on Saturday, Florida, for the GE conference. And there’ll be showcasing a new kind of a new level of training called Project diver. And this is training not just to go diving, but say you want to organise an expedition on your shipwrecks? How do you go about doing that? Like, what do you need? How do you do it? So it’s a training on that, and then go into the G conference. And then of course, Dima is right after that. So I’ll be Dima. And then, at the end of November, I’m headed to Malta, to do a site visit to kind of get all our final arrangements.
Matt Waters 1:00:24
So what you mean is you’ve got to go and look at a big hole and then spend five days diving ship racks. I got Yeah.
Michael Menduno 1:00:33
Exactly. Exactly. So I’m really, I’m really loving it. I made a decision a bunch of years ago, four or five years ago, now that I was just going to do diving stuff, no corporate stuff. And I mostly stopped to that. And I’m just very happy and grateful to be doing this. It’s just, I think we have an extraordinary community. And, you know, it’s just really happy to be a part of
Matt Waters 1:01:03
- So it’s a great community. I mean, I’ve done much the same as you. You know, got into the dive industry, then COVID kind of flipped things up for a while, and got back into working for someone else, which was okay for a spell, I don’t know, 1416 months or something like that. But I’ve now walked away from that as well. So I’m now full time focused on the dive industry again, so with the podcast and then oh, good free agency, the travel company and a few other things the shop coming online. I’ve got an online store coming up soon. Just it’s their happy place. You know, it’s good people surrounding it, you know, and it doesn’t matter. It’s a great yeah, I see diving as a great leveller. Everybody’s a diver and when you’re under the water, you just equal you know, I love that about it. I absolutely love it. Yeah. Right. meaty. I should sign off and let you get to dinner. Is it a dinner date tonight? Are you just having a normal one?
Michael Menduno 1:02:01
I do. Yeah, dinner dates.
Matt Waters 1:02:05
Well have it guys welfare. This has been
Michael Menduno 1:02:07
so good talk. I feel I feel like we could probably go on for another hour or so easily. So
Matt Waters 1:02:12
easy, so easy. And tell everybody, anyone you come across if they want to come on the show, and they got stuff to talk about. Let’s do it. I just love putting it out there. Everybody’s welcome it.
Michael Menduno 1:02:23
Matt Waters 1:02:25
Hey, guys, if you would like to know more about the content that Michael produces, you can click in the links in the show notes. Or you can head on over to the usual social media sites. And also, the in depth magazine can be found on the G firstname.lastname@example.org. Forward slash blog, or in depth dot log. And you’ll find more of Michael’s awesome content over on the Dan Europe website. Now, if you’ve enjoyed today’s show, don’t forget to share that love with your dive buddies and let them know that we exist. If you’re feeling really generous, then we will be eternally grateful for a review on Apple or Spotify or like a following a shirt or girl a very long way to letting us know that we’re doing the right thing. Michael, it’s been an absolute pleasure. And I wish you well on your date tonight. Yeah. Hey, set, brother. And let’s keep in touch. And let me know how it all goes with. With Malta.
Michael Menduno 1:03:16
Sounds good. I’ll definitely do that. Yes. Thanks, guys. Yeah.
Matt Waters 1:03:19
Thanks for tuning in everybody and see you next time. Ciao for now.