Living the Life of a Divemaster Trainee in Khao Lak Thailand: Great Wall of China Toboggan, Arrival & The First Week

November 2019

As I mentioned in my recent site update I decided to forgo returning to gainful employment for the moment and with no small amount of encouragement from my ever supportive girlfriend decided to take the opportunity to fly out to Thailand for 2 months to pursue my divemaster certification.

The divemaster certification is different from the other scuba certifications I've been collecting as it's the start of the dive professional track aka it's where I can start guiding and assisting in teaching basic courses. (Also it's something completely different from the master diver certification which is basically a pat on the head acknowledgement you've done about as much as you can on the recreational track.)

I looked at options for doing the program locally in Southern California but the part time nature of most of the dive professionals out there meant it wouldn't be quite as involved as I really wanted. Meanwhile it just so happened that my free time corresponded with the start of the diving season in western Thailand and a friend and former student of mine had a connection with a local Thai dive shop there in Khao Lak. The shop was named Sign Scuba and they operated a liveaboard out in the Similan Islands meaning I'd get lots of opportunities to dive out there in addition to pool and classroom learning.

So one day after wrapping up my commitments to the Fall Advanced Mountaineering Program and 2019 Wilderness Travel Course in a slightly frantic weekend out in Joshua Tree I said goodbye to Jen and flew out of LAX at 1:40 am to spend the rest of the year out of the country.

Why I'm Not Going Back To Work Right Now & Site Updates


Back in May I wrote about how with the unwavering support of my lovely girlfriend I was leaving my problematic IT job and spending the summer adventuring.

And adventure I did. I racked up another 77 -ish dives. I started and finished my scuba master diver certification. Jen and I had an amazing trip to Indonesia including an incredible 8 days diving around Komodo on the Mermaid II liveboard. We then returned home for a single day before leaving again on a 17 day road trip epic of hiking, backpacking, hot springs, paddling, and diving visiting Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Banff, Jasper, and Vancouver Island. Among other things.

Jen and I did the John Muir Trail southbound in 11 days then I learned about another 280 mile Sierra thru hiking trail called the Theodore Solomons and promptly went back out and did that in 16 brutal yet memorable days. I led about 10 experience trip backpacks for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course with a wide range of awesome individuals culminating in the biennial Mount Starr King trip with Jack Kieffer.

In the meantime I dropped about 20 pounds and according to my doctor my blood pressure went from problematic and possibly requiring medication to looking great.

Once the weather turned cold I came back home and spent a frantic month diving every moment that conditions and dive buddies would allow. At the same time I wrapped up the 2019 Wilderness Travel Course while coordinating the 20th Advanced Mountaineering Program both of which had record years as far as things going slightly haywire.

So all in all it was a summer for the record books.

So here I am at the end of October which is a bit past the original deadline for returning to gainful employment. And instead of writing this from a cubicle I'm actually sitting in an airport about to fly to Thailand for two months to work on off my scuba professional certifications and hopefully spend a whole hell of a lot of time underwater in an amazing place. After that I'll be back home for the 2020 Wilderness Travel Course / Spring Advanced Mountaineering Course and and after that it's looking increasingly likely that I'll be making an attempt at the Pacific Crest Trail.

For anyone following along on my exploits you've no doubt noticed that I've done some fairly major things that I never wrote up. Those write ups are partially done and will be posted just as soon as I'm sitting still long enough to finish them. Stay tuned!

So once again I leave you with my anthem for 2019:


Diving The Cleo Street Barge (aka Foss 125) In Laguna Beach

October 11th, 2019
[Pics]
[Matt's Scuba Map]

Welcome to another extended weekday diving morning thanks to the whole not being employed thing!

Jack and I have been taking advantage of the recent ideal Laguna diving conditions and I was eager to try out some locations other than our usual Crescent / Shaws / Divers hangouts. I remembered seeing a post about the Cleo Street Barge which is one of the rare wrecks to can easily reach from the shore around here.

Two Days of Morning Dives at Crescent Bay and Shaw's Cove Laguna Beach (With Bonus Sea Turtle!)

October 6th & 7th, 2019
[PicsSunday] [PicsMonday]
[Matt's Scuba Map]

Jen still had her rental gear after yesterday's trip to the oil rigs and with shore diving conditions looking better than we'd seen in months I wasn't about to not dive.

After all:

Diving Oil Rigs Ellen, Elly, & Eureka With The Sundiver Express

October 5th, 2019
[Pics]
[Matt's Scuba Map]

I'm back in town for a few short weeks and busy letting my feet rest after a summer filled with hiking. And what better way to do that then diving my butt off?

There are three active oil rigs off the coast of Long Beach that you can dive from a boat. They are difficult dives since they take place in open water and you have to enter and exit from boats drifting around the structure. Also they all sit in water so deep that you don't have the option of reaching the bottom. And they are some of the most unique and impressive dives I've done in Southern California.

Jen and I dove them for the first time in June with the Asante dive boat and had such an amazing time we couldn't wait to go back. But a slightly frantic summer filled with out of town activities caused a bit of delay...until now! After weather conditions killed plans for a paddling / hot spring / camping trip and we were overjoyed to find last minute openings on the Sundiver Express going out this Saturday.

Diving Crystal Cove At Reef Point & Pelican Point

October 4th, 2019
[Pics]
[Matt's Scuba Map]

After yesterday's all day excursion to La Jolla Jack and I had another morning free and wanted to try something that involved a bit less driving. So we decided to head over to Crystal Cove which is located not far north of our usual stomping grounds in Laguna Beach.

Diving La Jolla Cove With The Sea Lions

October 3rd, 2019
[Pics]
[Matt's Scuba Map]

Jack and I have been taking advantage of the fact that we're both not working at the moment and getting in some more involved local dives. That means instead of just running down to Laguna and sneaking in a single tank before heading in to the office we can throw in an extra tank and drive further afield to try new areas.

I've only dove the La Jolla area once before and that was at the La Jolla Shores site last December. It was a great experience but just a soso dive and I'd been saying for a while now I wanted to go back and try it again. So with conditions in Laguna Beach looking soso Jack and I decided to give it another go on a Thursday morning.

Diving Catalina Midnight Hour Wreck, Blue Caverns & Big Geiger With The Magician Dive Boat

September 28th, 2019
[Pics]
[Matt's Scuba Map]

This weekend was supposed to be the last of the 10 or so Sierra backpacks I led over the summer for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course. But a few days before we were set to leave a flurry of participant cancellations and a incoming bad weather ended up scuttling the trip.

So what to do with a free weekend? I mean I could sit around the house, catch up on sleep, and get to all those tasks that have been piling up during my summer spent mostly on the road. But why do that when you can dive!

Jen and I found a three tank deep dive trip off Catalina on the Magician dive boat which is one of the last few I haven't been able to get out on yet. The trip was already full but when we called to put our names down for the wait list in case of any cancellations they called back in about 10 minutes letting us know we were good to go.

Newport Harbor Pizza Paddle - September 2019 We're Back -ish Edition

September 25th, 2019
[Pics] [Map]

Once a month -ish a group of us get together and paddle around Newport Harbor after work. We launch from the public beach next to the Newport Aquatic Center in a combination of kayaks and SUPs and paddle out into the main harbor where we find a restaurant that either has its own dock or is within easy walking distance of a public one.  Others sometimes meet us there and we enjoy food, beer, and socializing before paddling back to the cars in the dark. We've been doing this for years all times of the year and in pretty much any conditions. Light, dark, rain, and the dead of SoCal winter where you're tempted to put a sweater on with your flip flops.

You can find write-ups of select pizza paddles here. If you're interested in joining us send me and email and we can let you know when the next one is happening.

We suspended the regular monthly paddles in May due to the whole me not working and spending the entire summer running amok in the outdoors thing. Since then we'd only been out a single time in July and both Jen and I were missing the feeling of paddles cutting through water.

So with me officially (-ish) back in town at the end of September we jumped at the chance to fit one or two more paddles in before we would once again be launching after dark. And as an added bonus this was my first chance to try out the camera on / risk dropping my unreasonably expensive new iPhone.

Mount Lewis via Bloody Canyon WTC Experience Trip

August 17th & 18th, 2019
Mount Lewis (12,320')
Day 1: 3.5 miles, 2,200'
Day 2: 11.1 miles, 3,200'
[Pics] [CalTopo] [Map]

These days I struggle a bit to come up with peak based trips to lead for the Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course that are accessible but that I haven't done before. In 2017 I'd lead a climb of the SPS peaks Koip and Kuna from this trailhead and found it to be a nice trip but a bit on the long side for a mixed group. So I'd decided why not revisit the area and climb one of the multiple peaks around Mono Pass.

And so this two day climb of Mount Lewis was born. The peak itself is on the Vagmarken Sierra Crest List if you're into that sort of thing or if you are not peak motivated then it's a relatively lightly used trail that takes you past waterfalls, gives you multiples lakes to pick between for camping, and lets you visit a historic mining site before presenting you with an epic view of June Lakes.