BOOK REVIEW: The Basics of Rebreather Diving, by Jill Heinerth

If you ever think about diving a rebreather, renown rebreather instructor Jill Heinerth‘s book The Basics of Rebreather Diving offers you the best insurance against having a “shiny object moment.” Rebreathers require the largest investment of money and time of any one product a scuba diver can purchase. Jill says, “so often divers choose to buy a rebreather based on one demo pool session or even how it looks.” It’s clear from page one that Jill is not selling rebreathers. She is, as a big sister would, sitting you down and gently helping you truly understand if you are ready to safely and financially commit to this new adventure in diving.

One of my favorite quotes in the book comes during the section on the importance of physical checklists to safely “flying” your rebreather. Jill says, “We simply don’t find many dead divers with checklists.” I will not be surprised if I see the day when I read a study that reveals there were less rebreather deaths among those divers who first read this book before they purchased a rebreather.

Jill Heinerth's The Basics of Rebreather divingThe book is a banquet of appetizers on the world of diving sans bubbles; one of the more enticing features of rebreather diving. Jill tells us the inspiration for the book was taken from the discussions she has had with readers of her Rebreather Pro blog. Because of the complexity of rebreather diving there is a a grander and endless buffet awaiting if it leads you to decide to move on to the main course.

Jill adeptly conveys how rebreathers, a technology that predates SCUBA can equally be considered a sport in its infancy. This distinction is urgently important because the dive industry is current pushing what they term “recreational” rebreathers out of the subculture of the technical, cave and wreck divers into the market of the avid but sub-130 feet deep divers. We are aware of dive instructors who are starting new divers on rebreathers and completely bypassing the typical open circuit scuba tanks. Starting on a rebreather does have the advantage of bypassing the habit retraining required for those divers moving from open circuit and is addressed in the book.

Good reasons to buy this book go beyond wanting to dive a rebreather. This book offers important information for any diver who buddies with a rebreather diver. Additionally, it should be a “must read” for any rescue diver or dive pro or dive shop owner/staff. It even helped me understand a bit more about open circuit diving. It certainly gave me an appreciation for both these branches of SCUBA.

I highly recommend that current rebreather dive instructors or dive shops require that prospective rebreather students/customers read this book before the’re allowed to make a purchase. If that seems counter to logical business practices it may be more clear when you read that when a customer purchases a rebreather today it will not be shipped to them, but to their instructor.

The book.

Jill’s friendly, big sister style touches all aspects of this book. Even though you could get most of what you need by simply reading the text, the book is filled with photos which enhance the concepts and make the book approachable. We suspect all those friendly photos increased production cost because of the $49 price tag which will likely limit its appeal for the more casual reader.

The prose is equally friendly and accessible and there are only a few paragraphs where the tech gets heavy. It is not a textbook. In fact Jill has added a bit of adventure such as exploding batteries and good deal of personal and humble confessions on mistakes made. The book has what you need to prepare you for a decision and your training, should you proceed. It will alleviate much of the anxiety of the unknown and allow you to proceed on the path to training in a more relaxed manner.

We give The Basics of Rebreather Diving 4.5 five stars with just a few points off for fuzzy images, a bit of wandering and the $49 price. Although anyone that has the cash to purchase a rebreather will do well to invest in this book first, that price will likely dissuade some knowledge-seeking divers from making the purchase. This book should be in every dive store’s and dive pro’s library to help answer those common and curious questions form students and open circuit divers.

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