I have been following Andrew and Tina’s Instagram account; @frogkickers for quite some time. They put out some great content and always seem to be diving in Florida caves that make me jealous!
I have a lot of respect for GUE divers as that level of training immediately indicates they are dedicated, knowledgeable and probably the most well trained divers that an agency puts out. Something, I feel, we can all strive to be. For those who don’t know, not everyone who starts a GUE course will pass. As a GUE student, you must meet their stringent standards or they make you do the class over again; it’s not for the faint of heart and it’s not easy. But, that makes it worthwhile, doesn’t it?
Read on to learn more about these Florida-located, GUE trained, cave divers living what most of us will only dream about…Brian
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Tina and I are both working professionals. She teaches at a university in Florida and I’m a Mechanical Engineer. We grew up in Maryland and West Virginia and both areas are not known for diving. But we learned to dive there through PADI and then later we really learned how to dive through GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) in the beautiful springs of central Florida.
Where are you and what do you do when you’re not diving?
We currently live in central Florida, and have access to some of the best diving in the world right in our backyards. We also explore and travel as much as possible, when not diving. We love all kinds of adventures from hiking to kayaking and anything in between.
What got you started diving in Florida Caves?
Tina was certified first; circa 1999, as part of her college electives. But she only did the dives needed for class and didn’t dive at all afterwards. It wasn’t until 2009 or so after we spent a week in Puerto Rico camping on the beach at Playa Flemenco that it became a priority. I promptly signed up for a scuba class when we got back. We certified in a warm water lake called Mount Storm in West Virginia. I got my PADI Open Water certification in the fall of 2009 and later the following spring Tina and I did an Advanced Open Water course together.
We really enjoyed diving but it wasn’t until later that we found a true passion for it. We dove off and on around West Virginia in the local lakes and did a few ocean dives, but only a few times per
year. It wasn’t until we moved to Houston that the hobby started to become more of an obsession. Houston actually has a really active dive community despite the lack of easily accessible good ocean diving. There are a handful of dive lakes, we started diving with a club called “The CHUM Club” and that helped our interest grow. It was through the CHUM club that we became interested in drysuit diving, because they do a “Dive A Month” Club called DAM Chummers. We challenged ourselves to dive every month with the club. But the December through March dives were really cold. Diving wet in 45° water is not fun. After the first year completing the DAM Chummer challenge, we felt it was time to dive dry. So around December 2014 we got fitted for our first drysuits.
Around the same time, we discovered GUE and realized that the training was something that we wanted to do. We had no idea where it would lead us, but our journey with GUE would set the stage for the next chapter of our lives.
We took GUE Fundamentals in 2015 in High Springs with Meredith Tanguay and it was a blast. Fundamentals changed our entire perspective on diving, and we loved Florida so much that we moved there a year later. Then in the summer of 2016 we both completed our GUE Fundamentals Tech Pass, which allows us to learn cave and tech diving. Later in 2016 we found cave diving and fell in love with it.
There is absolutely something magical about diving in Florida caves.
What is your current highest cert level?
Our current highest certification level is GUE Cave 1. As part of Cave 1 and Fundamentals, we have Triox, which allows us to dive Helium mixes of 30% O2 and 30% Helium. This gas mix is very useful in cave diving around Florida. We also hold PADI AOW as mentioned.
Any professional diving activities?
We don’t dive professionally. Maybe someday we will teach but at this time, being a student is more rewarding.
What are some of your current projects, websites, etc when not diving in Florida Caves?
We run www.frogkickers.com and the coinciding Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages. The purpose of the website is part blog and part sharing our adventures. Scuba has had it’s ups and downs with us.
We certainly struggled on a lot of things, but the rewards have been amazing.
I’m grateful to have had some really amazing instructors over the years, from our first instructors in PADI that went above and beyond, to now learning and growing with GUE.
Tell us about your favorite tech dive?
Tina and I mainly cave dive all around Florida. But we also enjoy some ocean diving when we can. Our favorite dive to date is tough to narrow down. Dives in Ginnie Springs are always nice but if I had to pick my favorite dive recently, it would have been at Peacock Springs. Tina and I were showing some friends of ours the cavern area on the Peanut Tunnel side. We set the reel and did a cave dive while our cavern certified friends played in the cavern. The cave dive turned out to be one of the most relaxing dives I’ve had in months. It was one of those dives where I was totally at peace, and everything went right. We ended up going back about 12-1300 feet on Cave 1 gas rules, which is further than I’d been before. We got to see some new cave and the water was gin clear the whole time.
What are you kitted up with, head to toe?
Tina and I have essentially the same kit. We use Halcyon back plate and wings of various sizes depending on the size and makeup of the tanks. Our cave rig is double steel 104’s, 60 pound Halcyon wing with an aluminum back plate. For lights we use Light Monkey backup lights and Halcyon Focus primary lights. For regulators we love Scubapro MK25 first stages and the G250 second stages. Tina dives the S600 second stages. We have the Santi Emotion and Emotion+ drysuits and Fourth Element undergarments. We also have the Santi Bz200 undergarments which we dive in winter. We use the Shearwater Perdix dive computers. Last but not least are the tried and true Jet fins.
How about some favorite diving spots?
Our favorite dive is probably the Devils Cave System at Ginnie Springs, near High Springs Florida. The cave is just gorgeous and it’s a challenge, because the spring is a First Magnitude, therefore it has high flow. As you enter the cave the flow can be so strong that you have to pull your way in. Once inside the cave goes for miles and miles.
There are so many neat things to see in there, from walls covered in fossils, to interesting formations carved out of limestone and beautiful clay banks.
Tech diving bucket list?
The short term bucket list would be to dive the caves in Mexico. We would like to get some more training before going there. A longer term list would be the crystal caves in the Bahamas. For tech or ocean diving, neither of us have any specific interest other than to do get in on some research on deep reef or ghost net clean up.
What’s next for you in diving?
Our plan is to keep diving, training, and learning. One of the best aspects of diving for us, is meeting amazing people and growing our community of friends. Up next for us is Cave 2. This will teach us decompression, stages and complex navigation. After that, we’ll probably take some DPV courses, both in open water and cave. We are pretty obsessed with cave diving at the moment and it’s hard to imagine diving anywhere else.
To learn more about what Andrew, Tina and FrogKickers are doing, check out their social media accounts and other website links:
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