Tech Profile | Jared Hires
Joe Cocozza meets Jared Hires a leading light in tech specialists Dive Rite
Jared Hires the son of cave diving legend Lamar Hires. Lamar started cave diving in the late 1970s and along with cave divers including Mark Leonard, Wes Skiles, Paul Heinerth, Bill Stone and Woody Jasper, formed the group that explored and mapped many cave systems in North Florida and around the world. In the early '80s, there were no companies that manufactured gear for the technical or cave diver so Lamar co-founded Dive Rite, the first technical dive equipment company. In 1991, Jared was born into this family of cave diving royalty. As a young child he often tagged along with his dad when he would teach cave diving at Ginnie Springs. Now at 23, he is not only coming up in the world of tech diving, but he is taking over the reigns at Dive Rite, where he is developing new tech dive gear for the future.
What was it like growing up as the son of a cave diving pioneer?
JH: It was definitely interesting. As a family we would go to these gatherings and my dad’s friends were these big shots from the cave diving world, but to me they were just my dad’s friends. Guys like Wes Skiles and Woody Jasper. I would sit around the campfire listening to stories about the caves they had discovered or expeditions they were on. To me this is just what my dad and his friends did for a living.
How old were you when your dad first took you diving?
JH: I started diving at four years old. My dad made me a custom Dive Rite TransPac and also made a custom manifold for a mini set of doubles that he made out of two three-litre pony tanks. I did a lot pool diving in that rig. When I was seven years old, I would go out with my dad every weekend when he was teaching cave diving. When he came up for a surface interval, I would swim out to him and grab his seven-foot long hose and swim around his feet, while Dad on the surface would be debriefing his class before the next penetration. So by the time I was eight, I was doing self-sufficient dives in the springs [the entrances to the cave]. I also started diving on rebreathers when I was 15 years old.
So how old were you when you got officially certified as a cave diver?
JH: I got certified when I was 16. My dad talked to Tom Mount and I got a waiver from IANTD on the age requirement, which was 18 at the time, and he could certify me as long I was diving with him. I mostly did dives along the gold-line[existing guidelines] but by the time I was 18 years old, I was doing more complicated cave dives with line jumps, circuits and traverses.
Tell us about the high school science project you did.
JH: I did a resurvey of the Rose Sink cave system. Earlier my dad and Woody Jasper had done the initial surveys of the cave system. This cave system is highly dynamic. During rainy periods, Rose Creek will flood and millions of gallons of water and debris drain into the sink. The cave is normally a siphon and flow can be quite strong. There is a spring source about 900 feet into the system where the siphon is strongest. An extensive dye-trace study confirmed the connection some years ago, that the water travels through the aquifer and eventually re-surfaces at Ichetucknee Springs. That was a cool project to do for high school.
What has been your most interesting cave dive to date?
JH: I've been lucky to cave dive around Northern Florida, Mexico and the Bahamas, but the funnest trip I've had was cave diving in Russia with my dad. It was super-cold water – 42 degrees Farenheit [5ºC]. For a wreck diver from New Jersey, like you Joe, that might not be cold, but for a Florida boy that was pretty dang cold.
What was the purpose of the trip?
JH: There was a dedicated group of cave divers in this remote Russian town, but they had no cave instructors so they brought my dad over to teach a series of cave diving classes. I went over to be a support diver. But while he spent all his time teaching, I got to dive with a local cave diver who was my guide through the cave system.
What type of caves where these?
JH: The caves were fairly explored but there were lots of new passages that could be explored in the future. So while my dad was teaching, I was doing 2,000-plus feet dives with my guide and we were exploring some of the new passages. These were gypsum caves, not the limestone karst caves of North Florida and the Bahamas. So the walls where a beautiful bleached white. Some of the restrictions where quite small but they opened into caves that where huge – like you see in Mexico, if not bigger. I got to see more of the cave than my dad did, because he was teaching skills in the first 500 feet.
You also did some deep trimix diving in Israel.
JH: Yes, doing 250-feet dives off a wall in the Red Sea is an awesome experience. That was one of my must-do dives for my logbook.
You are also an instructor.
JH: I teach Open Water and Open Water Sidemount diving. People ask me why I don't get my Cave Instructor rating. I'm 23 and I'm taking it slow, I don't believe in going from zero to hero. I'll do it when I'm ready, and I'll be a better cave instructor because of it.
You work at Dive Rite with your dad, developing new gear for tech diving?
JH: The big thing at Dive Rite is that we are a company of divers, so no matter what job we have there, we are always trying to make or improve gear that makes our dives easier and safer. We will be out diving on the weekends with a new piece of gear and if the gear doesn't do what we want it to do, we will go into work on Monday and change it. Or, say, we are doing a seven-hour rebreather dive in a cave – we need a light that can last that long, so we go back to the shop and build it. This is what drives us to constantly improve. The Dive Rite factory is located in the heart of North Florida cave country and the most fun thing about the job is that we can take off on Friday morning and do a cave dive before lunch – and it is all part of our job! Not many people can say that.
I can attest to that. One time while diving at Ginnie Springs midweek, I saw your father show up with half of your shop to go diving. I think at the time they were beta testing the new TransPac harness.
JH: We have to test the gear somehow, and the best way is to gather up volunteers and go diving. We test everything we make, and we do lots of dives with it.
What are some new developments?
JH: We came out with the O2ptima rebreather in 2005, and since we dive with it week after week, year after year, we've been continually making advancements to it. So as new technology comes out in electronics and with handsets, we're incorporating that into the unit, along with little things, like stand technologies that just make it a better unit. We've been continually innovating on that project for eight years now.
We are doing this interview by Skype while you're working in Bonaire. What are you doing there?
JH: I am doing Tech Week. It's an event sponsored by Dive Rite and TDI and the idea is to show recreational divers some of the techniques, skills and equipment that technical divers use. Maybe some will decide to make the jump into technical diving. We partnered with the training agency TDI to make Tech Week work. Tech diving is about education and equipment, you can't do one without the other.