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Thread: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

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    RBW Member Steverin06 is an unknown quantity at this point Steverin06's Avatar
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    My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    First of all, let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Steve Hendricks and I am a new rebreather diver. I only had about 60 OC dives before I jumped into CCR. I am an F-15C pilot living in Okinawa. Since I operate a single seat fighter in the South China Sea daily, I understand the deadly consequences of not adhering to checklists, and I know how to perform under life-threatening pressure. Even though I am inexperienced, I am not a difficult student to teach - although I do expect a high level of knowledge and performance from my instructors of whom I spend my hard earned money with. I normally don’t have the time or energy to write what you’re about to read, but I am on “baby watch” while my unit is gone so I have a lot of free time. I also feel like I have been wronged so bad and in so many ways, I feel compelled to describe my experience with Darren Fox in painstaking detail on public forums for two reasons. 1 – so this never happens to anyone else. 2 – so Darren might actually apologize to me.

    My squadron was TDY to Hawaii last month. I thought it would be an awesome experience to get my feet wet with CCRs in Hawaii and take a MOD 1 class with a rented unit on the weekends. The unit I wanted to try was the Liberty, as after reading the manual I really like how much redundancy the unit offers, among many other things. After a lot of research, I ended up contacting Darren Fox at Ocean Legends in Honolulu as he was one of the very few Liberty instructors in the Pacific. The other one that I know of just happens to be Masayoshi Kondo right here in Okinawa.

    Darren he told me that if I wanted to learn the Liberty that it would be an extra $500 than the prism 2 course that I was also looking at. When I emailed him asking why learning the liberty commanded a 25% price increase over any other CCR MOD 1, his exact quote was “The liberty CCR is more expensive as its a more intense rebreather and needs a lot of focus on electronics package configuration along with skill development circuits so it's a more intense program overall.” I’m curious what divesoft thinks about one of their instructors charging students $500 more to learn the Liberty because their unit is more difficult to learn and the electronics are hard to figure out. More on this later.

    So then I told him that I would rather take the prism course because it’s a lot cheaper and I’m not set on buying a rebreather at the moment. I also mentioned that Add Helium has some nice used prims that I could pick up later relatively cheap. Only then did he offer me a $500 off “military discount” for the liberty course, making the price the same as the prism – but still markedly higher than with Masayoshi Kondo. When I then told him I was still going to pass because his class was still much more expensive than my other options, he then offered the liberty rental for free. Now after weeks of what seems like petty haggling I felt the price of the class was on the same standards of where I could find elsewhere, so I signed up.

    After convincing me that add-helium’s certified used units were “junk, because when the electronics fail there’s no warranty and you’ll be out $4500” he then proceeded to tell me that he could save me “$2500-$3000” by offering me a much more expensive “mil-spec” version of the liberty with upgraded sensors, among other things and build the same liberty he has (a highly modified one) for the cost of the stock unit (about $8650). He told me there was only 1 mil spec left at the factory and I had to order soon or it would go to some contract and there wouldn’t be any mil specs available for quite some time. This sounded like a fantastic deal so after much consideration I jumped in and bought what I thought was a mil spec liberty to the exact specifications as Darren’s modified Liberty. Going against Darren’s recommendation, I also ordered the BOV because I’ve read too many positive stories about using one. During the ordering process, one great thing Darren did was work the divesoft to have them add the DSV with the BOV – as apparently divesoft sees their BOV as an “upgrade” - charging the same as everyone else’s BOV, but then only giving you a BOV and no DSV. I thought this was crap and explained why to Darren, who convinced divesoft to let me have both for the $800 “upgrade” cost.

    MOD 1 day one, Darren spends a lot of time modifying my unit to his specs. The unit has just the basic STA so it can accommodate a hollis BP and an ISC wing. The only thing I initially noticed that wasn’t like his unit were the tanks – they were the stock white steel tanks. Then trouble happened when I tried to put US spec apex 1st stages on the tanks – they wouldn’t fit because the tanks are EU thread. This is an oversight that I do not understand happened from someone who has been teaching rebreathers for 20 years. This was the first time that I had to argue in person with Darren, because after he tried to get some EU threaded 1st stages shipped next day, I had to remind him that he told me I could have his exact setup for the stock price – so it’s all a moot point because his setup used black aluminum 19s. He conceded and took the tanks off his unit and gave them to me – that was the only solution if I was going to take this class. He was not going to get new black aluminum 19s shipped next day. I paid for new tanks, but got used tanks because of an oversight that should have never happened.

    I only had two weekends, 4 days to knock out MOD 1. As I’m learning my unit I realized that the liberty is incredibly easy to learn and use – and that goes for the electronics as well. The freedom handsets are intuitive, the unit is also incredibly easy to calibrate and accomplish pre dive checks, and Darren spent less time teaching me the Liberty than he did other students other units in this class. So I began to wonder why did I spend an extra $500 for learning the liberty than everyone else? I did not spend a single minute in a classroom environment learning the liberty – it was all hands on in a group setting. While I learn best this way, I started to realize I was not receiving any extra instruction to warrant the price difference. The freedom deco algorithm is a mystery to me, so I asked Darren to explain it in detail with me, his answer: “I don’t know, but it’s awesome - read the manual bro.” A couple of times one of my O2 sensors kept getting excluded during a dive, even when it calibrated fine and dove fine the first of a multi dive day. So when I asked Darren about it, his response “you should recal your unit before every dive.” However that’s not only impossible as the dives were 10 min apart from each other and we were wearing our unit in between dives, but the manual states O2 calibrations should be good for three days. He offered no solution to this problem. Another example: my unit leaves very little room on positive pressure test "stopping point" until the red " fail line", much less than another classmate's liberty. When I mentioned this, he just told me the pressure test displays are more of a recommendation and if the pressure doesn't change "alot," even if it's less than the red line that I'd be good to go. Also, the liberty itself absolutely does not require any more time instructing skill development circuits than any other system. In fact, once again other students on other systems took more of his time. So in essence, I spent an extra $500 than everyone else on MOD 1 for Darren to tell me to read the manual and to watch other students take more if his time on skill circuits. He did spend a lot of time modifying my unit, however he told me he could do that all for the price of the stock unit when he persuaded me to buy a Liberty. This was weeks after I purchased an inflated cost Liberty MOD 1 with the intention of renting his liberty. So when he tried to tell me that he did in fact spend all this time with me, it was really on my Liberty - modifying it because he said he would to make a sell. This is one reason why I feel completely ripped off.

    After the first weekend I did a lot of reading on the forums and learned about the value of a helitrox cert – especially if you weren’t going to take MOD 2 anytime soon. Seeing as I just went into a good amount of debt buying a unit I didn’t think I was going to buy (because I thought I got such a great deal), I didn’t think I was going to be taking MOD 2 anytime soon. I told Darren that I was interested in this cert, and that I would talk to my boss about staying an additional weekend so I could knock this out with him. I explicitly told him that I wasn’t sure that I could take this class yet because it all depended on if I was able to stay another weekend or not. At the same time, after getting more knowledge on CCRs I gave Darren’s Liberty a good look-over and noticed that his unit had all kinds of bells and whistles that mine didn’t (off board gas add systems, y blocks, stage anchors, buttplate, bungees, etc. After he explained them to me, I told him I wanted them. I wanted them because from what he told me, I could have his setup for the stock price. I was beginning to realize that this was no way in hell possible, even though he told me it was possible. However, I didn’t want to start shit so I accepted that I was going to pay a bit more and he told me he would take care of it and send me the bill, and I’d have the parts on my unit the following weekend. Once I got my bill I was very surprised to see that I was charged $498 for a helitrox cert. This was on top of the extra $1300 dollars I was charged to have mine setup like his, including paying $100 each for O2 clean AC990s that were being used on the dil side only. A few days after the bill was sent out I learned that I would not be able to spend another weekend in Hawaii. I told Darren please refund me the cost of the helitrox cert as I couldn’t make it happen. His exact words “No problem, I’ll have the refund put in today.”

    During the last day of diving, we were on the boat with a few other rebreather divers. One of them approached Darren and I overheard him ask Darren about his rebreather cert – it had been some time since he finished his class and he didn’t get any indication of his cert even being processed. I picked up on this immediately, as I had just learned that Masayoshi was offering a rare mod 2 class on Okinawa the following month, and I was interested in taking it. I must have stressed to Darren a half dozen times how important it was that he put my cert in immediately, as I would need it to take MOD 2, 1 month after I finished his class. He told me he would put it in immediately.

    Two weeks later, I received no email from TDI about my cert, and no refund for a class I didn’t agree on taking. However, I did experience what I thought was a CO2 hit and described it to him and asked his opinion on what happened. He completely ignored everything I wrote about my CO2 hit, and instead solely talked about selling me more tanks – as I mentioned to him that I was interested in another set prior to this dive. He not once even addressed the fact that I had to bailout, hyperventilating and that I had noticed an abnormality with the scrubber during the class and pointed it out to him.

    Three weeks later, still no refund or cert notification so I queried. He told me that refunds are handled by his accountant in NJ and that it was sent to her the day after I told him to refund me - and to check with my bank.

    26 days later, no refund nor cert notification. I called my bank and they said no refund was pending. Attached is my conversation at this time with Darren. He did not answer my last few paragraphs. Bottom line – despite what Darren told me, my refund did not get processed until 21 days after he said it was, and even then it was still awaiting Darren’s settlement on the terminal to make it final. Once Darren settled the terminal the refund took 3 days. Darren not once apologized for anything. He also took absolutely zero responsibility for what happened – instead blaming his accountant in New Jersey. I ended up getting refunded for an unauthorized $521 charge 31 days after I was told the refund was put in.

    Although my experience was overall terrible, it wasn’t all bad. My hotel was a 20-minute drive from his shop and I did not have a rental, nor had the time to get weekend rentals. I Uber’d to class and most days Darren drove me back home. Even though this was nice, it’s not any different than what I’ve read about reviews from people taking MOD 1 on vacation. Darren also helped me get the BOV and DSV as I’ve already discussed, and did get me an ISC wing instead of the stock wing for the same price – however he kept touting to me that the ISC wing was $650 when I can get it from DGX any day for $475.

    As for my cert, reference the attached email. What was discussed was that he would submit my cert immediately so I could have it for my MOD 2 class one month from finishing MOD 1. I just received an email from TDI stating that Darren just submitted my Liberty class. I also just called TDI to confirm what my email said. He told me he would submit it immediately, yet he took 21 days and constant ass-riding from me for him just to submit it! I cancelled my MOD 2 class because I had no proof of accomplishing MOD 1 – TDI did not have any record of me taking this class until after Kondo’s MOD 2 had started.

    Last but not least after living with my unit for a month I don’t see a single thing that looks any different than any other liberty that I see pictures of online. I am convinced that, if there even is a “mil-spec” version of this rebreather, that mine certainly isn’t one of them. I could very well be wrong, but after everything that has happened I don’t think I am. I believe this is just another broken promise from Darren Fox.
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  2. #2
    RBW Member whynot? will become famous soon enough whynot? will become famous soon enough whynot? will become famous soon enough whynot? will become famous soon enough whynot?'s Avatar
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    Re: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    Total bummer to read this bro, I'd bet you are a solid guy and did your homewerk. I met Darren once when I was in O'ahu filming and got the same impression you did in about 1/2 hour... used car salesman looking to make a quick buck with used crappy gear. He showed me a few Inspiration rigs he had "franken-ized" and I thought, maybe this guy knows his stuff. At that time he was pushing the plasto-crap rig "Titan" (Bozanic had also switched to pushing that too when Pete decided to sell the PRISM to Hollis) and telling me how awesome it was and that it would be a game changer for the RB community, we all know how well that went.

    Unfortunately your experience as outlined with Mr. Fox (crafty isn't he?) isn't unique. Leisure sports like diving have taken a huge hit in the last decade. There are too many RB manufacturers and support companies that are no longer in business because the margins are too small and the number of units solid can be counted on one hand. I've said this before, unless you have a very solid reason to get into RB diving, it just doesn't make cents (pun intended). For some it's a vanity certification and it is expensive, from day one. When I hear about instructors jacking guys around like you were, it pisses me off. There are a lot of really solid and straight shooters in our community, but it only takes one jack-ass to ruin it. Don't let this situation ruin your ambition to achieve the goals you have, surround yourself with the winners and forget about the losers.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. #3

    Re: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    Why would a business in Hawaii use an accountant in New Jersey to issue a refund for a Bank in Hawaii? Doesn't make sense. Aren't there any good accountants in Hawaii?

    Also, the line that "I am gone for 3 weeks doing a photo shoot" but I am taking time to address your complaint that has been going on for months line stinks.

    I don't know this operator or what happened but this guy's business acumen stinks!
    Last edited by Garibaldi; 27th September 2016 at 17:05. Reason: Hey! This is my 69th post! Awesome!!!

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    RBW Member oya has a spectacular aura about oya has a spectacular aura about oya has a spectacular aura about oya has a spectacular aura about oya has a spectacular aura about oya's Avatar
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    My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    Sorry to hear about your experience. And I am sorry to say this is not at all unusual for this guy.

    I lived on Oahu for some years where the rebreather community was very small and support was very difficult to come by. Occasionally, when I really had to I would go to that shop for this, that, or the other thing and almost INVARIABLY I would leave that shop angry and without whatever it was I had wanted. Usually after having to listen to an uninvited sales-pitch about how I should sell my rebreather and buy a new one from him. Because he'd give me such a good deal.

    Without meaning to sound melodramatic, I would strongly suggest that you seek out further training on your unit at your earliest opportunity. I know it will be hard and probably expensive to do so, but I think it would be of enormous value to you, to possibly even redo Mod 1. Also, I'd suggest slowing down a little. The ocean isn't going anywhere and there is no real reason not to enjoy shallower than 100 feet for a while when you're still less than 100 dives in.

    Darren fancies himself an expert and an instructor on so many different units he isn't really much of a master on any of them. I know of several people who have redone their training after realizing their instruction had been insufficient. I also know one horribly crummy story about a protege of Darren's whose insufficient training and general diving philosophy ended, shall we say, badly.
    Last edited by oya; 27th September 2016 at 21:53.

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    Re: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    Quote Originally Posted by Garibaldi  View Original Post
    I don't know this operator or what happened but this guy's business acumen stinks!
    He's the only one on a remote island who "supports" this kind of diving and he talks a very, very good game.

    "Ice to polar bears" kind of salesman. Which is to say, also, totally greasy, insincere, and douchey.

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    RBW Member rjack will become famous soon enough rjack will become famous soon enough rjack will become famous soon enough rjack's Avatar
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    Re: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    I'm sorry to hear of your bad experiences, hopefully you can get up to speed with a better instructor ASAP.


    I am curious about the CO2 hit and the lackluster positive tests. What precipitated the CO2 hit, why and what happened there? Could try a dunk test to see if the unit is actually leaking? 2 issues of many that I hope you get sorted.

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    RBW Member JohnnyC is an unknown quantity at this point JohnnyC's Avatar
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    Re: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    Sounds like the dude is a blowhard. Used car salesman sounds accurate, although it seems like OP was expecting a boatload of ancillary stuff for the same price. I'd be curious to see what he got in writing from the dude. I could see an instructor setting up a rebreather a specific way to match his own diving style, but adding a boatload of accessories, offboard addition, buttplate, etc. for the same price as a stock unit would throw up a bunch of red flags in my mind. I don't think Liberty sells anything other than full units ready-to-dive? And selling a "mil-spec" unit sounds like a load of bulls**t designed to make a sale. Whose military? AFAIK aside from the Mk15/16, the only other non-O2 CCR that the US military uses is the Mk28 which is an ISC product. Doesn't mean they don't, but I haven't heard anything about any other units. Upgraded sensors? What does that even mean? So many red flags right from the get go.

    OP never states what his level of certification is beforehand, I wonder if he doesn't have AN/DP or something and the dude wouldn't process his cert because he'd get looked at if he processed certs for someone who didn't have the pre-requisites in the first place.

    I know IANTD Mod 2 (are they even still calling them by mod numbers anymore?) used to require 100 logged dives, 30 of which are 30m or deeper, plus 25 hours and 20 dives on the unit of choice. I don't know a single instructor that would take a Mod 2 student less than a month after taking Mod 1, even if they met the minimums. Looks like TDI wants 30 hours and 6 months of CCR diving experience.

    The whole thing sounds like one giant clusterf**k.
    Last edited by JohnnyC; 28th September 2016 at 08:15. Reason: spelling

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    Re: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    This whole thing is just soooo fucked up on both sides in too many ways to count.

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    Re: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyC  View Original Post
    OP never states what his level of certification is beforehand, I wonder if he doesn't have AN/DP .
    He says 60 OC dives so that would make him an instructor trainer trainer these days.

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    RBW Member AQUANOMAD is an unknown quantity at this point AQUANOMAD's Avatar
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    Re: My MOD 1 Experience with Darren Fox @ Ocean Legends‏

    Being over charged for a mod1 course and nickle and dimed along the way sucks. Being confused into "mil-spec" upgrades is shady salesmanship. Bad mouthing reputable retailers is bad character. Touting a military friendly business with a pure profit motive is pure immoral. Piloting a $29,900,000 fighter jet is bad ass! Every chest thumping rebreather diver thinks operating their $10k hobby unit makes them alpha cool. I don't care if the op had 25 dives under his belt. Anyone intrusted with that level of assets has their shit together. At least enough to comprehend the super secret sauce it takes to run a dive plan, build their breather, and keep the po2 breathable. Sorry you were wronged brotha. Stay safe up their!

    Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk
    Last edited by AQUANOMAD; 28th September 2016 at 08:41.

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