TECHNICAL DIVING - 2/15/2000
For divers who
wish to venture beyond scuba's recreational limits, it is very important to
seriously consider what is involved in that choice. There is a type of diving
for almost everyone, but not everyone is suited for every type of diving, and
the consequences of the wrong choice affects not only the diver and his
family, but the diving community as well. Safety must always take precedence.
Safety and enjoyment in technical diving are achieved through proper training
and the adherence to and practice of that training. Training will eliminate
many unnecessary mistakes and teach the mechanical and organizational skills
which are necessary to develop the awareness needed in these new environments.
The key to
proper training is the instructor. Your instructor must be competent,
knowledgeable, and also be a good teacher. There are plenty of "book
smart" instructors out there, but many of them have limited personal
experience in the water. There is an abundant amount of knowledge in technical
diving that doesn't make it into the books.
It is very
important that you research your instructor. After all, your life is literally
in their hands, so don't be afraid to ask about their experience. Find out how
long they have been actively involved in the area in which you are seeking
instruction. Students benefit from taking courses with instructors who have
extensive technical diving experience. This experience has a direct impact on
the quality of training that can be provided to students. Experience, being
the best teacher, also helps mold the best instructors. With this in mind, it
is essential to research the background of perspective instructors and choose
An often asked
question is, "What agency should I train with?". The answer relates
back to the previous points of emphasis. The quality of the individual
instructor has the highest priority. However, the instructor should represent
a reputable agency because the ethics and training standards differ between
agencies, making it important that you review the agency's standards and their
The decision to
enter technical diving should be a personal one. Based on my own experience, I
began as an open water diver and just couldn't get enough. Becoming an open
water instructor sufficed briefly, but I still wanted something more. A friend
introduced me to a cavern dive, and that led me to seek cave certification and
my technical journey began.
progression to technical diving is recommended. Give yourself time to practice
underwater skills and gain competence, and this will allow you to proceed to
the next level if you choose. Curiosity will fuel your journey and accumulated
experience will direct you down your desired path, while affording you safety
and growth in confidence. Entering into technical diving with this attitude
will help to ensure enjoyment and success in your endeavors.
many enter the realm of technical diving on a whim or even because of peer or
spousal pressure. Entering technical diving when its requirements exceed the
comfort zone of the student is a recipe for disaster. There is no room for
this as the sport can be very unforgiving. Not only do these people fail to
enjoy the sport, they can experience unfortunate incidents up to, and,
entering their technical training with the proper attitude and comfort level,
will experience more of the great pleasures that technical diving has to
offer. Refinement of skills and overall technique will generate enthusiasm and
the desire to do more diving.
certification has been earned, training has not ended. You will have learned
much in your classes, but you must now practice those skills and make them
practical aspects of your diving protocol. You must develop and maintain
consistency in your gear routine. It is important to maintain consistency in
the techniques and configuration used for technical diving. The biggest
mistakes occur when divers are inconsistent in the process of the things they
do during their dive. Inconsistency is the root cause of many injuries and
deaths of veteran divers.
be taught, but repetitious practice can develop conditioned responses, which
allow nearly instinctive appropriate employment of skills required in a given
situation. Responding to situations in an instinctive-like manner can be
diving is now receiving much more positive attention than it did just a few
years ago. Not long ago, when we all thought we could only be safe breathing
compressed air and not diving below accepted sport diving limits. Today, many
of the agencies who once called nitrox and other mixtures "devil
gasses", now actively teach and certify students in their use.
technical divers may use nitrox, heliox, trimix, rebreathers, and DPV's to
safely attain individual and team goals. But as an entry-level technical
diver, you must use caution not to try to advance too quickly. Although the
media covers and promotes the "big events", trying to get there too
rapidly is much more likely to get your name into a different part of the
newspaper, specifically, the obituaries.
in over your head" by diving beyond your training and comfort zone. There
is more to wreck diving than descending to incredible depths in cold, dark
water to discover virgin shipwrecks. There is also much more to see in a cave
than simply reaching the end of the line. The first thousand feet of cave has
plenty to offer, but since divers tend to journey by in such a hurry, they can
often miss it. Taking time to develop your technique and to learn about your
new environment is one of the satisfying aspects of the adventure.
You may decide
to become a cave, wreck, or trimix diver, but evolve there the smart and safe
way. Be patient, get adequate training, and safely increase your limits.
Technical diving is a very broad sport and there are many "New
Worlds" to be discovered between open water and extreme technical diving.
imperative that you always keep an open mind to learning and improving.
Critique yourself, and encourage others to critique your performance also. We
all should continue to learn and improve ourselves, and to communicate that
knowledge to others. In this way, we can all contribute to, and continue to
improve this great sport.