Regardless of whether you are interested in, or are already experienced in this niche area, technical diving requires rigorous discipline and skill. To fully appreciate the beauty of technical diving, it is essential to keep in mind several considerations that are easily discounted. Here are some tips that could help you achieve a safe and enjoyable journey in the depths.
1. Keep learning
The first thing any good diver should do is to keep learning. No one, including the most experienced divers, know it all. There is always room for development, be it by experiencing something new, or keeping up-to-date with the latest research. Our understanding of diving physiology is constantly expanding – studies on decompression is evolving the way divers practice water-safety and pre/ post-dive behaviour. In addition to these new techniques, the ever-changing state of technology is always bringing better gear into the market. Thanks to this, the days of ABLJ diving are over.
2. Choose wisely
Train with an instructor who dives regularly outside of training and observe his or her coaching method. Diving schools have regulations for instructors, but these are often minimal, usually set for the sake of liability. Ticking off the boxes is not the same as imparting important knowledge to students learning to dive at an advanced level. The higher the certification, the greater the risk, hence, attending shorter courses or having an uninvested instructor will only add to the stress of technical diving.
3. Enjoy it!
This might sound like a given but let’s look deeper. Many of us are guilty of rapid qualification advancement. It is only human nature to desire for more, but why not pause for a moment to take in your current achievement. Gain more experience through recreational dives before venturing onto your next certificate. Once you are comfortable and confident, the next steps would be much easier and enjoyable. Why rush to 100m when there are amazing things to see at 45m? Why cram in the qualifications, purely to satisfy a depth requirement or to achieve a goal to boast about at the next après dive?
4. Be open to change
It is a sad reality that the technical diving world is dominated by the middle to late-aged male. The belittlement of newer divers and the “perfection” of personal equipment has resulted in the alienation of potential new additions to the sport. We all need to do our part in growing the technical diving community, be it through imparting our own knowledge, or daring to bring a fresh change to this community. Some of the best divers out there fall outside this stereotype and are often overlooked.
5. If in doubt, call it
The phrase “any diver can call the dive at any time” is commonly heard, but how often does this actually happen. Many divers will not call a dive for financial reasons, peer pressure, or out of sheer embarrassment. Refusing to concede to a concern during a dive could lead to fatal consequences, especially so for technical diving. Remember, a dive can always wait. A diver who calls a dive as everybody is kitting up, doing surface checks or even during the descent could be saving the whole team from danger.
6. Keep it practical
As a rule of thumb, the simpler the equipment, the better. Every piece of gear should have a function. For example, a twin wing set purchase should never be made without assessing the backplate and harness, or considering how the stages operate, despite what the salesman might say. A rash purchase could compromise the configuration. It is a good idea to ask your instructor and teammates while considering what equipment to bring. Assessing the dive conditions and wearing the appropriate exposure suit is paramount in a safe and enjoyable dive.
All members of the dive group should be aware of the equipment of each diver. While some schools of thought require the whole team to be identically geared, others allow some flexibility. Technical diving equipment has evolved rapidly over the years, and a standard series of configurations are becoming mainstream through years of practice. This being said, there are various equipment designed for specific conditions, such as cave or cold water regions, that require specialised training and knowledge.
7. Stay warm
In technical diving, shorts and dive skins are highly discouraged, despite their popularity in recreational diving. Recent studies have shown that being cold under decompression is a higher cause of decompression sickness than dehydration. Exposure protection is not just for warmth, but also protects the diver from other factors, such as sharp points of a wreck, poisonous fauna or abrasion. As such, you will never see an experienced technical diver in anything less than a full wetsuit, and more often than not, a dry suit, even in tropical environments.
8. Awareness is key
Pretty much all technical diving manuals discuss awareness, yet, it is often overlooked as a vital skill. Every diver should strive to not only be aware of their surroundings during a dive, but to practice it in everyday life. Some questions you should constantly ask yourself are: What is happening around me right now? Where is my team? Is there an upcoming issue in the dive that I am not paying attention to?
Self-awareness is just as important – not only paying attention to your relative position but also being aware of how you feel during the dive. We dive to have fun, but when we put ourselves and the people around us at risk due to negligence, an enjoyable dive could turn into a serious incident.
9. Keep fit
Surprisingly, fitness is often seen as unnecessary in diving – a sport that is generally misconceived as a “relaxing pastime”. Every course following open water places emphasis on good fitness, yet, many a times is ignored by both the instructors and students.
When entering the discipline of technical diving, multiple tanks, heavier protection, and decompression conditions demand a higher level of fitness than the average recreational dive. Proper training in target areas help to improve trim and positioning, while cardio benefits the breathing and buoyancy of a diver.
10. Stick with the team
Diving is a team sport, especially so in the more advanced levels, where teamwork is inherent. Not only do you have the security of extra gas, extra brains and extra eyes, you also have people to enjoy the experience with; a community of like-minded divers.