Blog: What defines a Technical Diver from a Recreational Diver…

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What defines a Technical Diver from a Recreational Diver? Some say it’s the diver in heavy black suit of armour, dripping wet as they emerge from the sea on a sun-scorched beach, or the muscular athletic build of a mid-40s descendant of Thor complete with battle scars carrying that rebreather on their back, or that arbitrary look of distain from your instructor guru when you get the mathematical formula for trimix gas calculation wrong… well thankfully none of the above!

A wee bit of knowledge can be a bad thing, but I say, it’s worth building on that knowledge and inspiration to become the best diver you can be! But hold your horses a bit, easy tiger, let’s not jump in at the deep end first.

Technical diving is not just about taking a bunch of cylinders down to the ocean abyss, or wearing as many lights, or computers as your arm will take, or other gadgets. We’ve heard the term “all the gear and no (little) idea”. Unfortunately, some accessories named above including scooters, are far too easy to acquire when you have the cash. It’s more sensible to invest some money to further your abilities to handle these accessories in the water and be confident and safer! Incidentally, in order to buy a new rebreather, there has to be some training involved! Divers are actually far more admired and respected for being safer, rather than for being ego driven by depths, equipment or just being plain down right stupid pivoting on the limits.

Back in 1991, a friend of mine Michael Menduno, actually coined the term “Technical Diving”, and he published “The Journal for Technical Diving”, as founder and editor of the hugely influential AquaCORPS Journal (1990-1996). He talks about the pioneering of Helium in mixed gas back in the 1930’s, discusses protocols in technical diving, safety, accident analysis and rescues, narcosis and decompression theory.

Buying yourself a Ducatii 1198cc doesn’t make you a World Superbike rider, but you can learn to use it safely first, learn the corners and power curves of the engine, but most of all respect and keeping within your own limits. In just the same way in diving, we learn how to dive, buy our kit and progressively take courses to the limits we enjoy.

One of the biggest challenges I hear a lot, is about how difficult the transition from recreational to technical diving is. Erroneously, if you think for a moment, you may find you’ve incidentally created yourselves new paths and goals when you realise you’ve actually become safer and more confident through better training.

Well it might not come as a surprise, RAID have produced some pretty inclusive courses allowing divers to transition smoothly between recreational and technical diving. One of the biggest transitions is to think differently and simply be more aware.

I wish I could say for the most part of my early training the transition to technical diving was smooth, however for me back then, it was pretty much a steep learning curve. However, over the last few years courses have been formatted to be easier to digest, nothing removed, in fact more added and just easier to absorb.

The most intrinsic core skill any diver could have, the one at the top that governs everything else… is awareness.

Awareness isn’t just the ability to judge your distance from something or someone as you swim along.  So let’s break this down into three categories: Personal awareness, global awareness and the domino effect.

Personal awareness focuses on your mental state of mind before, during and after the dive; gas management and observation; confirmed dive plan; reserves; equipment working; your skills including finning and balance on the dive.

Global awareness is a spherical metering between the diver and everything around them including your team mates. A 360degree radius in every direction at any depth of water column.

The Domino effect basically looks at the knock-on effect that not being aware in the first two instances has a consequential effect in the future moments. For example, poor finning technique near to the floor could reduce the visibility for the diver behind or damage something. Not sticking to a dive plan could leave you and your team not knowing or guessing what to do and when, building anxiety and increasing SAC rates. Not looking after your equipment or servicing it, may cause a premature failure on the dive. Being dehydrated could make you feel nauseous or anxious, which could lead to other things including DCI.  Poor trim will, in essence, have a knock-on effect on your buoyancy, your breathing rate (SAC/RVM) and your ability to think clearly. Every diver feels the advantages of good balance/ trim, as you relax, you can hover and you can deploy an DSMB easily and without stress.

All the above and much more tends to hone the skills of a good technical diver, but in reality, these are the same skills every diver should have. Some of you may already have acquired these skills, which essentially means the transition to technical diving will be seamless for you.

RAID have already released all of our courses, from Open Water to Cave2, for public viewing globally during this pandemic, allowing anyone to decide if that course is the right one along their path.

Regardless of training or pleasure diving, we all need to keep ourselves sharp on every dive by defining awareness to our consciousness, this will make us better divers, safer and allow us to enjoy diving even more.

Garry Dallas – www.simplysidemount.com

Garry Dallas

Garry Dallas

Crazy haired and passionate diver, teacher, author and photographer. Life-long adventurer, keen to explore new environments including caves and wrecks whilst enjoying the tranquillity and surreal places below the surface. Protecting the ocean and wildlife, but also dedicated to improving diver safety. Still dreaming about that boat on the ocean, love on the seven seas, pirates, treasure and rum.

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