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Are you ready for TEK? – A guide to evaluating the Training, Equipment and Knowledge required for starting technical diving

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Technical Diving

Part 1 – Training

What was once out of reach to everyone but a select few is now part of the mainstream in many sports and diving is no exception. Caves and ocean depths that were until recently accessible only by experts with a lifetime of training can now be touched by those eager amateurs prepared to invest in training and equipment that is now widely available.

Technical Diving However the increased availability of this specialised training and equipment presents us with a double edged sword. On one side are those who are prepared to make a long term investment and gain the right tools to safely enjoy diving in some incredible and extreme locations not accessible to 99% of the diving community. One the other side there are divers seeking short cut training modelled on mainstream recreational courses. This often results in inadequate training, equipment and experience that can cause them to end up in situations and locations that they will realise they are ill prepared for far too late.

So in a series of three articles I wanted to explore the three key areas of training, equipment and knowledge (TEK) that a diver should carefully consider before starting a progression down this route.

How do you get the Training?

#1 – Do your research. Who is doing the diving you want to do and how did they get trained?

Technical Diving I made a number of early decisions at the start of my technical diving career based on two areas of information. I read voraciously about the sorts of diving I wanted to do. Tales of North East US deep wrecks and North Florida caves in the 80’s & 90’s led me to leading lights of those scenes and then I looked at how they gained their experience and training. Fortunately by the time I started down this route in 2008 things were a little more organised than the early days of deep wreck and cave diving! Today you can easily research the divers, agencies and instructors and find out if, what and how they are doing things appeals to you. There are huge online resources to get your grey matter going, however be aware of polarised ‘internet opinions’ as they will hold you back.

#2 – Get your basic dive skills nailed. You need to be solid before building complex skills.

Technical Diving Finding a baseline of where you are today is vital before considering developing complex new skills. You may think your basic skills such as trim, buoyancy control and propulsion are pretty good (everyone’s is right?) but the reality is they probably fall short of the entry point of many technical or cave classes. During training you will be expected to remain in a flat (trim) static position in mid water (not kneeling!) and this can prove difficult even for experienced divers. A technical diver will be able to maintain trim within a 15 degree window, buoyancy with a 1m window even when task loaded such as performing a gas switch, sharing gas or manipulating a valve. Have you ever wondered why the visibility behind you is so bad? So you will also need a range of kicks designed to not disturb silt and be able to manoeuvre in a confined space.  The fact is none of these basic dive skills are naturally occurring and you really need an experienced technical diver who is also an instructor to give you structured feedback and develop your basic skills. You should consider a foundational course from an agency with an established technical curriculum such as GUE fundamentals before moving on.

#3 – Be prepared to pay and be prepared to not pass. If you see a ‘cheap’ technical class with a 100% pass rate, run.

Technical Diving The sorts of class you are looking at are probably quite a bit more money and longer than your basic dive classes. For example most ‘normoxic’ trimix and basic cave classes are between 5-6 days and there will be a gas bill at the end of it! You may even have to travel and pay for boat costs. It can quickly add up and add to personal pressure to ‘perform’.

Your instructor will also fully understand the environment they are teaching you to dive in and will not accept second best. This means no matter how much you have spent they simply will not pass you if you don’t make the grade.

#4 – Make sure your instructor is an active diver. You want real experience, not training slates.

Technical Diving I have already mentioned the cost of training at this level. You are for the most part paying for that instructor’s experience as much you are paying for their time. A good instructor should be diving above the level that they are teaching, so they will be bringing a huge amount of personal diving experience to your class. Many instructors only teach and this brings nothing to this type of diving. The best instructors I know work hard to maintain a balance between being active divers and educators.

In the next part of this series I will be looking at the equipment required for technical and cave training. Are you prepared to change your entire configuration right down to your fins?

 

James teaches exclusively as a GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) instructor for TecLife (www.divelife.co.uk).

 

James has spent nearly 10 years teaching and diving in some of the world’s most enviable and challenging dive locations. He is an active trimix and cave diver and now has nearly 2000 dives in such diverse locations such as Caribbean reefs, Fjords in the Arctic Circle, submerged volcanoes in Coral Sea and the caves of Florida, Mexico and France and wrecks of the UK's south coast. He now teaches exclusively as a GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) instructor for TecLife (www.divelife.co.uk).

News

Nauticam announce NA-A7C Housing for Sony a7C Camera

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Sony’s latest full frame mirrorless camera, the a7C offers the underwater image maker one of the most compact and travel friendly full frame systems available on the market today.  The a7C features Sony’s latest stellar autofocus and a much improved battery life thanks to its use of the larger Z series battery. The BIONZ X processor delivers superb low-light performance and faster image processing. For video shooters, the a7C features internal UHD 4K capture in the wide-dynamic range HLG image profile at up to 30p.

Nauticam has housed more mirrorless cameras, and more Sony E Mount cameras than any other housing manufacturer. This experience results in the most evolved housing line with broadest range of accessories available today.

Pioneering optical accessories elevate performance to a new level. Magnifying viewfinders, the sharpest super macro accessory lenses ever made, and now the highest quality water contact wide angle lenses (the WWL-1B and WACP-1) combine with the NA-A7C housing to form a complete imaging system.

Nauticam is known for ergonomics, and an unmatched experience. Key controls are placed at the photographer’s fingertips. The housing and accessories are light weight, and easy to assemble. The camera drops in without any control presetting, and lens port changes are effortless.

NA-A7C features an integrated handle system. This ergonomic style provides exceptional control access, even with thick gloves, with ideal placement of the shutter release and a thumb-lever to actuate the AF-ON button from the right handle.

Nauticam build quality is well known by underwater photographers around the globe. The housing is machined from a solid block of aluminum, then hard anodized making it impervious to salt water corrosion. Marine grade stainless and plastic parts complete the housing, and it is backed by a two year warranty against manufacturing defects.

For more information in the UK visit the Nauticam website by clicking here.

For more information in the USA visit the Nauticam website by clicking here.

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BLUE EARTH – Future Frogmen Podcast Series – The Next Generation of Ocean Stewards: Lauren Brideau

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A series of conservation educational podcasts from Future Frogmen, introduced by Jeff Goodman.

The Next Generation of Ocean Stewards: Lauren Brideau

We have a new host, Dr. Colleen Bielitz, and today we’ll be interviewing a recent college graduate as part of our once-a-month episode that focuses on students: the next generation of conservationists, researchers, and activists.

What are the next generation of ocean stewards doing to protect our Blue Earth? Join us as we find out by speaking to Lauren Brideau, a recent graduate of Southern Connecticut State University. Lauren started as an undeclared major but soon found her calling, now she is part of a research team conserving life below water.  She is a prime example that if you want to defend our oceans and the creatures that depend on the sea to survive, now is the time to become part of the solution.


Richard E Hyman Bio

Richard is the Chairman and President of Future Frogmen.

Born from mentoring and love of the ocean, Richard is developing an impactful non-profit organization. His memoir, FROGMEN, details expeditions aboard Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s famed ship Calypso.

Future Frogmen, Inc. is a nonprofit organization and public charity that works to improve ocean health by deepening the connection between people and nature. They foster ocean ambassadors and future leaders to protect the ocean by accomplishing five objectives.


You can find more episodes and information at www.futurefrogmen.org and on most social platforms @futurefrogmen.

 

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