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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).

Dive Training Blogs

Deptherapy returns to its Roots – Part 1

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Over the next seven days, join Richard Cullen from Deptherapy as we publish a Blog about the charity’s recent expedition to Roots Red Sea, El Quseir, Egypt.

Deptherapy made the very brave decision to book an expedition to our home in Egypt as soon as Roots Red Sea received their certificate from the Egyptian Authorities that the camp and dive centre was COVID secure. Roots is one of very few resorts to receive a certificate from the Egyptian Government.

We arrived in Roots the day after they re-opened.

Getting together an expedition was a major task. Very few Approved Medical Examiners’ of Divers or Dive Referees are conducting consultations at the moment. Availability of beneficiaries and the requirement to quarantine on return from Egypt affected the number of beneficiaries available.

There was also a requirement to pass a COVID PCR virus test within 72 hours of travelling.

We had decided on a small expedition and on the day of travel we had six flying to Egypt.  Unfortunately, Chris Middleton had to drop out the day before we travelled after emergency wisdom tooth surgery.

Our group comprised of Richard Cullen, Michael Hawley, Tom Oates, Tom Swarbrick, Keiron Bradbury and Corey Goodson.  Keiron was undertaking his RAID Master Rescue Course and, as it turned out, Corey was undertaking the RAID Open Water 20 course.

A deserted Gatwick Airport at 0900 on 10 October

Our outbound flight was before midday on Saturday 10 October and I must admit we were all shocked at how deserted was.  Checking in with easyJet took minutes and when we boarded the plane, we found it less than half full.

Corey is a paraplegic since a car accident two years ago while he was training prior to joining the Royal Anglian Regiment.  Corey has no sensation below the waist and is unable to use his legs.  The cabin crew on our flight were quite amazed to see the two Toms and Michael lift him from his wheelchair and place him in his seat for the flight.

Mask protocols were strictly observed by the team, the flight was uneventful, and the easyJet Cabin Crew superb. We also took a digital thermometer to check temperatures prior to flying.

Corey having a pre-flight temperature check

Hurghada Airport was very quiet and we moved through Immigration and collected our baggage in very quick time.

Two things to note:  If you are travelling to Hurghada you need to complete a COVID declaration for the Egyptian Authorities. If not, you have to fill out the rather lengthy form when you arrive.  You can undertake a COVID test on arrival at Hurghada Airport but the queues are long.  It costs much less than the tests we had done in the UK – BUT – you are required to be quarantined at your hotel until the test result comes through.  This means two days with no access to resort facilities.  If the test comes back as positive you have at least two weeks being confined to your room.

COVID guidelines

Transport to Roots was, as ever, on hand and we were soon at the camp and being briefed about the COVID arrangements.  A lot of work has been put in place to make Roots COVID compliant – and all at considerable expense.

None of the usual hugs with the Roots team and you have your temperature checked every morning and every time you return from the dive centre.  Your dive kit is sterilised every night ready for the next day’s diving.

Sterilised Dive Kit

We all felt very COVID secure.

Check back for tomorrow’s Blog and our first day diving…


Find out more about the work of Deptherapy and Deptherapy Education at www.deptherapy.co.uk

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And the winner of our TUSA Paragon S Mask competition is…

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We’d like to say a big thank you to all of you who entered our competition to win a TUSA Paragon S Mask from our good friends at CPS Partnership!

As usual, lots of you entered… but there can, of course, be only one winner!

And that winner is…

  • Lee Evans from the UK.

Congratulations Lee – your prize will be on its way to you soon!

Not a winner this time? Don’t worry – there are plenty of other competitions running on Scubaverse.com right now. To see what other awesome prizes you could be in with a chance of winning, click here!

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