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To Tech Or Not To Tech – A Journey To The Darkside

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In 1969 Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. In 2006 I went into space as well. Well… inner space anyway. I only draw this reference as there have probably been more people blasted into space than there have been divers below 100 metres, and the few of us that have been probably feel more honoured.

Now I know it sounds like I am suffering from small penis syndrome, and indeed I am, but it really is not as hard as it sounds to become a tech diver. Nowhere near as hard as the training with NASA, that’s for sure.

I feel blessed in the fact that I am allowed to go to places that very few have even dreamt of going. I dive in caves, in wrecks, on rebreathers, you name it. And with some of the coolest people ever.

So, if it’s so cool to do, how come everyone’s not doing it?

Paul tech 2

Well, it’s quite simple. I believe that divers are their own worst enemies. For years, technical divers have referred to recreational diving as “an unbearable boring pastime”, and recreational divers have referred to technical diving as “pointless as you see nothing down there!”  Man, I used to feel the same.

I’ll tell you what; as long as I’m underwater I’m happy. I love my single tank, but a few years ago I needed a challenge and technical diving fulfilled that need.

Like me, most people expect technical diving to be ridiculously hard work. The questions I get asked the most are not to do with the expense but with how heavy the kit is, how hard the academics are, how difficult are the skills, too much kit, etc.

So let’s address some of these issues.  Just so you believe me, I am a very average man, six foot tall, 80 kilograms, a bit of a spare tire on my skinny frame and definitely NOT a genius at school. No Navy Seal or Special Boat Services around here.

How heavy is the kit?

Paul tech kit

Well, I have to be honest, it’s all pretty heavy. Twinsets, stages, rebreathers, all of it. BUT, and it’s a big but, we don’t climb mountains and goose step around dive sites in these rigs, we put them on and get in the water. Our rigs are designed to work perfectly in the water so that’s where we like to wear them. I teach a lot of girls for example (and this is not sexist, Celehte our Diving Dentist is a Trimix diver) and the rigs hurt, so we make a plan and get as easy an access to the water with minimal standing around as possible. In the water, a twinset is a dream, balanced, trim and most of all – cool! Once you have dived a wing, harness and twinset, I defy you to ever feel as comfortable in a BCD ever again.

How hard are the academics?

I don’t know about you but physiology, mathematics and biology were not my favourite subjects at school. I was a dismal failure so when I read my first tech manual I nearly had a heart attack. I thought lifting a boat engine for my PADI Divemaster exam was taxing enough. But something special happens when you meet a technical Instructor; we have been there, seen it and done it. We understand what you are going through and we show you logical ways to get to those elusive answers. WE can turn a whole chapter on gobbledigook into one line of pure mathematical magic. The training agencies, whether it’s RAID, IANTD, TDI, DSAT or GUE, spend a lot of time and energy making sure that their Instructors have the right tools to get the job done.

How hard is a technical skill circuit?

The answer here is really simple: It’s easy. The courses build upon each other and so do the skill sets. This means that you have time to master the skills before moving on to a more difficult set. The skills are real world too. Just like on your Open Water course where the skills had their place and were value driven, so are the technical skills. All technical programmes spend a lot of time perfecting (and I mean perfecting) your buoyancy, propulsion, trim and drag skills in water. Then we teach equipment management skills and the “what if” skills. What if I have a free flow, what if I can’t find my ascent line, what if my computer packs up, and so on.

Too much kit?

Well it’s true, we do wear a fair amount of kit, but we only wear what we need to do the job. Our aim is not to become a solo diver but to be self-sufficient. So that means two of everything that keeps us alive. Two tanks, two regulators, two computers, two reels, two surface marker buoys etc. Sounds like a lot but the way the rig is set up means it’s all tucked away neatly making the equipment very streamlined and a pleasure to wear. In fact in most cases a lot more streamlined than a single cylinder and BCD.

How do I start?

Paul tech

Now you have a rough idea of what it’s all about so the question (I hope) that’s on your mind is… how do I start?

Tech, much like recreational, is about the training agency for sure, but in technical I believe the most important decision is the Instructor you choose to work with. A good Instructor will nurture you and make the training challenging but rewarding and you will be chomping at the bit to get diving with that Instructor again.

RAID_Concepts_vFPaul is the Director of Training at RAID. To find out more about the courses that RAID offers, visit www.diveraid.com.

After living in South Africa for 23 years, Paul moved to the UK, where he discovered diving. Within months of learning to dive he had his own centre in London and rapidly progressed to Course Director before finding his passion for technical diving. Paul is an avid wreck, cave and rebreather diver, and has worked as an Instructor and Instructor Trainer for PADI, IANTD, and TDI. Paul recently held the position of Director of Technical Training for SSI, but moved on when he was offered the chance to co-own and run his own training agency. Paul now holds the role of Director of Diver Training at RAID International.

Marine Life & Conservation

Dive Guides invited to apply for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship

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Reef-World’s campaign is helping dive guides in need receive Green Fins environmental certification

The Reef-World Foundation – international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is calling for dive guides to submit their application for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship.

As a result of the Scholarship campaign, dive guides working around the world – including Brazil, the Philippines, Egypt, Colombia, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey – have received their certificate proving their status as a Green Fins certified dive guide. Yet, thanks to funding from Reef-World’s partner Paralenz, 149 more scuba diving guides will be able to receive their Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course environmental certification.

Dive guides who meet the criteria (outlined below) can apply for the scholarship at any time through the Green Fins website. To be eligible for the scholarship, guides must:

  • have completed and passed all modules of the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course
  • be able to demonstrate they or their employer are not financially able to purchase the certificate
  • be a national of a country which receives official development assistance from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Scholarship was created in response to feedback from dive guides who had passed the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course and were keen to download and display their personalised electronic certificate but were not financially able to cover the associated cost (£19 / $25 USD). The personalised electronic certificate can be displayed to entice eco-minded guests by informing them the guide has received this vital environmental certification and is aware of how to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with diving.

Diving related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris as well as the effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures. The Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, created with the support of Professional SCUBA Schools International (PSS) and running on their innovative EVO e-learning platform, teaches dive professionals how to prevent diving-related damage to coral reefs by following the highest environmental standards and better managing their guests to prevent damage to the reef.

Sam Craven, Programmes Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to be offering dive guides around the world the opportunity to become Green Fins certified; no matter their background. Both the e-Course and the Scholarship have been a great success so far and we’re delighted to see so many dive professionals demonstrating their commitment to sustainable tourism by taking the course. We urge dive guides who haven’t yet taken the course to consider taking this step and welcome Scholarship applications from anyone who meets the criteria. Together, we can protect coral reefs through sustainable diving and we’d love as many dive guides as possible to join us.”


Dive guides who want to be considered for scholarship can visit www.greenfins.net/green-fins-dive-guide-scholarship-applications to apply.

To donate to the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship Fund, please visit www.greenfins.net/appeal/sponsor-a-dive-guide.

Supporters who are interested in helping additional dive guides receive their certifications can also donate to Sponsor a Dive Guide.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Go Fish Free this February

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There are no longer plenty more fish in the sea! Fish Free February challenges you to help protect our oceans by removing seafood from your diet for 28 days and helping to raise awareness of the issues caused by intensive fishing practices.

Our oceans are in a state of global crisis, brought about by ocean warming, acidification, pollution, and habitat destruction. However, the biggest immediate threat to ocean life is from fisheries. Each year an estimated 1-2.7 trillion fish are caught for human consumption, though this figure does not include illegal fisheries, discarded fish, fish caught to be used as bait, or fish killed by not caught, so the real number is far higher. It is no wonder then, that today nearly 90% of the world’s marine stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. If we do not act fast, overfishing and damaging fishing practices will soon destroy the ocean ecosystems which produce 80% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and provide three billion people with their primary source of protein.

Fish Free February, a UK-registered charity, is challenging people around the world to take action for marine life in a simple but effective way. Take the Fish Free February Pledge and drop seafood from your diet for one month, or beyond. Fish Free February wants to get people talking about the wide range of issues associated with industrial fishing practices and putting the well-being of our oceans at the forefront of dietary decision-making. A third of all wild-caught fish are used to create feed for livestock, so Fish Free February urges us to opt for plant-based dishes as a sustainable alternative to seafood, sharing our best fish-free recipes on social media with #FishFreeFebruary and nominating our friends to do the same.

“Not all fishing practices are bad” explains Simon Hilbourne, founder of Fish Free February. “Well-managed, small-scale fisheries that use selective fishing gears can be sustainable. However, most of the seafood in our diet comes from industrial fisheries which often prioritise profit over the well-being of our planet, resulting in multiple environmental challenges. In some cases, the fishing industry has even been linked to serious human rights issues such as forced labour and human trafficking! Fish Free February hopes to shed more light on fishing practices, create wider discussion around these issues, and offer solutions to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural environment.”

To learn more about these issues and to take the Fish Free February pledge visit www.fishfreefebruary.com

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Competitions

This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk to book your spot!

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