Over the past few years there has been a growing interest among divers to learn more advanced diving techniques that will allow them to plan dives beyond the normal recreational limits of 130 feet or extend their no decompression limits by switching gases during the dive or plan and execute decompression dives. These divers want to stay longer or go deeper than the norm. There is absolutely nothing wrong with their desires as long as they have the training and discipline to make these types of dives.
Technical diving is not for everyone and each diver considering technical diving courses needs to self-evaluate their diving objectives, discipline and dedication to following strict procedures before entering this forbidden zone. You need to understand that technical diving is more hazardous than normal recreational diving and even if you plan and execute everything in your diving plan correctly, you could still get hurt. There are no safety guarantees in technical diving. Another issue to wrestle with is the fact that escaping to the surface is not always possible due to decompression requirements amassed during the dive. Are you disciplined enough to follow strict deco plans without fudging on times or depths? Are your diving skills solid? Can you maintain buoyancy and control your depth for long periods of time without the aid of an up-line? If you become separated from your dive buddy are you prepared to finish the dive solo? These are just a few questions you should consider before diving into the world of technical diving.
Think about the following dive scenario for a moment; planned depth is 290FSW, planned bottom time is 20 minutes and the expected run-time (total time in the water is 110 minutes). What does this really mean? A dive at this depth for 20 minutes will take you 90 minutes to come up with varying decompression times at various stops. Can you “hang” that long? What happens when you reach the 20 foot stop and your remaining decompression time is 45 minutes? Can you be patient that long? Have you planned to have enough deco gas to make this stop and all the others below it? While this may represent a technical dive at deeper limits, it is possible to do and many divers have executed such a plan, all without getting hurt. Do you still think technical diving is for you?
Learning the proper techniques, procedures and skills takes dedication and time. Gaining experience after the course takes even more time. Technical diving also makes you pay attention to detail and plan for contingencies. You will be shown how to use new equipment and configure your kit so that it is streamlined and trim in the water. This may mean you will need to purchase items you don’t currently own. Technical diving is not for the faint of wallet.
There are several courses in the world of technical diving. Normally one begins with Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures. Once the basic equipment configurations and diving techniques are mastered then Entry Level Trimix might be the next step. Entry Level Trimix will take you to a max depth of 200 feet. A step beyond and to greater depths is the Advanced Trimix Course. This course trains you how to select gas mixes to depths as great as 330 feet. During each course you will learn new techniques and practice techniques previously learned. You have to be comfortable in each step of the training before you can progress to the next phase. Technical training takes time and dedication on your part, there are no short cuts to diving these depths safely. Are you a good student? Do you listen and apply what you are being taught? Do you work to improve your skills during each dive you make, even after being certified? Technical diving is a huge step away from the recreational diving you once knew.
You will learn how to configure a twin tank setup, position stage bottles along your body, shoot lift bags to the surface, practice emergency skills and learn to be self-sufficient even though you have a buddy. As you can see there are many aspects to learning technical diving procedures. Is technical diving really for you?
Even though you enroll in a technical diving course there is no guarantee you will complete it and become certified. Your attitude plays an important role in technical training and if the instructor determines you have failed to meet and demonstrate the attitude necessary to participate safely in technical diving, then you will be asked to discontinue the course. Technical diving is for divers serious about learning and diving to new limits. Technical diving is about knowing where you are during a dive in relation to depth, bottom time and projected run-time. Failing to meet the rigors and disciplines can have severe consequences; you could be severely injured, disabled or killed if you don’t follow the guidelines taught during the courses. As a technical diver you take on added responsibility, not only for yourself, but for the dive team as a whole. Think about it carefully, is technical diving for you?
During the course(s) you will follow the instructor’s directions and dive plans explicitly. You are not to separate from the instructor or the rest of your dive team at any time. You will refrain from technical diving outside the course until you have successfully completed the course and are certified. You will be required to maintain adequate physical and mental health and to notify your instructor of any issues. You will accept the risks for these types of training dives and for any specific risks unique to each environment and/or dive plan. You have a responsibility to notify your instructor if, at any time, these risks are too much for you to handle. Is technical diving for you?
Technical diving will open up new worlds of adventure. You will be able to see and explore sites many divers will never visit. You will also thoroughly plan, execute, and follow strict procedures in order to visit this new world. If you are ready to accept the challenge, welcome to technical diving.