Meet the divers: Tec divers

Are you thinking about what to do next with your diving?  Not sure if you’re ready or what it will be like?  When it comes to trying something new the best way to find out more is by talking to those who have recently done it.

Technical diving is often misunderstood as highly specialist and perhaps out of reach for the ‘regular’ diver.  A large part of this ‘mystique’ is due to the fact that many divers have never met, or do not commonly come into contact with, technical divers, nor do they have access to a dive centre that is equipped and actively involved in deep diving.

Luckily for those of us who dive with Dive Centre Manly we are not in that category!  Tec divers walk and dive among us!  We sat down with three members of our diving community who have recently passed their PADI Tec 50 course to find out more about their motivations, their experience and why they are proud to be Tec divers!

Justin (2000+ dives, 8 years of diving)

Congratulations on completing your Tec 50!  When you started diving, did you ever see yourself doing this?

[James] Thanks! No, I’d never even heard of technical diving!

[Chris] There was always the intent to progress – to be able to dive deeper, for longer, safer…. But I never thought that Tec 50 would have come around this quickly and been as enjoyable as it was.

[Justin] Not at all, even [after] I finished my course director course, I still think I will never try Tec, and I even tell my wife I do not like tec.

Describe technical diving and what you like about it

[Chris] I would describe “Tech Diving” as being a team sport – getting into the water as a well-rehearsed team, with a plan, and then executing the plan. What I love the most is being able to enjoy the dive sites that Tech Diving provides access to.

[Justin] Recreational diving is FUN, Tec diving is COOL. The way the diver is thinking has to be COOL. The gear is also COOL. And the buddy teams too, very COOL.  I like it because it helps me to develop my thought and my skill.

[James] Technical diving is about diving safely beyond recreational limits. For me that typically means diving without direct access to the surface due to a decompression obligation. It’s about having the necessary skills and equipment, and the right attitude. One of the things I like best about technical diving is its focus on team work, and the opportunity that it gives to dive with like-minded individuals.

Chris (127 dives, 4 years of diving)

What was the main driver for you deciding to start tec diving?

[Chris] My first Tech Diving course was an accident.

My wife and I were backpacking though Indonesia trying to dive as many of the “off the grid” marine parks as possible. As we ventured further and further off the beaten track the quality of Dive Guide service became increasingly inconsistent. Rightly or wrongly I remember one dive in particular where we travelled over an hour in an old rickety canoe to reach a dive site. Once we got into the water we had barely settled into our groove before we could hear our Guide’s computer – he had exceeded his No Decompression Limit (NDL) due to having done so many repetitive dives over the previous days. My wife and I finished the dive whilst our guide floated for 40 minutes at about 5 metres.

Over the next few days my wife and I laughed and joked about how we were both lucky that we had done so many dives together and were confident that between us we could have dealt with any situations. We discussed diving in general a fair amount including our aspirations – I said that I would like to be able to dive the wrecks in the English Channel; but most of them are beyond the reach of recreational diving limits.

As our journey continued we found ourselves in Gili T. One of the Dive Centres had 2 spare spaces on a TDI Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures course. On a whim, we booked onto the course – it was just the knowledge dump we needed. It was a ‘zero to hero’ introduction to backplates, wings, twinsets, deco bottles, gas planning, and most importantly, contingency planning.  From there I’ve never really looked back.

[James] I’m interested in diving shipwrecks, and most of the wrecks in Sydney are below 40 metres.

James (157 dives, 2 years of diving)

What do you think is the most challenging part of tec diving?

[Justin] This is a good one, I would say control, I mean underwater of course but also the mind, like at the beginning I was late 3 times for the course.  But at the end, I was very keen for Tec. I even wake up early to practice.

[Chris] You learn very quickly in Tech Diving that the easy bit is getting into the water. Almost anyone can jump into the water and descend onto a wreck at 50m – the dangerous part is being able to get out of the water safely.

The most challenging part of Tech Diving is accepting that everyone suffers from “Skills fade”. It involves being humble and honest with yourself to ensure that your skills have been maintained, practised, and rehearsed.

[James] The task loading. Being able to perform the skills required is a given, you need to be able to do them whilst maintaining depth and trim, and an awareness of what is going on around you.

Was the training what you expected?  Was there anything that surprised you or any part of it you particularly enjoyed or found hard?

[Chris] I thought going into the course my biggest challenge would be mastering using multiple cylinders. What I didn’t realise is that I had completely underestimated how those extra cylinders would affect the skills I thought I had already mastered.

It was a humbling experience – but boy oh boy did I get frustrated at times. It’s easy to laugh about now but it really highlighted to me the importance of refreshing skills and putting them into practice. It’s one thing knowing what to do, and another to be able to do it competently.

[James] Having progressed through Tec40 and Tec45 the training was as expected, but it didn’t make hours of simulated deco stops or hauling 4 tanks to the water any less brutal! I think the hardest thing was performing gas switches with multiple deco cylinders whilst maintaining that awareness of what’s going on around you, keeping your depth and not losing the ascent line.

[Justin] Yes, the training was very fun. The Instructor’s trim really shocked me.  The hardest thing is the valve drill.

Who would you recommend technical diving to?  Describe the type of person who you think is ready to start tec diving.

[James] Someone who has good buoyancy and trim, wants to be the best diver they can be, and has an interest in exploring further than recreational limits allow.

[Chris] If you’re not Tech diving yet then you’re missing out!  Tech Diving and Recreational Diving aren’t mutually exclusive – so just because you start down the Tech Route doesn’t mean you need to stop Recreational Diving. The 2 streams of diving complement each other. So, if you enjoy breathing bubbles at the weekend I think you should consider walking down the Tech Route.

My advice would be to start sooner rather than later. There is no need to be a polished article before you start – as long as you’re comfortable in the water and open to learning get booked onto the course. I wouldn’t fall into the trap of waiting until you have all the gear or a friend that wants to be your buddy – accept that it’s ok to rent gear and that you’ll meet likeminded divers on the course. Chances are you didn’t own your own computer, regs, and BCD before doing your open water – why should Tech diving be any different ?

What’s the next step for you for your diving progression?

[Chris] I need to spend a little while consolidating and reinforcing these skills – there is no quick way to do it. So unfortunately, I am just going to have to keep exploring the hidden wrecks of Sydney’s coast and notching up dives. It’s a tough task I know!

Slightly longer term I’m hoping to dabble with Trimix – in an effort to safely access the wrecks in the 50m – 70m region. Realistically, anything deeper than that and the Open Circuit risks become too great.  I think my mid-life crisis will be a Rebreather.

[Justin] Trimix and CCR.

[James] I’ll be heading back to the UK shortly so will be looking to get some experience with the conditions there. I’m also keen to keep improving as a diver so will be looking to do GUE Fundamentals and probably a Trimix course.

The wreck of the Coolooli, Long Reef. 48m

What’s the best part about being a tec diver? 

[Chris] The huge number of dive sites that suddenly become available to you! Whether it is the SS Birchgrove Park that sunk due to high winds and taking on board water, or the bucket dredge wreck the Coolooli that was scuttled – suddenly every dive has a story, has history, and as a tech diver you’re one of the few with the means and the skills to enjoy them.

[James] Being able to dive with, and learn from, some great divers whilst visiting places few people ever get to see.

Thanks guys!

So there you have it.  As Justin, Chris and James have experienced, while taking on the challenge of technical diving has its demands it is also extremely rewarding.  This particular course had divers from quite different ends of the experience spectrum but through the right mindset, passion for diving and desire to be able to see and go to where others can’t they all came away with new and improved skillsets.

Above all, being a tech diver means you get to know and trust your buddies through mutual experience.  The teamwork, skills quality and awareness you develop mean that as a diver, either recreationally or technically, you’ll be on top of your game.

Inspired?  We have Technical diving courses for all levels running this year so call 02 9977 4355 or e-mail at info@divesydney.com.au to get your own tech journey started!

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