5 Fantastic tips from our tech guru, Steve to improve your experiences underwater – no matter what your goals are.
What’s the most important distinction between a technical and recreational diver? The amount of gear you wear? The amount of time spent in the water? The number of cylinders you carry? The depths you reach? The ego ??
The principal and most important difference is really between the ears. Technical diving training is a test of skills and ability to manage tasks but what it really boils down to is a profound change in the way you think.
In technical diving, going straight to the surface to fix a problem is not an option due to the mandatory decompression stops or actual overhead obstacles (such as when penetrating caves and wrecks). So the best way to prevent problems below the surface is to do everything possible to check above the surface.
This is why during technical diving training a lot of emphasis is put on adhering to procedures and checks throughout the preparation, execution and analysis of a dive. But you don’t have to be a technical diver to follow similar routines. You might not be interested in the idea of strapping on a lot of gear and diving into the depths but if you can learn to think a bit like a technical diver it will not only make you a safer diver, it will also make you a more proficient one. Safe and proficient divers tend to have more enjoyable and relaxing dives!
Here are a few ways you can improve your diving by thinking like a tech diver.
1. Be methodical– How often do you miss out the pre-dive safety check or rush through it? After diving becomes familiar to us we can all get complacent about doing BWRAF or similar before we jump in. For a recreational dive you might get away with not having your air turned on, if you’re lucky. Technical divers don’t have that luxury so they make sure to perform a thorough head-to-toe check that everything is on, working and where it should be before making the leap. Do the same and you’ll massively reduce your risk of accidents.
2. Practice: perfect your skills– Diving ability is a mixture of quality and quantity. Doing a hundred dives where you do the same thing each time will not change anything! The best way to enjoy your diving and get the most from it? Strive to be a better diver. Strive to have better buoyancy and control.
One of the hardest adaptations most people find when beginning technical diving training is not the new equipment, it’s the concept of having finely tuned control in the water. Technical diving demands excellent buoyancy control and the ability to perform tasks whilst staying in position and trim. Something like keeping your fins off the sand is not just desirable, it can be the difference between finding your way out of a wreck or not!
Tech divers are always looking to perfect their skills and keep them fresh to be able to perform challenging dives safely and comfortably. If you can hone and practice your skills in the water you’ll find that your diving is not only much more relaxed and fun you’ll be able to see and notice much more around you: once your buoyancy and control is second nature your mind is free to concentrate on looking for fish!
3. Take control of the dive- As a recreational diver, diving is, of course, a recreation: most people who dive are on holiday and they want a guide to take care of them.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s one luxury technical divers cannot have- all team members must be self-sufficient and be able to take control of the dive should anything happen to their buddies. Not knowing the plan, how to navigate and the emergency procedures is simply not an option when you are on a long deep dive.
The majority of divers, even experienced divers, have never dived without a guide. Have you? If not, then pick a familiar site you have dived many times on a guided dive and jump in with just your buddy. Discuss the plan, follow the plan and see how taking ownership of your underwater surroundings makes the dive a whole new experience.
4. Be situationally aware- Another new concept for new technical divers is situational awareness. That is, the ability to know where you are and what your team mates are doing while you are performing a task. High situational awareness is crucial on a technical dive because solutions must be found efficiently to underwater problems. If your buddies are miles away and not checking on you, you can be vulnerable.
Part of technical dive training is the development of situational awareness by throwing problems at the team during dives to see how alert they are. The standard protocol is to run through a checklist in your head over and over: myself, my team, my surroundings. If you can do that successfully there’s a high chance during dives you’ll know exactly where you are, whether your gear is working and where your buddies are.
The pay-off? You definitely won’t be the one who misses the dusky whaler shark flashing by.
5. Be a team- Tech divers have to be able to be self-sufficient but they also have to know they can rely on their team mates. That’s why thinking like a tech diver is largely understanding that you minimise the risks by being a useful part of your team. You all do the checks. You all bring strong diving skills to the table. You all know the plan and are keeping alert during the dive.
All this translates to you diving safely in your group and ultimately seeing more stuff!
In the recreational realm we are all still in the water just to enjoy ourselves and the underwater world, whether we have one or two tanks on our backs. By following some of the points on this list you can maximise your dive experiences and be a safer buddy.
Just remember that it’s not necessarily the amount of time in the water, it’s the amount of quality time spent in the water. The main ingredient for enjoying your diving is striving for improvement, whether you are a tech or rec diver, and that only comes from a combination of training and practice. Get someone to show you how, then get in there and work on it!