The Appeal of Technical Diving
The term Technical Diving is one that is familiar to almost all divers, so many will be surprised to learn that it is quite recent, and was coined in the mid 1990’s, to describe activities that were considered more advanced that the mainstream. So what is it, and is it for you.
What is Tec Diving?
Tec Diving, or simply Tec for those that do it, can be defined as: diving, other than conventional commercial or research diving, that takes divers beyond recreational limits. It is further defined as and includes one or more of the following: diving beyond 40 meters, required stage decompression, diving in an overhead environment beyond 40 linear meters from the surface, accelerated decompression, and or the use of variable gas mixtures during the dive.
In other words you may no longer have direct access to the surface, due to a decompression, or physical ceiling. This brings with it a need for a myriad of additional procedures, and equipment to account for emergencies that we would otherwise have us swimming back to the surface, and now need to be fixed underwater.
What Tec Diving is not
Some divers, having survived some problems whilst diving, they may feel qualified to compare themselves to Tec Divers. Be warned, a fortunate outcome, through chance, to an underwater emergency does not substitute the level of skill and knowledge that comes from formal training, with an experienced instructor.
Without fully understanding the depth of training and knowledge required of a Tec Diver, some regard them as risk takers, thrill seekers or even reckless. In reality this could not be further from the truth. Tec Divers seek to overcome challenges by applying extensive equipment and methodology to mitigate risk, not simply accept it. Having understood the need for recreational limits you can better prepare yourself to go beyond them.
Another fallacy is that Tec diving is something that all divers should aspire to, it is true all divers could benefit by building on their knowledge and skills, it’s also true that the inherent risks and responsibilities placed on a Tec diver are far greater. Not all divers are willing or able to accept these risks, therefore tec is not for everyone.
Tec diver characteristics
So how can you be sure that you are suited to Tec diving? Some common characteristics found in Tec Divers are:
Self-sufficiency: As mentioned earlier a Tec Diver finds himself without the possibility of direct surface access more often than not. Recreational divers learn after separation, to surface and reunite with their team after a fixed period of time. This no longer being an option we must enter the water fully prepared, in terms of procedure and equipment, able if necessary to end the dive alone and deal with any emergencies that may occur along the way.
Discipline: Sometimes it is easy to forget just how hostile the underwater environment can be, accidents do happen and when they do occur on a Tec dive the cause is often attributed to omitted procedure. Ignoring the finer details contributes to a small chain of errors with big consequences. Tec Divers understand this, respect the need for proper procedure and do not cut corners, bend rules, disregard dive plans, omit safety equipment or exceed training, experience or equipment limits.
Cautious: Murphys law, what can go wrong will go wrong is perhaps a bit too pessimistic, however being prudent enough to account for all reasonably foreseeable emergencies is essential. A prudent tec Diver has back up plans, redundant breathing supplies with adequate reserves, is trained, and practiced in procedures for the environment they are diving in, and maintain a high level of awareness before and during a dive.
Responsible: The Tec Diver accepts responsibility for personal safety, accepts and acknowledges the risks and demands of Tec Diving, if you feel unable to do so you have an obligation to yourself, and your team not to dive. Recreational divers all too often fall into a pattern of following Divemasters, forgetting or ignoring the training they received at open water level. An overriding rule of planning and executing a Tec dive is everybody contributes, nobody dominates.
If you are considering undertaking some Tec diver training this is what will be expected of you. If you have fallen into bad habits as a recreational diver (you would not be alone) you must be prepared to make the changes required. Faking them may get you through a course, but it may also get you seriously injured, or worse, if the change is not a permanent one.
Which Dive Agency?
So having accepted the above and decided to get trained what agency and course combination do you select. A small amount of research will unearth many long running arguments singing the praises of one diving agency and listing the shortcomings of another, so which one?
In truth the choice of agency is not so critical, all instructors teach from both experience and a curriculum. Any instructor worth his fins will go beyond what any one curriculum offers, drawing on methodologies from several and bringing his own experience into the classroom. In short select your instructor and then talk about the best program for you. Choose an instructor who has a good reputation, word of mouth recommendation is by far the best.
One thing that does distinguish one diving agency from others is the quality of student materials, with the majority of your course knowledge development being based on independent study, and prescriptive remediation from the instructor, it pays to pick course materials that are easy to follow, well presented and informative. Do some homework on this before the final decision on your course.
So do you buy all of your own gear now or wait until after the course. Tec diving is an equipment intensive activity, and it’s no longer simply about fashion, this will be your life support and hopefully be with you for a long time given the expense.
Making an unqualified decision on tec gear may double your costs if it proves to be a poor choice. During your course you will come to understand what you want and need from your gear so it is worth waiting until you have some expertise behind you. Equipment workshops play a big part in every course, during our programs we encourage students to try different types and configurations, such as sidemount, adjustable harnesses and different weight systems, being patient pays.
So what can you expect to learn, some examples from the PADI tec Rec range and a brief summary of their contents:
Tec Diving Courses
This program introduces the sidemount configuration, equipment and procedures. Although it does not qualify a diver for decompression diving it does include the use of deco tanks, gas switches and staged decompression (simulated), providing some experience for those wishing to progress or a refresher for existing tec divers. More information on Sidemount.
The entry point into technical decompression diving. The course provides a transition from recreational scuba to Tec diving. Although the use of full Tec gear (doubles and wings or sidemount) is preferred, it does allow modified use of recreational gear in some situations, provided the diver has two separate regulators, with one of the first stages fitted with 2m a long hose. The working limit for a diver of this grade is 40 meters with up to 10 minutes of non-accelerated decompression while breathing up to EANx50. More information on Tec 40
The diver now must wear the full ‘standardised’ tech rig, including wings and doubles, plus an additional deco cylinder. (Note that side mounted cylinders are an acceptable alternative to back mounted doubles throughout the Tec Rec range). The course will allow the diver to go to 45 metres and make accelerated decompression dives using any mix of EANx or oxygen. More information on Tec 45
The Tec 50 course represents an extremely high level of competence for a technical diver. Although the option exists to make the last dive of the course using trimix, it is intended as an air and nitrox rating. By the end the diver can reach a maximum of 50 metres on a dive and make extended, accelerated decompression dives. More information on Tec 50
Tec Trimix 65
This course opens up the advantages of Trimix to the diver, and divers are qualified to make multi-stop decompression dives that employ EANx and oxygen for accelerated decompression, and any Trimix with an oxygen content of 18% (normoxic) or more. This course will take you to a depth of 65 meters. More information on Tec 65
Training focusing on the use of Hypoxic Trimix (under 18% O2), during the course you will be trained to depths up to 90 meters, there are no limits are placed on how deep the diver can go after training, providing they build their experience gradually. More information on Tec Trimix
Closed Circuit Rebreather
Closed Circuit Rebreathers (CCRs) recycle gas exhaled by the diver, as opposed to venting exhaled gas as bubbles in open circuit. The technology has developed at a dramatic pace over the last decade, previously being the exclusive domain of experienced technical divers, fully electronic units are now accessible by recreational divers. More information on CCR courses
Having taken all of this in it may bring to mind the question why bother, there is a lot to learn and the courses will challenge you (or they are not being done properly). As it appeals to different people for a variety of reasons only you can decide if this type of diving is for you.
The additional knowledge a diver stands to gain from the programs appeals to many, developing a greater understanding of why the rules and limits are in place rather than simply following them, dive skills will also improve with the additional training. For others the idea of diving in spots rarely seen by human eyes is a big motivator, some simply want to be a safer diver through the proper use of equipment and applied theory.
Do some research and see what stands out for you, find a dive center and give it a go. A try dive or discover tec dive is a great means to meet your instructor and see if you enjoy this style of diving. Book your course or Discover Tec dive now.