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Tech Divers Do It In A Row

TO TECH OR NOT TO TECH - AN INTRO TO THE DARK SIDE

Paulo Vincenzo Toomer

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. Nothing like 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 isn't doing it?
Dive Worldwide
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 am not just a technical diver; I am a PADI Course Director, the kings of single tank diving. 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?
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 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 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 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.
Travelling Diver
How do I start?
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. I hope this has given you a little more insight into the weird and wonderful world of technical diving.I will be discussing different technical programmes and equipment in future issues.

You can email Auntie Toomer with any of your dive queries and you might also like to check out The Diving Matrix.
London and Midlands Diving Chambers

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