I slip into my harness that holds my double 80’s and cinch the straps, checking every release and boltsnap twice for security. Next I clip in my stage bottle of deco mix, pressurizing the regulator and then closing the valve. The deckhand gives me one last lookover, making certain my isolator is open and that all gear is in place. Getting to my feet, I waddle over to the boat’s edge under the weight of 100 pounds of equipment. Signaling my teammate that all is okay, I stuff my reg in my mouth and giant stride into the greenish-blue water. Another tech dive has begun. At this point we will descend below 130 feet and stay there longer than the no-decompression tables say we should. We’ll have an invisible ceiling that will keep us from making a direct ascent. There will be more than safety stops, there will be decompression stops, probably lasting longer than our bottom time. We’ll be gas-switching as well, adding to the difficulty of the dive.
Now, I ask, is this kind of diving for you? Maybe, maybe not. Technical diving is the next logical step for the recreational or professional diver who is seeking more exciting things to learn, something more challenging than your average reef dive. But it isn’t easy. Tech diving is definately more physically demanding, requiring the participant be in top shape. The classes a student needs to take for certification are academically challenging, full of formulas, table use and new underwater skills. There are reels to run, lift bags to deploy, gas shutdowns to perform, and sharing air with the long hose. Oxygen doses to track, equivalent narcosis levels to calculate, and air consumption rates to figure. There’s the increased risks involved in decompression diving, from nitrogen narcosis to decompression illness. Oxygen toxicity becomes a concern, requiring definate knowledge of your gas mix and it’s limitations. It’s an equipment intensive endeavor as well, requiring a cash outlay that will surpass your original diving expenditures. Extra regulators, dedicated cylinders, larger BC’s, and drysuits to name a few. Yes, there’s a lot to think about before diving in.
Whats that, you think you might be up to the challenge? That’s great, because although it won’t be easy, it is indeed rewarding. There are deep shipwrecks to discover, and long caves to explore. You’ll reach a new level of confidence in your diving abilities that wasn’t there before. You may even relive the excitement you first felt as an openwater diver, breathing new life into the sport you love. It all begins with a nitrox course, learning to use enriched air mixtures up to 40 percent. Then on to advanced nitrox where the skills for using up to 100 percent oxygen are learned. Then decompression procedures, extended range and even tri-mix diving where helium joins the fun. A whole new batch of courses awaits to take you as far as you want to go.
If technical diving truly is the next step for you, then do it right! Hook yourself up with a technical instructor from one of the fine agencies out there who can guide you safely into this new realm. TDI, IANTD, GUE, NAUI, PADI and others offer good training for the new tech diver. Do some research, find out where you want to go, and decide if you are willing to do what it takes to get there. The fun and excitement is there if you are ready for it.