Oct 2017

Common Misconceptions of Technical Diving

By Mike Waddington

You may have seen them before on a dive boat with enough equipment for at least 10 divers, despite only 3 people using it all, or maybe sat around a laptop planning a dive at your local dive club. To a new diver, technical divers do what might seem impossible, and many professional divers know very little about the world of technical diving. This has led to many misconceptions about technical diving.

This faction of diving has only just recently become accessible, and now many of the big training organisations have begun pushing their own technical diving programs. But despite the effort from the big players such as PADI, the world of technical diving is still being pushed aside. Here are 3 major misconceptions that prevent many recreational divers from even considering taking a technical diving program.

Technical divers only dive deep

If you ask some divers if they are interested in becoming a technical diver, and many will reply, “No I don’t like to dive so deep”. The idea that tec divers only dive deep is a complete misconception. While technical diving has some forms that allow divers to go deep, the real benefit is in the form of decompression. This means that technical divers can exceed the times allowed by dive computers or dive tables, and use a different gasses for the ascent to accelerate decompression. This gives many advantages.

Let’s say that there is an amazing 70 metre long wreck lying at 40 metres. If we were recreational diving, the RDP (recreational dive planner) would only allow us 8 minutes to explore this wreck, which is nowhere near long enough! If we choose to plan a decompression dive, then we could spend much longer down there, as long as we have enough gas and equipment with us. This doesn’t just have to be a wreck dive, if there was a reef at 30 metres we could really use this additional bottom time to explore. Many divers conducting scientific research choose to plan decompression dives to shallow depths such as 20 metres, so they are not so limited on bottom time.

You can’t see anything down there

After a great deep dive, people often ask “What’s the point, the viz was bad at 30 metres, how bad must it have been at 60?” Again, this is a misconception. Although water does absorb some light and colour, if the water is clear then we can still see very well. I have been to dive sites at 15 metres where visibility was poor, and I have been to wrecks at 65 metres where I could easily see over 30 metres. The bottom composition is more important than the depth, if you are diving over silt, then visibility will usually be poor, but if you dive over white sand, then there is every chance that it will be good.

Some people believe there is no life when we go deeper. This is again, incorrect. While the diversity of life may be smaller at depth, there are still many things to see. Some species can only be found at greater depths, such as the incredibly rare, prehistoric Coelacanth. The ocean is one of the last unexplored places on the planet, and technical diving allows you to explore a great deal more of it than recreational diving does.

Technical divers need hundreds of dives

You may think, because of all the fancy equipment they use, and how serious they are, that technical divers have been diving their whole life, and only very experienced divers can join their club. The trouble with scuba diving is, it has a very steep learning curve. On your first dive you spend the whole time trying to work out how to breathe and kick at the same time, while your instructor is doing all kinds of things without any problems. Then after 10 or so dives you are pretty comfortable, and by the time you have 100, you are as good as you will ever become. That is, if you don’t continue training.

The technical diving programs are very skill oriented, and no matter how many dives you have before you begin your training, everyone still starts at the same level. I had over 300 dives before taking my tec 40 course, and I still remember trying to hover (in trim) in a twin set was just as hard as it was in my Open Water Course. To be able to complete successful technical dives, number of dives is not what you need, it is the correct training.

The PADI TecRec tec 40 course is PADI’s entry level technical course, and you need only 30 dives as a prerequisite. It is not a full decompression course, but it does introduce you mixed gas diving, and lays the foundations for the later programs. The only way to improve our diving is by pushing our training further, and I can honestly say that a tec 40 diver with 50 dives will probably be better in the water than a Divemaster with 100 dives.

‘Misconceptions of Technical Diving’ was written by Mike

Photo Credit: Steve Woods Underwater Photography

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Mike Waddington

I first discovered diving in 2008 after going snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. After trying diving at a flooded quarry in England I decided to head out to warmer more interesting waters in Thailand where I ended on the Island of Koh Tao completing my Open Water course. Instantly addicted with money to spend and plenty of time on my hands I decided to continue until I became a Divemaster so I could live what seemed as the perfect life.

After that I headed to the Caribbean to an island called Utila to complete my instructor course, I spent several months out there completing the MSDT internship, teaching students and leading dives. This is also where I discovered my interest in the technical side of diving, taking part in equipment repair courses and learning about blending gasses and running compressors.

With all my new qualifications it was time to head back to where it had all started, Back to Koh Tao where I intended on living the dream. Once I arrived I quickly found a job and started teaching straight away. During my time on Koh Tao I took part in all many technical diving courses, learning how to dive with re-breathers, in caves and even going down to 90m/300ft!

Qualifications:

PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
PADI/DSAT Tech Deep Instructor
PADI/DSAT Gas Trimix Gas Blender
PADI/DSAT Trimix Diver
TDI Intro to Cave Diver
TDI Advanced Wreck Diver
TDI Inspiration rebreather Decompression Procedures
PADI Professional Videographer
BSAC Compressor Operator
TDI Equipment Service Technician

Dream Dive Locations:

Silfra, Iceland
Cenotes, Mexico
Chuuk Lagoon, Micronesia
Ice Diving in Russia