To Go Tech or Not? Part I

Things to consider before going tech!
by David Miner

Double tanks or rebreathers are used very often in technical diving

Technical diving is a rapidly growing type of diving. Over the last 10 or so years, technical diving has become more mainstream, training agencies have implemented multiple technical certifications, and the diving community has accepted it as an important, safe, and fun type of diving. Today, equipment manufacturers, diving trade shows, and training agencies all promote technical diving.

There are many things to consider before jumping into technical diving. In this two-part article, we’ll be covering some of the most important things to consider before deciding if technical diving is for you.

What type of technical diving are you interested in?

Deep diving requires special gear and training

It’s important to understand and learn about the different types of technical diving before deciding on what you want to do. If you’re dead set on getting into cave diving for example, and know what’s involved, you may not need to read any further. But, if you’re unsure about what you want to do, then read on and take the time to understand what’s involved in getting into technical diving.

There are multiple forms of technical diving, such as diving in submerged caves, penetrating into a wreck, diving below 130 feet, getting into required decompression obligations, and diving using different forms of breathing gasses, such as trimix for your bottom gas and different nitrox mixes and pure oxygen for decompression. Many times, you have to tie some of these together when technical diving. For example, penetrating into a wreck that is 150 feet deep, requires decompression and special gasses, such as nitrox and pure oxygen, but it also requires diving in an overhead environment, meaning that there is no direct route to the surface, and diving below 130 feet. Diving into a cave that is only 60 feet deep for 45 minutes requires no decompression and no special gasses, but it’s still a very technical dive, as entering a dark and silty overhead environment requires special training and knowledge. So, technical diving can be anything from diving into a shallow cave using standard air, diving deep on wall, or penetrating into a wreck at 200 feet deep using multiple breathing gasses.

Rebreathers require special training and are quickly becoming standard
in the technical diving community
Decompression is a big part of technical diving
Side mount diving is specialized type of diving mostly used for entering
tight restrictions when cave diving

Use the links below to read more about the different types of technical diving. This will help you to understand what it means to do this type of diving, which will ultimately help you to decide what you want to get into or if you want to get into technical diving at all.

Technical training…what’s required?

Deciding what type of technical diving you’re interested in is important so that you can seek out the proper training. Training classes for all types of technical diving are extensive, requiring a fair amount of time, money, possible travel depending on where you live, and the right equipment. For example, if you want to be a cave diver, there are three classes you need to take, cavern, intro to cave, and full cave. Some training agencies have different names for their classes, but essentially they all cover the same thing and progress in the same manner.

Technical training is about a slow, progressive approach to learning. You won’t be learning to dive in a 200-foot deep cave with multiple gasses during your full cave class. You can sometimes work on more than one training class at a time however. For example, many times you can take advanced nitrox while you’re taking a cave or extended range class. So, it’s important to decide what classes you’re interested in and see if you can do a couple at the same time. The best thing to do is talk to your instructor to see how he or she likes to combine courses.

Training classes can last anywhere from three to five or more days depending on what you’re seeking. Multiple dives are required for each class as well as classroom work, tests, and required reading. Classes include rescue and survival techniques, safety procedures, and drills both in the water and on the surface. The classes are very thorough and require much more focus and dedication than a standard open water class. Once the class starts, it’s important to stay focused and not get distracted with other things.

You may have to travel to take a class depending on where you live. For example, if you live in Chicago and want to get into cave diving, you’ll have to travel to a cave diving location, such as North Florida or the Yucatan in Mexico to get training. You may be able to complete a training course while you’re on a diving vacation. For example, if you’re traveling to Grand Cayman for a week of diving, you could probably fit in an advanced nitrox or maybe even an extended range course. This way, you’re getting in some great diving on your vacation but also getting a new certification.

Technical training classes aren’t like your open water class where you were able to use the dive shop’s gear. Technical training classes require you to have all the necessary gear before starting. This can require a significant cash outlay in addition to the costs of class and travel. Make sure you research exactly what gear you need for a class before spending your money on gear you don’t need or won’t work for the class.

As you can see, there is a lot involved in a technical training course. Make sure you research the different training agencies and what you want to do before jumping in a class.

Use the links below to read more about technical training courses.

Cave training
Wreck training
Deep diving training
Decompression training
Mixed gas training

Benefits of technical training in your non-technical diving
The training you learn in a technical training course doesn’t have to be used in just your technical diving…it can and should be used in your basic open water dives as well. Many of the skills, techniques, and other things you learn in a technical training course can be valuable and beneficial in your open water dives. Technical training courses, especially cave diving or wreck penetration courses, teach and build your buoyancy control skills to high levels. Being able to control your buoyancy is critical in a cave or wreck, but is also very important on a shallow reef. Dealing with an out of air emergency on a 200-foot wreck dive with decompression obligations is critical and must be dealt with efficiently and quickly. These skills can also be applied to dealing with an out of air situation on a 60-foot wreck dive…and you’ll be much better equipped and mentally prepared to deal with it because of your technical training.

So even if you spend the time and money on a technical training course, but can’t go technical diving as much as you would like, the skills you learned can crossover into your open water diving and still be very valuable lessons learned. Don’t think that the things you learn only apply to technical diving. Use the things you learn to make you a better and smarter diver in all the diving you do.

Part II next month
Tune in next month for part two, where we talk about the equipment needed to do technical diving, the costs involved in technical diving, and the risks associated with technical diving.