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Mounted from the Side


Words: Ryby Stonehouse, Pictures: Andy Gent

Ooer missus are you thinking about fun & games in wet rubber ?

You may be thinking right but probably doing it wrong! And I'm not having a pop about the D.I.R. gang: though they almost certainly will poo-poo what I'm going to say but I've been in this game long enough to ignore the well meaning criticism of just about anybody in the diving world!
Maldives Diving Adventure
And again I've dived twinsets for years (my back feels as if it were decades) ever since I went to Ginnie Springs in northern Florida to do the IANTD Tech Nitrox and NACD Full Cave course way back in 2000 when I learnt to dive 15L 'doubles'... I was an Air-Pig. No hiding it! Then I went off on one, into re-breather territory with TDI... and decided that whilst it was very Gucci and all things cool to every man and his underwater dog: I'm still struggling with the fact that I could have a pretty nice Alfa Romeo Spyder (or similar) on the drive for every day use, or a quiet little black box for weekends if the dives aren't blown out on the south coast of course.
So I saved my money and went back to twins... and eventually got myself sorted with trim, and balance, and streamlining, and a proper fin technique, and a list of boats with hydraulic lifts so I had a fighting chance of getting out of the water after a dive when the weather was actually good.

So here I am ten years on, with a beaten up well dived twinset in the garage gathering a layer of dust. But WHY I hear you ask? The answer is simple, I've gone sidemount, and I ain't going back.

I've done several thousands of dives in just about every environment except ice (coz I'm a wuss about getting cold lips) with a hundred metres TMx and some scarily serious cave penetrations logged on the way... all to come to the final conclusion, it's all bloody hard work with twins on your back.

As a TEC Instructor for quite a while now, I've had students come along as very accomplished and confident divers, many of whom have been turned to gibbering wrecks after an hour in the pool with a twinset. Aha, a way to weed out the weaklings who'll never make it past forty metres... Seriously though, how many of you, as a sports diver, chucked a twinset on your back and had near perfect trim/streamlining/balance in the first fifteen minutes of diving it... Yeah right, me too, it takes time and quite a few adjustments of the bolts & bands (oh deep joy).

Sidemount however, is a completely different experience, it's EASY... and I mean REALLY EASY.

I've had dozens of sport divers jump in on a sidemount rig, and every one of them has been perfectly horizontal in the water within ten to fifteen minutes, relaxed and comfortable. Everybody wants more time underwater and to be safe as well as practical. As a recreational sports diver, sidemount gives you this with all the gas and redundancy you need, but none of the backache and micro-trim fiddling with spanners and socket sets.
Maldives Diving Adventure
As for TEC diving in sidemount, it really IS the way forward; everything is where it needs to be right in front of your face. No more need for Mr Tickle arms to get to that shutdown behind your left ear somewhere. No more swimming along at a 45° angle as the stages drag your hips down. Fully loaded TEC sidemount divers are still perfectly horizontal and streamlined. So Sidemount is the answer. No back problems, heaps of gas, perfect trim... Oh yes, and it's cool.

Jeff Lofflin (my hero) developed the PADI sidemount speciality which is designed to give sports divers more dive-time and increased safety... and it's bloody good fun too (here, we also run a very cool PADI twinset specialty too).

Next time I'll explain why drinking straws are better than regulators...

Ryby Stonehouse is a PADI Tec Rec Trimix Instructor Trainer at Blue Ocean Diving in Maidstone, Kent. Sidemount specialty courses are available every month: Class briefing / Pool Orientation / 4 Dives Contact 01622 212 022.
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