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Tech Wreck Diving


Paulo Vincenzo Toomer

In 2001 I decided that I needed a challenge in my life so I decided to jump on a plane and fly to Sharm el Sheikh and learn the art of technical diving. Never before have I been so nervous of doing a dive course. But in true diving style my instructor, Aaron Bruce, made my entry in to this new arena as painless as possible. Challenging, yes, but painless. How did he make something that is supposed to be so hard become so easy to learn? And I must point out that I am not Arnold Schwarzenegger and I am certainly no rocket scientist.
The Underwater Channel
So as a follow on from last issue, we are going to discuss Training Agencies, Instructors and Course Options so you can make the right decision and get into this wonderful sport with minimal fuss.

Training Agencies
Do they really matter in the grand scheme of things? Yes they do. They are responsible for making sure that your instructor covers the vital material that will keep you safe while you are pushing your boundaries. They are also responsible for up to date, state of the art teaching materials which, when you consider how fast diving technology is moving, is no mean feat. So, we do have to excuse them occasionally when the books are a little behind the times. If this worries you at all, let me assure you that your instructor will be far ahead of the books and will give you all the latest techniques and information.

And what agencies are out there? There are millions of the buggers! Every two minutes there is another agency saying they can do it better. My list below is not a complete one, but they are the main players at the moment.

IANTD (International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers), quintessentially a cave diver training agency, they were amongst the first to launch Nitrox and Trimix diving so they have no fear at all of technology. They have totally embraced Cave, Wreck, Deep Open Water and Rebreathers. In fact, with IANTD you can pretty much learn to dive on a Rebreather.
We have PADI's technical division DSAT (Diving Science and Technology), who are an awesome organisation for sure. Their materials are absolutely top notch and their instructor standards have set the benchmark within the industry. They are still relatively new to tech diving so they only offer Nitrox and Trimix. They don't offer Cave, Rebreather or Wreck programmes but it can't be long before they embrace these courses as well.

TDI (Technical Divers International) have, like IANTD, embraced all aspects of tech diving and are constantly pushing the boundaries.

GUE (Global Underwater Explorers) or DIR (Doing it Right) I prefer calling them GUE no offence here, Jarrod, DIR does sound a bit wank! Now, I'm sure you have heard all the moans and groans in the industry about DIR being a bit one sided, but I can tell you one thing for sure: get past the bull and pick a good GUE instructor and you are in for a great ride. I have a few friends who are GUE instructors and they are amongst the best in the industry, they just have a very different view on how things should be done.

Just to confuse the issue even more there are PSAI (Professional Scuba Assocation International) and ANDI (American Nitrox Divers Inc.). Again, both training agencies are striving to be at the cutting edge of technical training.

Choosing an Instructor
I believe in the 80/20 rule; training is 80% of what you need to dive safely and 20% is experience. I mean, why spend fifty dives trying to get your buoyancy, trim and propulsion (finning) techniques when you can learn that in one day with a good instructor? However, you do need some experience in each area before progressing on to the next level. So, in my very humble opinion, this is the most important choice you can make. The certifying agencies can make great books, standards, presentation materials etc, but they cannot fully police how divers are being taught. So, with that in mind, remember you are a customer and go with the instructor who wants to nurture you and make you all you can be. Be very clear on one point, good instructors are not cheap and they realise how much effort goes into teaching a good course. This was where my choice made all the difference.

What Course?
Most training starts with some basic prerequisites:
  • a minimum age of 18
  • Advanced Open Water (or equivalent) at least
  • Deep Diver (40m no decompression)
  • A basic Nitrox qualification

Halcyon Eclipse Infinity
When moving in either the Open Circuit (OC) or Closed Circuit Rebreather (CCR) direction you will need an Advanced Nitrox qualification which allows you to use up to 100% Oxygen.

Then you need to decide where you want to take your training. How deep do you want to go? How much decompression do you want to do? Do you want to dive a real overhead environment (cave, wreck, ice) or a virtual overhead (open ocean decompression)? Open Circuit or Closed Circuit Rebreather? I could go into each course but to be honest this article would be ridiculously long, so I suggest that once you have answered these questions, contact your instructor and let them guide you. They will show you the easiest path to your desired goal.

I would like to say that I am totally unbiased with regards to all the different training agencies and I have the utmost respect for everything that all technical instructors and agencies are trying to achieve. I hope my comments do not upset anyone.

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