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Basic Skills Tech Divers Tend to Get Lazy With

tech skills
When the first “Technical Divers” started to evolve and climb out of the primordial soup of the sport realm, some would argue they were light years ahead of the modern day sport divers of today who desire to make the same journey. Without getting into a great debate on the evolution of diver education, the modern day student does lack something of the days of old. The lacking factor is the relentless requirements of skill set repetition until those skills evolve into muscle memory that develops into a diver’s ability to have “Recognition Prime Decision Making Skill Sets.” “Recognition Prime Decision Making Skill Sets” is simply a model of how people make quick, effective decisions when faced with complex situations. One must ask, what happens to the tech divers who have demonstrated basic skill sets in training where they meet the requirements of certifications but do not seem to be very fluid or competent later in the execution of the same skill sets in future training dives or when needed? One thing we must ponder is, what is the culture within the “Tech Diving Community” when it comes to currency and proficiency of basic tech diving skill sets? English Anthropologist Edward B. Tylor defined culture as “the full range of learned human behavior patterns.” “This may be the most intuitive principle of learning, traceable to ancient Egyptian and Chinese education.” Aristotle once commented that repetition in learning “is frequent repetition that produces a natural tendency” and “the more frequently two things are experienced together, the more likely it will be that the experience or recall of one will stimulate the recall of the other”.

“Our humanity rests upon a series of learned behaviors, woven together into patterns that are infinitely fragile and never directly inherited.” – Margaret Mead

Diving culture is a very powerful influence within our community that is constantly evolving due to technology changes, the better understanding of science when it comes to diving physics and physiology, and the educational/philosophical differences among divers/training agencies. The hard and fast influences of diving peers, traditions, and the trials and tribulations of the pioneers before us are also factors that affect the evolution of learned behavior. So in the diving community we have the cultural traditions of the past, sub-cultures (separated ideology), and the cultural universals (ideologies that everyone accepts as the norm).

“The effects of repetition on a single association of stimulus and response with the effects of practice on the development of skill, which is something quite different. In learning any skill, what must be acquired is not an association or any series of associations, but many thousands of associations that will connect specific movements with specific situations.”

So whether you are “Tech Diver of Old” or a “Newbie Wet Behind Ears,” there are skill sets we all can, need, and do desire to improve/refresh upon or hone into a better mastery of. These actions take repetitive practice. Whether it is learning to deploy an SMB, performing a valve isolation and shut down, or working through managing a diving emergency, there are four stages one must swim through in skill development:

  1. The Novice – Mastering a craft does not happen overnight.
  2. The Apprentice – Realize your personal limitations.
  3. The Journeyman – Where the real work begins. Practice makes perfect.
  4. The Master – Unconsciously competent

“To become a master at any skill, it takes the total effort of your: heart, mind, and soul working together in tandem.” – Maurice Young

The law of 10,000 hours

Author Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, states that “you need to have practiced for 10,000 hours, or roughly ten years, to become a genius at something. It means ‘success’ isn’t necessarily genetic, socioeconomic or generational.” So if you find yourself as the “Novice” standing on the shore dreaming of the water, or on a boat sailing down the road to “Mastery,” it can be concluded that it is not always an easy journey to log the 10,000 hours needed for obtaining mastery of a skill set. Similarly, there is another inherent problem that must be discovered and understood. Once you master a skill set it can be a very fragile learned behavior and it requires a lifelong dedication to maintain or one may slip from “Master” to “Journeyman” in an easy fashion. A famous quote by Confucius, says, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Research agrees, and shows that we retain in memory “10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we hear and see, 70% of what we say, and 90% of what we say and do.”

So what skill sets do we tend to get lazy on as tech divers? One of the first we have to look at is equipment configuration. All too often we find ourselves getting complacent and dependent upon the diving gear we have grown to love and trust. After all, we have the best BCD that has a dual bladder, tons of “D” rings, and it is very rugged and durable so we can load it up with weights and the biggest steel tanks (so air management is never an issue either). All jokes aside we cannot cookie cut our dive gear due to the individuality of every diver. So on every dive a “Tech Diver” should put in some dry time preparation on the dive gear to make sure the integrity, functionality, and dependability is there. During gear prep it should be determined that the equipment will perform proper when needed. Similarly, the routing and placement of regulators/hoses, cylinders, and the attached accessories should be ergonomically appropriate for yourself and easily accessible for use and deployment.

Second is tech dive planning – pen and paper time are still a must if want to try and keep “Murphy’s Law” at bay. A lot of divers tend to fall farce to believing “I have a dive computer and it will tell me everything I need to know.” Knowing run times, dive & gas management profiles, the objective, and problem contingencies for a dive is still imperative. Complacency can be unforgiving. Another part of planning is gas analysis. As a diver at any level you should know what is in your cylinder because people do make mistakes. Analyze your own gas mixtures so you know!

Third is weighting and buoyancy. These topics are subjects that “Tech Divers” tend to get complacent about. After all we said we have the best BCD and it can handle it right? Remember, “When the crap hits the fan – there are no time outs.” Knowing the buoyancy characteristics of your diving ensemble is imperative because it does have a direct reflection upon you trim and air consumption, which can affect other aspects of the dive. Being able to control your ascent rate and adjusting buoyancy to neutral during deco stops are directly related to proper weighting and is something one can always strive to improve upon. Some other skillsets that tend to become rusty without practice are:

  • Gas switching drills
  • Valve isolation or shut downs
  • SMB deployments
  • Different finning techniques (frog, backwards kick, scissor)
  • Equipment removal and replacement (stage cylinders)
  • Navigation techniques
  • Line reel management (tie offs, line retraction, entanglements)
  • Loss/disoriented – especially in overhead environments
    • Light failure
    • Silt outs
  • Drysuit emergencies (over inflation and flooding)
  • Hand signals used by tech divers
  • Dive rescue/prevention techniques (dive buddy monitoring, management of an unconscious diver)

An honest self-evaluation of yourself should be done, asking how you can become a better tech diver and member of a tech diving team. You should be open to evaluations by your peers because they may see things you do not notice about yourself. Finally, these actions as well as working with a TDI professional are all avenues one can employ in the journey toward the mastery “Tech Diver” skills. So how many hours do you have invested?


Darrell Adams – SDI/TDI/ERDI Instructor Trainer with Air Hogs Scuba in Garner, NC.

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1 reply
  1. Eric Brooks
    Eric Brooks says:

    Great article Darrell, and just for clarification, the 10,000 hour rule applies to doing a skill repetitively 10,000 times in order to become an expert at it. Bruce Lee once said, “I’d rather be kicked by a man who knows 10,000 different kicks, than a man who has done the same kick 10,000 times.” A testament to the need for doing skills repetitively (practicing on every dive).

    Reply

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