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Sharing Technical Diving Lessons with the Sport Diver

by Rob Bradish:
tech lessons

It is a discussion heard all of the time. The sport diver saying he doesn’t want his diving that rigid. They just want to stick the thingy in their mouth and go see the fish. Meanwhile, as technical divers, we are so consumed with doing things in a particular way, that we sometimes forget that, adaptability is also a skill. No wonder the two camps sometimes have difficulty finding common ground! That said, people often overlook a fundamental truth. There is no such thing as Technical Diving! It is all recreational and both forms have common roots. Lessons were learned, and passed down through the learning process that were provided, typically via another diver’s mishap, and possibly at the expense of their life.

Knowing that, let’s look at some of those lessons, often spelled out in technical training manuals, and see how they might apply to the sport diver.

  • Lesson One – Every dive is a decompression dive.
    The lesson is actually in every Open Water Diver class, but sometimes only gets a cursory look. While there may seem to be differences between Non Stop Diving limits and Decompression Dive Plans, they are really the same thing. In both cases, whether by computer, table or some other method, the diver is examining time at depth, and then building an exit strategy that allows the gases dissolved in our body’s various tissues, to escape before becoming large enough to be a problem.Failure to recognize that, and plan and act accordingly, is just waiting for an incident to occur.
  • Lesson Two- Any Diver, Any Reason, No Questions Asked
    As a part of a technical team, it is our job to show up prepared and ready to function at 100%. That said, sometimes a diver may be 20 minutes into a dive before they realize they are not hitting that goal. It is the job of the diver to know when to make that call. It is so important to the team, that the mantra has been adopted in an effort to make that decision even easier, eliminating embarrassment or ridicule as a concern.A favorite buddy, a sport diver to his core, used to word it a little differently, but the message is the same. “As much as I enjoy diving, there is not any single dive worth all the joys in my life going forward”.
  • Lesson Three- Stop Learning, Stop Diving
    Recently, another diver stated they had perfected a style of diving that worked for them and that they saw no need to alter it going forward. As a technical diver, we are often told that a critical part of the post dive meal was to discuss, at least a few, points of possible improvement. This is in recognition that, during every dive, there is room for improvement and growth. We don’t stop training. Whether through self-study, mentorship, or quality class material, there is a recognition that things change, and when change occurs, so to must learning.In all things, there must be a realization that failure to continue learning in any dynamic activity could contribute to failure at a later time.
  • Lesson Four- The Trip is often more important than the Destination.
    Technical Diving is full of stories about people that achieve some feat. It is also full of stories about people who fail while trying to achieve some feat. Those who achieve a tough goal rarely do so without a lot of forethought and planning. It is also a part of the training described in Lesson Three, as well as combined experience and lots of practice. When failures do occur, there is often an after action discovery. Frequently, reasons cited include exceeding ones skill set and abilities.Preparation is rarely rushed, and doing so often leads to skipped steps. Taking time in that preparation is a valuable use of time. In most cases, that destination will be there tomorrow!
  • Lesson Five- You carry a Submersible Pressure Gauge for a Reason.
    In Technical Diving, running out of gas can, and likely would, be a life threatening event. It is simply not acceptable. We plan for it, and we plan for contingencies, to insure we do not run out of gas. Yet somehow, there always seems to be some person, returning from a sport dive trip, and boasting about how they used every bit of gas in their tank, like they should be applauded for their skill!!Sorry folks, running out of gas, or even getting close, except in cases of mechanical failure, is unacceptable, period.
  • Lesson Six- When spending peanuts, expect monkeys.
    Diving at a technical level can be more expensive than recreationally. Redundant systems and extended training cost more as a function of keeping the diver safe!! Even so, the technical diver will likely spend more on any one individual device than the sport diver. Technical divers are frequently reminded that their gear is not scuba equipment, but life support equipment. Quality has an associated cost. Remember the old adage, “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”? This applies to repairs, training, and product purchases, and often, we know it when we see it.If a product or service is undervalued, it will very likely be under delivered as well. While quality may cost, shortcuts in training or services always cost more.
  • Lesson Seven- There are NO shortcuts!
    If an Indy Car racer wants to win the Indianapolis 500, he will drive thousands of miles in practice to get to the winners circle. Diving should not be any different. Many planning a technical dive will do “mockup” dives ahead of the actual dive, planning and re-planning for contingencies and spending hundreds of hours just in preparation. A sport diver can often recognize the “old Salt” at the back of the boat. They breathe gas more efficiently, they move more gracefully through the water and the always seem to have a great time. When you look at their log book, frequently they have logged many dives and hours underwater, typically far beyond the norm.Fact is, experience does matter. Can’t get to the boat this weekend because of rough sea? Head to your lake or quarry. While it may not be what you were looking for, rarely does a person not see benefit from a little practice.

There are many lessons to be learned but these seven can help provide a solid core. Technical diving may not be on a diver’s goal list, but its lessons have been hard fought and should not be treated lightly. To do so would be to forget another lesson found in the quote of George Santayana. “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it”. With so many Scuba Diving lessons learned through the mishaps of another diver, it would seem foolish for a person to want to repeat that lesson. Most importantly, we have these lessons and know they work. The only risk in applying them, therefore, is to have more enjoyment, both for today’s dive and those in the future!!


– Rob Bradish, who refers to himself as “a sport diver with Technical Interests”, has been certified since 1981, and crossed over to “the Dark Side” as an instructor with SDI/TDI. He is the owner of Sub-Aquatix, in Clayton, North Carolina.

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