Sidemount has historically been a scuba diving gear configuration used almost exclusively by technical divers in the realm of advanced cave diving but it has recently become a huge success in the recreational market over the last couple years. It wasn’t so much that sidemount wasn’t a very well kept secret that just got out; it just wasn’t something that non-cave divers did.
By definition, sidemount is the carrying of the cylinders worn at the driver’s side. The most common set up for side mount is one tank under each arm, though single sidemount is growing in the recreational market.
The popularity of sidemount has grown mostly because of a need to do something “different” for the average diver who has issues carrying a tank or a set of doubles on their back. Sidemount slowly became an alternative for comfort and not just a configuration to enable a diver to move swiftly through small cave and cavern openings. Why should this set up be reserved only for a specific activity like cave penetration when it can be used for comfort on any given recreational dive? And so it begins…
Who is your market?
Beside those technical divers that are looking for gas redundancy or better accessibility to their regulators and tanks valves, comfort may be the biggest seller to the diver out there. Many divers will offer their reasons for advocating sidemount to greater stability and easier-to-attain trim and control in the water.
Many divers who have back issues or shoulder issues, such as torn-rotator cuffs, confess that sidemount diving has given them a new outlook on scuba diving. Carrying the tanks under your arms greatly reduces the psychical exertion as opposed to having them on your back. This is especially rewarding when diving off a small vessel or doing a shore entry. The ability to have access over to the valves and regulators without having to reach back is a major benefit to those who have mobility issues in their back and shoulders.
A sidemount system does not always have to be with two tanks. With proper weighting, a single tank can be used on a dive. The option to use various sizes of tanks becomes an option as well. Sidemount is a good way to start and grow your skills from recreational to technical without having to change how they dive very much. The configuration stays the same and new gear is added to the mix as the diver gets more proficient.
Though sidemount should not be looked at as a silver-bullet solution intended to take the place of some other scuba system configurations, there certainly is a very large market for it. And as a full service dive center, there is one more important aspect to sidemount; you are not only expanding your curriculum and offering your customers additional solutions to diving, but in doing so, you are increasing gear sales.
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