Here are a few items you can include in your logbook to help you stay organized and honest, track progress, and work on self-improvement as a diver.
Prerequisites can be found in the Standards and Procedures for any course you are interested in taking.
In reality, Trimix is a risk management breathing mixture utilized by divers typically seeking to offset the consequences of diving normoxic air or nitrox mixtures at a planned diving depth by replacing much of the nitrogen and some of the oxygen with more benign inert gases like helium.
by Bob Meadows:
Back when diving was perceived as dangerous and intimidating, a small group of divemasters (DM) and instructors asked me to go diving in some springs and caverns in what was considered my back yard at the time. That place was Ginnie Springs in High Springs, Florida. This weekend adventure is still fixed in my mind, like that first car you owned! These early “tech” divers invited me into their world, when I was only just a kid with some good buoyancy skills.
They were fantastic mentors, providing me advice and training on how to use a reel, lights, communicate through light signals, air sharing, the importance of buoyancy in a cave (to not disrupt the bottom), and how to calculate air consumption. Three days came and went, leaving me hooked and excited to dive in places where few could, or even wanted to. All because a few of the DMs and instructors I was with at that time thought I had good buoyancy skills.
Those early mentors of mine contributed to the great passion in my love of diving; not just to dive pretty reefs, but they encouraged me to ask questions such as, where did that ship sink and why? Where does all the beautiful spring water come from? They enabled me to have a lifelong passion for diving and it all started at a far away time in Florida, and has literally taken me around the world since.
Diving has it cast of characters for sure. The better divers and mentors are not judgmental or arrogant in any way. They are genuine, they inspire, and they instill a sense of passion for learning, even when one does not know it. Yours truly, might not have become a technical diver without the early invite from mentors guiding me through their non-intimidating instruction.
Most divers today have the ability to efficiently technical dive once they receive the training and have the requisite experience under their belts. There are plenty of instructors and divers from all backgrounds to teach and mentor technical divers, while the truly good ones do not beat their chest over their accomplishments to the world. These divers instill and inspire the next generation of divers to be the best diver they can be; whether it’s on is a 10 metre/30 foot reef dive or a wreck in 60 metres/200 feet.
As a community of divers we should always be learning and evolving. We should represent our community, whether sport or technical endeavors, with the same understanding and empathy needed for one learning how to dive. There are plenty of instructors with varying degrees of experience that do a great job of that – taking a student and instilling confidence and passion for diving in their life.
On the other hand, the elitist attitudes of some have pushed away potentially great divers over the years. On several occasions I have witnessed divers stating they cannot start a technical dive course because their instructor requires 500+ dives, perfect buoyancy skills, and jet fins for training. These are great opportunities for mentors out there to guide divers in the right direction, foster the basics, and allow the diver to learn, grow, and gain more experience along the way – not just the right amount of dives or fins. Arrogance is the last thing our dive community needs, everyone should be working together towards promoting our sport and all that it encompasses whether it is shallow dives, long cave dives, deep dives on a wreck, or an exploration on a virgin reef.
Sport and technical diving have differences, such as going deeper and staying longer. Most people who are curious or want to technical dive shouldn’t be discouraged by bad attitudes. There are a lot of dive facilities and instructors that will help turn their desires into realities. Technical diving isn’t for everyone, but everyone should have an equal chance at exploring options and not be discouraged by chest beating scuba super heroes. Every mentor in the dive community should inspire confidence, passion, and a willingness to learn and do better in every diver they encounter. Technical diving takes commitment, training and an open mind to new ideas that emerge.
The moral of the story is, there are a** holes everywhere, but there are also plenty of empathetic, caring, encouraging divers out there to help the new aspiring divers along the way. Whatever level we’re at in diving, we should always be mindful of our attitudes and encourage a mentoring type relationship to bring up divers to come.
– Bob Meadows
Owner – World of Scuba, Boca Raton, Florida
by Jon Kieren:
Dive enough and you’re bound to have a few “incidents.” Technical dive enough and you’re almost certain to have at least a couple of “hits the fan” moments. TEACH technical diving at ALL, and it’s a whole other level of “pucker factor.” Knowing that we are going to have some sort of equipment malfunctions, environmental/navigation emergencies, and will just simply make mistakes at some point in our technical diving careers, how do we avoid becoming a diving fatality statistic? Follow the rules, keep things simple and conservative, stick to your training, practice, and stay calm.
- Follow the rules – In technical diving there are a lot of them. They are there for a reason, usually because someone (or several people) died. Whether it’s gas volume requirements, gas analysis, cylinder labeling, depth/penetration limitations, equipment requirements, pre-dive checks, equipment maintenance, etc., there simply is not a dive that is worth breaking these rules and risking your life. Technical diving carries enough inherent risks as it is, and these rules are there to help mitigate those risks. Don’t push it, and don’t get complacent.
- Keep things simple and conservative – We’ve all read the stories. Divers who tried to go beyond what a reasonable plan would allow and came up short. Keep dive plans and objectives as simple as possible, and plan conservatively.
- Stick to your training – You paid an instructor (probably several by this point) a lot of money to train you how to dive, don’t let that money go to waste. What’s the point of training if you’re going to ignore what you were taught anyway? Going beyond the limits of your training can place you in situations you are not prepared to handle, and can (and often does) lead to fatalities. Don’t put yourself in that position, stick to your training.
- Practice – Dr. Anders Ericsson’s research on expertise found that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at almost anything. Since then, it has been more refined and determined that this practice must include proper evaluation, feedback, correction, and reward to truly be effective. Try and put that into the context of diving. 10,000 hours of practicing valve drills before you become an expert. You better get in the water.
While 10,000 hours is obviously not a realistic value, it certainly puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? How many of your buddies consider themselves “expert divers?” How many hours do they have under water? The point here is not to shoot anyone down or deflate anyone’s ego, but instead to point out that everyone needs more practice. It is often said that in a true emergency situation, the BEST you can possibly expect to respond is the WORST that you perform in practice. Think about your last skills dive, the worst you performed any of those skills is how you will react in an emergency. Would you survive? Just because you went through a great Deco Procedures course, doesn’t mean you’re now an expert at decompression diving. You have a long way to go, and have only just begun to develop those skills.
- Stay calm – In technical diving, panic kills. Plain and simple. If you allow yourself to go into “flight” mode in an emergency, you will become a statistic. That’s pretty heavy stuff considering we’re doing this for fun, right? Well, panic is the brain’s natural response when someone is beyond their comfort zone. A scenario we use to demonstrate the comfort zone with students is to ask them at their most vulnerable moment (maximum depth/penetration, near turn pressure, separated from the team, etc.) to mentally put themselves in the worst possible case scenario, like a catastrophic gas loss or silt out, and pay attention to their heart rate. If your heart starts to race just thinking about it, you’re probably outside of your comfort zone and should turn the dive. Knowing the limits of your comfort zone is extremely important and should be taken seriously on every technical dive. If there are any complications just before or during a dive, you need to re-evaluate your limits knowing that the error chain has already started. Each mistake or problem on a dive adds a link to this chain and reduces your comfort zone, and the likelihood of you staying in control in an emergency begins to vanish. Staying calm and within your comfort zone will drastically increase your chances of survival in an emergency by allowing you to rationally solve the problem instead of bolting for the surface.
We’re all in this to have fun, but chances are we’re going to run into a few problems along the way. As a technical diver you’ve been trained and given the basic tools to resolve those problems. As long as you stay within your comfort zone, keep your skills sharp, follow the rules, and try to keep things as simple as possible, you should be able to keep your name out of the accident reports.
by Lauren Kieren:
Being prepared for your next TDI diver course is critical to your learning during your progression in dive training. Whether you signed up for the TDI Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course or CCR Advanced Mixed Gas; learning at this level requires that you connect with the training and fully comprehend the theory development presented in the academic sessions, as well as actively participate in the in-water sessions.
A great deal of learning will happen after you successfully complete the TDI Diver course; however, you should expect to spend an equal amount of time learning outside of class as you spend working in class with your instructor. With that said, class preparation is a vital part to your overall learning experience throughout this process.
In the event you do not prepare for your next series in technical dive training, you can place yourself and others in your class at a major disadvantage. You will put yourself in the position of playing “catch up,” versus being actively involved and thinking ahead during training.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your course by showing up prepared and ready to learn.
- ORGANIZE YOUR EQUIPMENT – If your instructor sends you an equipment list and you are expected to show up to class with the items, do yourself and your instructor a favor by getting it organized prior to commencement of training. Lay everything out and double check your list to ensure you have the required items. This is a good time to verify the equipment actually works before you pack it in your gear bag for class. This is also the perfect time to make sure all your equipment, new or old, is labeled with your name.
- GET IN THE WATER – Before you start your next course, take some time to work on skills from previous courses. If all you can do is get in the pool and work on your buoyancy and trim, do it! Showing up with your basic skills fine tuned will help your technical training tremendously, especially if it’s been more than a couple of weeks since your last dive. It is common for TDI Instructors to require an assessment dive where students demonstrate they can perform skills from previous courses. If this dive does not go well, the instructor may require some remedial training that could delay or prevent the start of your course. If you are trained to dive in the equipment you will be using during your next progression in training, get in the water to make sure your equipment is dialed in; verify your harness is adjusted correctly and your hose lengths and routing are where you want them to be.
- COMPLETE YOUR HOMEWORK – Your instructor will most likely require you to complete some pre-course studies, such as reading the required TDI manual and completing the Knowledge Reviews. It’s possible your instructor might suggest additional text or materials outside of the TDI resources… read in advance and try to absorb as much information as possible before you start your course. A thorough pre-course review can help refresh your memory on previous course information, give you more confidence in class, and help you prepare to ask relevant questions, or make a significant contribution to the overall class by offering timely/appropriate comments. After reviewing the TDI manual and materials required by your instructor, make notes if you have any questions on the content, and hone in on the important points.
- HAVE AN OPEN MIND – Your next progression in technical dive training (regardless of the level) is critical to the overall safety and success of your future dives. If you already knew the information and had experience at this level, it’s very unlikely you would be participating in the course. With that said, pay attention and have an open mind. It’s important to be open and willing to receive the information your instructor is providing. If you are unsure of the information provided, ask your instructor for clarification or wait until after class to talk one-on-one.
- GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST AND COME TO CLASS PREPARED – Finally, get a good night’s rest before you start training, come to class prepared, and show up on time. Arriving for your first day of class disorganized, late, and unprepared sets the tone for the rest of the day, if not the class, and could diminish the overall objective you are trying to accomplish. Being prepared means you’re on time or early, you have all of the required pre-course studies complete, and you have all the necessary equipment (in working order) to start training.
Good class preparation will help you better understand the academic and in-water sessions, keep you confident in class and allow you to make the most of your time during your next series of technical dive training.
For more information on courses offered by Technical Diving International, TDI – Click Here! OR to find a TDI Instructor near you, go to the Find a TDI Instructor Search on the website. We are always open for questions so feel free to send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Jon Kieren:
Technical diving is inherently dangerous. Diving in environments that restrict your access to the surface requires your foundational scuba diving skills to be second nature so when an emergency arises you can focus on solving the problem and aborting the dive. Whether you are just starting your TDI Intro to Tech Course, or have over 200 Advanced Trimix dives, these six essential skills should be practiced on every dive.
- Predive Check, Descent/Bubble Check, and S-Drill – While there are three skill sets listed here, we group them together because the overall objective is the same for all three: start the dive properly equipped and with fully functioning equipment.
- Predive Check – Once fully dressed for the dive, as a team, each diver runs through their own equipment to verify primary cylinders are full and valves open with turn pressures verified, stage/deco cylinders are full with regulators pressurized but valves turned off, BCD inflates AND holds gas, dive computers/gauges are turned on and functioning properly, mask/fins/weights/etc. are donned and in good condition to dive.
- Descent/Bubble Check – Depending on conditions and site, either on the surface or on the initial descent, the team inspects each other’s equipment looking for leaks and trapped or entangled equipment.
- S-Drill – Each team member takes turns conducting the proper gas sharing procedure with another teammate.
- The dive does not start until all of these checks have been conducted, any complication must be resolved before continuing the descent.
- Trim/Buoyancy/Finning – It’s not just for looks. The importance of being able to hold your position in the water column and prevent silting-out an environment cannot be overstated; and everyone can use a little practice. Every dive, try to spend some time focusing on different finning techniques and trim/buoyancy control. Grab the GoPro and let your buddies film you so you can get some valuable feedback on what you actually look like in the water as well.
- Valve Drills – On every single dive, you should practice shutting down and re-opening each valve. Make sure do to this with a teammate so they can verify each valve gets re-opened. Depending on your exposure protection and recent diving activity, you may find it more difficult to reach your valves than you remember. It is important to work on this flexibility and muscle memory on a regular basis, because when you really need it is not the time to realize that you cannot reach a valve.
- Remove and Replace Stage/Deco Cylinders and Bottle Swapping – It is important to occasionally practice removing and replacing stage/deco cylinders in order to maintain this muscle memory. Even if the dive does not require you to stage a cylinder, practicing this skill often will speed up and smooth out the process on the dives where it is required. Going over your bottom time because you were fumbling with a stage cylinder is both embarrassing and dangerous. You should also practice swapping bottles with teammates. This can be done while decompressing by swapping stages or lean deco gasses that you are finished with between your teammates. This increases team awareness, communication, and equipment familiarity. It is extremely important to check that no hoses or equipment have been trapped by the stage/deco bottle any time you replace one.
- Lift Bag/SMB Deployment and Reel Skills – Both deploying a lift bag/SMB and running a reel are skills that deteriorate quickly when not practiced regularly, and sloppy work in these skills can be extremely dangerous. Practice these skills as often as you can, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
- Post Dive Briefing – It is extremely important to debrief every single technical dive. Discuss the highs and lows of the dive, where communication was good, where it was bad, and what areas can be improved upon for the next dive. You cannot see yourself in the water, so it is important everyone in the team provides some constructive criticism. This is often done with friendly banter, but it is important to remember that this feedback will help you improve your diving and safety.
While this is not intended to be an all-inclusive list of skills to be practiced for technical diving, these six skills are applicable to most technical diving scenarios, and can be easily practiced on just about every dive. What other skills do you like to practice regularly?
There really is never a bad question but always think about the question before you ask it; put yourself in the instructor’s fins. Questions are an important tool for instructors when teaching, they let the instructor know what the diver is thinking and chances are good that if one person has a question, others have may have the same but are hesitant to ask.
by Mark Powell
Why do divers do stupid things? Well the short answer is because they are stupid. Now I know that the majority of the readers of this article are going to be divers and it’s not usually a good idea to start off by insulting your audience but bear with me. If you look at some of the recent diving incidents that have occurred such as the tragic double fatality of a father and son who died while cave diving on Christmas day, or the diver who refused to analyse his gas an ended up breathing 100% oxygen at 30m or the rebreather diver who jumped in with oxygen, diluent and handsets all turned off then you can see why I might say that. The British Sub Aqua Club publish a summary of diving incidents every year and a brief glance at this will show that dives do a whole range of stupid things. Not only that but they do the same stupid things over and over again. Most of the mistakes made each year are the same as the mistakes made the previous year. The short answer is that divers do not follow their training. It would be very easy to stop the vast majority of diving accidents if we could just force divers to follow their training. If you do what your instructor taught you during your course then you will avoid the vast majority of problems that occur. The thing is that you already know that, I know that, everyone knows that and yet hundreds of divers every day do things that break what they were taught in their training.
Is this because divers are genuinely stupid? or is it because they just act as if they are stupid? I believe that divers do stupid things because they are human and humans make mistakes. However that doesn’t mean that mistakes are inevitable. If we understand why we make mistakes we can potentially avoid them. If we recognise that each and every diver has the potential to make mistakes then maybe we will be a little more careful and a little less complacent.
We all have the potential to do stupid things because we sometimes get complacent, because we rush, because we are not very good at assessing risks, because we are often over optimistic. We do not always call a dive when we should, letting multiple little problems build up until they become a major incident. We trust our own powers of observation and can easily get fooled into trying to solve the wrong problem. Finally we often let other people influence us unduly.
I have tried to bring some of these ideas together and have given a number of talks on this topic at dive shows throughout Europe and the US. The video above was shot at TekDiveUSA (www.tekdiveusa.com) in Florida recently. This conference brought together technical divers from all over the world to discuss exploration, diving medicine and diving safety. As part of the conference I was asked to put together a short film which summarised why divers do stupid things. I hope this film helps explain why there is always a risk that we might do something stupid and hopefully will help you to avoid doing anything stupid in the future.
By Michael Thornton and Josh Thornton
Switching your diving gas in 8 easy steps
Safe technical diving begins with awareness. The first step is being aware of yourself. As you gain experience and comfort you become aware of yourself and your gear. The highest level of awareness is when you are aware of yourself, your gear, and your surroundings including your dive team. When you add complications, emergencies or any kind of stress your awareness will diminish.
Not being aware of you, your gear or your surroundings during something as critical as a gas switch can be fatal. It is important to follow a strict protocol while staying aware during any gas switch to minimize risk.
As with most diving skills there is more than one way to do things. By establishing a set protocol and adhering to it every time, the risk of making a mistake is reduced. The most common problems that arise during a gas switch are losing control of your buoyancy and changing depths unintentionally or breathing the incorrect gas mixture for the respective depth.
All deco bottles should be pressurized but with valves closed when not in use. This prevents losing gas unintentionally and minimizes the risk of breathing off of the incorrect regulator. Pressurizing is necessary to keep water out of the system and your gear working.
When performing a gas switch, the following steps will help:
- Confirm you are at the correct depth to make the planned switch and achieve neutral buoyancy. (Also have team verify)
- Identify the correct cylinder by verifying the MOD marking on the cylinder. (Also have team verify)
- Deploy the second stage and follow the hose back to the first stage to verify you have the correct second stage.
- After you have confirmed you have the correct second stage and cylinder, open the valve.
- Purge the second stage to remove any debris that may have entered during the dive, and confirm functionality.
- Swap regulators and breathe. (Signal team you are okay)
- Clip off primary regulator.
- Change gases on your computer(s). (Signal this and confirm it with your team)
As a team you should discuss where your cylinders will be mounted. Some common mounting protocols are: 1) rich mixes on the right and lean mixes on the left or 2) all cylinders on the left side and rotate them for easy access at the appropriate depths. Whichever protocol you choose make sure you can easily access all of the cylinders and verify with visual and tactile methods the various cylinders. Team gas switching protocols call for individuals to verify proper gas switches within the team. Some teams prefer to complete the switch one at a time to allow maximum control.
Labeling the cylinder near the neck allows the diver to see it (and in turn, verify the mix). An additional label on the side near the bottom of the cylinder allows the team to see the markings as well.
When switching from one deco/stage gas to another it is important to follow the same verification procedures listed above. To avoid confusion, switch to your back gas. This will allow you to stow the regulator from the first deco/stage cylinder and turn off the valve prior to deploying the second deco/stage regulator.