4 Things I wish I’d Known Before My First Tech Dive
by Sean Harrison:
As I look back on the days when I first started tech diving, two things come to mind that have had significant changes – equipment and logistics. There have been such dramatic changes in equipment it is hard to highlight them all. The early tech equipment was nothing more than standard equipment that was reconfigured to meet our needs, it was not specialized, light weight, easier breathing at deeper depths or made of special metals. And we certainly did not have rebreathers, those did not come ‘til the late 90’s. Logistics, on the other hand, has gotten better but can still be a little tricky. My tech diving started in the mid-Atlantic states of the US where there were several boats that would take us to deeper wrecks and allow us to stay a little longer in the water. We also had a hard time getting the gas fills we needed for the planned dives. Things have gotten better in this aspect but here is a list of things to be aware of if you are considering getting involved in tech diving or have recently learned to tech dive.
1. Boats – not all boats are created equal. Dive boat operators as a general rule rely on the number of divers they take out per day, pretty simply math – the more divers they take out, the more money they make. When boat operators take out tech divers they will usually reduce the number of divers on their boat (space for additional equipment) and stay out a little longer to allow for decompression or rebreather divers – this means you may pay a little more to do tech dives off of boats. This also means you need to speak with the boat operator and make sure you can do the dives you want to do off their boats. Mixing tech divers with sport divers normally does not produce good results.
2. I have to go! – tech dives are not always deep but they are almost always longer than your average sport dive. Longer dives means better exposure protection (even in warmer water) read: dry suit, which means no peeing in the water, or does it. TDI recently released two good articles on this:
The short version of these articles is, it is important to stay hydrated while diving and with hydration comes nature’s call. Lots of options to manage this situation so do your research before your next long dive.
3. I’m hungry – anybody that knows me knows I love my food and after a few hours in the water, I surface ready to eat! Diving burns calories and the colder the water the more calories burned. Tech diving from boats in many places also means longer boat rides, so getting back to the dock is not going to happen as fast as it does on sport dive boats. Bring along some good snacks or a sandwich to get you back to the dock. If you have a good snack on the boat ride back, you will be able to get started on the monster nap sooner.
4. Bring on the gadgets – not so fast. Tech divers are certainly gear geeks but they also tend to be minimalists and only bring what they need. A big part of what allows us to tech dive and stay underwater longer is minimizing air consumption; carrying more gadgets means not being as streamlined and increases air consumption. As you select gear, think about what kind of diving you will be doing, cave divers don’t need what wreck divers do and cold water wreck divers don’t need what warm water ocean wreck divers do. Also think about where it is going to go on your body or configuration. Too many things stacked on top of each other means you may not be able to access it when you need it.
If you are a planner or someone that likes to work through scenarios, technical diving is right up your alley. Plan out your dives, call the boat operators or local stores (if you can do the dives from shore) and find out what sort of support they can provide. If you will be diving from a boat, make sure you are clear with the operator what kind of dive you want to do and see if they will do it. Planning ahead is critical when it comes to rebreathers and traveling, not all locations support all rebreathers. Make an equipment check list and go through it before every dive/trip, with tech diving comes more equipment which equals more things to forget. Make sure that check also includes a save-a-dive kit, and that the spare parts now include the ones you need for tech diving. Plan ahead and have fun. A spontaneous tech dive can result in a spontaneous disaster. If you have not yet taken a tech diving course, consider signing up for the TDI Intro to Tech Course. This course will give a great overview of what to expect and what you will need.