by Instructor Trainer: Jon Kieren and Diver/Student Jordan Greene:
Day one of a TDI Trimix Course can be intimidating. It usually includes an evaluation dive with your instructor to ensure your skills are up to par before proceeding, as well as an academic review session to evaluate where your dive planning and emergency procedures skills are at presently. While this evaluation day is not typically a go/no-go situation, it gives the instructor an idea of what (if any) remedial work will need to be completed before moving forward. How do you know if you’ll be ready?
The first step will be to determine if the TDI Trimix Course is the appropriate next step for you. This is a personal decision that you need to make on your own, but your TDI instructor can be an excellent resource when trying to decide what your next step is. Do the dives you want to do regularly require trimix training? If not, maybe you should focus your dive training efforts on something that will more directly benefit your diving goals. If they do, then you’re on the right path.
Are you willing to make the investment? Yes, trimix diving is expensive, but it is also time consuming. Many divers have no problem coughing up the cash for the gear, gas fills, and training, but then fall short on making the time investment to keep their skills fresh. Are you willing and able to commit to diving at least once or twice a month? Are you willing to dedicate most of your dives to shallow water practicing skills? If not, your skills can quickly deteriorate after your course leaving you with an expensive plastic card.
Next up, are you mentally prepared for trimix diving? Trimix diving involves depths reaching 100 meters/330 feet and decompression obligations ranging from 30 minutes to several hours. Any emergency must be handled in the water, failure to do so can almost certainly result in serious injury or death. These situations are stressful for just about anybody, but if you are not mentally prepared to be in those situations, you will likely not be able to handle them. How do you handle stress? Can you solve multiple equipment failures in limited to zero visibility without panicking? Your TDI Trimix instructor will teach you techniques to cope with these types of scenarios, but you have to be mentally prepared to be put in those situations before you even get in the water.
Finally, are you a good enough diver? This is difficult for most divers to answer honestly. By now you’re a certified technical diver, at a minimum TDI Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures certified, and you have made at least 100 dives. You’re a pretty experienced diver by this point. Whether your skills are where they need to be to begin TDI Trimix will be a decision that ultimately your instructor will make, but it’s important to be honest with yourself as well. We all want to think we’re the best divers in the universe, but this is typically far from the truth. A buddy with a GoPro camera filming you practice can be a great tool to help you evaluate your own skills. Some simple drills can be done to quickly evaluate your current skill level:
- Valve Drills- How quickly can you identify shut down a malfunctioning regulator/valve? At trimix depths, mere seconds count when gas is hemorrhaging, and being able to isolate and control the situation will be critical in your TDI Trimix Diver course.
- SMB Deployment- While the practical use of this skill varies drastically from environment to environment; it is ALWAYS an excellent test of a diver’s ability to handle a complex task quickly and efficiently.
- Fin Kicks- Modified Flutter Kick, Frog Kick, Back Kick, and Helicopter Turn; can you perform each of these efficiently and without sculling your hands?
- Stage/Deco Cylinder Handling and Gas Switches- Can you remove and replace your stage/deco cylinder and make gas switches effortlessly without skipping a beat? Trimix training will begin adding additional stage/deco cylinders making basic cylinder handling skills extremely important. These dives also often require up to 2 or more gas switches on a dive, additional gas switches means more opportunities to make a fatal mistake.
- AND MOST IMPORTANTLY- can you perform all of the above while hovering within a 1 meter/3 foot window and in proper trim? How about without a mask?
At this level of training, all of your basic technical diving skills need to be second nature in order to ensure you will be able to handle the additional task loading of more complex dives as well as equipment failure and other emergency scenarios appropriately. Your TDI Trimix Instructor will help you refine many of these skills and help you with managing emergencies; however, taking an honest look at yourself and your current skill level will greatly help you prepare for your class.
Once you have decided that the TDI Trimix Diver Course is the next logical step, have committed to making the time and financial investment to both the training and keeping up your skills, determined you are mentally prepared to conduct trimix dives, and have made an honest self assessment of your skills, it’s time to get in touch with your TDI Trimix Instructor and start planning your training. Use our Instructor Locator Tool to find an instructor near you.
When technical diving was introduced to me, the TDI Trimix Course stood out in particular more than any other course. Not to undermine the magnitude of any other courses or to discredit the knowledge and skill each one built upon my dive education, it was something about the science of it. The idea of using a gas not commonly or naturally utilized in human physiology for the purpose of exploring a deeper reach, a manipulation even was fascinating to me. This course and type of diving seemed so far-fetched when I started my first tech course (TDI Intro to Tech), it was something I saw as intimidating. Learning the fundamentals of technical diving and being exposed to new types of equipment, configurations, skill sets and understandings made a Trimix course seem mountains above my ability at the time. Building up to performing decompression dives to depths of 100 meters/330 feet (TDI Advanced Trimix) would become a long, hard, time consuming (and expensive) dedication; one that I would happily pursue over time. A Trimix course is by no means a weekend course and requires a great amount of focus and dedication, whether your just starting technical diving or you have accomplished your prerequisites to this course (Advanced Nitrox, Decompression Procedures , 100+ logged dives), honestly ask yourself if deeper diving on mixed gasses is a path you would like to follow. Do you have the time and dedication to learn and maintain skills? Do you have the mental ability to apply the knowledge? Can you handle emergencies scenarios in stressful situations while maintaining a clear train of thought? Are you ready for a Trimix course?
These were my initial thoughts when starting out in my technical training and actually still remain as my thoughts today, though the intimidation and fear factor has been greatly replaced with confidence, understanding and ability. As I mentioned before, a trimix course does not happen over a weekend or week, many months of preparation and experience must be built up prior to starting a trimix course. As with any education or skill, a strong foundation must be built to ensure a sturdy structure can stand. Without a strong understanding of what trimix diving entails, one might not be as thoroughly physically and mentally prepared; training and building upon your current skill set should be routinely enforced before entering into your trimix course. Ultimately it is the student’s decision to move onward to this course, and with the advice of your trimix instructor, it may be determined whether you’re ready or not. As a student, you should be well versed and confident in the practices of your Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures certification including physiology, gas planning, labeling, analyzing, switching and application of corresponding skills. These skills can quickly deteriorate, so it is very important for a student to constantly refresh them in shallower water environments often. Work closely with your instructor for evaluation and areas of improvement; take advice with an open mind. Emergencies can arise at any moment and the more practice a student can have mapping and executing these drills, the better. Valve drills, assortments of fining and kicks, deco cylinder drills, gas switching, low/no visibility comfort, strong current comfort and SMB deployment all need to come natural at the point of entering your trimix course. If one point could be greatly enforced and underlined, it would certainly be to follow your instructor’s guidance for planning, skills assessment, and knowledge development. Your instructor will truly be your greatest asset in determining if this is the right course for you. Ultimately, you should appreciate any advice given, even if it isn’t what you would like to hear. After all, diving is supposed to be fun and your instructor wants you (and themselves) to preform these complex dives as safe as possible. The time commitment and financial investment in a TDI Trimix Course is significant, but remember, the payoff is just as great if not more. The reward will be more than just exploring a deep wreck or over head environment. The discipline and confidence the training and course provides can be applied throughout your diving career and applied to many future courses. Contact your TDI Trimix Instructor and discuss your thoughts on moving forward with this course, be honest with yourself and your instructor about your skills and ability to determine if this is indeed the right course for you.