Not All Tech Divers Are A**holes

by Joshua Norris:
A**hole tech diverThe dive industry is just like any other massive group throughout the world. The military, corporate America, medical personnel, college athletes, spelling bee champs and many more examples all have one thing in common: there are complete and utter a**holes within each of these groups. Within the diving world, there are those of us who want to learn and experience new and exciting things. Then there are those who simply want to have a collection of cert cards that would rival any hardcore “Magic: The Gathering” pro / nerd / virgin. Some are in it for that once-in-a-lifetime vacation and some start diving because they are just no good at golf. Whatever the reason for being a SCUBA Diver is, there is nothing stopping us from taking the next step needed to go on that amazing 230ft dive that you’ve heard so much about. While many of us have gone as far as we want on the sport diving side, what is stopping us from continuing on to begin technical diving? This is where the industry becomes self-defeating in many ways.

When I first began diving in 2008, I clearly remember looking around at smaller tanks (40s), 7ft hoses, dry suits, bolts and snaps and wondering what all of it would be used for? When I asked, I was immediately told by a very old man sitting in the corner that I had no business being in the “real diver” section of the dive shop. I was unaware that the knight had taken a vacation from guarding the Holy Grail and decided to take up diving. Instead of telling him that, it is not my fault that he is a miserable person, I decided then and there that I would go through the diving that I wanted to (Open Water, Advanced, Deep and Wreck) and then just stop. After all, who wants to turn into that guy? In the grander scheme of things, who in the hell would want to be a diver at all after being told something stupid like that? Here I am spending close to $600 dollars to take a class to learn how to become a diver, and then I am not allowed to go into certain sections of a store because I am not a “real diver?” I don’t know if his dad hugged him too much or not enough. After completing the course with that group, I found a new dive shop to work with and it was filled with great people who wanted to simply go diving and have a great time. This is my kind of place.

As time went on though, I noticed that none of us were really advancing anymore. Sure we looked great in the water with our basic kits that were held together by duct tape and prayers, but we weren’t learning anything new. After even more time, I found that I could actually fall asleep in the water on a 30ft drift dive if I wasn’t paying attention. I then realized one of the most important lessons that any diver could ever learn other than never putting your mask on your forehead (which is apparently treason to some people):TO EXPAND YOUR DIVE KNOWLEDGE, YOU MUST DIVE IN DIFFERENT PLACES AND DO DIFFERENT THINGS!

That is when I really started to look into technical diving. All you have to do is to go a little bit deeper and learn a little bit more about how decompression works. If you really want to go to the next level, you could even learn about how trimix works. Aside from that, diving itself doesn’t actually change very much.

In saying that, there is some math involved and the planning must be done the right way. However, there is nothing stopping any of us from learning how to do it. So why are so many people so reluctant to get into tech? The answer is easy. Take any five tech divers and one of them will likely have the attitude that, “not everyone can be a tech diver.” So when an individual approaches that person about it, they are probably going to be terrified by the time they leave the conversation, and truly believe that they are never going to be ready for technical diving. Some shops are scared of losing customers so they intentionally keep people away from the idea with scary stories and false pre-requisites. TDI has opened the door to these individuals on a massive scale.

  • Intro to Tech
  • TDI Advanced Nitrox
  • TDI Decompression Procedures

These are the fundamentals of changing a person’s way of thinking into a more tech driven state. Just by taking the introductory course, or by sitting with someone who is not a complete jerk for a while, you will begin to understand that tech diving is not something to be scared of. Going diving on the Speagle Grove should not be the end of one’s diving adventures just because someone else dictates what you can and cannot do. Take a deep breath (see what I did there?) and go see the bottom of the Oriskany below 200ft. From there, you will have the greatest certification of all times. You will be able to find the people out there just like you and explain what tech diving truly is. You will also be able to go rub it in the face of anyone who said you couldn’t or shouldn’t do it.

In 2015 you should absolutely challenge yourself. Instead of listening to all of the reasons why you shouldn’t be a tech diver, take a look at yourself and find out what the real story is. There is no need to have 100 dives prior to taking an Intro to Tech Course. You don’t have to run out and purchase $10,000 worth of new gear. If you really want to though, please contact Air Hogs SCUBA in Garner, NC.

So what is the big deal about technical diving? On the actual diving side, there are so many more options that become available to you. On the academics side, there is NO big deal at all. If I can go to Florida right now and never have stepped one fin into the water, and be an Instructor for some agencies four weeks later, why the hell can I not go down to 180ft and beyond? Challenge yourself in 2015. Make Intro to Tech the one course that you want to take. At least then you will be able to truly make a decision as to if technical diving is a route you want to continue down. If not, keep listening to the Holy Grail knight explain how you are not good enough for some reason.

24 replies
  1. Sy
    Sy says:

    I personally have advanced thru Ted Trimix and Gas Mixing and am about to enter the world or rebreathers. Why, because I believe that continuing to learn and advancing does a few things. First and foremost makes you a safer diver. Every time you advance your certification all that knowledge stays with you and even if you do not dive to 300 ft or dive in caves regularly, that knowledge goes back with you to other aspects of your diving. Second, advancing opens up doors and opportunities of new adventures that would not have been available. Imagine traveling somewhere and finding that there is a fantastic wreck at 165 feet that is loaded with historic artifacts, beautiful corals and marine life but you were limited to recreational depths…..missed that opportunity. Third diving makes it necessary to stay in shape as each advancement, both in certification and my age makes me work a little harder. Remember if you do advance keep practicing and refreshing your skills but move forward.

  2. Grey
    Grey says:

    I have met a few of those A**holes before and I can see where it scares people off or give a bad taste to SCUBA all together. Because of my military attitude and hardheadedness I told them “DON’T EVER tell me what I can’t do…EVER” then I walked away pissed as hell. Next day I was calling shops and started taking up lessons. Never let someone who knows nothing about you tell you that you can’t do something. It should get you determined enough to do it and even though you may never see them again, it will give you the mental FU to the person and make you feel much better.

  3. Marc Pelath
    Marc Pelath says:

    I’m with you, and already looking into doing Intro to Tech this year, for pretty much the same reasons you got into tech diving.

    One quibble with this though: “If I can go to Florida right now and never have stepped one fin into the water, and be an Instructor for some agencies four weeks later, why the hell can I not go down to 180ft and beyond?” I think that’s actually an indictment of how easy it is to become an instructor, rather than an argument for getting into tech diving.

  4. Ron Clark
    Ron Clark says:

    I hosted a Technical Diving Q&A a couple of nights ago. We had about 25 divers. It was really cool how their faces would light up and you could feel the room fill up with questions. Once we opened the floor for questions, it was non stop for two hours. I’m going to host another one first of Feb. Thanks for the article, you hit the nail on the head with this one.

  5. Scott Hulbert
    Scott Hulbert says:

    In general, most divers, including technical divers, are some of the friendliest people around. I can’t think of many activities where you can meet someone in the parking lot and within a few short minutes of meeting and swapping dive stories, you exchange numbers for future dives. Let’s keep this sport “ego and attitude” free!! Save diving…

  6. Ho Cheong San
    Ho Cheong San says:

    Been diving for 20 years and really enjoyed every minute but I have not really ventured into anything more than 40 meters! Why? Because there’s always a fear about the next twilight zone and all the stories of creatures that live down there. In March I shall be taking a Deep Dive Specialty course with a reputed dive shop in Malapascua, Philippines.I really must go and see it for myself and begin to be more adventuresome that life is just not limited to the same comfort zone that we are so used to.

  7. Taliena
    Taliena says:

    So recognisable. I wanted to do techdiving after my ow course. And everybody tried to slow me down and gave the ‘advice’ go diving and get experience. I said how much experience? No answer, just go diving. Then I did aow, still the advice not to buy a twinset and get more experience. Even when I had over 200 dives and was DM the same advice. Then I said: ok, now I will follow my way, bought a twinset, wing, etc and started technical diving. The ‘advices’ not to do techdiving and get more experienced came from divers that had absolutely no idea about techdiving and no interest in it. Ok, no interest is not wrong, but don’t try to stop others that want to do it. Yes I had to practise to learn the skills, but there is no reason to wait for years to start the diving you want to do. It seems that other divers know better how to dive than the agencies themselves (there is written how many dives you need to have at least, if zero-to-hero is allowed etc). When I finally had a twinset and wing, I did the courses, trimix, cave, etc. Technical diving is my way of diving, I like it and I am a woman (techdiving is really a man’s world). Now diving ccr too.
    I can only say: if you want to start technical diving, do it, try it. >330ft is maybe too far, but there is a lot to see between 160ft and 330ft. And try to talk with you instructor before signing in for a course. My first course was a dissappointment because the instructor wanted to be seen as a God. I have now done dives over 400ft, long cavedives with lots of deco on ccr with scooters. Yes, this is what I wanted after my ow course. And now I do my dreams.

    • Parr
      Parr says:

      Good on you Taliena. I’ve gone through almost similar journey, been patronized by my own instructor and been disappointed and demotivated too many times by “Instractors” and “Tech Divers”. The only way (in my opinion anyway) to enjoy & progressing in diving is by only ignoring these negative people who believe they are the diving gods and nobody’s as good as they are, trusting yourself and seeking for real instructors!
      Happy and safe diving, mate.

  8. Martin
    Martin says:

    very good article. however, in my experience there are way more assholes under the “elite” group of the average dive masters and open water instructors than techies. especially within those who are certifying for what starts with P and ends with I.

  9. Dixon
    Dixon says:

    This needs to be said more often. In fact, it would be great if instructors would have a similar talk with their students at the end of every Open Water class. …right after the talk about the importance of getting dive experience (fun dives) and mastering the skills learned in a previous course, before moving on to the next level of training.

  10. Robert Cook
    Robert Cook says:

    OK, a couple of quick points on this

    – There’s going to be a minimum level that you can teach this stuff at. I don’t see how someone can do this style of diving until they have, for example, worked out things like how to navigate (which takes time), and had to deal with a few REAL problems (and no, simulated ones don’t count – instructors will abort drills before anyone gets hurt, real life won’t). All of this takes time in the water.

    My best guess is that you would need to modify the intro to tech course into some sort of barrier test where this sort of thing is checked…

    – but –

    There is also a feeling within the community (specifically the less experienced people – the more experienced ones are already trained and aren’t likely to care) that the subdivision of training has already gone too far, and it’s gotten to the point of courses being added just so that instructors get to have another fee.

  11. Robert Cook
    Robert Cook says:

    Having said all of that, I’m not against fiddling with how training is set up – after all, the pool of people coming into technical diving with experience has dried up and you’re going to have to change things now that the training can’t assume experience. You’re just going to have to be careful about how it is done.

  12. Rob
    Rob says:

    – I like it – Full Disclaimer I’m GUE/PADI/IANTD trained but Right on.. Great article !!!
    If you want to go tech or just be great in the water GO FOR IT.. no. of dives is pretty much irrelevant.. when you ready, your ready.. The flip side of this is that if you DON”T want to go tech but want to be totally in control of yourself when diving (buoyancy, stability, Control) do something that will challenge you …. Intro to tech, etc.. Find a good instructor /mentor and keep learning.

  13. mark
    mark says:

    Only thing that worries me about getting into tech diving is that its not as simple to come up to the surface if anything happens.

    • Piers
      Piers says:

      Hi Mark,
      Your right, it’s not always simple as you will have a ‘Glass Ceiling’, that said, when you’re tech diving, stuff like redundancy and bail out becomes really important as does your dive planning.
      While this will never reduce risk to zero, if you combine good planning with thought through redundancies and proficient skills and drills you reduce risk as much as you can.
      Plan the dive and dive the plan.

  14. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    I have mixed feelings about this article.
    Yes, there are plenty of jerks involved in diving, and probably a disproportionate amount involved in technical diving, but I would suggest that to some degree, those comments about “real divers” creates a motivation for interested folks to hone their skills and prove the a**holes wrong. To me, the best thing about technical diving is that there is still some adventure and discovery involved- even danger(!). I think one of the reasons that the scuba industry has waned in the last 20 years is that the sense of sport and danger has been wiped out completely by marketing it as a family affair. Perhaps maintaining some sort of elitism is the best way to market technical diving to all of the “extreme sport” types who seem to be helping other industries move right along.
    But then again, I’m kind of an a**hole.

  15. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Not all tech divers are assholes. But I disagree a little with the article. When you want to step into the Tech World, a diver should have enough dives under their belt to know that they are mentally ready to answer some of the question that are asked of you when you go past 180 feet. The questions are scary. Like what do you do when your buddy seizes at 70 feet and you have an hour of deco to do. It may be an easier question when the buddy is a stranger but what if it is your best friend or spouse. When going through the tech course the instructor may not tell you about the conversation that you have to have with your family “I could die doing this”. It is more about how many dives you have under your belt or what equipment you need to buy. And in my opinion if you are going beyond 180 feet you better suck it up and spend the money on the equipment.

  16. Corey
    Corey says:

    Although I have to agree that continuing to challenge and educate yourself is imperative and worth it, I don’t agree with this articles contention that experience isn’t that important and focus on the academics not being that tough. The academics and planning aren’t that tough, true. But, there is significantly more responsibility, control, planning and maturity that needs to be exercised with tech diving. Shit happens faster, it is less forgiving and it is far more dangerous if the diver isn’t prepared and ready to handle the shit hitting the fan when something goes wrong. Experience often breeds comfort and ability to better handle small problems. When tech diving, small problems have the ability to become tragedies much quicker and more often (for those poorly trained to with insufficient experience) and that is where the difference lies. And, as Michelle points out, when shit goes wrong, you have to be able to make tough choices. I know some guys who jumped into tech driving without proper training and experience. Now two of them are dead. By rights, one should be dead due to a medical condition. However, the second, if properly trained and experienced, would still be alive. A third friend was lucky not to die on the same dive. Have another friend lucky to be alive due to pushing his limits when he wasn’t prepared. Now, that being said, I have made some absolutely incredible tech dives that blow any of my rec dives out of the water (nice pun, huh?). I highly recommend going through advanced trimix and beyond, for those with the right attituxe, aptitude, experience and maturity. Thsn, make sure they get the right training. My training and experience aved my life when the sea gods bombarded me with conditions far beyond anything foreseeable or remotely close to expected and I have been witness to many things that few have seen. Bottom line: tech is worth taking the time to get experienced, the money to buy the right gear, the time and money to get the right training, but not your life. So, respect the added risk and listen to those friendly Tech divers when they bark about experience. Possible they have insight that you just don’t yet understand.

  17. Dianne Strong
    Dianne Strong says:

    I got into technical diving and my trimix cert from IANTD in 2000, when I had been diving 30 years. The coolest part was how it made me a better recreational diver because I never knew how much I hadn’t known! I am still diving after 45 years now. I highly recommend that divers of ALL levels read my instructor’s book: Scuba Confidential. You will want extra copies to give to your diver friends.


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