TDI – Hello Jarrod, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. Before we get into technical diving, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jarrod – Well I was born and currently live in Albany, New York. I own a water purification company that specializes in products for dialysis companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. I spend my weekends diving the ship wrecks and submarines of the North Atlantic or helping out with dive classes.
TDI – What is your background in diving?
Jarrod – At the age of 16, I opened up a dive magazine and became fascinated with the reef, fish, and shark photos displayed in the Cayman Islands. While I flipped through the pages, I knew I had to become a diver. I went through the Open Water Scuba Diver course and then life seemed to happen and I did not find myself actively diving for a long time. Fast forward 20 years later, as I am planning a cruise ship vacation with family and friends, I see one of our stops is Cayman. I knew this was my golden opportunity to see the reefs, fish, and sharks I saw in the magazine years ago. I went through the inactive diver program to refresh my diving skills before my trip. I always wanted to dive Cayman and I actually got to do it! This trip revamped my enthusiasm for diving in 2007 and I started technical diving in 2010.
TDI – What areas of technical diving are you involved in?
Jarrod – I just switched over to closed circuit rebreather (CCR) diving a year ago and I love it! The bottom time is incredible! I really do not see any reason to go back to diving open circuit (OC). I can spend more time on the bottom while wearing less equipment on CCR dives versus OC dives. Even though you must always be aware of your cylinder pressures in both configurations, I do not feel like I am fighting against a ticking clock of a depleting gas supply while diving a rebreather which makes diving much more relaxing and enjoyable.
TDI – What triggered your transition from sport diving to technical diving?
Jarrod – My wife and I went to Long Island to dive a ship wreck called the USS San Diego that starts in 65FSW and bottoms out at 110FSW. We were not technical divers at the time so were only able to do two short dives on the wreck with a long surface interval in between the dives. It was very frustrating to see the technical divers spend so much more time on the bottom. In fact, they descended with us and didn’t surface until AFTER we completed the second (short) dive of the day. That was the moment that I said to myself, I have to do something! I have to become a technical diver to extend my bottom times allowing me to see and experience more in the water.
TDI – What was the most challenging part of your technical training?
Jarrod – The parts I thought would be really difficult actually turned out to be pretty easy. For example, carrying stage bottle(s), attaching a reel to a surface marker buoy on the bottom then sending it to the surface, and doing valve drills were a lot easier than I anticipated. After practicing these skills a couple of times, I gained the muscle memory to complete these skills efficiently and create a habit. The most challenging part for me was perfecting my buoyancy and trim (body position). During training, I was required to complete all of the skills neutrally buoyant AND trimmed out! I was confident going into training with 60 dives that I had it all figured out but I learned… After spending more time in the water and practicing skills it became much easier.
TDI – As a technical diver, what kind of equipment do you have and how does it differ from recreational diving equipment?
Jarrod – Well to start… There is just a lot more of it! You have to get use to having more gear on you above and below the water. As a technical diver, I expect a lot more out of my gear versus my sport diving equipment. I need it to function when I am obligated to stay underwater due to decompression requirements. The materials need to be strong and heavily stitched. When I am selecting gear, I look for simplicity so when I need to access something I can locate it with ease. I think gear familiarity is extremely important in technical diving. My sport diving gear mirrors my technical diving gear; I wear a long hose configuration, back plate and harness during both OC dive settings. Technical diving equipment also requires redundancy… That was a shock in the beginning when I realized, wow! I need 2 of everything! With the equipment expense in this area of diving, it’s important the gear functions efficiently in the water and lasts a long time.
TDI – What makes a dive a “technical” dive?
Jarrod – Well I know a lot of people would say depth but I have to disagree… I do not feel that is the primary factor that makes a dive a technical dive. I’ve seen people conduct a sport dive within sport diving limitations to the same depth I am doing a technical dive. It’s the amount of time spent on the bottom and tasks that transition a dive from a sport dive to a technical dive. A technical dive involves proper planning, calculating gas requirements, preplanning a mission or object for the dive, setting up contingency plans, reviewing over emergency scenarios and more.
TDI – What do you do to pass the time during decompression?
Jarrod – That’s kind of funny… I always imagined passing the time during decompression as playing video games on my dive computer to make the time go by faster… Instead, I always relive the dive and think back on all of the new exciting things I just saw. I never get the time to do any of the stuff I originally thought I would do… And the marine life! I see more stuff during deco than I have on the reefs. I’ve seen a school of squid swim by, reef sharks, curious barracudas and more. I don’t mind hang times at all.
TDI – What is the mindset of a technical diver?
Jarrod – One of the most important attributes of a technical diver is being disciplined and paying attention to detail. It’s important to stay on track during a dive and not get distracted. Technical divers must put a high emphasis on “plan your dive, dive your plan.” A technical diver is self reliant and a team player at the same time; they can take care of themselves while being ready to lend assistance if needed.
TDI – What does it take to create a technical dive team?
Jarrod – A technical dive team needs to have the training required for the specific dive. I refuse to do a technical dive outside of the limits of one my teammates training. I want my teammates to pay attention to detail and not mind if we have to put a lot of time into planning and prepping for a dive. They should have the ability to stay on the dive schedule and not get distracted from the plan. I also don’t want anyone to rush and I want my teammates to be squared away and familiar with their own equipment and mine. Technical dive teammates should be in tune with their overall awareness in the water and be willing to step in and act as a backup brain if necessary.
TDI – Most health insurers categorize technical diving as an extreme sport. Do you think it is?
Jarrod – I don’t really think technical diving is an “extreme sport” but I understand a lot of people do… Sometimes when I tell dive stories to non-divers or even sport divers; they look at me like I have three heads! The reason why I do not consider this an “extreme sport” is due to the fact that I have the training and necessary skills required to complete this type of activity. I have prepared for disasters and set up contingencies long before entering the water. I am comfortable in this environment and do not view it as extreme.
TDI – What do you do to avoid complacency in diving?
Jarrod – Plain and simply put, I will not be rushed and I will not short cut any steps. I always complete a checklist for every dive conducted. I also have no issues with sitting out the first dive of the day so I can take my time prepping for the next dive with ease. I take my time to ensure I am doing everything properly to avoid missing any steps that could potentially hurt me later on.
TDI – What advice could you give on tech trip planning?
Jarrod – I have found that if you prepare a tech trip with the dive center; your vacation will be much more enjoyable. It’s important to set up logistics beforehand to ensure the operation will be able to provide cylinders, gas fills, absorbent and bailout (if you’re diving a rebreather) and more. Most dive centers out there will do their best to take care of you but it takes letting them know upfront what is needed to allow them the necessary time to line things up on their end. It’s usually much easier if you coordinate everything ahead of time versus showing up expecting them to be ready.
TDI – What value do you place on good technical training and what should someone consider when they are looking for an instructor?
Jarrod – I think good training makes a world of difference in the diving realm. Think about it like this… If you receive subpar instruction that leaves you with enough tools to get you through half of a dive, you’re missing the necessary requirements to get you through the rest of it! That is not a good thing! Quality instruction typically has a high price tag but the end result of proper training will make a world of difference in your future dives. I believe someone who is interested in technical diving should research active instructors. I also think it’s appropriate and important to interview your potential instructor and ask them questions like; how long have you been diving and teaching? How often do you dive when you are not teaching? A technical instructor that spends his time diving to shallow depths in warm clear water will not do it for me in the harsh conditions of the North Atlantic. I believe you should be trained in an environment realistic to what you will be diving in even if it’s challenging and then get some relief from those conditions when you are on vacation. At the end of the day, training in a challenging environment makes diving in an easy environment that much better.
TDI – What advice could you give to someone who is interested in technical diving?
Jarrod – Sport divers, step on over! Technical training is an attainable goal. Look at me; I made the transition not too long ago. Even if you do not want to go far into technical training, the beginning courses like Intro to Tech and Advanced Nitrox will open up your eyes to diving in a different way and help you increase your overall awareness and skill set in the water. If after going through the entry level courses you realize it’s not for you, nothing says you have to do decompression dives but the tools you will gain will make sport dives more enjoyable. I think most enthusiastic divers that give it a try will realize it’s very possible for them to continue on and become a technical diver.
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