That Time I Thought I Wanted to Tech Dive

By Edward Kelleher

Everybody wants to go tech now. I thought about it a couple of times. It sounds great, in theory. Carry more gas, learn proper decompression procedures, go deeper, stay down longer, and explore even further. That’s the goal with technical diving, right? There was a time when I thought I wanted to go the technical route, but upon further self-reflection, decided against it (for now).

Backstory 

This is not an article persuading YOU from going the technical route, so let’s get that out of the way first. This will be about my choices in slowing down my jump into the technical side of diving. My primary diving at this point is Jersey Wreck diving, and I love it. Throw me into 100 feet (plus/minus) any day and I’m good. My dive setup: drysuit, backplate, and wing with double HP100s (we won’t get into the accessories). Love all of it. I have plenty of air to make my dives, maximize my no-decompression limits, grab a few lobsters, see some cool pieces of wreckage, off-gas on my ascent, and do it all over again for a second dive. My personal deepest dive to date regardless of dive location was 120 feet on the Stolt Degali in 2019. Not too crazy.

I’m by no means a tech diver. 

Not even close. Technical divers need to be comfortable at any depth. There is no room for panic. Technical divers need to be completely comfortable if/when doing overhead environments with only one way in and one way out. Technical divers need to have precision buoyancy and smooth skills. There is no room for error on technical dives. So, what’s wrong with my skill set and why aren’t I ready for tech? I’m an instructor, I have good buoyancy control, and I do some solo diving as well. I should just take the plunge and go full tech, right? Wrong.

I know my personal limitations. 

The first step is owning up to your strengths and weaknesses. I’m generally comfortable in limited visibility. I’ve had an accidental full mask flood at 90 feet. Didn’t like it, but it happened, and I worked myself through it. I’ve gotten caught on my own wreck reel line more than once or twice. I’ve wrestled with monofilament too many times. THESE AREN’T EVEN TECH DIVER PROBLEMS YET. The first thing I do when I have a problem or experience anything strenuous underwater is to focus on my breathing rate and get my heart rate down. We can’t do anything if we’re huffing wind and running out of air. Obviously, any diver can have a mask flood, get caught on the line, or overexert themselves. Now, let’s compound these problems. At 200-300 feet. 

What are YOU going to do with a flooded mask or a broken mask strap at 200 feet? 

Are you going to be able to clear it? Are you going to be able to grab your backup mask and replace it? Piece of cake. What are you going to do with a flooding drysuit in 40-degree water and a 30+ minute decompression obligation? What are you going to do when you’re an untrained diver playing the “I’ll just follow my computer for decompression procedures” game and it malfunctions? Do YOU know how YOUR equipment works? Do you know how to set up your gear and fix common issues? If you’re going tech (or a recreational diver for that matter), you shouldn’t be the one on the boat who can’t replace a leaking hose or O-ring. What are you going to do at 200 feet when your regulator free flows? Will you make it back safe? Are you mentally prepared to be 200+ feet underwater and not panic? Panic is unacceptable. 

What’s your why? 

Even if you’ve answered yes to all of the above, ask yourself this, “why am I going tech?” What are your goals? I thought my goal was to stay down longer on proper decompression procedures. When I reassess my goals, I realized that on normal dives, it’s plenty of time for me already. Why do I feel the need to push it? I’ve completed dives, circled the wrecks, got back to the anchor line, and thought, “what else do I need to do?” Many times, I conclude that I’ve done enough and there’s no need to push my body and dive limits any further. For the time being, I have decided against going into tech. 

If I get the bug again and want to move forward, I will. You should move forward at your own pace as well. If you feel your skills are where they need to be, then, by all means, go tech. There’s nothing wrong with getting more time in the water and just dive. Dive, dive, dive and keep diving. It could be months, or it could be years. Move at your pace, assess your goals, and work with a local dive center that can help you grow into the diver you want to be!

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7 replies
  1. Matt
    Matt says:

    I have some issues with your post. You are an instructor. When a potential student who has not dove before asks you about it? Do you quiz them on how they are going to handle all the possible issues that arise when diving? I imagine you ask a few questions to see if it might suit them and then relieve some of their fears by saying you will teach them what to do in such situations. I did not have the answers to many of your questions when I started my tech training but I did when I ended it. How is that any different then when I got my first diving cert?

    Reply
    • Ed
      Ed says:

      Yes, I am an instructor, not a tech instructor. A diver who is ready to plunge into the technical dive world is WAY different then recreational. All of our technical classes begin with an interview and skill checks. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  2. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    I have multiple issues with this post being in the newsletter as is. I am not a tech diver, but I am a tech student. First, this whole post could be condensed into “I don’t need tech diving to do the rec diving I am happy doing now, so why should I, tech diving is dangerous.” Literally every experienced diver I have heard talk about why they aren’t going to go tech diving gives some variation of this exact answer. The normal addition to it is that tech diving is expensive.

    My second issue is that a non-tech diver is talking about the “no room for error” dangers of technical diving in an article sent out to every TDI diver. It really plays up the “tech diving is dangerous” stereotype and the idea that if you do tech diving you are automatically going 300′ deep into an overhead. Obviously there is room for error in tech diving; if there wasn’t, every tech diver wouldn’t survive their first dive. The diving skills errors are greatly reduced in tech, but no one is perfect and failures happen (and are prepared for). And the first step into tech diving only permits an extra 20′ to your max depth out from rec, and it is a process of skills and experience building on skills and experience as you get deeper and more complicated, just like any other multi-class dive training. It’s not a sudden plunge where you must give up your normal diving to do only 200-300′ dives into blackness. Yikes!

    To be fair to the author, I have no issue at all with his basic reasoning. If one sees no benefit to tech training (or any training), there is no call to invest time and money into it. While I do believe that Deco Procedures could enhance the author’s safety doing his preferred diving in the event of an incident at depth that pushes bottom time past nfl time, it is not at all necessary if he is not interested in going deeper or staying longer. It would thus only serve the author as a further level of training to further hone one’s skills as a diver. My issue is that TDI/SDI sent this out to everyone with no accompanying commentary from a fully trained tech instructor who could say exactly how accurate the author’s impressions of tech diving are and provide an authoritative article for others who have thought about tech training. Instead here is some nobody student who hasn’t gone through the training being discussed pointing out issues with the article from the scuba instructor who also hasn’t gone through the training being discussed. Come on TDI, really?

    Reply
    • Michael Villafranco
      Michael Villafranco says:

      Hello Ryan,

      We thought this article was important to share because it portrays one person’s reasoning for not going tech. Many of our instructors comment on students who go the tech route just to collect certifications or because it sounds cool to their buddies. This is someone who thought the opposite. He recognized the benefits of going tech and decided that for him, it was not the right choice. He did not feel that he was ready yet and simply wanted to encourage others to go at their own pace and learn tech for the right reasons.

      That said, we started as a tech diving agency and obviously support and encourage tech diving for all those who would find benefit in learning it and have the skills to do so. As a tech student, if you would like to write a similar article detailing why you decided tech WAS right for you, we would be happy to include such a post on our blog: https://www.tdisdi.com/member-newsletter/blog-authors-wanted/

      Reply
    • Lars Frick
      Lars Frick says:

      Cheers!
      I see your point, but I do agree with the author on the “no room for error” idea, albeit from a slightly different perspective. I am a (short bit) down the tech road and coming from recreational, I see one of the greatest differences in tech is the self sufficient mentality, no “trust-dives”, using redundancy in equipment, etc. which is, in my view, another way of saying no room for error. And I don’t see that literally, but it is a huge step from recreational where there are fall-back strategies such as “help from buddy” or “go to surface. In techdiving, those are not real options, u need to be self-sufficient as a diver and capable of dealing with problems in-situ. And that’s not taught in recdiving. and its not a mindset for everybody. that said, I think everybody could gain from tech training (incl myself) regardless if you continue doing actual tech-dives or not. If there is a problem in the diving community about being either too risk-averse or risk-prone, i would say the latter. Basic rec-training doesn’t really prepare anyone for how to handle emergencies.

      Reply
  3. Andrey
    Andrey says:

    tech is not for readyTO divers but for LEARNhowTO

    btw i had completely floaded drysuit in -1 celsium water for 45 minutes dive last year so im still alive : ) warm hi from Baikal lake Russia

    Reply
  4. Tiago Marques
    Tiago Marques says:

    Well, for every person on this planet, there will be an opinion.
    For me, personally, I’m on the verge of doing my first step into technical diving training. Not that I intend to do technical diving, per say, but I do believe that, what there is to learn on a tech-intro course, should make me a better and more conscious recreational diver.
    I’m a PADI Rescue Diver but, not really wanting to go the Divemaster route, so, I feel this should be a good way to expand my skills set.
    Maybe I’ll find a hidden passion, who knows!
    Safe diving everyone.

    Reply

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