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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