Transitioning from Sport to Tech

by Dr. Thomas Powell:

What is sport scuba diving?
What is sport scuba diving? Sport diving is essentially performing the sport of scuba diving within established limits. Those limits may be delineated by “no-decompression limits,” overhead environments, ceilings, and even depths. A sport diver generally has a clear pathway for ascent to the surface and avoids going into decompression. Conversely, what is a technical diver? A technical diver may make use of mixed gases, dive to deeper depths, plan for hard or soft ceilings, and may plan to dive using a profile that requires decompression.

Natural next step
The transition from sport to technical diving is one that has been viewed as a giant step for many years. The reality is that both sport and technical diving have developed to the point where it may actually be a natural “next step” for many divers to venture down the pathway of technical diving. Essentially, the modern SDI sport scuba program is designed to prepare divers to move forward in training programs with ease as a diver becomes comfortable with skills at various levels. With time and education, nitrox diving may lead to an advanced nitrox educational program.

Map out a plan
The reality is, a diver must plan for what he or she wishes to do. I do not mean what you can afford to do, or what do you know you want to do next month. Instead, a diver must look inside his or her self and see what desires they really possess. Is cave diving, deep mixed gas diving, or even rebreather diving something you might want to do someday? If it is, then map out a plan. That plan is one that can be altered, changed, or even canceled at any point. An action such as this allows a diver to set personal goals in regard to training. With long-term objectives, a diver can work to improve, grow, and perform at higher levels. Similarly, time can be set aside to develop and grow essential skill sets.

Educational pathway
Many individuals set goals that involve specific locations. A diver may wish to see a certain wreck, or dive a famous cave system. These goals are not objectives that must remain out of reach. Instead, the diver must take the time to learn the skill sets he or she needs to safely dive these unique locations. Along the way, training may then take that diver to many new and exciting places that were previously unknown to him or her. International Training has established a program for educating technical divers that leads the scuba industry. The program ranges from Nitrox through Advanced Nitrox, Decompression Procedures, and Extended Range. These courses prepare a diver to better understand the methods and procedures that will be needed when dive times are extended and decompression is needed to safely conclude a dive. From that point, courses such as Helitrox, Trimix, and Advanced Trimix will carry a diver deeper for longer periods with a strong educational basis. Along the way, programs such as Advanced Wreck, Technical Sidemount, Cavern through Cave, and even rebreather courses may be an option. Essentially, International Training has created an educational pathway based upon building blocks. As a diver takes each course, it builds upon previous education. This pathway begins at the open water diver level and extends to whatever level a diver wishes to achieve.

Gearing up
Similar to education, technical equipment often becomes more complex, but in the modern world, many sport divers choose to purchase equipment that can carry them forward through various training programs. With technical diving, the need to carry redundant equipment is essential along with various items used for safety and support. The basic gear such as buoyancy compensators and regulators need to be focused toward supporting this need. Despite this, many sport customers choose to purchase regulators that can be later used in a technical setting. The same goes for buoyancy compensators. Many modern buoyancy compensators are modular and allow a diver to dive in multiple configurations while adding or removing components as needed for different types of diving. Gearing up with the future in mind may allow the sport diver the ability to save some money in the long-run, while diving in comfort.

Find your drive and move forward
No matter what, a diver must remember that patience, drive, and personal responsibility are critical when it comes to dive education and safe dive practices. Time must be taken in the water to learn and practice skill sets between educational levels. Similarly, the next step in education is always more fun when you are well-prepared to move forward. You must want to learn more, and take the time to become more proficient in order to remain safe, but you must always make the step into the technical world for the right reasons. Are you seeking education? Are there things you wish to see? Find your drive and move forward, but be methodical and patient within the training pathway. Always remember that you build something strong on a good foundation. If you take the time to become a strong sport diver, you may find that participating in technical programs is the natural next step when it comes to building yourself as the type of diver you hope to become.


– Dr. Thomas Powell
Owner/Instructor Trainer – Air Hogs Scuba, Garner, NC

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