Tech training can be particularly physically and mentally challenging. For budding techies, it’s not enough to perform a skill once. It’s not even enough to repeat it during a certification course. Instead, tech divers strive to reach a point where they can’t get it wrong anymore. Getting to that stage — for any level of tech training — takes focus, time and practice. Further, all certified divers learn that they must keep their skills up-to-date and refresh them periodically if they’ve been out of the water for some time or diving exclusively recreationally. But how do technical divers keep those skills sharp? Here we’ll take a closer look at how to get back into technical diving if you’ve been away from the sport for a while.
Right after the course — keeping skills fresh
After a tech-diving course, many divers return to recreational diving or don’t go diving at all for a while. One of the easiest ways to ensure that you don’t lose hard-earned technical diving skills is to help solidify them after your certification course with several technical dives.
All of those dives will involve dive planning and gas management, for example. Going through these processes helps a newly qualified tech diver internalize the different steps involved and commit them to long-term memory.
Many of the skills we practice in technical courses will also benefit recreational dives. Take the precise buoyancy control, for example. No matter the dive’s depth or complexity, the ability to remain exactly where you want to in the water column can be useful in a number of situations, from photography dives to maneuvering through changing currents.
Propulsion techniques, including the much-discussed back kick, can be useful on any recreational dive as well, just like buoyancy control. Getting some practice doesn’t even have to cut down on your reef-exploration time. Take a look at the underwater topography ahead of you and decide which fin kick is best: if you are trying to approach something closely, a modified frog or a modified flutter/shuffle kick will give you the slow, precise movement you need. If you have drifted too close to a wall, two or three decisive back kicks should be enough to move you away.
It’s also smart to start diving in a proper trim position on every dive. If being in trim is your new normal, applying precise propulsion techniques becomes easier, too.
Between dive trips — visualization and more
Not everyone can get in the water every week. In fact, many tech divers might only use their skills two or three times each year. Depending on how you learn best and which methods help you remember most, you can stay current in a number of ways.
Visualization techniques detailing diving protocols and skills can help keep them fresh in your mind, for example. Taking yourself through a certain part of a dive or through specific exercises can help create a ‘ that is not just useful for diving.
Dry practicing hand signals and touch communications also works well, allowing divers to take themselves through a dive without talking. Touch communications are especially important for those heading into overhead environments where no light means losing visual contact.
Many training organizations and instructors have published dive-skills videos. These are especially useful for those who learn visually. They can also be ideal preparation for any in-water sessions, which are crucial.
If it’s been a (rather long) while
Most training agencies offer fairly standardized refresher courses for recreational diving. With technical diving, refreshing diving skills and knowledge is often a more complex undertaking.
Technical diving is developing rapidly, with new research influencing the way we plan dives, calculate decompression obligations, and select our gas mix. Refreshing and updating dive theory knowledge therefore must be a part of getting back into tech.
Where the practical side is concerned, it’s important not to rush things. You may want to dive to a certain depth or explore a specific wreck during a particular trip, but you must plan conservatively and build-up slowly to these goals.
Foundational skills such as trim, buoyancy control and propulsion techniques must be second nature before moving further and pushing boundaries. As a consequence, you might conduct initial technical refresher dives in a swimming pool to make it easier to adjust your equipment configuration before moving to the sea. Once in open water, decompression dives might still be a few days off while divers reacquaint themselves with advanced hand signals, conducting skills both in shallow water and at depth, and running dives.
All of this needn’t take weeks. But nonetheless it is important to put all the building blocks into place before pushing into decompression or overhead diving.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for returning to technical diving after a break. Instead, make an individual plan with a tech instructor or an experienced guide, and review and adjust it regularly. You’re much more likely to be successful and lead to safe, enjoyable, exciting technical dives when you do get back in the water.