Technical diving courses are intense. Instructors push students to absorb new knowledge and physical skills at every step. When you graduate, all of it is fresh in your mind, but what happens after six months or a year? Here, we look at ways to keep these hard-earned skills fresh and ready for your next tech diving adventure.
It’s all about experience
Technical diving training lays a foundation to build upon. It’s far from the end of the line, but instead a door opener into a different world of diving. Now that you have your tech-diving license, it’s time to practice and gain experience. While the training must be challenging to help prepare divers for potential emergencies, not every subsequent technical dive will be quite so intense. All dives, however, require thorough planning and a well-considered execution of that plan. Going through those steps repeatedly helps imprint them on a diver’s memory. Just like you developed a routine for recreational diving, getting ready for a technical dive will become second nature. Gear preparation, dive planning and working together as a team will become easier and take less time.
Invest in your own equipment
Remember how long it took to set up that harness and backplate? And the adjustments after the first few dives to get your gear just right? How about that sidemount BCD? Most instructors introduce their students to different ways of setting those up, as well as rigging tanks. But because of the flexibility inherent in sidemount diving, most newly qualified students continue making changes long after their courses have finished.
Purchasing your own equipment allows you to continuously improve your gear setup until it reaches that sweet spot where it is both functional and comfortable. Just like you heard in your initial Open Water class, buying your own gear will also encourage you to get out more and plan more dives. And if something does go wrong, as it inevitably will at some point, diving with your own gear will make it easier to deal with the situation.
Develop a storage system
Technical divers carry more redundant equipment than recreational divers. Stowing this in a streamlined, yet accessible, way is key to functionality. If you are diving in back-mount configuration, on twinsets/doubles, use pockets to stow accessories. You can either sew these onto your exposure suit or purchase them separately as a pair of shorts or a holster-type setup.
Most sidemount divers prefer something different, as pockets on their legs can get in the way of tanks or become hard to access. Try several options to find what works for you. and Once you have that system, change it with caution and especially not before a big dive to avoid confusion when it matters.
Find a regular tech diving team…
In an ideal world, newly qualified technical divers develop their skills as part of a team of tech buddies. This allows them to get used to each other’s diving style and learn from the rest of the team. It also creates equipment familiarity among the team.
…Or book guided technical dives
Many tech-training centers offer guided technical dives as well as courses. These are a great opportunity to practice what you learned on the courses and explore new territory. You’ll still have to plan and prepare the dive with tech guides or instructors on hand to help with questions, but your choice of dive sites is often much wider than it was in your course.
Guided technical dives are also a great way to explore areas you’re not familiar with. Depending on where you are in the world and your dive plan, you may be able to complete one or two decompression dives per day, allowing you to build experience and apply what you learned during training.
Practice, practice, practice
Even if you can’t go technical diving for a while, try to practice the skills you learned. Make a habit of diving in trim position. Practice different propulsion techniques to develop precision, or plan your gas consumption for a recreational dive as if you were going tech diving. All of this will help you get back into it more quickly the next time you put on a set of doubles.
Technical diving is a fast-developing discipline and new information is published almost daily. It’s a good idea to subscribe to newsletter published by an organization such as DAN for the latest research into decompression sickness or, even better, planning better dives. Plenty of tech-diving instructors share articles on social media and many popular forums discuss new ideas.
Having said that, not every study or research paper is high quality. Therefore, keep a healthy dose of skepticism and do your own research if possible.
Proceed with caution
Is it time to take the next step and train to the next level? Perhaps. Ask yourself how comfortable you are with skills that should be second nature at your current level of qualification. If you are feeling a bit rusty, consider a skills refresher or build-up dives to get ready for that next step. And remember, it’s not a race: the next course will be there when you’re ready.