Booking a tech-diving course usually involves research into locations, training agencies, instructors and so much more. But what happens once you’ve signed up? How do you get ready for the course itself? We’ve put together a few tips on preparing for a tech-diving course.
Practice neutral buoyancy
Tech-diving theory might be more challenging than its recreational equivalent, but you’ll earn certifications primarily in the water, so get diving. The weeks and months before joining a tech-diving course are a good time to work on your buoyancy and control in the water.
While all training agencies include neutral-buoyancy skills in their open water and advanced courses, technical-diving students must complete all of the course skills while neutrally buoyant. What’s more, they must also hold a trim position (being in the water horizontally, head held up, with a straight line from knees to chin) while their instructor demonstrates, and their classmates practice their skills.
So, if you remember struggling to hover without moving arms and legs, this is a good time to practice. Of course, carrying more tanks will change your buoyancy further. But if you can’t control yourself underwater in the first place, it will be even harder — if not impossible — with two or more tanks.
Dial in your kick
Are you frog kicking? Technical divers use several different propulsion techniques, each of which has unique applications. The frog kick forms the basis for all of them and tech divers use it most of the time. If you haven’t tried it yet, get some practice before your tech course. With the heavier equipment, frog kicking is simply more efficient. It uses less energy and you’ll therefore consume less air than when scissor kicking, for example.
Also, challenge yourself to stop using your hands for any movements you make. Most technical divers will use a torch in one hand and use the other for signaling or to control a line, typical for cave and overhead wreck diving. This means your hands are occupied already, so practice taking them out of the equation.
Practice mask skills
Mask skills often challenge novice divers. Many complete one successful mask removal and replacement in open water as required for completing their open-water certification and come away hoping they never have to do this again.
As you move through additional recreational training, mask skills may not feature heavily or at all, meaning you’ll never really be comfortable underwater without a mask on. Most technical-diver training features not only a review of the mask removal and replacement skill, but also expands into switching between main and backup mask. Once you master this, you may have to complete other skills, such as valve shutdowns, without a mask.
In short, confidence without a mask is a key skill for technical divers. If you’re apprehensive about taking your mask off now, start practicing to expand your comfort zone.
Review dive theory
Another bit of preparation comes from reviewing your existing dive-theory knowledge. As a pre-requisite to most tech-diving courses, students must complete a basic nitrox course. And while many of the recreational versions of this course currently involve little math, they do introduce the concepts of partial-pressure and oxygen toxicity. Both these theories are vital for tech divers.
If you learned on dive tables, take another look at them. While we use software and dive computers for most tech-diving planning, it’s important to know how to read and use basic dive tables, as that’s what the software is built on.
Physics and physiology will also feature in your tech diving theory, so review anything covered in previous courses to help prepare.
Read up before you show up
Most of all, access the course materials before you show up on your first day of class. Many agencies offer online learning for their tech-diving courses or they may ship the books to you in advance. Studying the course materials before your class means you’ll arrive already armed with — hopefully — a basic understanding of the material and questions for your instructor. It certainly beats reading dozens of pages for the first time after an already-challenging day of diving in a new configuration, using new hand signals and performing new skills.
Put simply, arriving prepared for your tech-diving course will help you not only enjoy the challenging training more, but you will also find that you develop further and get more out of the course itself.