What Recreational Divers Can Learn from Technical Divers

There are a few tricks that recreational divers can pick up from technical divers when it comes to preparing for a dive. Here are a few of the best.

Watching technical divers get ready at a dive site or on a charter boat, new divers might feel that what they’re doing is far different from recreational diving. But take a closer look and it becomes obvious that there are a few tricks that every diver could pick up from tech divers. Here are a few of the best.

Buoyancy control and trim

During technical diving courses, the student’s knees never touch the bottom of the pool, or the sand. While that might sound hard at first, divers get used to floating neutrally in the water column right away. They learn about proper trim position from the very beginning and this is reinforced throughout every dive.

Why is this beneficial for recreational divers? 

Achieving neutral buoyancy makes everything we do underwater easier. Moving in trim position saves energy and therefore air, allowing for longer dives. Being streamlined also helps with activities like wreck diving and underwater photography.

Propulsion techniques

Of course, you know how to kick by now. However, technical divers distinguish between a range of different finning techniques. These depend on where they are, how much space they have and how fast they need to move. They might use frog-kicking most of the time, but a much more precise, modified flutter or shuffle kick comes in very handy when approaching a reef slowly. Add in helicopter turns, which allow a diver to change direction on the spot, and the much talked-about backwards kick and you have tools for every situation.

Why is this beneficial for recreational divers? 

Picture this: equipped with your new underwater camera, you are trying to approach a shy ribbon eel. What better way than a gentle shuffle kick? And, just as you are getting close, you execute a well-timed backwards kick to stop. Mastering the backwards kick has advantages in currents, too. Just as a current is trying to push you into a wall, a single strong backwards kick is often enough to pull away and start changing direction.

Dive planning

Most divers learn to “plan the dive and dive the plan” during their Open Water class. But all too often, especially during vacation dives in tropical destinations, divers simply follow a guide and their dive computer. Technical divers start right at the beginning: during initial training, they learn to calculate SAC (surface air consumption) rates. In liters per minute or cubic feet per minute, that number helps a diver calculate how much air or nitrox they will use on their dive. Combined with no-decompression limits, it’s then easy to work out if you can spend as much time on the bottom as planned.

Why is this beneficial for recreational divers? 

The often-quoted rule of “50 bar back on the boat” doesn’t really tell divers how long they can stay underwater. When do you need to leave the bottom to reach the surface with 50 bar? This depends on your distance to the surface, safety stops planned and — you guessed it — your SAC rate. By taking the time to work this out, you will have a better idea of how much time you have left at each stage of your dive. Knowing how much you’re likely to breath and adding a reserve will make you feel safer underwater and help you enjoy your dives more.

Preparing for emergencies

A large part of any technical diving course is spent dealing with potential emergencies. Instructors repeat scenarios with increasing intensity to train motor skills and to “untrain” our natural flight response, which is of course not helpful if you have a decompression obligation. Students learn to get comfortable without their mask and how to shut down part of their equipment, as well as simply developing excellent problem-solving skills.

Why is this beneficial for recreational divers? 

We all hope for relaxing dives. But problems can occur even after thorough planning. Being trained to deal with those will help you react quickly to save a dive or end it as safely as possible. As dives become deeper and divers take more equipment, simply ascending to the surface is no longer an option. Training beyond the scope of most Rescue Diver courses will help you be better prepared.

Practice, practice, practice

Not all aspects of diving are like getting back on a bike. Divers must practice motor skills regularly to successfully perform them in an emergency. How many recreational divers practice removing and replacing their mask after their Open Water class is finished? What about switching to a back-up? Skills like these can help you save a dive and deal with problems in a calm and controlled manner.

Why is it beneficial for recreational divers? 

Knowing you can remember and perform skills and drills will make you more confident underwater, on the boat and as a diver in general.

It’s about fun, too!

Even though it may sound like hard work, technical divers — just like their recreational buddies — dive to explore the underwater world. Be it a deep reef, a mysterious shipwreck or an unknown cave, we all dive to enjoy ourselves. Incorporating elements of technical diving into recreational dives will help build your confidence, expand your knowledge and make you a better diver and dive buddy, too.