It all started with a Facebook post and a subsequent conversation via Messenger, which saw me booking flights to Dahab, Egypt, and enrolling in a recreational sidemount course with Team Blue Immersion. Since then I have been a sidemount diver, going on to complete my Tec Deep on a sidemount configuration and also my first trimix dive through the Arch at the Famous Blue Hole in Dahab. Like any true convert I now feel the urge to preach the gospel according to sidemount.
Why dive sidemount?
I don’t cave dive — not yet anyway — and I know a lot of people associate sidemount with cave diving. But in reality, recreational sidemount need not be associated with cave diving; so don’t let that put you off. Sidemount offers every diver something, and I’m a firm believer that divers should continue to learn and develop themselves as divers long after they’ve achieved open-water certification. Sidemount offers a number of benefits for the recreational diver:
- Comfort — especially for divers with back issues.
- Control — Streamlining helps improve buoyancy control.
- Efficiency — Sidemount diving requires less energy.
- Peace of mind — More redundancy and more air supply means less stress and longer dives within NDL.
- Fun — Simply enjoy your diving!
Do two tanks require twice the skill?
You might think that adding an additional tank and having a completely different configuration from the normal single-tank back-mount BCD is going to be complicated and difficult to learn, but it’s really not. With sidemount, it’s my feeling that the instructor is more important than the agency. My guru is Erik Brown, but there are many great sidemount instructors around the world, so if you want to learn the right way, do some research before committing — it will pay off. Any good course will spend the first session covering equipment configuration. The terms “long” and “short hose” will probably be new to you, as will setting up the tank straps and putting the equipment together. What you learn in this session will help you not only in the water during the course, but also on future dives. I’ve heard a lot of people say sidemount is a configuration course, not a diving course. While configuration is a major part of the class, you’ll also learn about buoyancy and trim while diving sidemount. Without good trim, or alignment, a diver renders some of sidemount’s advantages useless. Good buoyancy and trim are both essential for any dive configuration, not just sidemount, and certainly for any tec diving you might learn. Trust me — once you learn perfect trim, you’ll feel like a diving ninja. As someone who’s always used a bit more air than his dive buddies, sidemount has also made longer dives possible without worrying about being the person who forces the group to surface. The initial gear outlay can be a costly addition to your kit, but with so many more manufacturers offering sidemount-specific gear and more dive resorts offering rental equipment, I think it’s well worth it for a diver looking to progress and try new things. And who doesn’t love new gear? Have you tried sidemount? What did you think?