Going from “zero to hero” as a diver means completing your training from Open Water to Divemaster — or even Instructor — within a short space of time, often just a few months. It’s popular to do so, especially in tropical destinations frequented by backpackers. For some, this is a truly life-changing experience, but what about zero to hero technical dive training?
Typically, technical diving has been the purview of more-experienced divers. Most have hundreds of dives before they even consider going tech. However, with configuration courses such as the ever-popular sidemount course getting more divers interested earlier in their diving career, technical instructors are receiving more enquiries for zero-to-hero tech training. Here’s a look at the pros of this type of tech-dive training.
Ask yourself about your current diving experience. One of the factors determining whether a diver is ready to go straight from recreational to trimix diving, for example, is their current experience. Beyond simply counting dives, valuable experience comes from diving in different conditions, including currents and low visibility. Adapting your pre- and post-dive routine to the facilities on different boats is another point. It’s certainly something divers must address when they change their equipment configuration.
Looking at the prerequisites for technical-diving courses, the number of required dives can seem very low, especially at entry level. If you only fulfill the minimum prerequisites for a technical-dive course, it’s worth doing a few more dives within your comfort zone before throwing yourself in at the deep end.
Skills count even more
Having said all that, simply increasing your dive numbers has limited benefits if you built your experience on shaky skills. Most divers have not truly mastered buoyancy by the time they become certified open-water divers, and some are still struggling with basic skills at the end of their advanced class. Simply adding dives at this point will likely only reinforce bad habits.
Instead, consider taking a skills workshop to refresh rusty dive skills before moving on to technical training. A technical-diving instructor will expect you to display good buoyancy control, a sense of awareness underwater and ongoing communications with your team when you arrive for your first class.
Intensive training can be hugely beneficial …
Training for a number of consecutive weeks or even months — typical for zero-to-hero type courses — can be hugely beneficial as you simply don’t have time to lose skills between levels of training. Take skiing as another example — many people take a one-week skiing vacation every year and spend the first few days of that week trying to remember how to ski. Similarly, if you take a PADI Tec 40 or a TDI Decompression Procedures class this year and then don’t do much technical diving for the next few months, your skill mastery will fade away. Stepping up to the next level then would mean taking time to brush up before continuing.
On the other hand, being in the water (almost) every day for months, for a mixture of skills training and technical fun dives, will help motor skills become truly second nature. Once you memorize skills to this degree, you won’t forget quite as much information, even after a few months out of the water.
… but sometimes, a break can also help
For some divers, a break between courses allows them to reflect on what they’ve learned and helps newly acquired knowledge sink in. This is also a good time to read up on theory beyond what the course required to help get ready for future technical diving.
So, is zero to hero technical dive training right or wrong?
As with most things related to diving, there is no single answer to suit everyone. With a good foundation of skills and time to build tech-diving experience at a steady pace, it’s definitely possible to go far in one, uninterrupted stream.
Additionally, a good tech instructor will not only support students in their training, but also provide honest feedback, whether it is positive or pointing out areas for improvement and perhaps suggesting that the student slow down.
If you are considering technical training via a zero-to-hero approach or longer-term internship program, make sure to check what’s included. Ideally, you want to complete many more dives than the minimums required by training agencies without adding massively to the program cost. Maybe you can tag along on other courses or guided tech dives, too. All of your experience helps towards becoming a well-rounded technical diver, no matter which route you take.