October 15, 2018

Entry-Level Tech Courses

by in Technical

Entry-Level Tech Courses at Alba

Why take a technical diving course? You may have numerous reasons, from just dipping your tow in, to having the intention of becoming competent in a specific type of diving. The most common reasons are listed below; all are equally valid:

  • You’re curious to see what tech diving is all about.
  • You like learning new things.
  • You’re not really interested in tech but have heard that getting some training will make you a better diver.
  • You want to take your diving further.
  • You want to have more options with the same type of diving that you already do.

The first technical courses are a great introduction to the equipment and procedures that tech divers use. One option is to dive in a twinset, which is two tanks on your back. The other option is sidemount. They both form the basis of more advanced technical training but are also equally valid ways to undertake recreational dives. The benefits of diving in this way include having twice the gas, being able to deal with equipment failures yourself, and undertaking diving procedures that will improve your diving and ultimately your safety.

You shouldn’t be put off by the equipment that technical divers use, it is all manageable and the training is incremental. If you enjoy the course you’ll have a good foundation to take your training further. If it’s not for you then at least you will have given it a go and learned new things that are directly transferrable to your normal way of diving. I have yet to meet anyone that didn’t agree that they improved as a diver from taking a tech course.

See below for more information on the two ways of learning technical diving; diving in a twinset via an intro to tech course, and learning sidemount diving.

Diving in a Twinset

Using double cylinders is an ideal way of conducting most technical dives that don’t require you to squeeze though tight restrictions, such as in a cave. The basic configuration should be simple, balanced, streamlined, and comfortable, and should allow easy access to your regulators and valves.

The advantage of using a twinset includes having double the gas compared with a single cylinder. The two cylinders are also joined together with an isolation manifold, which means that if you have a problem with one of your regulators, you can shut it off and still have access to all your gas. In the unlikely event of a catastrophic gas failure, you can close the manifold and save half of your gas. This redundancy is necessary for all types of technical diving.

The standard equipment configuration of backplate, wing, and harness is used for all types of technical diving except sidemount, with additional equipment being added based on the type of dive being conducted.

Everything learned during an intro to tech course will directly apply if you choose to take your technical diving further. Even if you don’t, the equipment, procedures, and skills required for diving in a twinset are directly transferrable to single tank diving too. There is no question that learning the procedures for diving in a twinset will make you a better diver, if taught correctly.

TDI Intro to Tech at Alba

TDI’s Intro to tech, or sidemount are the first step you can take in technical diving. Intro to tech is similar to the sidemount course in terms of philosophy, approach and theory, but obviously the configurations are quite different.

Intro to tech introduces you to the equipment, diving procedures and approach to technical diving, and provides a good base from which you can continue with more advanced training.

The course is split into theory, hands-on workshops, practice on dry land, a pool session, and open water dives. We have two options available, the standard course consisting of 4 open water dives, or an extended course made up of 6 dives. Dependent on the time and money you have available, the 6 dive course will allow you more time to practice under the supervision of an instructor.

An often overlooked but hugely important part of this course is getting the harness configured properly for you, and achieving a “balanced rig”, that is, correct weighting and weight distribution. Once this is achieved then we can develop buoyancy and trim (body position), and start to work on skills and emergency skills, team thinking and positioning, awareness, propulsion methods and diving procedures.

This is by far the most important course in technical diving. If something is off, then it makes your life and your future instructor’s life more difficult on subsequent courses, not to mention when fun diving. We need to spend time on some basic things to build good habits and muscle memory from the start; it’s much more difficult to unlearn bad habits further down the line.

There are numerous options for learning to dive in a twinset; TDI’s intro to tech, which is either a standalone course or can be combined with advanced nitrox and/or decompression procedures, and Raid Deco 50, which assumes no previous technical experience, and builds up to decompression diving.

Scroll down or more information on intro to tech, or click here for more information on the Deco 50 diver course.

Technical Sidemount Diving

Sidemount has really taken off in popularity within the last 5 years. This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, sidemount BCs evolved to become much easier to set up and use, and secondly, sidemount has been marketed as either an easier route into tech diving, or just a fun tool that recreational divers can use to increase their safety and extend their dive times.

Sidemount originated in cave exploration, first in the sumps of the UK, and then in the caves of Florida and Mexico. It was always viewed as a specialised tool for some pretty extreme diving, such as fitting through otherwise impossibly small restrictions in a cave. Then brands such as Razor, Hollis, and Xdeep started to develop BCs that were smaller, lighter, and more comfortable to wear. Once word got around, sidemount diving exploded in popularity. Even 5 years ago it would be pretty rare to see a sidemount diver on a dive site, now it’s common practice.

Why sidemount?

To state the obvious, sidemount involves carrying twice the amount of gas in two cylinders placed at the side. This is a very comfortable way to dive. Having twice the gas means longer dives, and using nitrox can also mean longer NDLs before you get low on gas.

With the cylinders placed at the side, the valves are very easy to access, which means that any issues with your regulator or gas supply are also easy to manage. Having two independent cylinders of gas also provides redundancy, so you are less reliant on your buddy if you have a problem. It also means you have more gas to donate in a low or out of gas situation.

Sidemount has huge versatility in terms of getting in and out of the water. You can attach cylinders and then jump in, or jump in and then attach cylinders. At the end of a dive you can remove the cylinders before walking up the ladder (conditions permitting). This is especially useful for people with back problems and other physical injuries, and is appealing for those who struggle to carry a twinset on their back up a ladder- or just don’t want to.

The only real disadvantage of sidemount in this respect is in places where you must walk a long distance to the entry point- you will have to make two trips there and two trips back from the setting up area (trust me, diving in Iceland is not fun on sidemount!). Though this may still be slightly more enticing than having to carry a twinset over the same distance in one go.

Technical sidemount training at Alba

Technical sidemount training is one of two routes into technical diving; the other being use of a twinset via the TDI Intro to tech course.

During this course, you will learn diving techniques and procedures associated with tech diving, as well as theory such as dive planning, risk management and gas management. Understanding the equipment is also a large part of the course, as is learning emergency procedures such as gas sharing using a longhose. Learning and practicing all the above will provide a good foundation for you to continue onto more advanced training.

If you are already a technical diver, then the sidemount course is taught to the level that you are currently at. If you are a trimix diver, you will learn to undertake those dives in sidemount, and manage the decompression cylinders accordingly.

Sidemount can be taught through TDI, IANTD, and Raid. Scroll down for more information on each course.

Course information

TDI Intro to tech

Course outline-  4 days

  • Theory sessions
  • Equipment and dive planning workshops
  • Dry land skills practice (land drills)
  • 6 open water dives
  • Max depth- 23m.

Course schedule

  • Day 1- Equipment configuration, theory, and land drills, skills session in a pool, or pool-like conditions
  • Day 2- Theory, 2 dives
  • Day 3- Dive planning, 2 dives
  • Day 4- 2 dives

Prerequisites:
In order to enrol on the course, you need to:

  • Be 18 years old, 15 with parental consent
  • Be an open water diver.
  • Provide proof of 25 logged open water dives.

For more inforamation about the TDI Intro to Tech Diving couse, please click here.


TDI Sidemount Diver

Course outline-  4-5 days

  • Theory sessions
  • Equipment and dive planning workshops
  • Dry land skills practice (land drills)
  • 6 open water dives
  • Max depth- current level of certification.

Course schedule

  • Day 1- Equipment configuration, theory, and land drills, skills session in a pool, or pool-like conditions
  • Day 2- Theory, 2 dives
  • Day 3- Dive planning, 2 dives
  • Day 4- 2 dives

Prerequisites:
In order to enrol on the course, you need to:

  • Be a SDI Open Water Scuba Diver or equivalent.
  • Be 18 years old, 15 with parental consent.

For more information about the TDI Sidemount Diver Course, please click here.


Raid Sidemount Diver

Course outline-  3 days

  • Theory sessions
  • Equipment and dive planning workshops
  • Dry land skills practice (land drills)
  • 4 open water dives
  • Max depth- current level of certification.

Course schedule

  • Day 1- Equipment configuration, theory, and land drills, skills session in a pool, or pool-like conditions
  • Day 2- Theory, 2 dives
  • Day 3- Dive planning, 2 dives

Prerequisites:
In order to enrol on the course, you need to:

  • Be an open water 20 diver or equivalent.
  • Be 18 years old, 15 with parental consent.

For more information about the Raid Sidemount Diver Course, please click here.

If you would like more information or have any questions about Entry-Level Tech Courses at Villa Alba, please get in touch.