Like for many divers, my technical diving path began in the late '90s in the Red Sea. We were diving at 30 meters at the back of the Big Brother Island on a well-known Numida Wreck, when we noticed a large school of hammerheads casually passing by. The only problem was that they were well below us at around 60 metres. However, there was a group of technical divers diving the same, and they had an up-close experience of the schooling hammerheads. I wanted to go deeper and enjoy the show, but my dive computer was showing the end of no-stop time, and it was time to ascent. Feeling a bit envious, we had to wave hammerheads goodbye. That evening we had a chat with the tekkies we saw earlier on a dive, and decided we have to do something about the limitation recreational diving imposed on us.
There are many reasons why people move into technical diving. Still, for most, it is a natural evolution from a single tank recreational diving, wanting to go deeper, expand diving skills and enjoy the underwater world for longer.
Technical diving has been growing steadily over the last couple of decades, and all major scuba diving agencies like BSAC, PADI, TDI, SSI offer technical diving programs. However, technical diving as such is not a new concept. Still, it started to take the present shape really around the mid-'80s when diving pioneers like cave diver William Hogarth Main began to formulate principles for cave diving equipment setup and procedures. In the late 90s technical diving gain publicity thanks to major exploratory projects like Wakulla Springs Mapping Project run by Bill Stone or the Britannic Expedition by British wreck divers like Leigh Bishop. It is impossible to mention all the names, but you can read more about the history of technical diving HERE
You don't have to do extreme dives to become a technical diver. Today technical diving is all diving done outside recreational diving limits, utilising specialised diving equipment like back-mounted doubles, sidemount tanks or a rebreather. Technical divers use backplate, harness and wings for the setup. The most significant differences come from the environment, and technical divers will engage in decompression diving, deep diving, cave diving, advanced wreck penetration.
When I did my first technical diving course, my technical diving instructor told me: "technical diving is equal parts of training, experience and passion. If you have all of them, technical diving is for you." Having an experienced diving instructor is the key in your technical diving development. In this type of diving, you need to learn from the ones with the best approach. They will introduce you to the principles, help shape your mindset and work on essential skills required for this type of diving.
Principles of technical diving
It varies slightly from one agency to another. Still, equipment setup and training principles go back to style promoted by William Hogarth Main and other deep diving and cave diving pioneers back in the 80s. Hence, the name of the diving style as Hogarthian. Let me point out, this is not the only approach, but I find as a good starting point, and all the agencies seem to base their principles on Hogarthian. It is about having the right equipment, diving skills and mindset.
Technical diving equipment
Technical diving demands the best possible gear maintained to high standards. Your diving unit should be as streamlined as possible without any unnecessary bits. Technical diving equipment relies on simplicity. You will be diving for an extended time, so you need to invest in suitable regulators. Technical divers will use a primary regulator on a long hose you can share in case of emergency and a backup regulator to switch onto. You will also need to invest in the right exposure protection - wetsuit or drysuit. Recreational divers tend to do 40-60 minute dives, while it is not uncommon for technical diver executing dives that are two, three hours long. Spending an extended period of times in the water means you will need to have suitable backup equipment such as spare mask, SMB/DSMB and cutting tools. Technical divers tend to use two lights - an umbilical light with the battery attached to the harness as primary, and a secondary backup torch for an emergency. A big part of technical diving equipment philosophy is avoiding parts that can break and cannot be fixed quickly; therefore, a technical diver will choose paddle blade fins with spring straps over plastic buckles. Simplicity and streamlining is the name of the game here, and a lot of technical divers act on an old navy principle K.I.S.S. (keep it stupid simple) where simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Technical Diving skills
The technical diver should also possess a suitable level of physical fitness and skills. Technical diving deems to be riskier than recreational diving, but there is a lot of pressure put on emergency procedures and dive planning skills to keep risks to a minimum. During your technical diving course, you will learn how to plan a dive properly and prepare your equipment. While technical divers prepare their dive plan on a wrist slate using decompression software, advanced dive computers and dedicated technical dive computers are used for decompression calculations. They are now an essential piece of technical diving equipment. The other important principle is that your dive team is only as good as the least train diver in the group therefore all of you should be diving with a buddy who is similarly fit, skilled and equipped.
Becoming a better diver
Technical diving is a fantastic adventure. Even if you are not planning on doing exploration dives, with newly obtain technical diving skills, you will be able to discover some excellent dive sites that are not accessible to recreational diver or see the ones that you already know from totally different perspective.
A few years after my recreational dive on Big Brother, I went back to Egypt with Emperor Divers technical diving liveaboard - this time equipped with A.P. Diving rebreather. It turned out to be one of the best dives of my life - we went all the way to 80 meters to the propeller of Numidia Wreck and had a school of hammerheads and four oceanic whitetips sharks throughout the whole complete decompression. My investment in technical diving equipment and skills pays off each time I go diving. Specialised diving training received over the years helped me in becoming a better diver and meeting some amazing people along the way.
Mikes dive store is all about offering the right type of equipment for the kind of diving you do. If you are looking for some advice on choosing suitable technical diving items, do not hesitate to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org