Meet Singaporean Sing Yi. She came to Two Fish Tech in December to dip her toes into technical diving and had some concerns about being able to handle the amount of equipment involved. Whilst we do carry more on technical dives, we strongly believe that excellent skills and thorough planning make a good technical diver much more so than physical strength does. Here’s how Sing Yi’s time with us went:
In the weeks leading up to Sing Yi’s visit, a number of emails had gone back and forth, talking about experience to date, deciding which courses to book, how much time to allow for technical vs. recreational diving and so on. One of those emails mentioned that Sing Yi is a petite female and might therefore need different sized equipment and/or might struggle with the amount of equipment involved.
We had a few different options:
(1) Sticking with a normal sized (2 x 11l or 2 x 80cuft) twinset and 9l deco bottles and see how Sing Yi coped with that. There are a few benefits: gas matching between team mates would be straight forward and, if you are hiring twinsets, chances are they will be regular sized, 11l cylinders.
(2) Setting up a smaller size twinset, most likely made up of 9l cylinders. This would arguably suit Sing Yi’s height and gas consumption better than a larger set-up.
(3) Switching to Sidemount. Again, this would allow us to use 9l cylinders and offer greater flexibility when it came to moving equipment, carrying tanks etc.
In the end, we decided to try a normal-sized twinset in our swimming pool to see how Sing Yi would get on. Should that not work, we’d explore the other options. One of the deciders was the fact that she already owned a harness and backplate from single cylinder diving, set up to fit her. Her backplate is slightly shorter than regular-sized models but keeps the same dimensions for attachment holes and other fittings.
Did the twin tanks look big on Sing Yi? Yes, they did, but she managed to manoeuvre them just fine, considering it was her first time. We are lucky to have a three meter deep pool here which is ideal for a first skills session or for trying out your equipment setup and making adjustments before heading to depth.
By day two we were in open water conducting skills for TDIs’ Intro to Tech course. Spending at least an hour on each dive gave us plenty of opportunities to practice and fine tune buoyancy and drills as well as explore the local wall dives.
All went well, no blunders on valve drills whatsoever, and by day three we added a deco bottle to the equipment. Managing and moving three cylinders proved to be more of a challenge and we decided to spend two days practising buoyancy control and executing (fake) deco schedules.
Sing Yi progressed so well through the Intro to Tech and Advanced Nitrox courses that we decided to continue all the way to Decompression Procedures, qualifying her to do dives to 45m using up to 100% O2 as a decompression gas.
Four additional dives introduced more complex skills including a toxing diver tow – it’s not easy to move another technical diver but with the right positioning and propulsion techniques size once again doesn’t matter. Staging and re-staging bottles whilst remaining neutral helped fine tune Sing Yi’s buoyancy control even further. Our decompression dives went without a hitch and allowed us to see black tip and white tip reef sharks, eagle rays and tunas in large numbers. Decompression stops were made more entertaining by visiting turtles and breathtaking wall structures.
After a week, the sight of Sing Yi carrying a twinset to or from the boat had become normal. She stayed with us at Two Fish Tech for a little longer and we had a chance to complete two more days of technical fun dives – yes, these exist: it’s not all skills and drills.
And all the training proved to be worth it when on one of our last dives we encountered a slight down current. By then, Sing Yi knew what to do: twinset, deco stages and all, she stayed close to the reef and slowly swam up, across and out of the current whilst keeping an eye on bottom time and ascent speed as well as her team. Nothing at all to do with physical size, but much more with dive skills, good buoyancy control and a well-planned dive profile.
Granted, if she ever chooses to invest in her own twinset, it would make sense for Sing Yi to get a smaller set-up. But having learned to cope with larger cylinders will help her in the long run – even if it is to move on to handling more deco bottles. As I write this, I can see here shaking her head at me, but she’s certainly been bitten by the bug.
If you’d like to know more about technical diving, just get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks to Linda Groarke for the last two pictures.