So you’ve booked a tech diving course. Whether it’s a few days away, weeks or months, naturally this is a time to get excited – and it’s a time to start preparing for that course.
It doesn’t make a difference if this is your first ever time doing any technical diving or if you’ve tried twinsets and sidemount before, there are a few things you can do right now to make sure you get the most out of your time with your instructor.
Diving before your tech diving course?
If you have an opportunity to go diving before your course, here are some points to assess and work on.
Every single thing under water is influenced by how well you can control your buoyancy. Technical diving means carrying more equipment than recreational divers do and the better you are at controlling your position in the water, the easier you’re going to find that. Think back to your open water course: you practised hovering for a minute. Practise again! Simply find something interesting to look at underwater and watch your computer to see how long you manage to stay at the same depth.
Buoyancy control starts at the very beginning of each dive with your descent – stop ‘racing’ to the bottom and aim for well-managed, well-timed descents.
How’s your trim?
What position is your body in underwater? Take a look at images of technical divers. Most experienced technical divers are diving in trim, with a straight line from their chin to their knees (keep those knees up!) whilst most of their equipment is mounted within their slipstream. They only deviate from this position if some other factor forces them to.
If you’ve already got some of your own tech diving equipment, take it in the water – even on a shallow dive – and re-familiarise yourself, if necessary.
How’s your kicking?
You might have heard about frogkicks and flutterkicks and maybe even backwards kicking, but what about the ‘lazy instructor kick’? It’s a mixture of a frogkick and a scissor kick and seen frequently underwater.
For technical diving, we want to return to ‘clean’ kicks. Following on from our trim position with a straight line from chin to knees, your knees should be at a right angle, allowing your lower legs to point upwards. Your ankles again are (mostly) at a right angle, with your fins behind you. Too many divers allow their fins to point up: take a look at pictures of yourself underwater – do you resemble Mickey Mouse? If so, it’s time to do something about that.
Not diving before your course?
It’s all fair enough if you have time to get in the water before your course, but what about those who don’t have an opportunity to dive every weekend? Fear not, there are things you can do, too.
Get back to the gym
Really? Yes, really. You don’t have to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you’re about to go underwater with at least twice the equipment you are used to carrying, so increasing your fitness levels has huge benefits.
Apart from the practical advantages, such as having an easier time moving things around, good physical fitness makes your tech dives safer. Statistics of decompression sickness cases show that divers in good physical condition are less likely to get bent compared to their ‘unfit’ team mates.
Physics! And physiology!
Technical diving involves theory to help gain a more in-depth understanding of the science behind being underwater. Whether or not you already have your course materials, it’s worth reviewing the basics you learnt on previous courses. Understanding the relationship between pressure and volume as well as how nitrogen works in your body will stand you in good stead when your tech instructor starts talking about decompression algorithms. If you’ve already completed tech diving courses, take another look at the theory you covered already.
A number of technical diving training agencies offer an option to complete part of the course theory online, via elearning, allowing you to maximise your time at the dive centre. Your instructor will still want to review much of the theory to ensure you have a good understanding of it, but you can save time that is better spent fine-tuning your in-water skills, practising dive planning etc.
Do you have to hit all those points? No, that might be unrealistic. However, even covering some of them will ensure that you’re right up to the challenge of your technical diving course. You’ll simply enjoy it more!