To tech or not to tech?

This is a great question, as one of the first things people consider after they’ve completed their Advanced course is where to go and what to learn next. There are a few common paths, most notably the Rescue/DM/Instructor path offered by all the recreational agencies. The other path available would be tech or cave diving, a gateway to exploration and more “exciting” dives. Meanwhile, there are others who have no desire to do more, and are happy just traveling and clocking up more leisure dives.

All paths are great, and part of the beauty of diving is that it’s such a wide field that there’s something for everyone to feel passionate about.

Most people end up taking the Rescue/DM path, as it’s the more commonly available path, and some would argue, the cheaper option. Technical diving is less common and harder to get training for, but I’d argue that it is an equally vital part of continuing dive education. Divers should consider an “and” approach, rather than an “or” approach when choosing between the various paths.

Some people get into tech diving because they want to go deep, see big wrecks, or just feel the thrill of it. My personal reason was wrecks – the bigger and more interesting the wreck was, the deeper the water would be (typically).

I’d argue though, that going tech shouldn’t just be about going deep, which is the misconception that many people have. I’d argue that technical diving is about understanding diving a whole lot better. That, plus acquiring more skills, and removing some limitations of time, gas and decompression from any dive that you might want to do.

One important reason for going tech is the skills that you’ll gain. With more task loading (from carrying multiple tanks, for example) and the greater necessity for excellent buoyancy (because of high PO2 concentrations in deco gases – more on that in another article), you’ll need excellent in-water skills to become a technical diver. These skills aren’t just important because you’re a tech diver though; good buoyancy, good technique and good awareness are important on any dive. Just because you’re on a warm water recreational open water dive doesn’t mean that you should dive without good technique.

The knowledge learnt in a technical course also includes a comprehensive study of decompression, which is a factor in any dive that you do – and not just in deeper dives. Isn’t it prudent to better understand where the boundaries are, how better to manage your decompression, and what to do if you exceed the currently accepted no-decompression limits?

Another great reason for doing a technical course is to gain access to more gas, and to acquire the ability to choose the most appropriate gas mixture for the depth that you are planning to dive. What if you wanted to explore a large wreck or reef that sits between 25 to 30m deep? Or want to wait at a deep cleaning station longer to get a good video of the elusive thresher shark?

Dives like these, despite being within recreational limits, would be better served with a set of double tanks and EAN32%, extending the limitation of gas consumption and decompression, allowing you peace of mind to accomplish your goal! Better still if you carried a decompression tank as well, that would definitely allow you to do a two hour long dive!

Once you understand decompression procedures, are able to manipulate stage bottles and plan your deco gases effectively, this will remove any limitation on the type of dives that you might want to do.

This could mean spending more time on your favourite dive site, since you don’t have gas consumption or decompression limitations anymore. To me, tech means getting to do any kind of dive you might want to do, be it long and shallow or deep and short.

Everybody loves spending more time in the water, and this traditionally meant doing more dives. Wouldn’t it be more comfortable being relaxed underwater, enjoying and taking in everything at your own leisure, without worrying about decompression limits, or running out of gas?

Leon Boey is a GUE, HSA and PADI instructor based in Singapore and Bali. He runs the dive education centre Livingseas in Singapore, Bali and Jakarta. Diving since 2005, he first fell in love with wrecks. He enjoys all sorts of diving, and loves being surrounded by fish.
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