Sidemount is a relatively new term to recreational Scuba Diving. Although it’s a technique that’s been used by professional divers for well over 10 years, it’s only recently become popular amongst recreational divers, mostly due to the advances of sidemount equipment to the retail channel.
The questions asked by most recreational divers that are interested in Sidemount are, is it worth the effort? Is it worth the cost of the additional course? Is it worth buying the right gear? My personal answer? Yes, Yes & YES. I’ve summed up my experience based on 3 key factors: Comfort, Performance & Experience.
First & Foremost, sidemount diving is about comfort. It’s about not waddling to the dam or boat with steel cylinder on your back that weighs a million tons. With sidemount, you link up your cylinders at the last moment. You carry your cylinders alleviating any pressure on your back, essentially making kitting up & kitting down so much easier. No need to stand around and wait for your dive buddy to help you strap on your BC.
Secondly, comfort in the water is something to write home about. With a cylinder under each arm, it improves the experience drastically by giving you a sense of stability. Navigation underwater feels easier, and you don’t have any weight or a cumbersome cylinder on your back. Personally, sidemount was worth every effort purely for the comfort aspect.
Obviously your dive time increases (subject to your no-deco calculations) due to the fact that you’re diving with 2 cylinders. But because you’re more comfortable in the water, you don’t breath as rigorously as you would with a back-mounted cylinder. The finning technique that is taught with sidemount also helps use your energy more sparingly, it the entire experiences feels as if you’re driving a brand new turbocharged Subaru, compared to the minibus taxi you used to be with a back-mounted cylinder.
I often get asked about the cylinder swopping process. Is it cumbersome? Is it dangerous? No and again, NO. Even without the cool swopping valves that will switch between cylinders at the flip of a switch, swopping regulators every couple of minutes is not nearly as cumbersome as it sounds. Its a smooth experience, and the switching valves makes it nearly seamless.
The overall experience, in my opinion, is what Scuba Diving should have been from day one. It feels more like underwater flying than ever before, with longer dive times, better breathing performance, better finning performance & a much easier out of water experience.
Have you tried Sidemount yet? What’s your experience?
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If you’re ready to take your diving to the next level, sign up here: Geko Sidemount Diving Course