By Patrick Voorma
My first introduction to technical diving was in 2006 when a group of rebreather and Open Circuit divers booked a series of dives on some of the 60m wrecks off Durban. On that particular trip I was the skipper on one of the dive boats. I was fascinated by the equipment and the preparation and planning that went into a technical dive. I wanted to know more. From that moment on I was hooked.
Since 2006 I have trained with TDI, IANTD and PADI on both Open Circuit and Rebreathers. I have had the privilege of diving off South Africa, The Red Sea, Malta and Gozo and done training with some of the greats of Technical diving. It has been a long and expensive journey.
The highlights of this journey have been diving the caves at Komatie Springs with Don Shirley, The Thomas Canyon with Catherine Bates, The Blue Hole with Tom Steiner, Searching for Coelacanths with Peter Timm in Jesser Canyon and Discovering a WW2 submarine with one of my previous students, Allan Maclean. In the past 9 years I have done hundreds of dives in the extreme sea conditions that South Africa has to offer.
And on every Technical dive I get to learn something.
A few months ago I was diving with a group of really experienced technical divers. We were exploring the Istar, a newly discovered wreck off Durban. We had done a long dive, 30 minutes at 75 meters and were headed up to our first Deep stop at 52 meters. I confirmed with the group that all was good at the deep stop and then headed to our first deco stop. Three stops later I was ready for a gas switch, off the back gas and onto my first deco gas. I did the gas switch drill, exhaled into the regulator and took a breath. I inhaled a mouthful of water! When you are not expecting to have this result I can tell you it comes as quite a big (Insert appropriate expletives here) shock. Coughing and spluttering at 45 meters I switched onto my back gas and examined my regulator. It had worked perfectly at the surface and I had used it as my travel gas on the way down. When I unscrewed the faceplate I discovered that the diaphragm had folded in on its self and that’s why I was breathing water.
Through many dives and many hours of diving and discussions with Technical divers far more experienced that me, I have made it a habit now to ensure that my personal second stages are just hand tight onto the hose. They only have to seal against the O ring after all.
I unscrewed the second stage from my 72% and replaced the faulty reg. Problem solved. With over an hour and a half of deco remaining, a potentially dangerous incident had just become a minor irritation on the dive. This experience and solution is one that I now pass on to all my students.
So where am I going with all of this?
In the past few months I have been watching the social media posts of fellow instructors. In this poor economic climate, Instructors and Dive Centres have been looking for the magic wand that will cure their financial woes. Training agencies have been offering crossovers and training to people that most certainly have not met the criteria for the courses they are doing. In the hunt for market share standards are being blurred, lines that should not be crossed, breached and the full on attack for numbers is on.
Technical diving is not the place to be doing this!
Technical Instructors must have done the time and done the dives and done the deco and done the depth. Without this they cannot possibly look after themselves or their students or the customers they are guiding on technical dives. There is no fast forward button in Technical diving.
Too much, too soon. Where will it all end?