The greatest dilemma for beginner divers who have fallen in love with the underwater world is the question of which pathway to follow next, Recreational or Technical diving.
The most common path, the rescue diver / divemaster / Instructor path, offered by all the recreational diving agencies is the main pathway for divers here on Koh Tao. The other path divers can follow would be technical, rebreather or cave diving, which is a gateway to mind blowing adventure and much more exciting dives. But there are also those weekend warriors who are more than happy to get their Master Scuba Diver rating and travel the world clocking up recreational dives on liveaboards and exotic dive destinations.
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.
As mentioned, the majority take the recreational dive professional route. It’s more commonly available and usually works out cheaper with the person able to get their investment back by picking up Divemaster/Instructor work around the world at amazing dive locations. Technical diving is less common and it is more of a commitment to get the training for thou the reward is far greater as you get trained by more seasoned, experienced and knowledgeable Dive Instructors, plus your diving stories at the bar at night are so much cooler…
Divers reasons for getting into technical diving always vary. Some do it for the personal challenge, to go deeper, to see big wrecks or just for the basic thrill of it all. I got into tech for the challenge and the sense of adventure that came with it. As a Course Director, I had reached the pinnicle of recreational diving and needed something more. Technical diving gave me that. Since becoming a tec diver 7 years ago, I have travelled the world diving cave systems, deep wrecks, flooded mines, deep sinkholes, amazing walls to 170m, world record dives to 200m. These adventures would never of been possible if I stayed only on the recreational pathway.
For me, Tec diving isnt just about going deep, which is the misconception that many ill informed people have. I’d argue that technical diving is about understanding diving a whole lot better, acquiring more skills, and negating the limitations of time, gas and decompression that recreational diving gives you.
An excellent reason for going tech is the in-water skills that you’ll gain. With increased task loading, there is a much greater necessity for excellent buoyancy, trim and a heightened sense of self / situational and global awareness 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 skills you learn in participating in any entry-level technical diving program are easily transferred into any recreational dive situation.
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?
Technical diving also gives you access to more gas, the knowledge to understand the best gas mix to the depth you wish to dive and the peace of mind that you can stay underwater that much longer than recreational divers on that 30m shallow wreck or reef without the limitations of your gas supply. These dives, with rec limits would be better served on a twin set or sidemount using a EANx 32% or even a EANx36%. And if you had a stage or deco cylinder, imagine the time you would be able to spend, just because you took the time to understand technical diving and build yourself to be a better diver.
Understanding decompression procedures, manipulating stage and/or deco cylinders and being able to plan your dive profile and deco gases effectively using computer generated software like V-Planner and Multi-Deco, will remove any limitation on the type of dives that you might want to do.
Whether it be on Twin Sets or Sidemount configurations, or even the most advanced diving techniology, Closed Circuit Rebreathers like the two rebreathers I can teach on, The JJ-CCR and the SF2 ECCR, being able to conduct technical dives to your certification limits, will allow you to basically do any dives that you wish, be it long and shallow like cave penetration dives or deep and short like on drop offs, deep walls, or deep wrecks.
As a diver, we all wish to spend as much time as possible under the water, technical diving allows us to do this. It makes you a much better diver and a more knowledgeable one. With this skill set honed, and a better understanding of diving and your limits, it will make all your future dives whether it be recreational or technical much more comfortable and relaxing.