PADI Recreational Sidemount diving
With sidemount diving gaining in popularity and gaining more mainstream exposure, I decided it was time to check it out myself.
Having the opportunity to attend a PADI Tec Explorer event at Team Blue Immersion, Dahab, Egypt. I jumped at the chance to take the recreational PADI Sidemount Diver course (PADI offers two courses – Recreational and Tec). For those of you looking to step into Tec or just to try something different, I can’t recommend an event like Tec Explorer enough.
First maybe I should address the question – I don’t cave dive, so why sidemount?
Sidemount has a number of benefits for the recreational diver far beyond merely cave diving:
- Comfort – Especially for those divers with back issues.
- Control – Streamlining helps improve buoyancy control
- Efficient – Takes less energy
- Peace of mind – More redundancy and more air supply, less stress longer dives
- Fun – Enjoy your diving!
More then one tank
Coming from a recreational background, the first session of the course brought the biggest learning opportunity – equipment configuration. Obviously going from one tank to two brings with it equipment considerations beyond where the tank is mounted. Split into small groups, we were given all the items needed and given the task of setting up a sidemount configuration from scratch. After some initial floundering and with guidance we soon all had a perfect set up.
By the end of the session, I had gone from never having so much as changed a hose to understanding which ports best fit the different items and which were the best ports to use for the best and most streamlined configuration. In fact, I believe I learnt more about scuba equipment in that single session then I had during all my previous diving. I’m a firm believer in more knowledge makes for a safer, confident and more relaxed diver.
Into the water
By this stage, we were all raring to get into the water. Our instructor for the water sessions, PADI TecRec trimix and IDC staff instructor Erik Brown, concentrated on the main skills of mounting and moving the tanks in standing depth and in water too deep to stand in before we descended for the first time. The first sessions were focused 100% on skills; trim, gas management (a very new skill to a recreational diver), swapping tanks, out of air and free flow. Hard work, but totally rewarding as we compared GoPro camera footage of the first dive and subsequent ones and could see the improvement in our diving.
With the final qualifying dive completed, we headed to the famous Blue hole in Dahab for our first sidemount fun dive!