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My path to tech diving

Discussion in 'Technical Diving' started by jlcnuke, Oct 11, 2020.

  1. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    626
    479
    So, having finally got some of my tec courses done, here’s the story of how I got to where I am.

    First, some background about me as a diver. I first learned to dive in 2005, getting certified (NASE) by the local dive shop where I was stationed in the Navy. I did my OW checkout dives down at Devils Den in Florida and got a few dives in with friends before moving away from the ocean for work. Not knowing of any diving locally, I took about a decade off from diving. I missed it however, and convinced a friend to get certified and dive on a vacation. The cost of the course was about the same as a refresher where we were doing it (Aruba), so I decided to just do the PADI OW course with him. Shortly afterward I discovered a local diving spot and started finding the local dive shops. I did my AOW and nitrox courses out of Pensacola, FL while I was down there for work, then did a number of other rec courses at the local quarry. During this time I also discovered liveaboards and try to do at least one every year.

    A couple years ago I missed a number of dives because my buddy didn’t make it, I couldn’t find another buddy, etc. As a result, I decided to get my solo diver cert and did so (well, PADI self-reliant). I also enjoyed my diving that I did in the Cenotes, and so went and got my cavern certification. Around the time I was doing those two courses, I started really thinking about moving into tec diving. By the spring of 2019, after attending a tec seminar at the local dive shop in April (iirc), I was sure I wanted the ability to go to wrecks I couldn’t feasibly dive as a recreational diver, or couldn’t dive them to my satisfaction at least. So, I signed up with the local dive shop’s tec instructor for the first two courses they were offering (Tec 40 and 45). At this point I probably had around 150 dives under my belt. The frustration I’d find when trying to pursue technical training would start soon after…


    Three of us that dive locally all were signed up for the tec 40 course, and we regularly saw the instructor at the local dive site. After a month or so, waiting to get the course scheduled, we started asking about getting it scheduled… just about every weekend. By September I was beyond frustrated, and about ready to cancel the course and get my money back… and said pretty much that in what was far from my first email with the instructor, but it did the job and we finally got the class scheduled. We did the classroom portion the first week of October and had dives scheduled for that month. Work got in the way for me, however, and I had to reschedule those dives… or rather, try to reschedule them…. We’ll get back to those dives in a little while.

    While waiting for those dives, in December I decided to take a vacation in February and thought it would be a good time to take my cavern cert up a notch and see about doing intro-to-cave. The timing, with my vacation only a couple months away, and thus limited availability of instructors, wasn’t perfect and it was during that search for training I discovered that my PADI cavern cert, done in a single tank configuration, was effectively worthless as far as any of the respected cave instructors were concerned where I was looking to do it. At the time, that was very frustrating to me. I had a certification that I found to be very taxing training, that online resources said is “equivalent” to the training that all the “intro to cave/cave 1” pre-requisites said I needed (or their equivalents), and the instructors weren’t going to count it, or not count it much. In the end, I decided to accept their judgement and instead of packing my vacation full of training that wouldn’t “progress” my certification level any, I decided to do a skills “workshop” with one of the shops instead. Originally planning to spend 2 days doing that on my vacation, but some food decided to remind me that Mexico is known for more than just the Cenotes and salsa, and so I cancelled the second day of training. I got a lot of good feedback on propulsion techniques in that one day however, so I was happy I did that training. I also started looking into maybe doing training with some well respected people closer to home, but then work and Covid got in the way of doing any of that for a while.

    About 15 months after signing up for tec 40 and 45, and still not having the dives done for tec 40, I went and cancelled my tec 45 at the LDS and got a refund on that course, but couldn’t do anything about 40 since we’d started it already. At that point I decided to pursue doing my tec training elsewhere, and I subsequently found a LOT of different advice/suggestions/information from the internet, dive shops, and tec instructors. Ranging from “don’t take Intro to tec because it’s a waste and you’ll get everything you need in AN/DP” to “ITT will teach you whatever configuration you want” to “ITT isn’t about teaching you to dive in doubles etc, so you should be competent in your doubles configuration before you start the course” (not to mention the standard Scubaboard response of doing GUE Fundies, let’s leave that out of this discussion though please). That made it quite difficult to try and figure out what IS actually being taught in ITT. In the end, I decided I was going to go with an instructor that a friend liked when he did other classes with them who was up-front and candid about discussing what we could expect to learn in the ITT course. My buddy and I signed up for the course and it was on the books for less than 2 months later. We also booked AN/DP with that instructor for the following month.

    Continued in the next post.
     
  2. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    626
    479
    Continuing on:

    A few weeks before my ITT course was to begin, my Tec 40 instructor finally got back to me about scheduling the dives. We got them done the weekend before my ITT course, about 3 weeks shy of the 1 year anniversary of when I completed my classroom portion of that course.

    So, I got certified as a PADI Tec 40 diver the weekend before going to my ITT course. What did I think of that course? Theory wise, the book is, imo, very well done and presents information in a logical, well thought out, and thorough manner. As for the dives, well, I love diving doubles, as it seems like it really is a stable platform on my back. I did NOT take quickly to valve drills though… everything else about the course I found pretty easy, but reaching the valves wasn’t something I managed to do consistently (putting it mildly). That often resulted in frustration, during that task loading of a new skill, which I thought was the source of some buoyancy problems I was having on one of the dives. Not long after I was getting frustrated with my poor buoyancy while doing those valve drills, I discovered that my LPI was actually failing open and inflating my wing. I disconnected it, checked that solved the problem, reconnected it to see if it was going away (decided even if that temporarily solved the issue, it wasn’t a solution, so disconnected it again), then informed my instructor of the problem as soon as we next communicated with each other. As a result, we had to break that dive up to go to the surface and do gear repair before we could continue the dive and finish the skills from that dive. Buoyancy issues mostly disappeared after that (plus or minus a foot at that point).

    At the end of the weekend course I was NOT confident in my ability to reliably do the valve drills, but I managed to do it “right” fast enough at least once on each of the dives, so I passed the course. Would I have passed me on the course with my level of competency on the valve drills? I don't know, I might have required additional dive(s) to demonstrate proficiency reaching the valves and doing a shutdown drill with fewer issues, but that isn’t the standard. I was 100% sure that I wouldn’t be doing a deco dive in that configuration outside of the class until I was much more proficient at operating the valves behind me since most attempts to even reach them were failing still…(at that point I was even entertaining shifting to sidemount in the future as reaching the valves was exceptionally frustrating). Fortunately for me, I had ITT coming up the next weekend which I hopes would help me progress to the point I wanted to be at regarding operating the valves on the doubles or convince me to switch to sidemount.

    So, next up, TDI Intro to Tec weekend. How was that? Well, for me, it was a GREAT experience. For my buddy, it was a demonstration of frustration. Our instructor did a great job of giving advice on how to accomplish tasks, demonstrate how to do things (including some new ways to do things I’d done a number of times), help us adjust, re-adjust, and re-re-re-adjust our gear until things were looking good in general. That did an amazing job of helping me understand how to get trimmed out appropriately and, more importantly for me at the time, got me reaching the valves behind me more reliably. Perfect? Nope, but I was sure that would progress with time/practice. My finning techniques needed a couple pointers - still not 100% success on back-kicking, but got some great advice on practicing that too, and my pull and glide had a bit too much fin movement at first, but improved with advice during the course. Buoyancy and trim were pretty good overall, until valve drills (still having some issues reaching them), and one terrible SMB attempt for who knows what reason (never an issue before, but I managed to screw that one up pretty good for me, but even then not terrible, just not where I’d like them to be. It was definitely something to continue working on. Honestly, some basic skills I do amazing (or at least much better) when I’m just “doing” them, or even practicing them, than when I know someone is watching/evaluating me do them. That’s something I absolutely still need to work on.

    Continued in the next post:
     
  3. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    626
    479
    Continuing:

    So, with Tec 40 done, and ITT completed, it was time for AN/DP over a couple weekends. My thoughts on that course:
    Well, TDI's e-learning isn't that great (kinda annoying actually), but it covered pretty much the same stuff in the PADI Tec Deep manual up to that level of diving. So the "book" portion of the class was really easy having already covered that elsewhere. For the dives, I got some more feedback on ways to refine my diving, and we decided that my wing wasn't really working (it floated me... to my chin on the surface) in the configuration, so I ended up replacing that between the first half of the class and the second half (only doing the dives on weekends). Swapping to the recommended Dive Rite Classic XT (thanks @Marie13 for the rec and your thread on the subject as well for lots of opinions) made a HUGE difference in my comfort. Now instead of struggling to reach the valves it was like they were "just there" anytime I reached for them, and the lift was more than adequate. The first set of dives we did at Blue Grotto, but it wasn't deep enough for the final dives, so we did the second weekend down at Buford Sink, which was a LOT of exercise humping gear (with only 1 cart between three divers the first day... that situation was remedied with a trip to Home Depot before the second day of classes). We culminated the course with a dive down to 150' there at Buford Sink today to complete the class. So, now it's just administrative work and processing to officially be certified.

    So, with Tec 40, TDI Intro to Tec, and TDI AN/DP completed now, how would I evaluate my progress?

    Knowledge wise, I know a LOT more about decompression theory, gear configuration options, EADs, etc. etc. ... all the stuff you'd expect to learn from these courses really. Do I know it all? Not even close, but I know enough to understand what I need to do this level of diving I believe now.

    Skills wise?
    Well, let's see... I'd say I went from an "almost flailing mess" trying to do valve drills on dive 1 of Tec 40 to a diver that can do valve checks (during S-drill/START checks or for a valve drill without moving a foot from where I started while maintaining trim by the time I finished my TDI courses, so that was a massive improvement. I'd never tried a pull and glide technique before, so that was a new skill to learn. I'd done kick training in PDC before so most of the basic kicks I had decent to start with, but my back-kick still needed some work. I'd say it's about 80% where I'd like it to be at this point (meaning about 80% of the time, it works every time). I can hover motionless when I want to, and I can ascend and descend at controlled rates in the new configuration as well. My SAC is back to around my normal "tropical dive" rate in this configuration at this point, so I'm feeling pretty comfortable with the new setup. I'm looking forward to getting to plan and just go do some of these dives for a while, then do intro to cave this winter down in Florida probably.
     
  4. grantctobin

    grantctobin ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Chicago
    910
    604
    Did you adjust your harness or undergarments or suit when switching between wings? You ascribe the improvement in valve drill to switching to the Classic.
     
  5. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    626
    479
    My TDI instructor showed me how to get the drysuit "squeezed right" (my term) before getting in the harness. I used the same drysuit and identical undergarments/harness for the entire course. In ITT we adjusted my harness and made a few position adjustments on the backplate and wing heights. That made it to where I could get to the valves every time, but it was very difficult as the wing I was using was pushing forward into my drysuit some. Swapping from the dual rec wing to the classic xt alleviated that and suddenly my range of motion was so much more comfortable.
     
  6. Manatee Diver

    Manatee Diver Stop throwing lettuce at me! ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: Tampa Bay, FL
    2,193
    2,110
    Protip: Fingerless gloves, I don't know why I resisted so long since I wear gloves every else, but if you pull more with the palm of the glove you will save your fingertips.
     
    Invader and jlcnuke like this.
  7. jlcnuke

    jlcnuke Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: acworth ga
    626
    479
    my instructor had gloves with the index and middle fingers free, but the rest of the hand covered.
     
  8. Manatee Diver

    Manatee Diver Stop throwing lettuce at me! ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: Tampa Bay, FL
    2,193
    2,110
    That would probably work too Just depends on the instructor and what they would allow.
     
  9. NothingClever

    NothingClever ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Red Sea and Atlantic Ocean
    938
    1,110
    Hah! Your botched SMB shoot reminded me of my own. I’d never dropped a spool before preferring to save the blunder for my Trimix course when I executed gloriously with my line appearing like a New Year’s Eve confetti string as my spool went meandering off on its own dive. Fortunately, my instructor was about 5m below and was able to catch it producing in me an even mixture of humiliation and relief.
     
    bradymsu and jlcnuke like this.
  10. Invader

    Invader Registered

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Cherokee County, GA
    39
    9
    ChuckP likes this.

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