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Recreational Sidemount ...

Discussion in 'Sidemount Diving' started by BCSGratefulDiver, Mar 9, 2014.

  1. rjack321

    rjack321 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Port Orchard, Washington State
    Not at all, its just different (neither better nor worse).
    especially different the way the hoses route around your body.
    Mikko Ilari Laakkonen likes this.
  2. Effervescent

    Effervescent Registered

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: New York, NY
    Being able to hand up your tank for boat diving makes a lot of sense but doesn’t this skill also require the diver to be able to unclip+remove the long hose and disconnect any inflation hoses (whether it be a drysuit or a BCD, depending on which side the long hose is on) under water? Since I would argue that it’s easier for beginners to unclip the tank and detach all hoses while holding on to a ladder or doing this at the surface, I’m wondering why this particular skill is considered to be a mandatory skill while diver and tank trim and buoyancy control are merely optional skills.

    Yes, I agree with most of these points but I think these almost superfluous when compared to basic buoyancy and diver/tank trim skills. The equipment performance is lessened with poor technique and, with only 3 dives to cover basic skills, I’m not sure how necessary unclipping tanks at depth + swimming for 60 feet helps the divers to achieve good technique.

    As for #3, I would argue that teaching tank trim skills versus swimming with 1 tank out in front gives the student more awareness of cylinder buoyancy characteristics.

    As for #4, I've had an experience where I performed a bubble check at 30' and then realized that my inflator hose was leaking after unclipping and swimming with a tank in the front. Luckily my teammate pointed it out right before it got worse, and I was very comfortable with doing valve drills at that point, so I closed the tank and called the dive. My follow-up question to this point is then why wouldn't valve drills be included in the syllabus if 'beginning with the end in mind'?

    As for #2, I recently learned that you can easily neaten/stow hoses by also unbungeeing and holding the 1[SUP]st[/SUP] stage which I found to be much easier than swinging the tank out in front with AL80s. (I haven’t tried this with steel tanks though).

    I am not an instructor and have only been diving SM over the past year (however, I logged multiple dives a week in varying conditions over this time in SM) so I bring these points up from the perspective of a student. I admit that in the beginning I unclipped my tanks since I saw others doing it and it looked cool. :p However, when I took my full cave class last week, my instructor taught me that unclipping tanks for restrictions is actually beyond the scope of my training so now I'm going to focus much more on perfecting the fundamentals of SM.
    Jim Lapenta likes this.
  3. Colliam7

    Colliam7 Tech Instructor Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Kents Store, VA
    You are asking some very good questions in your posts, and I will add a few thoughts to some of the responses you have already seen. I think Andy (DevonDiver) has posted a pretty good summary of some of the reasons for unclipping. Honestly, it has nothing to do with looking cool. While you may not individually agree with the reasons he listed, they are nonetheless applicable to the design of the curriculum. In addition, it is probably worth keeping in mind that the current PADI course(s) grew out of the original SM Distinctive Specialty which was authored by a caver (who was also intimately involved in the subsequent development of the 'standard' specialties). And, I think it is probably hard for an individual with cave diving background to not include at least some skills which he has found to be useful, even for a non-technical, non-cave course.
    I cannot speak for all courses, but diver / cylinder buoyancy and trim are certainly a focal point of my (PADI) recreational SM course. They are obviously part of DevonDiver's course. I won't take any responsibility for how others conduct their activities - although if a PADI course doesn't include emphasis and instruction on trim, that is the failure of the instructor, because that aspect of training is clearly outlined in the PADI SM Instructor Guide, as something that is expected to be taught as part of the course. Andy has previously posted some links to (unfortunately) great video examples of incredibly poor instructor buoyancy and trim (which were subsequently taken off YouTube, interestingly enough). However, I don't think those examples necessarily reflect the PADI course, per se (or any other course), rather they reflect the individual instructors and their possible lack of experience (and skill). I have a sneaking suspicion that a video shot of any course they taught would show similar issues.

    Taking the discussion beyond the context of sidemount, I still see examples of poor buoyancy and trim among a number of instructors, across agencies, diving single cylinder rigs and teaching OW students. So, the cynic in me asks, 'Why should sidemount be any different?' :)
    I simply don't see this as an 'either-or' situation. Unclipping a cylinder (or unclipping two for that matter) may actually give a diver a better feel for trim than simply emphasizing it is classroom discussion, or telling a diver during after a dive that they are not in good trim. I have divers unclip one AL cylinder, then unclip both, during one dive. I have them unclip one steel cylinder, then both, during a subsequent dive, and they get a first hand lesson in the principles of arm and moment. I agree with your point, that unclipping cylinders would be superfluous IF there was no fundamental emphasis on trim. But, that is not the case. To the list of reasons that Andy gave, I would add that unclipping a cylinder may also allow the diver to adjust the lower attachment point (presuming that the diver uses a cam band rather than a long metal hose clamp) which can directly influence cylinder trim.
    A good question, but note that 'valve drill' was listed multiple times, as part of the curriculum summarized in post #109. They are an integral part of the PADI SM course, beginning with the Confined Water dive, and continuing through the Open Water dives.
    And, that is a great example of the diversity of SM - you have found something that works well - for you. Should that be the only method that is taught to others, simply because it works for you? Please understand, I don't mean that as sarcasm, or as harsh criticism at all, merely I am pointing out that other divers may find it easier to stow their hose by unclipping the cylinder and swinging it out in front of them.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  4. Effervescent

    Effervescent Registered

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: New York, NY
    Thanks Colliam7 for clearing up a few more points.

    Ok, this makes sense. I am not an instructor but based on the responses of others, it sounded like buoyancy and diver+tank trim were optional skills whereas unclipping tanks were mandatory skills for the PADI OW course which was my main sticking point.

    Yes, I understand this is unfortunately the case… but now that these OW SM students have more complex equipment and more failure points (albeit with more gas and easier maneuverability of valves). I understand that this thread addresses the “recreational” SM realm but I believe 2 tanks + long/short hose configuration is bordering technical territory and should probably be taught as such…

    Yup – I read that but must have had a brain fart moment while I was writing that point. :)

    I completely agree that there is a huge disparity in equipment configuration and techniques and there is no “one-sized-fits-all” approach to sidemount. (In fact, I have another thread that has a side-by-side of the differences in great SM-related courses I have taken.) It seems like the instructors on this thread actually care about the proper fundamentals and teach buoyancy and trim (even if it is beyond the scope of the course).
  5. DevonDiver

    DevonDiver N/A

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Subic Bay, Philippines
    How would you argue that? I find it much easier to manipulate my equipment whilst relaxing in a leisurely neutral hover... :wink:

    I've observed my students experiencing the same...

    They aren't optional. They are... like many things with PADI.... interpreted by individuals according to a loose definition of "mastery".

    Specific buoyancy/trim skills from the PADI Sidemount Diver Course:

    7. Establish neutral buoyancy and swim using flutter kicks and frog kicks (unless it is not possible for the student due to a physical limitation), with a buddy, 24 metres/80 feet to assess balance and trim, to make adjustments as required, and to develop/confirm familiarity with both kicks.

    10. Establish neutral buoyancy and hover using breath control for at least one minute.

    13. With a buddy, perform a safety stop in midwater for three minutes, not varying from the stop depth by more than 2 metres/7 feet.

    16. Swim underwater for a distance of not less than 24 metres/80 feet, including at least one turn of 180 degrees and swimming backwards using only kicks (unless doing so is impossible due to a physical limitation), without making contact with the bottom.

    Specific reference to buoyancy/trim in the instructor's notes:

    Neutral buoyancy, trim and flutter kicks/frog kicks
    a. Demonstrate the skill.
    b. In teams, divers establish neutral buoyancy and swim at least 24 metres/80 feet using flutter kicks and frog kicks (unless not possible due to physical limitation).
    c. Note any adjustments that need to be made. If possible, divers make the adjustment themselves (use a slate to communicate if necessary).
    d. If necessary, teams should surface to make adjustments.
    e. You may have students with weighted cylinders practice adjusting those weights underwater (optional).

    Note: Allow ample time for this. Getting everything properly adjusted and the trim correct are central to sidemount diving, so provide ample time. Do not move on until everyone is rigged and trimmed properly. Time invested at this stage will save time later.

    and from the student notes:

    4. How do you adjust for proper trim in sidemount? What are your options for refining
    your trim during a dive?
    E. Proper trim in sidemount.
    1. You need optimum trim and streamlining to move cleanly and efficiently, which saves energy and gas. Streamlining reduces damage to the environment because you’re not dragging gear across sensitive aquatic life.
    2. On your first sidemount dives, your instructor will have you establish neutral buoyancy.
    a. Relax and hover. See what your natural attitude is in the water (horizontal, feet high, low, etc.).
    b. Your buddies and the instructor will help you be sure your cylinders are relatively in line with your body (you can’t always see them on yourself).
    3. Because sidemount is designed for proper trim and streamlining, you may find you need little or no adjustment after you kit up. As you use gas, however, you may find it changes. Your trim may become more head-down.
    4. Regardless, as necessary, to adjust for proper trim and streamlining, arrange your weights so you can hover horizontally with little or no effort, and so you can easily change positions during the dive. Arrange your cylinders so they’re inline with your body.
    5. Changing cylinder attachment points and sliding weights up or down on the cylinders (if you have weights on them) can help.
    6. It may take some practice initially, but usually becomes intuitive quickly.

    My students typically do 4-5 hours in the pool (Confined Dive#1) before hitting Open Water. It really depends how the instructor approaches teaching the course. With double tanks (AL80s)... all the training dives are of a very long duration too (typically 90 minutes each)...

    There's PLENTY of opportunity on the PADI Sidemount Diver course to establish a very high competency with students.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
  6. boulderjohn

    boulderjohn Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boulder, CO
    I looked through the most recent PADI professional magaizne, the UNdersea Journal, last night. There was a brief article announcing coming regional workshops on the Rescue Diver course in which they will teach about some adjustments to the course based on changing characteristics of the diving world. One of the changes mentioned was sidemount diving. I don't know anything more than that--apparently rescue issues related to sidemount diving are going to be addressed in some way.
    BCSGratefulDiver likes this.
  7. BCSGratefulDiver

    BCSGratefulDiver Mental toss flycoon ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: On the Fun Side of Trump's Wall
    I'd be very interested in knowing what they've come up with, John ... I'd appreciate it if one of you PADI instructors would elaborate once this has been made public.

    ... Bob (Grateful Diver)
  8. Effervescent

    Effervescent Registered

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: New York, NY
    Thanks DevonDiver for providing some more information about the course. :D

    I obviously have a much smaller sample set than you but this was in response to being able to "disconnect 1 tank as you approach the boat" which requires manipulation of more than just the boltsnaps underwater.

    Is backwards kick mandatory for the course? I ask because it took me (and a few others I know) quite few dives to understand how to do this while maintaining a 1-2 foot window since it is not as intuitive as other kicks.

    Is it common practice to put weights on cylinders for the PADI course? I see that it says “optional” but I’m wondering why the standard isn’t to adjust the positioning of the boltsnaps when tanks such as AL80s get floaty. I’m not arguing that one way is better than the other (although I know many respected SM divers who would vehemently say this is wrong), but I wanted to get an understanding why the latter option isn’t standard. Going back to the unclipping+pushing the tanks forward concept, wouldn’t trim weights on tanks make it much more difficult to do this (same thing with steel tanks)?
  9. Jakeb826

    Jakeb826 Registered

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: Carolina Beach, NC
    As a new guy to this type of diving and learning something new, I have so far come to find that a lot of people seem to get hung up on one way of doing something and vehemently despising another way. Kind of like saying that if you drink coke you can never, ever drink pepsi. I choose to look at it as I might want a pepsi today and a coke tomorrow, coke might be the best formula for today's particular thirst, or I may dive exclusively pepsi and my buddy may be a coke guy. It seems some of the brightest and most experienced sometimes get hung up on their way as opposed to having several ways for any given thing, i.e. more tools in the toolbox. ( Not directing that at anyone here by any means, I am learning a lot from you guys....even when the bickering starts)..:) The deep air thread is an absolute people watching bonanza.

    Narrow mindedness is a dangerous luxury. I was highly specialized in my past career...I kept my mind open to what the day one guys had to say and I learned stuff all of the time, as well as paying attention to my mentors. Decision and action was ultimately mine to make. Ego is an important but dangerous thing. How many times can ego be looked at as an underlying cause in many of the highly experienced diver deaths?

    The important thing for me as a new guy is for my instructors/mentors/buddies...whomever I am putting my trust into.....to help me avoid techniques that are dangerous or threatening to myself or others and to push me on essential skills to be the opposite. I can make decisions just fine and I am open minded. I need guidance due to my extreme inexperience.

    Any doofus can regurgitate a course outline and wear a fancy patch, the instructors that take pride in their students learning and who continue to learn themselves are the ones that make a positive difference. The rest are just talkers.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2014
    reghunnicutt likes this.
  10. Scott

    Scott Technical Instructor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
    I attended our local workshop 5 or 6 months ago. It was about how to deal (demo) with SM or rebreather equipment during a rescue (class).
    Without having my notes here and going from memory.

    How to ascend with a SM or rebreather diver and how to get them on their back if they are face down on the surface. One way taught was a technique some use for a doubles BM diver. Approach from behind, push down on the tail, grab near the shoulders and roll them back.

    Once the diver is in their back on the surface, deal with the bungeed regulator, LP hose if using a dry suit, check to see what type of attachments are being used and unclip or cut the top attachment points, unclip or cut the rail attachment, remove harness.

    Is it more effective to remove one cylinder or both if diving two.

    We didn't have a chance to practice on a rebreather diver, our victim had other obligations. The discussion was close the loop so it doesn't flood causing more weight issues and remove the gear.
    shoredivr likes this.

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