Introduction into Speciality Diving – Getting personal with our students experiences
Have you ever wanted to stay down a little longer and a little deeper and reaching the limits of recreational diving but not sure what avenue to take in order to do that? Well during this blog we have a detailed overview of what you could expect from speciality diving with Big Blue Tech.
To begin we have an introduction into speciality diving, then move on to a Q & A session with our current Tech Manager Andy Campbell, who isn’t just the brains and beauty of Big Blue but the instructor that is likely to run your speciality course with one of the team; finally reviews from previous and current students who are exploring a world with endless possibilities.
Speciality diving? Well what is it? These are the courses that hone your skills and make you a better diver, they allow you to expand your knowledge / confidence / diving ability and safety… oh and can extend your dive times as well as allowing you to penetrate ship wrecks (there are still limits!) and dive in new configurations such as sidemount
That’s just the start of speciality diving, there is a world of possibilities that are open to all levels of divers who maybe once didn’t think they were capable of or maybe didn’t know existed. In Koh Tao we are very fortunate to have an abundance of dive sites and marine life our boats fin tips, as well as Big Blue Tech being able to provide certifications through SSI / TDI / SDI & PADI all of which will be covered in a little more detail in the Q&A section of this blog.
The reason we can expand our diving capabilities these days is down to the US Navy and some very intelligent men who realised what gases were needed at what depth and what could be so cool about diving with two tanks… well let’s hope we can answer all of your strange and wonderful questions about speciality diving, with the hope that you will understand that doing tech isn’t as scary or intimidating as people make out we only want to make ‘knowledgeable, confident and safer divers’. All the questions and feedback are from real students past and present that had the same questions as maybe you have about speciality diving and what it in tales.
Q&A – With Andy Campbell on an Introduction to Speciality Diving
- What are Specialties?
“The specialties or “Specs” are courses divers can take in order to further their education, they typically last 2-3 days as we add more dives than are requested by the agencies.
In general divers who have completed the advanced course are interested in pushing on to 40m or diving on Nitrox but Navigation and Buoyancy are also skills people want to take to the next level and of course the wreck course is also very popular”
- Are there any requirements for someone to start one of the specialty courses?
“Enthusiasm! As long as you have an open water certification and want to get better then we can look at many options, of course a few fun dives is never a bad thing and we’re lucky here to have great Divemasters that demonstrate just what good buoyancy is whilst leading and it’s not un-common for divers to come in and sya they want to be able to dive lie a Divemaster”
“If you wish to progress past recreational diving and into the Tech side of things then there are prerequisites and in general divers wishing to take these courses have a reasonable amount of experience”
During a course’s such as Nitrox, Deep or Sidemount what is typically required ? And what skill does it in tale?
“All three are great courses and allow you to take on more challenging diving but fundamentally they all involve an academic session Sidemount is a course where you learn to wear one or two tanks on your side instead of on your back, but all of the courses have additional focus on the bedrock of good diving – Buoyancy”
“Nitrox, used to be considered as the first step towards tech as it could extend bottom times and gives the diver a choice of breathing gases for the first time. Nitrox in itself is nitrogen and oxygen and students are trained to use between 22% and 40%, the benefits are huge but it comes with a risk on the oxygen side so divers need to be able to analyse tanks and calculate maximum operating depths, not as ominus as it sounds and actually my first spec”
- Some people find the idea of specialties daunting, why do you think this is?
“It’s natural but hopefully they’re excited at the same time, continued dive education should be challenging but rewarding at the same time and after all a majority of our customers are on vacation so it should be fun as well. After the training I’m a great believer that the customer should dive the “spec” without their instructor in order to experience it and to provoke further questions so we also have Divemasters available to dive in any configuration and on Nitrox… it’s time to reap the rewards for sure”
“We try and make the academics as straight forward as possible and to keep elope within their comfort zone, this isn’t rocket science I can assure you or I wouldn’t be teaching it! But it does need to be understood and certainly plays a large part in diver safety”
- Why should someone be interested in exploring specialties and technical diving?
“Well I guess like any other hobby and for most people diving is a hobby each time you go diving you either want to become a better diver or see something different or just chill out. Specialties allow you to extend from the basic courses of open water and advanced adventure towards the limits of recreational diving, so deep diving allows you down to 40 meters; Nitrox which will allow you to stay longer at a given depth and wreck where we can teach you limited wreck penetration”
“But in order to go beyond recreational limits by going deeper and staying longer then technical diving is the extension from recreational diving that will allow you to do so”.
- What are the benefits to moving from recreational diving to technical recreational diving?
“I would like to think that you’re not moving from one to the other, I still go out and recreational dive, still have fun diving on a single tank. However if the dives I want to do entail going beyond the recreational limits then it’s into technical diving”
“Of course the obvious benefits of Tech are extra depth and time but it’s based on additional knowledge and skill sets some of which are challenging but very rewarding. The dive day changes as does the approach to planning and executing dives but the fundamental reason we do it does not change… it’s a great way to spend time!”.
“So for me it’s like having the right tools in the toolbox do to the dives that you’re interested in and that also requires keeping skills competent and up to date. Refreshers and pool training no matter where you are is a valuable part of preparation for that vacation”
7.What are the costs of the courses?
“Like anything else they can vary and some are more expensive because there are more dives involved and the courses are longer or more equipment is required, so the more intense the course the more it’s going to cost but the more you are going to get from it as well”
“The basic courses at Big Blue Tech specialities start from 5,500 baht; and increase to 8,000 Baht. However you have to look at what you are going to get from it and certainly here with Big Blue Tech we try to maximize this and can tailor packages to suit everyone.
- Most people are not technically focused i.e. mathematical or scientific.. baring this in mind how is the theory side of the courses, and how can that be focused around people who maybe need a little more time understand the theoretical and technical side of the course.
“The internet is a wonderful thing. We now have the majority of our courses available through SSI, TDI and SDI with e-learning so you can do the academics before you arrive and work with your instructor online. You can approach Big Blue Tech and we can sign you up and we can get the online training done before you arrive this gives people time to understand it rather than trying to do it over a limited period of time, when after all they’re on vacation”
“So my advice would be if you want to find out more about the theory of specialty and technical diving then get in touch with a technical diving instructor, I personally spend quite a lot of my time answering questions online from email inquiries and fully encourage anyone to explore this avenue”.
- What is the greatest benefit you can get from just doing one speciality course?
“Experience! But you will only get experience if you take your speciality course and dive it, you could do a buoyancy speciality for instance and then if you don’t dive again for a year you will probably remember some of it but not all of it. So it’s about doing it at the beginning of the vacation and then getting your fun dives in and practicing the skills you learned”
- What’s the difference between TDI, SDI, SSI & PADI in relation to speciality and technical courses?
“Okay so, SDI and TDI which we offer at Big Blue Tech are part of the same family. TDI is technical divers international and SDI is scuba divers international. SSI is scuba schools international and they offer specialities in both recreational and Tech under the TXR an EX brand, whilst PADI also offer specialties and Tech with Tech falling under TecRec”.
“Customers can choose to mix and match with all certs recognised worldwide, so no issues there”.
- What is the philosophy behind technical diving at Big Blue Tech?
“Safety has to be the foundation underpinning all the courses and training we offer, after that the creating sharing knowledge and making sure our students use this, one quote shown to me during my training has stuck with me and I mention it at the start of all my courses”
“The key piece of equipment is a knowledgeable and thinking diver”
“all of the training we conduct is based around this and we encourage continued discussion on completion, I don’t believe our duty of care ends on certification and if a past student seeks clarification then it is always welcome, if in the future they feel they can add something then that’s also part of my own education”.
- Do I need to supply my own set of equipment?
“Nope, we can supply all of the equipment you need at Big Blue Tech. However by the time you get to the level where you want to do tech courses we do expect you to have some basic equipment and there is a small additional rental fee for some basic equipment”.
- What is the best piece of advice you can give someone looking into specialty or Technical diving courses diving
“Look around and challenge the people that you want to train with, if they don’t have time to answer your questions now then maybe they won’t once you arrive. It’s not all about the price like everything else in life, you can get good value for money…but would you buy a cheap parachute?”
- What are the general course durations?
“Anything from one day, to multiple days or even weeks for some packages depending on the speciality and time frame you are working with”
- Are wrecks scary to penetrate?
“The word scary no, I would say it’s more exhilarating”
“If you have got to the point where you want to penetrate a wreck, then I can almost guarantee your first dive will be amazing, when you go into the overhead environment for the first time, everything comes alive! You know your somewhere you want to be”.
“That’s why you do the training,the big thing about doing this type of speciality is the preparation and the understanding of the environment you are going into whether its wreck or cave”
- Do you need specific technical courses in order to do other tech courses i.e. do you need to do your nitrox in order to do your advanced nitrox?
“Yes there are pre-requisites and they are laid out by each of the agencies. They are fairy similar although not all tech certifications from different agencies are equal but you will find any technical instructor that you talk to or will talk you through the pre-requisites. But yes if you want to become an advance nitrox diver you need to be a recreational speciality nitrox diver”
- What course spec bundles is big blue tech currently running?
“We are very fortunate at Big Blue Tech that we have our own boat, but also we have several instructors teaching the bundles. So normally we are in a position to bundle a package to cater for someone’s needs.
If someone comes in and doesn’t want to go deep but wants to go nitrox and penetrate the wreck we can teach that bundle”
“If someone comes in and go all the way through to advance nitrox and deco procedures then we can do a bundle to fit the time scale that they have. But they should have a reasonable amount of time because again in between different courses we want them to do some fun dives in before they move to the next level”
Hear from the students themselves, what they did and how they found doing speciality courses
TOM – DMT
Course – Wreck & Nitrox
Tom said the reason that he wanted to get his specs for nitrox is that he would want to expand his knowledge and extend his dive times when doing his next speciality which was the wreck course. During the course: Andy’s teaching was outstanding, he was direct, through funny and really got you involved. What stood out the most with my course is that Andy really helped me understand in detail things I didn’t understand before about the theory and practical of these speciality courses.
Tech career continued – Tom will further his career with tech specialities by going on to deco and advance nitrox – as he wants extended range on his dives and get a deeper knowledge of the subjects in order to make him a better diver during his career.
Andy’s funniest moment with his student: “Tomathy as he is known in the tech shack… great student lots of interesting questions. Worked really well with Mike both have now slowed down and learned how to ‘not’ penetrate prematurely and enjoy the moment… wreck diving have become a passion for them”
NATHAN – DIVEMASTER
Course – Nitrox, Deep & Sidemount
Nathan was introduced into tech by seeing a couple of Big Blues instructors doing sidemount and the way in which they were diving they seemed to be kicking their fins and gliding with very minimal effort which sparked his interest into how they were able to do it, and if he would be capable of becoming that skilled and become a safer diver. Nathans thoughts on the courses were that Andy was very detailed in his teaching and pedantic. He makes you think that you are your own worst critic and only you can be the best you can which encourages you to be the best you can be.
Signs / signals and instructions in and out of the water were very clear and understandable. If you had issues under the water with a skill or somewhat it is dealt with then and there, you do not dwell on it when you get back on the boat you only look at ways to improve yourself for your next dive. Ideally when you have someone who you dive with who is just as passionate about diving and side mount and enthusiastic to learn and develop their knowledge and skills as you are it makes the experience so much more enjoyable. One of the best moments I’ve had was being able to have a 124 minuet dive at Sail Rock (one of Thailand’s best dive sites) diving sidemount with nitrox, without the skills and certifications I would never be able to have that experience
Nathan has completed a 124 minute dive at Big Blue – In his top 5 best life experiences
Tech career continued: Nathan would follow through with every tech course possible trying to add a new one each time he visits Thailand and Big Blue his quote “keep learning, keep diving keep practicing your skills”
Andy’s funniest moment with his student: “Nathan what an amazing diver – with one of the best buddies ever with Angelika. Will always be remembered for the ‘Nathan check’ please ask him about this”.
“Memorable moment was the 124 minuet dive at sail rock with Tim – a true gentleman”
AMYE – DIVEMASTER
Courses – Deep, Nitrox and Sidemount
Over the past few months I took several courses, I began with nitrox, continued with my deep certification and became hooked on the more technical side of diving. Learning to dive sidemount was always a goal for my diving career. At first I felt overwhelmed with the transition
From recreational with one tank to a completely new style, technique, and equipment that was entirely foreign to me.
Andy was a phenomenal instructor, not only does he teach but he pushes you to be your absolute best, no excuses. The more you dive with him gives you more of a reason to continue with your certifications because he becomes both your instructor and also a mentor. At first tech diving seemed to be entirely too intimidating, but it has made me a far better divemaster and diver. You understand the science of diving more thoroughly and you fall more in love with it as you can begin pushing the limits of both yourself and the possibilities.
Tech career continued: Amye continue in tech with a wreck certification and explore advanced nitrox and deco diving.
Andy’s funniest moment with his student: So many funny moments and such growth in someone’s diving ability. She has plenty of character & has an awesome mother who has just done her open water. 40 meters deep dive in zero viability and sitting in a ball of fish who knew not where they were.